During the NCIS: Los Angeles Season 6 premiere, “Deep Trouble, Pt. II,” Deeks interrogates a hospitalized suspect to try to find out who is behind the drug running sub that has Sam and Callen trapped in its hold. He begins the questioning by wrapping his hands around the suspect’s burned arm, threatening to “speed up” a confession by causing him further physical pain. Diane and Karen P. question Deeks’ actions and what they might mean for his character moving forward.
Karen: I have to say that I was quite shaken by the beginning of Deeks’ interrogation. His behavior was unexpected, cruel, and cold-blooded. It didn’t shock me because it was terribly graphic or extremely violent, it shook me because it wasn’t the Deeks I thought I knew. And while I’m hoping it could signal a fascinating development that follows from “Spoils of War,” an exploration of his Gordon Brandel/Max Gentry dark side, I worry that it might just be another frustrating and random moment that won’t ever be spoken of again.
At this point we can’t tell for sure because it happened so quickly. If they hadn’t cut away, we’d know what caused Deeks to change tactics. Was it just because it wasn’t working? Did a nurse interrupt? Did he realize what he was doing and back off? I wonder if more was filmed and then edited out- I’d love to know if there was ever a moment of vulnerability or regret. We’ll just have to wait to find out whether the writers have any plans to build on what we saw.
Diane: I sometimes wonder if the writers or the show runners think we’re crazy when we start to analyze these passing flashes in the lives of the characters. But like you, I was momentarily stunned. I felt that this just can’t be a trivial act by one of the most human and soft hearted characters in the show? That brief action was a clue into Deeks’ current mental state and makes an intentional statement. You notice he starts the interrogation off with the jokes but as soon as he mentions that his friends are in danger, the expression on his face changes and those ocean blue eyes become steel blue and focus intensely on the suspect. The barbs are over as he pushes down forcefully on the man’s scorched hand. Not exactly torture but Deeks now knows the power of physical pain and he also doesn’t hesitate to use it. You can say that many cops would use this type of intimidation but we’re not used to seeing Deeks use it. He’s too smart to have to resort to using pain and when he tricks Wilson in the end with the apple juice you know he’s back in safe territory again.
Karen: Wow, your observation about Deeks knowing “the power of physical pain” is chilling, and combining it with the thought of the Deeks I love, “the most human and soft hearted” of characters, makes me so sad for him. I agree that his actions give us a window into his mental state, and it’s not a pretty view. In “Spoils of War,” Deeks didn’t resort to inflicting physical pain until he tried lesser measures for two days and received that photo of dead Kensi. Here it wasn’t his last resort, it was his first, and that is worrying.
And yes, in the end Smart Deeks was the one who got the information they needed (both times). Sadly in this most recent episode, we see that Deeks failed to even learn the lesson of “Spoils of War” that morals aside, torture isn’t the most effective way to get what you need from bad guys.
Diane: Before Season 5 we wouldn’t have seen Deeks intentionally decide to use the darker side of his personality without being undercover… and even then he could still be pretty tame (I’m remembering the bar scene in “Plan B”). I believe this goes back further than “Spoils of War” and that something from his own torture set off a ticking time bomb deep inside Deeks’ psyche. But the darkness inside Deeks may even go back to his childhood as well. For one brief second, we get to see this other side. Is it just a lingering side effect left over from Siderov’s torture or a state of mind memory from some serious mental trauma he suffered growing up with Gordon Brandel? Could this be building up to a bigger change in his personality as well?
Karen: It could be cumulative, the Siderov torture combined with his childhood abuse and topped with his traumatic Afghanistan experience, all just too much to handle. Reader1976 pointed out how revealing it was when he said to Wilson, “I saw a guy with a drill bit in his head… he could probably use a drink.” It certainly seems that Siderov is still on his mind. Maybe just being in the hospital was enough to trigger a memory (or a flashback?).
We definitely saw a non-undercover dark Deeks at the end of “Human Traffic,” so we know he’s had this aspect to his personality all along. It’s just that he doesn’t seem to have it quite as well under control as he has in the past. Maybe his actions in Afghanistan have caused an identity crisis of some kind; he may feel like he’s losing the battle to avoid becoming like his father, and in the process is letting that dark side more readily take over. (Or perhaps I’m just doing way too much psychoanalyzing and there’s nothing wrong with him at all!)
Diane: From all the research I did back during the time of “Ascension,” PTSD doesn’t just go away. It’s an affliction that can linger for a long time, if not for the rest of one’s life… and it can get worse. So I’m glad that the writers are recognizing this and continuing to explore what it could be doing to the way Deeks thinks when dealing with criminals. As the camera zooms in on Wilson’s hand it shows how Deeks was trying to extrapolate information from him and I believe it was intentional. If they hadn’t portrayed the scene that way, we wouldn’t have felt that jolt of astonishment when we watched Deeks act so out of character again as he did in “Spoils of War.”
Karen: I agree that it felt intentional, so I am trying to keep faith in the writers that it was. That it’s one of those breadcrumbs, like a Season 3 Kensi trip to Hawaii, that in retrospect will be part of a larger story. How fantastic would it be if they really did pick back up on the PTSD storyline? All our frustrations over that part of Season 5 would be laid to rest. It’s possible… maybe Daniela Ruah’s maternity leave, which necessitated the whole Afghanistan arc, forced them to drop some of the PTSD story they originally wanted to tell.
It would also reinforce the “Three Hearts” knife-returning, can’t-be-together-because-of-my-dark-side development. If Deeks has been suffering for all or part of this time, his wanting to keep Kensi at arm’s length would make more sense.
You’re getting me all excited with the very idea of such dramatic developments!
Diane: This could be the beginning of a wonderful story arc and why not continue to explore Deeks’ personality by using the torture angle? Of course I prefer when Deeks uses that lawyer brain of his to confuse and intimidate his opponents. And it’s a hell of a lot sexier too! But we can’t forget the toll the torture took on Deeks’ mental state either. He uses his humor and good nature to get him through most scrapes but he’s got a new tool in his arsenal and eventually it can take a toll if he decides to keep using it. The question is… how long will it take before he goes over the line? The writers would be foolish to let this opportunity drop! The door has opened and what a fantastic chance we have to explore what happened during the torture and maybe even further back into his childhood. I say go for it!
Karen: I agree that Smart Deeks is sexy! But Dark Deeks is awfully compelling. Oh how I hope the writers can live up to my expectations, which are growing the longer we talk about the possibilities. Imagine the scenarios they could draw up to get him to confront his dark side, or to help him to bury it once and for all (if that’s even possible). What role might Kensi play in such events? Could we see him share his Afghanistan experiences with her? Might it all feed into the two-episode backstory we’re all so anxious to see?
At the end of the day, what’s most crucial is that the writers stay true to these characters, particularly Deeks. For me this short scene was not in keeping with the good man I know Deeks to be; it was too potentially out of character, and needs to be addressed in some way down the line. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we’ll get the kind of fantastic drama that would no doubt accompany such a storyline.
Diane: Agreed! I just hope the writers see what a great opportunity they have here to use this aspect of Deeks’ character to move his storyline along, especially in term of his relationship to Kensi. I don’t want to get my hopes up but I got my fingers crossed too!
We know our readers have their own opinion on this topic of Deeks’ personality! Be sure to take our poll and leave a comment below. Should the writers continue to explore Deeks’ past and present experiences and if it is affecting how he is conducting himself on and off the job? We look forward to hearing from you!
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for sharing her beautiful artwork.