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.