Abused child. Best friend Ray. Father died in a car accident. Lawyer. Cop. We know the outlines of Marty Deeks’ life, but almost none of the details in between. For fan fiction writers, this lack of backstory can be a frustrating black hole or a creatively liberating blank slate. Let’s take a closer look at Mysterious Deeks.
A cobblestone path next to the church led to a small cemetery hidden behind the building. The decaying headstones went back for hundreds of years where many of New Bern’s finest laid buried in the graveyard. Deeks found a newer section of the cemetery and walked around until he found a familiar name. Nina Brandel, born, 1834… died 1889. Another Brandel rested next to her. All the way down the line, Brandels filled up this tiny area of the cemetery. Off to the corner, a large granite headstone drew his attention. He stepped carefully around the stones until he finally stood in front of Karl Brandel’s final resting place. Deeks was overcome with emotion. He knelt down on one knee and gently put his hand over his grandfather’s name as if to let him know he was there.
Deeks took in a large gulp of air and lowered his head in grief. This was all too real now.
In general our group of writers is quite anxious to learn more about Deeks’ past. “We’ve seen glances of it in the show, but they’ve never really delved that deeply into his backstory,” says Jessica237, “and to me, it just feels like there is a huge wealth of unwritten story there. I guess the same could technically be said about all the other characters, but there’s really just something about his character that grabs me more than any of the others do.” For Bamie02, the most difficult part of Deeks to capture is “anything to do with his past and his thoughts and feelings on it because we know so little. Yes, we know his dad was a horrible man and he shot him, but there isn’t a lot of backstory.”
Some writers want this backstory because they are anxious to make sense of the contradictions they see in Deeks. Jericho Steele explains, “It’s hard to picture the man he has become considering the childhood he had. We don’t know that much about it, so we can only speculate and guess about some things.” And Tess DiCorsi says, “I really want a well done ‘Deeks, M.’ episode or episodes. This is someone who grew up in a tough household in a neighborhood where Ray Martindale’s career path is more likely than college/law school- there is an obvious desire to do something more than what was expected. Where did that come from? He’s got the drive to not only join the police department but wind up a good undercover cop in a squad that doesn’t like him. How did he get there? He’s now with an organization that has him working with nukes, running after international terrorists and traveling the world. Again, how did he get there?”
ZBBZL sees similar questions just waiting to be answered, something that has definitely inspired her writing. She says, “I write about what I love, and when I feel compelled to. I watch a lot of shows, read a lot of books, but I only write when I feel like there’s a story to tell that hasn’t been told yet. I feel like Deeks is a mystery. The show always goes on and on about mysterious Hetty and her nine previous lives, or enigmatic agent Callen with no name, but to me, the real mystery is Deeks. He’s kind and selfless, but he has this dark side about him that I would love for the writers to delve more in. That’s what makes him special to me. I want to know how a boy who grew up in an abusive home became this brave man. I want to know what it does to him to go undercover as the very people he’s fighting against every day. I want to know why he gave up on law to become a cop. I want to know if it was true love with Nicole Martindale because I don’t see Marty Deeks sleeping with his best friend’s wife for no reason.”
He lied to her. But now, she wants the truth, and he doesn’t know what’s the truth anymore, and what’s the tale he made up.
Because if he’s the kid who goes to school with a black eye and whose mom makes up stories about how clutzy he can be, he’s also the kid sitting on his father’s lap and cheering at his first Clippers game. He’s the little boy having fun with his best friend Ray and both their dads as they camp in the garden one summer night. He’s the boy tucking the blanket over his father as he sleeps on the couch, and sometimes a hand rises from underneath, and instead of feeling blood in his mouth, it’s a gentle caress that he feels on his cheek.
And no matter how much he says he hates his father, there’s no denying that deep down, it’s not only hatred he feels for him. He hates him when he thinks of how he broke his mother, not just her body but also her spirit; but there’s also the guilt and shame and regret of a little boy for not being good enough that he just can’t shake off.
That never really left him, when he thinks about it.
Some writers are less interested in filling those holes in Deeks’ backstory in their own writing. They prefer to stick to what we do know about him, which they see as a slowly expanding pool of information from which to draw. “I’ve been hesitant to deviate too much from the tidbits we know about his past,” says imahistorian, “even those have been somewhat few and occasionally contradictory.” Tess DiCorsi explains, “As viewers, we’ve seen only small parts of Deeks’ history compared to Callen, Sam and Kensi. I tend to cling to what we officially know and build on that.” Kadiedid takes a similar approach. “I don’t like to venture too much into alternate universes so I have intentionally left my writings on Deeks past as a bit vague,” she describes. “Once we find out more about him and what makes him tick, I think it will open up a whole new batch of fan fic stories.”
For writers like these, every small reveal about him makes a significant contribution to their writing. “I definitely think my writing has changed as the seasons have progressed,” Kadiedid notes. “They are very slowly showing more and more of Deeks’ past and with each new thing we learn, more opportunities for storylines present themselves.” For thepixiesmademedoit, “Each new piece of information we’re given, each new event that happens on the show is a new avenue of storytelling. Whether it’s Deeks shooting his father, his relationship with his friend Ray, his clear and unfaltering loyalty to his team when they left for Romania, his growing relationship with Kensi and all its complexities, the torture he and Sam went through and the new friendship they’ve found– each one is a building block of who this character is. Events change these characters but they also show us a new side or angle to look at them from too.” Similarly, ZeGabz finds herself making adjustments based on new developments with TV Deeks. “Every time a new Deeks-centric episode airs,” she says, “it provides me with new backstory information. And I always, always try to stick as close to canon as possible in terms of backstory. So I’ve definitely had to alter a few things here and there.”
“I’m real sorry, Marty, I didn’t know” Miggy said quietly putting his hand lightly on Deeks’ shoulder. “You were just a kid, Marty, and I know your dad was in prison. What did you do then, mijo? Where did you live?”
“I lived with Ray until the end of the school year,” Deeks said quietly. That lost feeling that had almost overwhelmed him after his mom died, suddenly flooded his body again and he looked at Sam to try and bring himself back to the present. But all he saw was sadness in Sam’s eyes, and he turned away.
“Ray’s dad slap you around like he did Ray?” Miggy asked angrily.
“The few times he could catch me,” Deeks laughed, “I was pretty fast back then.”
“Hell man, you won every track meet you were in,” Miggy said, slapping Deeks’ knee.
“I left during the summer,” Deeks said, looking up at the sky again, remembering it all. The nights he was too afraid to sneak back into Ray’s room, and slept under the bleachers at the school; the time Ray’s dad caught them smoking pot behind the garage, and beat the living crap out of both of them. Deeks wished he had been able to run away that day.
“Where did you go, mijo?” Miggy pressed. It was like he needed to know. Deeks really didn’t mind telling him, but having Sam hear the details, that was different. So, he shook his head and told him he’d said enough and it was all in the past. He said all the things he could think of to get Miggy to drop the subject, but it didn’t work.
“You lived on the streets didn’t you, Marty?” he said quietly, putting his hand on Deeks’ arm. Deeks shook his head again and looked away.
In contrast to the writers we just heard from, there’s another, possibly larger, group that doesn’t want to wait for the official information about Deeks’ history. “…the show doesn’t share any of Deeks background so I have had to write my own,” phillydi notes. For Jessica237 in fact, “There is nothing I love to write more than his backstory.”
ZeGabz does it because she “wanted to give insight into why Deeks feels so much. He is the most empathetic NCIS: LA team member, in my humble opinion, and I wanted to portray the evolution of his compassion.” ZBBZL has also enjoyed writing about Deeks’ backstory. She says, “I like thinking and talking about these characters, try to understand who they are, what they do and why. I think it has to do with me being a Psychology major. I definitely try my best on that front while writing.”
He knows why he became a cop.
He knows exactly why that particular badge is so very important to him.
For so long, it’s been the only thing that’s grounded him. The reasons behind why he became a cop are simple – he’d wanted to help people. He’d wanted to bring the innocent justice. Those were the reasons behind his brief stint in law as well, though quickly Deeks had grown weary of the unscrupulous side of it all. It’d been too much money and bribery, and not enough actual justice, and that…that hadn’t been good enough for him.
So he’d left behind his stellar law school grades and his mastery of the state bar exam for the less glamorous life of an undercover cop. And that… that’s where he’d found his niche. For the first time in his life, Deeks had felt as if he’d belonged to something. He might not have made many friends on the force, but that matters very little to him.
What matters is that he gets the job done. What matters is that he’s good at it.
What matters is that, for the first time in his life, he feels as if he’s making a difference.
Amongst many of our writers, there’s a great drive to fill the gaps in Deeks’ story. ZBBZL said, “I want to know all about him, and I guess that’s why I write about him. To fill in the blanks. I have my theories, my metas, my own feelings, and I pour them out in my writing. They drive me to write.” Sweet Lu explains, “So, why do I write about him? I write about him… because he is a blank slate. We know so little about him, really, so there is space for me as a writer to fill in those blanks, to use his character to explore all sorts of possible storylines and emotions, to create a childhood for him that has yet to be revealed on the show. I could be completely wrong, but it is called fiction after all.”
We’re not quite done with Mysterious Deeks. Next week we’ll hear more about the types of origin stories our group of writers has invented for Deeks, and about some of the challenges they’ve encountered along the way.
Want to Read More?
To find the stories quoted above, follow these links:
phillydi, “Sins of Another Father”
ZBBZL, “Beneath the Surface”
Sweet Lu, “Friend and Foe”
Or, go back to the last Writing Deeks, Fixing TV Densi.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.