With E3 come and gone, I expect there won’t be much to say about sports gaming until NCAA 2006 hits the streets (a full month or so sooner that it should). So expect most of my blog posts from here to wax poetic on whatever’s happening in my life at any given time. (This is where you get to groan.) Last night that something was the NCIS finale. Good god. What a way to close out the season.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (or whatever NCIS stands for) is a CSI-style crime scene drama, only with naval investigators. While it may sound pretty lame in concept, given all the CSI spin-offs and knockoffs, it really rises above its competition with a nice bland of heady detective work, great characterizations, and good moments of suspense/action. The show continually proves to be far better than any of its genre competition and it’s clear that the folks who wrote last night’s season finale their had mojo working.
Disclaimer: Spoilers are soon to follow so if you watch the show but haven’t seen the finale, stop reading or forever hold your peace when I spoil the ending.
All week CBS has been promoting the fact that someone on the NCIS team dies. Networks promise this junk all the time and it’s usually some two-bit character that nobody cares all that much about anyway. I mean really, does anyone care that Boon bought it on Lost a couple weeks ago? And even when it is a main character, the death is usually handled very badly. (I’ll never forgive Rick Berman for offing James Kirk by having him fall off a busted up bridge. I know that’s a movie example, but still. If you kill the guy, you do it while he’s in the captain’s chair of a starship. Period.)
So as the 8:00 hour approached last night I was actually starting to fret about this “one of the team will not survive” junk. I couldn’t figure out why that bothered me so much until I realized it was because of one of the many unique aspects to this show: There are no wasted characters on NCIS. I can’t remember all their names, but the characters of Gibbs, Tony, Kate, Ducky, Goth-chick and Probie are all consistently written note-perfect. They play off each other perfectly and honestly, I think the show would miss a step if it lost any single one of them. So I was not happy about the notion that one of them was going to take the dirt nap.
And so, with much trepidation, I hit the couch last night to watch. The first 57 minutes (or so) were the usual thrill ride of great character moments and close calls. Yeah, on some level it’s the writers jerking the viewers around as each takes their turn with a near-death experience, but these guys do such a good job at hiding it that it simply works. And then comes the end.
At the tail end of a shoot out in which the good guys have won the day (blah, blah, blah), a gunman (a remaining terrorist cell member) jumps out of a closed door and fires at Gibbs. Kate (whose character used to be assigned to the president’s secret service detail) leaps in front. Bummer, thought I. The Kate/Tony dynamic on this show is second only to the Gibbs vs. the cast dynamic. But, in the usual, boring and predictable TV style it turns out Kate had a vest on. In a lot ways I was relieved that the “character dies” promos were bogus. Like I said, I didn’t want any of these characters to bite it.
So Kate groans a bit as the others help her to her feet. NCIS’s trademark one-liners come out in full force. The audience who had sat baited breath are allowed to relax. I’m just about to say something to my wife about CBS jerking the viewers around, when in response to a jibe from Tony, Kate says something to the effect of, “I’d die before…”
Sniper shot right to the middle of her forehead. We see the bullet hole, we see blood spatters hit Tony and Gibbs as the bullet passes out the back of her skull. We see Kate drop to the ground, eyes glazed over. No drawn-out melodrama about getting her to a hospital as she valiantly fights for life. No inspiring speeches from the cast of characters about holding on. She’s simply gone. Just like that. We briefly see the episode’s villain character from the roof of an adjacent building, sniper rifle in hand. The camera cuts back to Gibbs, eyes all of rage and then… end credits. End season.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you off a main character.