The City of Angels’ best defense.

NCIS Los Angeles continues to chug along the track during this, its fourth season. The only main departure is the introduction of a two-hour episode meant to be the pilot for an as-yet-unrealized show NCIS Red. I fail to find anything within that obviously shoehorned storyline to be particularly compelling outside of the mobile sets which were truly awesome. Special kudos go out to the design team for those.

Otherwise NCIS Los Angeles: The Fourth Season stays the course, wisely choosing to focus on embellishing the characters and delving even deeper into their backstories. as opposed to introducing convoluted plot devices. The only story which carries through this season is that of the stolen nuclear weapons and how/when/to whom they’ll be sold. Even that is layered with character work as we see Sam (LL Cool J, Last Holiday) pairing up with Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen, The Thing), leaving G (Chris O’Donnell, Batman and Robin) to pair with Kensi (Daniela Ruah, Red Tails). In fact this season takes care to allow us to see differing interactions within our main quartet, a welcome respite which adds a layer of believability to the show overall.

Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty of Densi “will-they-or-won’t-they” to be had, and Sam and Callen continue to bicker like an old married couple. Eric (Barrett Foa) and Nell (Renee Felice Smith) not only showcase the geekier side of the team they may be ahead of Kensi and Deeks when it comes to getting that “Will they?” question answered.

Aside from the great characters, led by the talents of Linda Hunt (The Year of Living Dangerously), there are plenty of shootouts, fight scenes, explosions, criminal activities, and spycraft to be found within these episodes. NCIS Los Angeles has solidified itself as a standalone show within the procedural drama genre and consistently delivers on the action front. Season Four ups the amount of time we spend digging into who these characters are, and the show is better for it. We are now set up for Season Five in which there will be genuine emotional stakes, residuals, and reactions all around, promising some of the most compelling episodes of the series so far.

I’m pleased with the tech aspects of NCIS Los Angeles: The Fourth Season as well. The show continues to do an excellent job of providing the most well-balanced white levels within the genre. Especially considering how many location shots there are this is an admirable achievement. I’m also pleased this season has seen a lessening of the “blue eyes” tendency when the characters are in the Ops Center set. My only issue with the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is the use of handheld shots but that’s a well-documented pet peeve of mine. The audio streams are once again stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 offerings and I definitely do not note as many ADR or leveling issues as in the past. The dialogue is always present in the space. While I may occasionally hear a Foley beat that sounds out of place within the sound space, it’s never anything I give more than a passing bit of attention to. This is the most technically cohesive set yet.

Special features include two commentary tracks, one by the team of Ruah and Olsen and one by Smith and Foa. Both are quite entertaining. I look forward to J and O’Donnell providing one for Season Five, maybe alongside Linda Hunt? Also included are a number of BTS featurettes, focusing on the sound team, the construction of the mobile units, an overview of the season consisting of interviews with the cast and crew and finally a look at first-time director Chris O’Donnell’s journey behind the camera for an episode this season.

NCIS Los Angeles has definitely grown up and out of the shadow of its big brother, NCIS. This latest season shows more character growth than any previous season and leaves off with a season finale with actual stakes and consequences. For fans of the show, this set is a no-brainer. Buy it today.

THE VERDICT

Not guilty.

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