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Dear Shane: An Open Letter About NCISLA Canon


NCISLA - Hand to Hand - Deeks - Hetty

 

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!

Sincerely,

Karen P.


Karen P.

Karen P. is a contributor at wikiDeeks.com. Follow her on Twitter: @anonklp

About Karen P (159 Articles)
wikiDeeks Writer & Assistant Editor. I never wrote for fun before... until my ECO-obsession. Now I love to analyze any and all aspects of the best character on television.

35 Comments on Dear Shane: An Open Letter About NCISLA Canon

  1. This is amazing, Karen. I definitely think you deserve the job of overseeing the scripts! 🙂

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  2. Dear Karen,
    If only I could give you a Hight Five over the 11000miles which separate us! I read your letter and I was so relieved to know that if I misunderstood some things, it was not because I saw the episode in VO while I’m French (sometimes, the language barrier can give rise to incomprehensions…because of my poor English)
    I was wondering how old is Talia and how she could have had Mark as a partner during 15 years (especially since she once said that she works alone… unless if she lied to Deeks at this time…)….
    According to a tweet from Dave Kalstein to a fan, we will discover why Deeks’ Mom was not his next-of-kin when he was shot in Personal….I have to admit that I’m really curious to know more about that…
    Don’t get me wrong…I do appreciate the episode because of so many great lines and heart-to-heart scenes between our agents. I do!
    That’s precisely why I asked myself if it was I who get the story wrong or if it was the episode who took some liberties from the past….
    Thank you Karen for writing this letter! I have a deep respect for this show, from crew to cast, I want to believe that they know why they gave us so confusing informations and where it leads them! But I will be very interested to know what kind of answer your letter will get! Have a good day.
    I hope that you could understand my rambling comment and my English….
    Respect and support from #ReunionIsland #IndianOcean #FrenchlittlestoneintheIndianOcean
    Karine.

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  3. * high five* not “hight”…sorry…..
    I make a lot of mistakes in English….

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  4. Glad to see I’m not the only one feeling this way.
    And they need to change something in the show, because those nonsenses are becoming usual unfortunately. And when we look at the rating of the first two weeks we can worry about the show we love so much.
    Shane needs to understand people get bored when they are lied about character history. Making mistakes in the early seasons is okay since it was new but NOT after 7 years. I mean with Talia it was less than 2 years ago, and she did two more eps since it so not hard to track what she told. They just have to look at the script to know what they told.
    I’m feeling biased and actually and I said it on Twitter, I didn’t like the episode this week. Between mistakes and too much fluffy (last year was perfect, subtil, this year, nicknames and all in the same episode no no no), it’s what killed Bones, when we were always doing B&B fluffy scenes.

    I really hope there are gonna change it, they are gonna lose viewers if they don’t make something NEW !

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  5. Dear Karen.
    as much as we NCIS LA maniacs agree with you I think they try to do their best but that is sometimes not enough (and actually I think SB is far too busy with the other projects he is working on and he is not anymore responsible/interested for the mistakes or the lack of storylines etc.).
    So yeah there are mistakes but these ones are for the die hard fans like us. The rest of the decreasing viewers just want an entertainment and they don’t care IMO. I for myself gave up with counting the mistakes or caring for any of this misleading tweets e.g.#likeneverseenbefor, #wontdisappoint, #gamechanger etc.)

    The cast and crew fight for the survival of the show and so mistakes happen. And for the last season of this show I don’t think they will get a new crew member who is just responsible for the continuity. They have a budget cut already. I hope your letter will change some things but my hope are not too high.

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    • Why do you think this is their last year? Do you know something we don’t?

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      • There is already a budget cut, the ratings are bad, much worse that last year and the cancellation prediction shows the show likely to be cancelled (though it might be a bit too early for that),SB doesn’t even write an episode anymore and he is busy in other projects. Also the PR is pretty bad for this show compared to the other NCIS shows as if it is not worth anymore to promote it.
        But most of all I am more of the ‘half empty’ type of character so maybe I am wrong.

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        • Beth, your comments today have me intrigued. I’m interested in where you got the info that the show may be cancelled? And budget cuts? What other projects is SB working on? When I google SB, it only mentions that he’s working currently on NCIS LA and it’s clearly evident with his appearance at the Paleyfest panel discussion and in various recent show mag interviews. As for SB not writing episodes, if he’s the executive producer, I would imagine that it may not leave him time to write. Your comments have me concerned for my favorite show.

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    • At PaleyFest, didn’t SB say that the Deeks, M episode will be in Season 8? Seems like the show has already been renewed for next year based on Shane’s comments.

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      • Actually he said something to the effect that if the CBS executives are willing, there would be a Deeks M in season 8. Of course, if the executives aren’t willing, there won’t be a season 8 at all, much less the often-promised but never delivered Deeks backstory.

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  6. Karen, I could not have stated your points and arguments for consistency any better. This is exactly how I feel and you would be perfect for the position of ‘NCIS LA Canon Coordinator”. I am in total agreement that a simple review of the draft script before it is completed would ensure that even the tiniest detail is correct or to point out the inconsistenceie thus far so that future storyline may address them. I’ve always said that it does not have to be a full on scene, even a passing exchange between the characters would suffice. I love settling into a new episode and becoming immersed in the characters and the case of the week …however it is disconcerting when the conversation or action makes me stop short with a “what?!?” And then having to rewind to catch up.

    Mr. Brennan, i understand that it is diifcult to keep consistency in all the tiny story seeds, which I always refer to as gems that you and your writers have dropped along the way to sprout in future episodes. It sure would make the watching of my favorite show more enjoyable if the scripts would follow canon. Please read Karen’s column contributions to this WikiDeeks website and you will find that she has the depth of “fangirl” to assist your writers. You would not have a better candidate than Karen!

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    • I’m so glad that I am not alone trying to figure out back stories. Wonderful letter and very telling. Keep it up Karen. Your stories are just as good as the writers on the show and feed the romantics in all if us.

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  7. Brenda (@bpnp) // September 30, 2015 at 9:04 AM // Reply

    Well said Karen!! Totally agree!! Thanks for writing it!!

    If you’re going to have a show with long-running themes (Callen’s history, Hetty as master of universe and controller of all things, Densi, etc.) you need to have long-term story consistency. If you just do case of the week that doesn’t matter. I’m fine with either style. But long-term inconsistent stories are maddening to long-time viewers.

    While I appreciate your point about the actors remembering the characters, I wondered if that is impacted by the number of deleted scenes – would eventually be hard to remember what made it to air and what didn’t – and whether they are instructed to presume those scenes happened or didn’t happen. So maybe their internal canon is different because of that? Just a thought.

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  8. You would think someone on the writing staff would be responsible for cannon? Also since the actors have to say these lines over and over you would think they would remember some of these points about their characters too and point them out. Not that I’m putting this on their shoulders but I wonder if they catch some of these in consistencies.

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  9. So well written, Karen.
    In this letter you simply gave voice to my biggest concern about the show we like so much: inconsistencies and carelessness may put it in danger.
    Maybe more people are just casual viewers that are not so bothered by characters’ backstories kept straight and what is canon or not? It may be. But for all the others, these continuous inaccuracies are becoming unacceptable. They can make us think – as we are at the moment – they (authors/producers) don’t care enough to care. They don’t care enough to take the time to “study” what they have created to begin with and make sure everything makes sense. They don’t care enough to understand that people can choose to move on by their own free will.
    If things keep this way, I really wish I had remained a casual viewer myself, watching only for explosions and car chases.

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  10. Well written. Many seasons back, Mark Harmon not liking the direction of NCIS basically,said make changes or I am gone. Changes were made and story lines improved. There is no one actor in charge (so to speak) on NCsLA. No way Chris Odonell will walk away from 4-5 million a year and the other 3 don’t have the street cred to pull it off.

    I can only think the actors must cringe at some of the episodes. It has become a venue for Kalsteins buddies with his sayoc and knifes and mind games.

    This is a naval criminal investigative show, does anyone think any part of the heart to hearts would exist on that level in the pentagon or any other place. The focus is so removed from the premise of of an investigative unit.

    Everyone says COD is a great guy and I truly believe that, but I think his acting is much better on the large screen. lLcoolJ another great guy, but one dimensional in acting.

    I think DR, ECO and Renee, are actually very good actors but are given drivel most weeks in terms of scripts.

    Insult to viewers to tease and change backgrounds to fit a story line. I have said before it seems like lazy writing. Story lines aren’t played out to move to another storyline. So crazy and juvenile to think the teases keep people watching. Ratings are lousy and people aren’t watching. Last season, you could skip 2 or 3 episodes and miss nothing in terms of story continuity. Many of those episodes could have occurred in seasons 2-5.

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  11. TaliaIsTheWorstCharacterNCISLAhasEVERhadKILLHEROFF // September 30, 2015 at 4:35 PM // Reply

    Sorry to be critical but if this was a real letter the producers never would have read it. It’s too long. You also spend more time kissing their butt’s than you do getting to the real point of your letter.

    Want them to read it do something like this.

    Dear Producers,
    Your consistency on the facts of your characters and couples is down right shameful. Hire a damn person to keep the facts of their past straight so your scripts make sense. Sincerely your fans.

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  12. l love watching this show but only for Eric Christian Olsen and Deeks & Kensi. I am worried about the storyline with Deeks and the IA investigation and how it will end. I really hope they stay true to Deek’s character. We have come to love this show and the characters and know them well. Well written letter.

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  13. May need to drop “ECO is known to like and support the site’s efforts” from your top 10 reasons list, as he seems like a decent guy who however open to criticism may not support a site that is now questioning the talent, commitment and caring of the majority of his colleagues. Nothing wrong with constructive criticism and disappointment, and the ratings drop is partly due to the shows inconsistencies as well as the fact that their network sacrificed them in bumping them to Monday night. I’ve always been disappointed when it’s time for me to ttune out of a series that I have loved. But I’ve never felt the need to tear down the show, it’s creators, cast and crew when it no longer meets my expectations, since they were responsible for my having the show and characters to love in the first place. I’m still a devoted fan of the show and hope they get at least another season after this, because I will miss what they do well.

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  14. Thanks for writing this Karen. I have posted my feelings on this on Tumblr. And for anyone that says canon only matters to the “fanatical” fan, they are wrong. I can give a list of friends who have quit watching the show because of the lack of consistency. I spent an evening with a friend going through my DVDs after Rage, trying to make it make sense. She is an “normal” viewer who had been with the show since S1. She’s not watching S7. I personally am debating whether I will watch next week. Not only did Kalstein give us an episode that didn’t make sense with canon, but he tweeted last summer that the #2 thing viewers wanted was canon consistency and then went against that in episode #2.

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  15. Dearest Karen,

    Couldn’t BE any more to the point…We all thank you for taking the time to remind the powers that be that there are enthusiastic (ok maybe obsessed) fans out there WHO get really confused/disappointed with this kind of repeated inconsistencies….And the truth is that for us characters ARE more important than the occasional entertaining case and somehow NCIS LA need to realise that.

    Great job once again…Keep it up.We’re all with you!

    Chris

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  16. Karen,
    Kudos for writing this post in a professional, balanced manner. It gratefully avoided the whiny and ranting submissions by many in the social media realm. As for specifics you mentioned, I’m probably in the minority (as usual) in trying to consider alternate takes on these presumed inconsistencies (instead of fighting them).

    Regarding Deeks’ background check, I considered Hetty had it running (without his knowledge) prior to giving him the paperwork at the end of Hand-to-Hand (which fatefully was on last night). Then only when he came onboard as the liaison did he realize/was made aware of the background check due to the last few things they had to get directly from him. This is pretty much how you laid it out as well. As for the Callen/Hetty relationship, I have an explanation for that too, even though I know most will dismiss it. It’s similar to a relationship I have with one of my students. I technically met him/we were made aware of each other when he was a freshman. However, it wasn’t until about a year later when I saw how incredibly he was excelling and achieving far in advance of his current and historical peers did I take a keener interest in working more purposefully with him.

    The Talia timeline and sneak peek of Mama Deeks from this week I’ll comment on over at Diane’s review post, but for now, no explanation for the 15 yr partner issue.

    Overall, the writers should be held to a higher standard on this topic. It seems a case of not maintaining open communication among/between them and not being as diligent as needed. Yet, we also know not even the actors who portray the characters everyday have a detailed recall of events, using the DR/ECO commentaries as the perfect example. No one’s perfect, so I’ll cut them slack. However, repeated errors are no longer “mistakes”. NCISLA has all the talent and ability to address this issue with just a bit more focus on #teamworkmakesthedreamwork.

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    • As I re-watched with hubby (his 1st watch), Granger came into the bullpen with the line that Citadel crosses all lines of law enforcement, so from that I kinda thought it meant that Deeks was vetted for LAPD which explains his familiarity with Citadel. After all, he’s still LAPD assigned to NCIS. And Karen and your supposition makes sense as well. In retrospect, it is a better scene with Deeks in the know about Citadel as opposed to earlier seasons when he had to learn everything about NCIS. It’s also interesting that Hubby’s first comment after watching the opening with the team banter was, “Callen’s back looking like nothing happened…not a good transition”

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  17. Donna Marie // October 1, 2015 at 6:25 PM // Reply

    Hi everyone, I have been reading “Tweets” regarding an upcoming episode titled The Long Goodbye. Everyone is worried Deeks is leaving. Can someone PLEASE ease my mind and reassure me this isn’t happening! They did say on the Paley Fest that it would be a big Deeks & Kensi season. However, I am really worried!!

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  18. Wow, thank you so much to everyone who left a comment. I’m so happy to hear all of your supportive comments, and I even enjoyed those that disagreed. I’ll just add two things. The first is to echo something that Reader referred to, which is the flipside of canon inconsistencies: those little nuggets that get placed in plain sight, but don’t really sink in or seem important until many episodes later when a new development fits perfectly into place as a follow-up. This is something the show has done really nicely, and I want to believe that we could see it continue. So when the Citadel lady starts talking about Deeks’ thirst for revenge, I hope there’s a future story (the IA investigation?) that ties back to that little tidbit. That makes things so fun for us fangirls and guys (fanpeople?).

    And then Donna Marie, I don’t think we’ve gotten any indication that Eric Christian Olsen is going anywhere. On the other hand, he did just take a vacation while (I think) everyone else was in the midst of shooting, so it’s possible there could be an upcoming episode where he’s not getting a lot of screen time (perhaps the LAPD return).

    Thanks again people- great discussion!

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  19. Thanks Karen, that makes me feel a little better. Eric Christian Olsen is an important part of the show along with “Densi”. And I keep thinking back to what Shane Brennan said at Paley Fest that the Season 8 will be a big Deeks & Kensi season. Thanks again for reassuring me. I would be devastated if he left the show.

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  20. someone please light Italia on fire // October 2, 2015 at 9:48 AM // Reply

    Hi Karen,

    Thank you for writting the wonderful letter, I just hope someone important reads it. The problem is that i feel that the show does not gear towards hard core fans. I agree with all the aspects of canon consistency needed that you have talked about. My frustration also stems from the fact that this show is so good at leaving bread crumbs for us yet it seems like they never get picked, they just get vacuumed on as if they never existed. I understand that you cannot explain all the leads/interesting things that we hear about but it seems like we dont hear about them at all. I feel that the show creators promise more than they can fullfill. For them it is a money maker. I mean I am truly convinced that SB leaves the important Densi scenes out in order to increase sales of their DVD. It truly is disappointing.

    My other disappointment comes from the fact that we have not gotten much Densi relationship scenes. It seemed like Talia had more physical contact with Deeks then his own girl friend. I feel that the show writters/creators think that we are a bunch of pathetic school girls who would jump up and down when they hear Densi call each other baby or if Kensi /deeks lightly touches each others arms. How pathetic is that. I realize that DR/ECO’s relationship complicates the situation but honestly i feel that as densi fans we deserve more than that. I dont need a make out sessions every episode but i do feel that physically they are acting as if they ar in season 3. There are other ways of making things interesting/couple like for Densi. Maybe showing Kensi trying to seduce deeks by wearing a lingerie in Driving Miss Diaz because of the pics she found on his phone. I know ECO has seen DR in a Bikini before. I have a lot of respect for both actors and their families but the reality is that a lot of people in this world have to do a lot of more complicated/ uncomfortable things for their work and get paid a whole lot less.

    I do feel that we have fan fics for the adult rated things but honestly we have gotten Kensi/Callen in bed and Sam and his wife in bed scene that actually was a better bed scene than the densi one and you are telling me that the show cannot do that for us to make the densi fans happy? I realize we hear about the Densi encounters but honest i always believe that seeing it on screen makes it real not just reading and hearing about it.

    That is my little rant. Sorry if i said anything out of line.

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    • Someone please light Talia on fire // October 2, 2015 at 12:37 PM // Reply

      My name is suppose to be ” someone please light Talia on fire”. Sorry for the Italia typo.

      Like

  21. I agree cannon had been side-stepped in the name of what – I don’t know.
    But that begs a more serious issue – last season was not very good.
    I have been watching reruns of past years on many channels and NCIS:LA WAS good. Sadly, the past season was mediocre at best. I have been trying to dissect the reason. At first thought – is was the scripts. Yes, they might have been more creative at times.
    But seeing this past episode directed by Terrence O’Hara coalesced my diagnosis – the direction least season was not up to par. There were bright moments to be sure but in general it was uneven, lackadaisical, and formulaic. Shane needs to get his focus back on this series and hire his better directors in light of the completion this season.
    I fear for this show which I love dearly.

    Like

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