Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season eight episode “Battle Scars.” 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.
Most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to the episode titles because they’re mostly unimportant to the plot. But “Battle Scars” is aptly named for an episode that deals with the emotional fallout of this turbulent season and brings back Hetty’s old friends who have their own proverbial scars to deal with. This is just the first part of (presumably?) a two-episode arc, so there’s no sense of resolution, but it does set up some great character moments to focus on.
As usual, I find myself uninterested in the case of the week, even after we find out the guy who sets things into motion is one of Hetty’s old teammates. Maybe it’s my short attention span or maybe they just don’t present the exposition in an interesting way, but I felt like we didn’t get a decent explanation for everything that was happening. Of course, maybe they’re saving all the big clarifying reveals for the next episode? I’m not sure, but at least the lack of a coherent case doesn’t drag down the very excellent character work we are given here.
First, Eric gets a quiet moment with Sam about dealing with the fallout from “Getaway” where he blew up a car with a bad guy inside. The scene is a nice call back to early in the season when Eric was eager to get some weapons training from Sam so he could do more field work. I like how this scene fleshes out both of their characters. Eric is struggling but trying to hide it, and Sam is always ready to deal out his wise advice. It shows the difference in their experience, and it’s just nice to see them interacting in a realistic way.
Secondly, Deeks and Kensi’s b-plot is a lot more tender and serious than the previous episode’s contest to see who talks more. While I love their ridiculous banter, it’s also nice to see them be mature and serious about their relationship. I’m only disappointed their conversation was cut short by discovering the missing guy. (Maybe work is not the best time to discuss who supported who during the whole coma/recovery ordeal). Despite its brevity, I like that the episode gave us a moment to focus on how Kensi and Deeks are dealing with everything that’s happened in the past few months.
Thirdly, the show finally addressed the fact that Granger is gone for good within an actual episode. Since the character made his hospital escape, I’ve been wondering when the team was going to mention him again and acknowledge that he’s gone. It took a few episodes longer than I expected but since every mention of his name in this episode was heartbreaking, I’m kind of glad they waited a bit. Having Hetty’s team and our team reminisce together about him was a nice moment. And I even cried a bit when Kensi admitted that she’d wanted Granger to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. All in all, it was a good way to recognize the hole left behind by Miguel Ferrer’s passing. They didn’t just brush off his death.
Lastly, on a happier note, the return of Hetty’s old friends, the JAG Admiral and his friend Sterling was good for a contrast between our favorite pair: Sam and Callen. They butt heads quite a lot and only reluctantly team up, but their similarities make it fun to watch. The two characters are fleshed out better than most guest stars and recurring characters, like when they pull out their keys. The admiral’s is on a keychain while Sterling’s is in his shoe heel. They each ridicule the other for their hiding spot.
Since the story is continued next week, we didn’t get all the answers. But we did get a chance to see inside the team’s heads long enough to see how they’re still dealing with this rollercoaster season. Hopefully next week’s episode won’t trade the battle scars for more flashy explosions.
Notes from the Boat Shed
- I thought it was good for the episode to put a spotlight on the ongoing problems at VA hospitals across the country, and I was kind of disappointed when the case spiraled into something different at the end.
- I really dislike when there are cartoony-like bad guys because it ruins the realism. But I’m also horrified because there probably are real people like the jerk head VA guy. Ugh.
- “Because I play a mean lute.” This is the kind of quirky tolerable Eric I like. Not too over-the-top.
- What do you have against Waze, Sam?? It’s a nice app!
- Hetty, why can’t you ever just tell people what you’re doing ahead of time?
- So is the Sterling guy someone from JAG too? Or just a random guy? Either way, I like him. I like him much more than the new annoying FBI who seemed kind of like a pointless character to introduce.
- Hetty is Keith Richards. End of story. No arguments. That’s that. Everyone can go home now.
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. (By the way, I’ve been awful at replying to comments lately, but thank you for all the ones I’ve received! It’s always nice to see other thoughts and perspectives on the story. I’ll hopefully get back to replying to comments soon.)