NCIS: Los Angeles
Episode 18: Red
By: Carlos Uribe
NCIS: Los Angeles is a show about an elite division of naval investigators that specialize in undercover assignments. It is a spin-off of NCIS which itself is a spin-off JAG.
The Tiffany network is currently the most watched network for two reasons. The first is that the sit-com comedies on CBS are pretty big hits on their own rights. The Big Bang Theory, in particular, is a ratings juggernaut. It also has numerous crime dramas that have managed to make it big. The Big Bang Theory might do better in the demo but NCIS beats it in total viewers. It makes sense that the network would wand to expand the NCIS franchise into a third show while it's still hot especially as the CSI franchise is winding down. This is the reason I am going to review this episode of NCIS as well as the next one-they both serve as the backdoor pilot to a potential NCIS: Los Angeles spin-off. The project itself doesn't really have a name but there's a chance they might stick with NCIS: Red because the whole point of the show is that it isn't just set in one city. If the spin-off doesn't get picked up then that would be a surprise. So the questions are whether the backdoor pilot is any good on it's own merit, if the spin-off series has potential, and how it impacts the actual series. There are a few caveats before we get to the meat of the review. The first question deals with this episode on it's own but it's also a two-parter. It can be difficult to review these one part at a time because the unresolved plot threads can change my opinion on the case. The second question also can't be answered fully until the next episode because it's not done setting up the series yet. The third question is nearly impossible for me to answer due to the fact that this is the first episode I've seen of NCIS: Los Angeles. I'll try my best. Whatever the case, this is my first impression of both NCIS: Los Angeles and it's spin-off project which I believe provides me a different perspective.
I'm actually going to start with the third question: how does this spin-off impact the actual series? I have to start because I have to give my opinion of NCIS: Los Angeles before I can give my opinion of the promised spin-off. The first thing that struck me about the show is that it has a light-hearted tone even as the subject is serious and the numerous action scenes. It actually reminded me a lot like Burn Notice if Sam had a whole team to command and a headquarters. The characters have all been established by this point but I think I got a handle on who they are and their relationships with each other. That's the good thing about procedurals: you can jump it at any time and basically figure out who everyone is. It's a fun show that I could see myself watching when nothing else is on but it's not one that I'll probably seek out. I felt like the show actually managed to be an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles rather than putting most of the characters completely into the background for the whole duration. So the impact of the backdoor pilot into the show is actually surprisingly minimal. This might change for the second part but I felt like the writers managed to balance their old show with the one they were trying to set up very nicely.
How good is the backdoor pilot? The weekly case is a mixed bag. On one hand, I actually got hooked and I want to see what happens next. On the other hand, it's hard to tell how the narrative fits together when barely anything is revealed. We might know how one of the main terrorists looks like but we don't know anything about his motives or plans. It makes sense that they would want to save a lot of the information for next week but it would have served as a greater cliff-hanger if we at least had an idea of his plan. Having the cliff-hanger be that they're going to watch his hotel so that he can't cross the border is a lot less exciting. Red is a pretty good episode of television but part two is going to reveal whether the narrative as a whole is good or whether just the set-up is.
The final question is whether the spin-off series has any potential. This is a trickier question to answer since the writers aren't done setting things up yet. The characters in the Red team are largely one-dimensional at this point and most of them didn't leave much of an impression. The two major characters seem to be Paris and Roy. Paris appears as the team leader and she seems to be a good leader but her character is a bit boilerplate at this point. Roy shows up at the end and that's when things get interesting for the spin-off as the relationship between the two is rocky. They clearly have a past and the reason he's brought on the team is redemption. It does add an interesting dynamic to the show that otherwise wouldn't have been there. The other characters remained in the background and their relationships between each other weren't completely established. At the same time, this is due to time and necessity. I do like the idea behind it (mobile investigative team travels the country and solves crime) but it needs to get me invested in the whole team-not just a few characters. Red did a lot of the groundwork but let's hope the second part is better able to give me a sense on whether this is a team worth watching every week.
Overall, Red is a pretty good episode of NCIS: Los Angeles that introduces me to a show I can see myself enjoying. The series it's trying to establish has some promise but it needs to work on the characters before I'm willing to truly predict the quality.