It’s season finale time, friends. This twelfth season has been a roller-coaster ride, up and down and everything in between. Assumed to be the last episode of an intense three parter, NCIS has always been good at two, three, and four part episodes. With that being said, these continuous episodes tend be sad and have upsetting character deaths. And this episode, while not being completely finite, takes a leap in terms of a potential character death. And if true…we fans will be upset forever.
The episode starts with a flash-forward (that probably didn’t need to be there) of Dorneget’s mother torturing Sadiq (one of the leaders of the terrorist group The Calling. It then goes back to 36 hours earlier where the team is still recovering from Dorneget’s death and are trying to find out more about The Calling. Joanne, Dorneget’s mother/CIA agent, and Gibbs are both leads on this case now. They look at Ned’s body (extremely distressing) and find a small titanium ball and start tracking it down to potential suppliers, sellers, and buyers. The team is still interrogating Matthew Russo from the previous episode, the French face of The Calling. And they’re also trying to find the blonde-haired man who was at the scene of the bombing in Cairo (the one who looked at Dorneget before the bombs went off).
This episode is quite jammed pack; with Gibbs own guilty conscious summoning up a vision of Mike Franks, Luke (the kid who’s parents died in the last episode) possibly hiding his true intentions, Joanne taking matters into her own hands, and McGee, Tony, and Bishop trying to find out where The Calling’s next target will be. And they soon find that out when another bomb goes off at the Grand Canyon which only kills one, but it’s the same bombs that were used in the Cairo bombing.
Gibbs seeing the ghosts of his past has been done before (especially with conjuring Mike Franks), but it feels different in this episode. Gibbs isn’t his angry, determined self that he usually is when they’re in a high crisis situation. His guilt for losing another agent has taken complete hold of him, which is why the vision of Mike Franks is showing up to whip him back into shape and return him to his normal self. His guilt also blinds him to Luke and his true motives; the fact that he’s really still in league with Sadiq and the children he has successfully recruited. It’s a side of Gibbs that is rarely shown, but with all that has happened in the season and in the whole show, it’s about time we see him really struggle with his guilt in a way that affects the way he works as an agent.
With all of the Gibbs drama going on, it is nice to have a new character in the midst. Joanne is a good temporary addition to the team (I’m assuming that she’ll go back to CIA stuff when this is all over). She’s determined to avenge her son, and while her personal ties to the case cloud her judgement, she is still extremely helpful and is a good partner to Gibbs. She does find Sadiq thanks to CIA intel (without telling NCIS) but manages to find out where they sent Luke (which is Iraq).
It all leads up to when Gibbs, Tony, and Joanne go to Iraq to find Luke. This is when it’s revealed that this has all been a set up, and Luke has been the key to all of it. He shoots Gibbs twice and then the episode ends with those three words that everybody hates: “To be continued.”
Apparently the writers got the message somehow that they needed to do something to make this season worthwhile, especially since the whole Sergei Mishnev story line was completely wasted and mishandled. Which brings up the question of why they even had that story line in this season when they could have easily made The Calling an occasional recurring story arch. But with past gripes aside, the writers have outdone themselves here, more in terms of making up for this somewhat rocky season with a case that is intriguing, dark, and heartbreaking.
The actual problems with the episode are more to do with the fact that it isn’t a finite ending. Again, NCIS handles multiple part episodes well (a lot better than most shows), but it would have been more effective if the story wrapped up in this finale. But of course they had to do something more daring (understandable with the way the season had been going) in order to keep fans watching. So of course the idea that Gibbs might be dead seems like a good cliffhanger (from a writer’s stand point, not for us poor fans). While it’s highly unlikely that Gibbs is dead (logically and because I don’t think anyone really wants that), it is an extremely gutsy move. And reaffirms my past complaints from previous reviews: viewers need to believe that Gibbs is actually in danger for these more daring episodes to really work. And boy does it work in this episode.
Well, fellow fans, the waiting begins. It’s been a season filled with great and not-so-great moments, but these last three episodes have shown that NCIS still has it. While every episode isn’t perfect and some story lines don’t reach their full potential, there will always be interesting character exploration (as proved in these last three episodes) and multiple part episodes to remind us that it’s still a good show. Good luck with the waiting, and I’ll see you in the fall.