Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season eight episode “Tidings We Bring.” 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.
Christmas episodes are generally much more lighthearted than usual and “Tidings We Bring” was no exception. It was a nice episode with low stakes which focused more on characters than the inconsequential case. Hetty explicitly sets the episode up to be filler by essentially telling Callen that they’ll just procrastinate on finding the mole until the last minute like college students avoiding a deadline. This would be annoying but the character stories are more entertaining to watch anyway, so this is probably how a Christmas episode should be.
There were two characters who I think got the brunt of the character moments in this episode, to varying degrees of success. The first is Eric, continuing his bit of increased screentime this season. I’ve been saying for a while now it’d be nice to see him get something important to do. And this season he has been doing just that. He even had a chance to do some fieldwork. But the more Eric appears onscreen, the more annoying he gets. It seems as though he’s crossed the line from “quirky” to “cartoony.” This episode in particular shows him threatening the suspects with a lit flare and gasoline, going totally overboard just like he did with the fake grenade a few episodes ago. It’s just a bit too over-the-top to enjoy watching, although I’ll admit that’s very in-character for him.
Instead of moments like the flare incident (and spending a chunk of the episode speaking in an annoying fake Cockney accent), Eric’s character development is best in scenes like the one where he gives Kensi a Christmas present. It’s a thoughtful gift and a good way to showcase his optimism. Of all the characters, he’s the one who has no doubts about Kensi making a full recovery and returning to the team. With everyone else being realists and pessimists, it’s nice to see Eric be the contrast. That’s the kind of character work that would be good to explore in future episodes.
The other interesting character in this episode happens to be Kensi, despite not getting a lot of screentime. We see her attempt to train, receive two Christmas gifts, and then imagine a brawl at the holiday party because of her fear of being replaced. The training scene is pretty much what we’ve seen before. She’s finally motivated to get better and she’s pushing herself hard to do it. Maybe too hard, but that’s perhaps something to be dealt with later. The gift scenes are both good because she gets a chance to interact with someone other than Deeks. She hears encouragement from people other than Deeks. I think the scenes with Nell and Eric are good demonstrations of her friendships with them. They believe in her and they miss her. This last point makes the final scene the most interesting because, despite the reassurances, her first instinct is to imagine that Anna is taking her place and confronting her about it. The dream sequence was odd but an important look inside Kensi’s head. She may be physically recovering well, but her mindset is a different story. The end of this episode made me wish we could get a whole Kensi-centric episode where we just see her dealing with being out of work and recovering.
All in all, this was a nice episode to end the year before the second half of the season begins. It was full of fun moments and the spirit of the holidays. The action will probably start kicking into high gear as the season continues, but “Tidings We Bring” is a festive breather.
Notes from the Boat Shed
*I didn’t get to mention it in the review but I can’t seem to care about the Neric pairing if all of it is going to happen offscreen. Every time Eric worries about their relationship (is it even actually a romantic one? I can’t tell), I feel like I’ve missed some important scenes to build up to his worry
*I think Sam has had the least amount of character development this season, which I guess balances out for last season, but it’s still a bit disappointing. At least he got those Hamilton tickets
*The inclusion of Anna has been pretty good so far. She isn’t around all the time and she doesn’t take away a lot of focus from the team. That’s how a recurring guest character should function.
*The running joke about Callen’s dining set is probably my favorite running joke
*WHERE WAS GRANGER? 😦
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.