“I’m sorry you were almost frelted.”
NCIS Los Angeles: The Second Season once again brings us the exploits of the Navy Criminal Investigative Service’s crew on the West Coast. Leading the team is Special Agent “G” Callen (Chris O’Donnell, Grey’s Anatomy) and his partner, former SEAL Sam Hanna (LL Cool J, Last Holiday). Resident hottie Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah, Tu e Eu) is paired with LAPD Detective Marty Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen, Brothers and Sisters) who acts as the liaison between the departments. Overseeing everything is Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt, The Year of Living Dangerously), the OPS leader who takes the heat for the group so they can do their jobs without worrying about the politicking that goes hand-in-hand with government work. The 24 episodes are listed below:
* “Human Traffic”
* “Black Widow”
* “Special Delivery”
* “Little Angels”
* “Tin Soldiers”
* “Empty Quiver”
* “Harm’s Way”
* “Enemy Within”
* “The Job”
* “Rocket Man”
* “Plan B”
The show is still trying to distance itself from NCIS and this season shows a marked improvement in that arena. There are no forensics and little to no psychology. That being said the characters still feel like their NCIS kin. Callen is the Gibbs of the group, Sam is a more hip Ducky, Kensi is comparable to Kate, Deeks resembles a much earlier DiNozzo, and Hetty is like a cross between Jenny Shepard and Vance.
What’s missing is tension. Unlike it’s big brother NCIS Los Angeles never feels like the drama inherent could spike up my pulse. Sure, there are car crashes, explosions, and gunfights pretty much every single episode but everyone is so level-headed about it. When dealing with a case there’s a level of confidence that emanates from the characters which makes it hard to buy into the stakes of the outcome. I never believe they won’t be able to accomplish their objectives.
But what’s not missing, and what it does as well as, if not better than, its predecessor is the humor. Olsen’s Marty Deeks is the clear comic relief of the group, but he’s able to rein in the Not Another Teen Movie goofiness he’s admittedly good at and instead shows enough seriousness to allow the humor to play very well. And while he’s the clown, the rest of the cast all have their share of humorous moments. O’Donnell and J’s chemistry thickens this year due in no small part to the banter the two delight in delivering. Also, Olsen and Ruah’s characters go further into the “will they or won’t they” mire while engaging in snarky behavior, which provides some big laughs.
In fact this cast of characters works so well together and the actors are clearly enjoying shooting the show enough, that I had to wonder why they tried to make a theme this season about the lack of trust between partners. There was never an episode in which someone left their partner out to dry, no one got hurt because of a decision to go rogue, none of the characters befell any of the clichés associated with such a quandary, thus it felt like it was coming out of nowhere.
As far as the season goes NCIS: Los Angeles isn’t comprised of many stand-alone episodes. We not only refer back to season one, we refer back to previous episodes within this season itself. And I have to commend the show on its use of summaries. Its “Previously on…” segments do a wonderful job of giving the viewer exactly what information is needed in order to be able to follow the ensuing episode. I missed some of the season one episodes and yet, thanks to the summaries, I was able to follow those storylines with no difficulty.
I do worry Season Three will jump the shark, given the shakeup in the Season Two finale. There’s a cohesion to this season which is now disrupted. Whether or not the team will be able to regain their footing and go on to many more seasons still remains to be seen. But all in all this isn’t a bad way to spend some time.
NCIS Los Angeles: The Second Season is lit very well, with a special emphasis on brightness. I can’t recall another show which has a white level that is this intense, and yet never gets blown out. The HD broadcast quality is definitely carried over onto this set. The Dolby 5.1 is typically an excellent match for the most part, although there are a few instances of ADR levels which don’t exactly sync with the rest of the episode.
The most interesting special feature is the table read of one of the episodes. It was performed on set in front of a live audience. There are cuts between the actors reading their lines and the episode as it aired. There’s only one episode commentary and it features Olsen and Ruah. They are delightfully off script in terms of relating to what’s happening on screen. They take so many tangents it makes for pretty fun listening. Aside from that you can expect the typical behind-the-scences featurettes which focus on locations, cinematography and the like.
My only complaint is the number of instances where there were big character reveals that went nowhere. I reserve the right to retract this if later seasons refer back to the bombshells dropped this season. However, with the exception of Hetty’s storylines, there were too many backstory reveals that were too-coincidentally tied to the case at hand and were merely blurted out instead of actual character development.
Like if a case needs someone who once broke their femur to bond with a suspect who broke it, suddenly a character will pipe up, “Oh yes, I broke my femur in a tragic llama wrangling accident 12 years ago which I never mentioned or even hinted at until this moment. Allow me to get the necessary information from our perp.”
This may be my own pet peeve but if you’re going to give us huge news about a character don’t just leave it without anyone commenting. Especially if it surprises the other characters.
NCIS Los Angeles is like an action movie every week. While there was never any doubt the team was going to get the job done, that by no means indicates I didn’t like the show. I do, and if you’re wondering whether or not to get this, go ahead. It’s 24 episodes of well-shot, well-written, well-acted action.