NCIS Los Angeles review: “All is Bright”

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Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season nine episode “All is Bright.” 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.

It’s time for the annual holiday episode, which for NCISLA means an excuse to redecorate the set with Christmas lights and dress the cast in yuletide apparel. “All is Bright” was in line with typical episodes, but didn’t seem to develop character moment as much as it wanted to.

“All is Bright” is a not-so-subtle nod to the case at the center of the episode. But solving the mystery of the power outage wasn’t nearly as interesting as it should have been. Taking out a power grid to hold a city ransom and mess up the infrastructure would have been a suspenseful hour of investigation. Taking out a power grid as a way to help a guy escape prison to spend some time with his son seems more unrealistic than usual for NCISLA. The theme about spending time with family during the holidays was nice, but sometimes it just seems ridiculous for the case to always be some sort of pseudo-commentary on the team’s lives.

Putting the case aside, the focus on character usually makes up for uninteresting plots. There are several mini-storylines running throughout the episode: Nell, Eric, and a reluctant Hidoko on a quest to decorate against Mosley’s wishes; Sam preparing to spend his first Christmas as a widower; Deeks and Kensi arguing over presents and driving; and Callen looking for answers from Finn (the kid from earlier this season). Each could be engaging storylines if more time were devoted to them, but cramming them all throughout the hour makes them feel rushed.

Sam, for example, just wants to spend Christmas on his boat with his kids. Both Eric and Callen try to convince him not to. (In my personal opinion, they probably should just respect his decision and let him enjoy the boat he really actually likes.) In the end, he goes with Eric’s hotel suggestion, but it’s never really clear why he changes his mind.

Similarly, Mosley is shown through the episode really disliking holiday decorations (even going so far as to burn some tinsel), but in the end, she allows the office to get decked out with lights and garland galore. Why the change of heart? It’s implied that she understands the importance of the team celebrating together as a makeshift family because she, too, isn’t with her own family. But it would have been nice to see the moment onscreen when she changes her mind.

Callen’s storyline with Finn is the only one which is somewhat satisfying. In the previous episode with Finn, the two bonded over their shared past at the same shelter. It’s a nice moment at the end of the episode when they go to deliver presents to the shelter. Throughout the episode, Callen was in “mad dad” mode, as Deeks would say, because he thought Finn was taking advantage of his kindness. The episode presented us with short scenes of Callen investigating until he met up with Finn. All in all, it was a more complete mini-story compared to the others.

Perhaps the absence of Hetty (and the permanent absence of Granger) didn’t help the episode either. But “All is Bright” didn’t turn out as shiny as usual. Maybe there were just too many decorations crammed together this year.

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • I loved all of Hidoko’s snarky comments in this episode. Especially the one about needing a Swiss flag.
  • I wonder who actually responded to Callen’s Christmas dinner e-vite. How much brisket will there be??
  • I kinda think it would have been funnier if Deeks and Kensi would have spent the whole episode stuck in their car in traffic. But oh well!
  • Again I ask: when will they start looking for Hetty? She ought to be pretty disappointed in them by now

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “NCIS Los Angeles review: “All is Bright”

  1. Thanks for your review. I have to admit, this episode was better than last week’s, but since I thought last weeks was probably the worst of the season, that’s not saying much. I agree that the writer tried cramming too much into the episode and the “investigation” was boring. And the need to always tie the team’s personal lives to this week’s criminal case is getting old. Sometimes a crime is just a crime. I disagree about the Callen-Finn subplot; devoting less than 2 minutes to a scene makes it hardly worth showing–especially when the other references to it were so minimal. (BTW, I don’t think Callen sent out e-vites to anyone else because he said “me” not “us” when talking about the brisket, and I thought Sam brushing off both his offer of his home and his dinner was just plain rude.) Honestly, Sam and his “poor me” attitude is starting to annoy. I also found the Kensi-Deeks scenes juvenile and their arguing childish. It’s hard to imagine a less immature LAPD officer than Deeks, particularly one who’s a veteran. To me, this episode lacked any actual heart, and the problem is that I don’t know if that was intentional or just bad writing: no mention of Granger or Hetty (first Christmas with both gone) and the fact that Hetty sent no greeting–and no one seemed concerned–was odd, no real camaraderie as in past holiday episodes, Callen didn’t stay for the party and no one–not even Sam–wished him a Merry Christmas. Sometimes the characters (other than Sam and Kensi) seem completely disconnected from things that have happened in their lives in previous episodes, and IMO that’s bad writing. (for instance, Eric might have made a quick remark about Nell’s sister, Callen could mention his dad or Alex–which he NEVER does, Kensi might have remembered Granger since she wanted him to walk her down the aisle). The title “All Is Bright” seemed ironic which is kind of weird for a “holiday” episode.

  2. Thanks for your review. I agree with a lot you said. I liked the episode but it was not as festive as previous years. I think it reflected the mood of all the characters. Hetty and Granger were not there as in previous years and everyone was a little sad. Sam was facing his first Christmas without his wife and that hurts a lot. How is this going to work out with his kids? Nell, I thought expressed it best while talking to Hidoko. It looked like this Christmas they would be spending time with their work family and after going through so much in the past year it wouldn’t be the same. That’s why they needed the decorations. Mosley was spending Christmas without her son and that must hurt. No wonder she doesn’t like all the decorations. That is why she has such a shell around her. It explains a lot. The plot was average but it went some way to adding to the theme of family. What bothered me most was Callen. He looked so sad at the end. It is about time we get back to his story and his family. At least he connected with Finn and did some good there. And now, can we have less of Kensi and Deeks and their story. Enough with the wedding plans! And could Deeks just be quiet for awhile. I love them both but enough is enough! Let’s get on with finding Hetty!

  3. The episode was better on a second viewing but there were lots of opportunities that were missed, particularly the power outage could have been used for a much better plot (I think NCIS did this better a number of seasons ago). Callen seems to be missing out on everything, from decent storylines, to his own family to feeling inadvertently shut off from Sam. Even Finn reminded him that he used to be overlooked at Christmas… The Finn subplot was good but too short for my liking and not quite on the money in the final scene.
    The humour for the most part was embarrassing although a couple of bits were funny.
    And if only someone could see that Callen is also hurting from Michelle’s death…He’s probably used to Hetty’s absence over the years but a few episodes ago he was concerned and now nothing.
    Consistency would be appreciated. I can’t wait to see what happens if they successfully rescue Hetty – how can she return to NCISLA if she did retire & how will she interact with Mosley?

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