Marty Deeks’ painful childhood produced a man who occasionally seems to lack in self-confidence. He doesn’t always expect the best for himself. The fan fiction writers we interviewed understand this aspect of his personality but sometimes struggle to write it, primarily due to the fact that they see his many good qualities more clearly than he does.
He’s up and gathering his things before she even realizes it. Folding his laptop in his bag, he speaks again, without looking at her, this time. “It’s okay, Kensi. Really, it is. I know I screwed up big time with Sam, ever since the very first day. The guy clearly doesn’t like me, he couldn’t even let me sit at the desk next to his. Callen,” he goes on, rubbing a hand over his beard, “I guess he gives me a chance because Hetty did. And you… Well, I know you don’t want a partner. Not me, but not anyone either, right?” he says, now locking eyes with her.
He’s not even angry, or really hurt. He looks sad. It’s the best word Kensi can come up with to describe the look on his face. Deeks is sad, and resigned, like he’s done that many times before. Being the new guy no one likes, turning into the guy who’s been there for a long time and that people still don’t like.
The Deeks who suffers from low self-esteem doesn’t always think he deserves good things to happen in his life. This Deeks doesn’t recognize all of his extraordinary qualities, focusing instead on the negative. For Jessica237, this is a part of Deeks that actually inspires much of her work. “Not gonna lie,” she says, “angst has always been my wheelhouse! I guess honestly I just feel kind of a personal pull toward that part of his characterization- his wondering whether or not anything he does will ever be enough, whether he himself will ever be good enough, if he’ll ever accomplish anything other than being the joker of the group, whether or not anyone actually takes anything he says seriously.”
She continues, “I think this struggle has been laid out within his character from the very first time we met him- Deeks failing to get the spot on the MMA team over Sam, the NCIS team attempting to take hold of the investigation without even so much as a thank you [in ‘Hand-to-Hand’]- and then in the very next episode [‘Fame’], Kensi basically expressing out loud that he’s not good enough to be on their team. And how many of those comments has he heard since then? He takes it in stride, because that’s what Deeks does, but I think deep down, the disparaging comments, joking or not, they stick with him, because he grew up not being good enough, no one on the LAPD squad seems to give a damn about him, etc. I’ve always been kind of drawn to his struggle to find where he belongs – which is part of why I feel undercover work is his niche: beyond all else, Marty Deeks still doesn’t quite know who he is or who he’s meant to be. I’m drawn to him as a writer because I love to see him exploring that.”
What a surprise, he muses bitterly. Marty Deeks screwing things up again. Clenching a fist atop the bar, he can do nothing but hear the words echo in his head, unsurprisingly in the voice of his father. It’s been years since Deeks has seen the man, but his voice remains in his head just as clear and crisp as ever – usually, though, he’s better at ignoring it.
It’s really only on the nights like these that Deeks finds himself unable to shake it. Only on the nights like these, when his usual defense of humor and wit fails him and he’s left with nothing but the darkest of his thoughts, the ones that suggest that maybe, just maybe, his father had been right all along.
After all, he certainly doesn’t feel like much more than a failure tonight.
Many of these writers just want Deeks to understand that he’s far more than his father and others told him he was. peanutbutterer is one who struggles to capture this aspect of Deeks, “His self-deprecating humor and the way he just takes all the hits he’s given.” She says, “Those parts in the show I always want to shout at the screen and tell him to stand up for himself and remind him that he deserves so much better! But that’s the thing about Deeks- he doesn’t think he does. And so he takes it with a smile and keeps on going. The moments where he stands up for himself are so very rare. I know that’s a key part of his personality, but I find it so frustrating and difficult to write, especially when writing from his point of view because I have a hard time figuring out what would be going through his head in moments like those. What does he really think of himself? Can he truly not see it?” bookdiva shares the same struggle. “For me, the hardest part about Deeks to capture is his forgiving nature,” she says. “I mean, I know he’s just a character, but sometimes I actually get mad on his behalf, you know?”
aslycsi1315 does write a Deeks who “is generally emotionally scarred and very self-doubting… He’ll laugh and try to hold onto some form of normalcy instead of dealing with the detrimental past LAPD cases, the inferiority from being with Sam and Callen and his abuse as a child. I also always write him becoming an agent because I think it’s about time and he’s incredibly competent. He stopped being a cop after Romania and just has to emotionally push past his self-doubt to realize that he is incredible.”
“I’m afraid, Hetty. I’m afraid that I’m not going to be seen as good enough no matter what I do.”
Every joke about his ability as a cop and a liaison pops up in his mind, hurting him. The minor pokes are harmless, but the big ones that come from cops that used to be his friends come back and hit him hard. Hetty’s now concerned and has a hand on Deeks’ arm.
Hetty gasps,”Why on earth would you think that-“
“It just makes sense,” Deeks unintentionally cuts her off because he feels like he’s two seconds from exploding; “it’s a theme in my life you know. I wasn’t good enough for my dad, I wasn’t good enough for my mom when I got older, I’m not good enough for anyone at LAPD, I’m so freaking behind everyone on the team, I’m not good enough for Ken-“
“That’s enough.” It’s the harshest tone Deeks has ever heard Hetty use.
Jessica237 doesn’t think her Deeks will ever completely resolve his doubts. “I tend to have him struggling (sometimes quite gravely…) because to me, that’s who his character is. He’s held onto everything for this long and I don’t know if I can see him truly leaving it all behind,” she says. “Honestly, and it’s so sad to say even though it makes him even more intriguing as a character (to me, anyway), but I think moving forward for Deeks is more about putting on that show for the rest of the world rather than truly moving forward. [If] he can convince the world that it doesn’t bother him, then maybe he can convince himself that it all doesn’t bother him. That’s the headspace that I LOVE to explore for some reason- when Deeks is alone, and the shields come down, and the doubts begin to surface. Everyone always says Kensi is adept at wearing her masks; I think Deeks is just as good at it, if not better.”
Similarly, ZBBZL’s Deeks has never expected much for himself, but his world has been shaken up a bit by his closeness with Kensi. She says, “My Deeks is a caring man who deals with tons of self-loath and low self-esteem issues with a smile. He doesn’t think that he’s worth loving because his own father couldn’t even do that, and he thinks he’s a failure because nobody’s ever said the contrary. And yet, he’s a brave, selfless man who would do just about anything for the people he cares about. My Deeks is a hero in disguise, who can’t see it because he’s used to being the one that nobody wants. My Deeks is a man among others, who hides his failures and faults behind a smile and a joke, and whose mask started slipping the moment he met someone who, for the first time, has wanted to see behind it.”
imahistorian’s Deeks also occasionally doubts himself. She says, “I think I’m drawn to this because it’s so obvious that he is a good man, worthy of Kensi, and a skilled police officer. Him doubting those qualities in himself is a very human thing to do and that makes him relatable. Him being able to eventually move past that, accept those doubts and become the person I see him as is very satisfying. And it’s the path along the way that makes it fun as a writer. Coming up with situations that test him and may allow him to grow and become that good man is very satisfying as a writer.”
It couldn’t possibly be cut and dry and on good days Deeks thought he might be a good man, even tricked himself into seeing in Kensi’s eyes that she thought he was worthy. But on bad days, when he questioned his past and whether he really did enough to even the scales, the look in Kensi’s eyes sometimes wasn’t enough and he began to question himself.
Sometimes he wanted to ask her. But he feared her confirming his darkest thoughts as much as he longed for the reassurance only she could give him. And without anyone telling him otherwise, reassuring him that his darker thoughts were just a passing thing, his normal self-confidence took a hit.
Thanks to these wonderful writers for sharing so many insights over the last few weeks about Deeks’ darker side. One of the wonderful things about Deeks is how he has managed to triumph over such a troubled background. Next week we’ll brighten things up with a look at the Deeks we all root for to succeed, the Deeks who lightens dark situations for everyone around him. We’re calling him Underdog Deeks.
Want to Read More?
To find the stories quoted above, follow these links:
imahistorian, “Take Me Out”
Jessica237, “As Close As It Gets”
We also asked each writer to recommend a short story they thought best represents their Deeks. Bamie02 named a chapter called “Sand” in her collection of one-shots called “Little of This, Little of That.” It’s an example of Doubting Deeks that she describes this way: “It’s after “Fish Out of Water,” and it’s a story about Deeks and Sam talking about how to make relationships and partnerships work in their job. It shows his insecurities and even though we aren’t seeing a lot of it on the show, his determination to make it work with Kensi.”
Or, go back to the previous Writing Deeks, Dark Deeks.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.