NCIS: Los Angeles Season 10 Premiere Review

The season nine finale left the lives of all four agents hanging in the balance, like no other cliff hanger seen before on the show.  The team had voluntarily embarked on an unauthorised mission to extract EAD Mosley’s son from his weapon’s dealing father, Spencer Williams.  After successfully reunited him with his mother, the team’s SUV is hit by a rocket launcher as they attempt to reach their exfil site, and the finale closed with the team unconscious in an upturned vehicle with flames lapping around.

"Callen made a pledge to Mosley to find her son. He’s a man of his word — even if it kills him," showrunner Scott Gemmill said in an interview promoting the season finale.  This quote was not picked up or believed by many fans and instead rumours perpetuated about the demise of Deeks, mainly started by a few fans on social media. Adding fuel to the fire was Eric Christian Olsen himself, posting frequently on Instagram with hashtags about Deeks being dead.  Even when he teased about being a ghost and replaced with a squirrel, there were still those who questioned whether he would return.  In the week leading to the premier, Gemmill promised that several team members would be seriously injured and logically the two who have experienced the least recently are Callen and Deeks.  The episode promo supported this theory with clips of Callen admitting it was getting harder for him to breath, and Deeks stating something doesn’t feel right.  Put that together with the knowledge the episode was written and directed by the master of darkness and intensity himself,  Frank Military then the natural conclusion is that the team are going to be hauled through the mill.

Mixed in with the intensity and near death experiences are a wealth of heartfelt and tender moments, the first one surprisingly at the very opening of the episode. The ‘previously on NCIS: Los Angeles’ stops with the rocket exploding at it hits the SUV and the screen turns white, morphing into Deeks waking up in bed, Kensi asleep next to him.  They share loving moments as he places his head on Kensi’s pregnant belly.  The daydream/hallucination scene fades as Deeks sees flashes of Kensi with blood on her face and he loses consciousness as the pillow turns into the side of the vehicle. The scene is a surprise as the expectation is to see the immediate aftermath of the crash and whereas it feels odd at first, in the context of the remainder of the episode in fits in perfectly.  Between both Kensi and Deeks there are several further dreams and hallucinations which all help underline how much they love each other.  By the end of the episode their emotions see them declare they will give each other everything they have in this world.  Love conquers all - but they still have a long way to go to work through the fundamental issues which were aired during their shocking row in the finale.

There is no doubt this episode belongs to Kensi.  Her character is so well established as a survivor, a fighter, a lover, a woman who has experienced capture and torture in Afghanistan and later overcame paralysis from a helicopter crash, dealing with the associated emotional lows and battling her way back to the field.  Kensi has only suffered minor injuries and with the team forced to separate to survive, Kensi hauls a stretcher carrying an unconscious Deeks across the Mexican scrub land.  Each shot of her dragging and pulling Deeks demonstrates her physical and inner strength and sheer determination to save the man she loves.  She sees ahead the impossible task of hauling him up a steep hill and attempts to bargain with him, offering hot desert sex if he just wakes up.  This leads to a briefly amusing scene where Kensi hallucinates Deeks is hovering over her.  She opens her eyes to the hot sun, retracts her offer and finds the strength to continue, seeing the irony that she is still arguing with him even though he is unconscious.  The threat continues even when the three seriously injured men are in hospital and once again it falls to Kensi, working with Arlo Turk (who was instrumental in their initial rescue and escape), to hold off at sixteen of Spencer Williams’ men. 

There is more of an adult feel to this episode, something which is common to Military penned episodes.  There is sex talk, realistic fight scenes and a different approach to filming certain scenes. The grittiness of the Callen’s fight scene is heightened with handheld camera work and the use of sound, reminiscent of the opening to the season finale.  There is no background music, which contrasts sharply with scenes immediate prior, when the team is under fire.  Callen stealthily and silently approaches the two bad guys, slitting the throat of one and wrestling down a hill with the other.  The only sounds are Callen struggling to choke the second man, with the first Mexican gurgling in his death throes as he tries to reach Callen. Callen’s yell provides him with the determination and final strength required to choke the other man.  The lack of sound means it is more noticeable when Callen begins wheezing at the end of the scene.  The use of music is of key importance when Kensi and Deeks tentatively accept the offer of a lift to the nearest hospital from a random hunter with a gun, and his wife.  The light-hearted almost childlike music playing through the car radio, supports the light banter and momentarily lifts the suspicion the couple may not have the agents best interests at heart. 

While Kensi tries to get Deeks to safety, Sam and Callen encounter their own problems - namely their substantial injuries. Callen has cracked a few ribs and Sam’s leg wound has re-opened, both becoming progressively worse until Callen has to stop.  In tow is a child who Sam apprehends when he spots them, such is the risk of Spencer Williams and his crew finding them.  In parallel to Kensi and Deeks’ tender conversations, so Callen and Sam have talks that solidify their brotherhood, resulting in Sam taking Callen’s hand in comfort, understanding the pain, fear and death that is coming, Callen squeezing his hand in acknowledgement.  As Sam says in an attempt to lighten the severity of the situation, it takes them both dying for Callen to admit he’s wrong. Callen does actually stop breathing and it is only when the boy (who earlier escapes) returns with his family, is Sam able to save his partner’s life.  If this had been part of the finale rather than the premier, there could have been a real doubt about whether Callen was going to live.

The blame lies with Mosley and her focus is still on guaranteeing the safety of her son Derrick, even hanging up on Admiral Hollis Kilbride, who has been summoned by Hetty to assist her depleted team.  As with Chegwidden, his presence and character commands fear and respect.  He speaks his mind and clearly doesn’t like or understand LA ways - or Eric’s dress sense. Only when Derrick is safe and she is under threat from Killbride, does Mosley save the team and tries to safeguard her future.  The only way for her to move on is for Spencer Williams to die and there is a fantastic set piece where Mosley coldly and methodically executes his men and finally, her ex.  At the end, Mosley is with the team at the hospital, updating Killbride on their conditions and understanding she has to face the consequences.

Out of sync with the finale is the behaviour of Nell and Eric.  Together with Hetty, they witnessed footage of the SUV exploding with the agents inside yet the pair are not acting like they have just witnessed their team die. They behave like silly school children with Kilbride and are way too jovial.  Luckily there was not too much air time for the team in Ops as their scenes do detract from the intensity of the episode.  Notable by her absence was Hetty, heard only on the phone to Harris Keane at the end (actress Linda Hunt was in a car accident just before filming commenced).  Hidoko's death was confirmed at the end, almost as an afterthought.  It is a shame her character was killed off in such a marginalised way, particularly when she was a substantial part of season nine.

In summary, Frank Military should write and direct every episode.  The drama, tension and look of the show is transformed when he assumes dual responsibilities and he draws the best performances from the cast.  Military has set the bar high for all the episodes that follow and of particular interest is how Mosley and the team will be investigated for the unauthorised mission, and at what cost.

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