NCIS Los Angeles Review: “Fighting Shadows”

ncis la fighting shadows

Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season six episode “Fighting Shadows.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.

This episode, in terms of plot, is one of the weaker ones this season. While it wasn’t disjointed like the last episode, it just didn’t make a lot of sense and felt very contrived. But where the episode lacks in story strength, it makes up for in its characters. As always, NCISLA benefits from the characters they’ve developed these past six seasons. It’s good to have storylines that aren’t rushed or forgotten.

Let’s start off with the weaknesses first. Namely, the plot. The problem with NCISLA and all the other NCIS shows lie with the N in the name. The “naval” part. In order for the crew to have a case to investigate, the crime must connect back to the Navy in some way. NCISLA attempts and usually succeeds in working around this problem since they are the “office of special projects” anyway. More often than not, they get to do more than investigate the murders of dead Marines. (This is one reason I kept watching NCISLA but stopped watching the original NCIS) It’s tough to think of different and unusual ideas each week, but generally the writers do a good job.

But this week, however, they only provided a flimsy reason for the team to get involved. This was really NCIS doing the FBI’s job simply because of a case of borrowed C4. Even Deeks sounded like he couldn’t believe it when Hetty explained. This doesn’t bode well for the case because if you start off with only a tangential excuse to be involved, one might start to wonder why waste time on the case at all.

But even if you put that issue aside, the case itself is still a problem. It literally made no sense to me. I have to admit that there were parts where I was only half paying attention, and that made it harder to follow. But the part where Bad Guy Uncle blamed the FBI for everything was really weird. Logically, it made no sense. Eventually it was revealed that he was simply going for revenge and just blaming the FBI when really he was sort of responsible for getting his nephew put in jail. But by that point, I just didn’t care. The team saved the day as always, but it still felt like the FBI shouldn’t done it or something.

But I think the biggest problem we have here, and with a lot of episodes actually, is the portrayal of Muslims. It feels like 95% of these stories are reliant on the terrorists being radical Muslims. While sure, that may be a relevant point in the world today considering the turbulent relations in the Middle East and America’s role in that, but too often than not, this is what motivates the villains on this show. Anything else is few and far between. Remember the Irish terrorists from earlier this season? Remember when Sam used to go undercover in Africa? Remember all those bad guys with a personal vendetta against Callen? Why can’t we have more storylines like these instead of always stopping a revenge-filled Muslim terrorist?

During the prison interrogation scene between Deeks and the Nephew in this episode, Nephew snaps in the end and starts yelling an Arabic phrase as Deeks leaves. And he sounds like a crazy person. At that moment, I thought about how rare it is to have a regular non-radical Muslim on this show. Believe it or not, the vast majority of Muslim practitioners do not go around plotting death to America and all the other things terrorists do. I just worry about what message this sends to the people watching. Particularly people who may not know many Muslims in real life, so television portrayals are the only exposure they have. Perhaps in future episodes, things will shift so it won’t be like this.

I say all this but there are things in this episode that work too. Deeks and Kensi’s relationship continues to be fascinating. I was worried that perhaps once they got together, it would be less interesting or just a plot point swept under the rug. But no, they’re still struggling to work with their new arrangement and develop their relationship without falling apart. It’s good tension and now that they know everyone else knows, it’s even more complicated. On top of all that, the LAPD investigation into Deeks will add even more tension in future episodes, so I can’t wait to explore that. I think the pace the story is moving at right now works best for the show. Not too little, not too much.

Perhaps next week’s episode will have a better case to accompany the character stories. We’ll see.

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • Did you forget Deeks is still on loan from the LAPD? Because I totally forgot. (He introduces himself as LAPD all the time, and yet I STILL FORGOT. Weird.)
  • Let’s be real, the actual problem with this episode is the lack of Granger and his snark.
  • Why are Eric and Nell even in this show? Please, writers, let them be relevant to a plot line soon.
  • I was super excited about the partner switch again but we still didn’t get annoyed Callen threatening Deeks. Maybe one day.
  • Sam was the MVP of this episode, not only because he climbed out of a moving vehicle and talked down the two wannabe teenage terrorists, but also because he gave Kensi THE TALK. It was awkward and hilarious. Please never change, LL Cool J. Never change.
  • Got any theories on what’s up with Deeks? Is he being framed or is the investigation legit? What’d he do?

So what did you think? Love or hate the episode? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts. And join me for next week’s episode!

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