Dear Mr. Brennan,
My name is Karen and I am a fangirl. As a fangirl, I enjoy spending some of my free time consuming, and producing, supplemental material about my favorite show. We NCIS: Los Angeles fangirls (and guys!) like to write stories, create fan art, and discuss in great detail the show’s latest developments. For us this is a fun, social, and creative way to spend time, and to extend our experience with the show.
I don’t know how familiar you are with us, but I’d assume that having people feel so passionately about your creation would be something you’d enjoy, that you’d appreciate. I know I like it when people leave comments on my writing; I can’t imagine making something that inspires such an incredible level of creativity and affection as NCIS:LA. We are no doubt only a tiny fraction of a percentage of your overall viewers, but we make up in obsession enthusiasm what we lack in numbers.
For myself if not for many others, it’s not so much the cases of the week that inspire, but the amazing characters you’ve created (and the actors who play them) that capture my imagination. One thing you might not know is that many of us write stories (or fan site articles) about the gaps in our knowledge about these characters’ lives, about the things we haven’t yet seen or heard about on television. Things like what happened to Deeks after he shot his father, or how Kensi survived living on the street. It can be frustrating to be kept in the dark, but it can also be fun to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks.
There’s this term in fan fiction that gets thrown around called “canon.” It’s used to describe a story that sticks to the facts as we know them from television, or just to talk about the established information about a character and their history. For example, at the end of the episode “Fame,” Callen asks Hetty about where he was working when he first came up on her radar. “Was it Kiev? Houston? Bogotá? Don’t tell me it was Jersey City?” Although Hetty never answers, it becomes accepted canon that Callen was already working as a federal agent before he ever learned about or met Hetty, regardless of how early on she was tracking him.
I don’t want to speak for the fandom as a whole, so I’ll just say that for me, canon is important. It’s something I take seriously. I spend a lot of time trying to really understand what makes these characters tick, and the few facts that I know about their backstories are some of the key clues I use to do that. This information makes up the building blocks around which I, and many others, create our stories, or write our analyses.
So when these facts are negated by new events that don’t match up with what I learned before, it causes trouble for me as a fangirl. When “Rage” shows a flashback to a teenage Callen running into Hetty for the first time, it makes me wonder if I misunderstood something about their backstory, and worse, it causes me to reevaluate everything I might have imagined when theorizing about those gaps I mentioned, as well as to second guess all the conclusions I’ve drawn about these characters’ lives and how they came to be the people I see today.
At their best, these canon inconsistencies are merely distracting. For example, when I watch “Fish Out of Water” I am introduced to Talia, a DEA agent working without a partner because she once had a failed relationship with one who ended up leaving the DEA. A Talia who worked internationally, undercover, inside the cartels. So imagine my confusion with the Talia from “Citadel” who has actually had an L.A.-based partner named Mark with whom she’s worked for the past 15 years, without any romantic entanglement. This type of deviation immediately takes me out of the story and down a path of second-guessing what I thought I knew.
At their worst, these canon inconsistencies are disheartening . All Deeks fans remember (because we’ve watched the episode so many times), the end of “Hand-to-Hand,” when Hetty sits down at a bar and offers Deeks a job. She’s filled out the entire application, leaving only his signature to make it official. (“Who are you guys? I mean, how did you get all this information?”) Then in “Citadel” Deeks mentions the lengthy background check he went through before his job offer, saying “They spent 6 months digging through my life, before I got the job offer to work here… grade school report cards, interviewing neighbors, polygraphs, they did a full body cavity search… of my life.” Now, I can spend time trying to create some sort of disjointed backstory that reconciles these two different versions of events (maybe he didn’t know they were interviewing his neighbors, maybe the polygraph didn’t happen until right after he signed the application but before he showed up at work the following week in “Black Widow”). But I know in my heart that that’s not really what you’ve intended. And that’s discouraging for me. After all, why should I be caring so much about these characters if it doesn’t feel like you do? And I know that you care about them- they’re your creation after all.
It’s inconsistencies like these that make me fear what might happen with really important material, like how it came to be that Deeks has a good relationship with his mother who’s never been mentioned before, or what happened to make him become a cop. I’m very protective of these characters- that’s got to be something we have in common.
It’s hard to want to spend my time in this fandom, creating new articles and discussing the progress of my favorite characters, when I’m always worried I may be forced to totally unwind things that I thought I knew about them. It’s one thing to worry that one of them will do something out of character in the present day, but it’s a whole other level of disconcerting to have to willfully ignore something that I previously saw happen that’s now been directly contradicted by a new event. Maybe this simply isn’t a priority for you. After all, you still have millions of less-devoted fans who are happy with the banter and the bromance and the boom. You don’t need me or others who share my concerns.
But if you do care, perhaps someone could be charged with overseeing the scripts with an eye for what has happened before. I know seven seasons is a lot of material to track, and obviously you are super busy and don’t have the luxury of having rewatched episodes (repeatedly) like I have. I get it. (I am a little disappointed that the actors can’t at least remember their own characters’ histories!) Your writers and producers are equally busy, and it seems that your script supervisor has his hands full just getting everything cleared through the legal department. I read about something called a show bible- a listing of key facts from every episode. That sure seems like it would be mighty useful. Something to think about. By the way, I live in L.A. and am very detail oriented, so let me know if you need any assistance!