The Marty Deeks we learned about in “Internal Affairs” surprised many fans. He killed his former partner to protect a young prostitute and lied to the people who care about him most. While many took it all in stride, others were shocked and disappointed by his behavior- some by the actual killing, the circumstances of which are still murky, and others by the cover-up, lies, and perceived manipulation of Kensi. They didn’t expect any of it from the Deeks they thought they knew.
ufff, uff, uff… those are my sentiments now. I was waiting with such anticipation for this episode, that I watched it literally at the edge of my seat and at the edge of my nerves. I am still baffled how I care so much for the fictional character.
-Maria on wikiDeeks
Indeed, you likely wouldn’t be reading this right now if you didn’t care a lot for a certain scruffy but fictional detective. Even though Deeks isn’t real, many of us have a significant emotional investment in him. Before we talk about some of the emotions prompted by “Internal Affairs”, it’s important to note that many fans found his “IA” actions in character. Some were surprised but easily accepted his conduct, and some even saw it as an exciting development. Take wikiDeeks Contributing Editor Diane for instance. She experienced “no emotional backlash” over the episode. Instead, she says, “I think it’s wonderful that the writers care enough for Deeks that they wrote in this character twist and if we are lucky we will get to see how he works his way out of it. I love that he has this raging turmoil inside him because he hides it so well… who knew? I find him even more fascinating than before. I believe in the Deeks that I fell in love with six years ago. I think he will come through the other end intact and at peace.”
I’m still kinda fucked up about Deeks being the killer du jour on this week’s episode.
-Courtney AKA hermionesmydawg on Tumblr
But for others, “Internal Affairs” was the start of an emotional examination of whether we really knew Deeks as well as we thought. I watched many fans question their faith and trust in a beloved character even as I went through a similar reevaluation myself. The range of emotions we experienced as we processed the revelations actually reminded me of the stages of grief. In this case, no one we cared about died, no one lost a job, no relationship ended. But for some, faith in a favorite character was shaken, and a loss of trust can trigger the same cycle of emotions. Let’s take a look at the turmoil. Maybe you’ll even recognize some of your own experience…
Shock and Denial, or Deeks is a killer?!?!?!?!
Shock- complete surprise, and not in a good way, about the revelations in “Internal Affairs”- was experienced by many fans. They had believed Deeks was covering for Tiffany, the actual shooter. This sense of shock is our heart rather than our head taking charge of our thoughts, giving us time to adjust to the news.
I really didn’t see it coming, him to be an actual killer.
–Maria on wikiDeeks
Shock often comes with a sense of disbelief, with thoughts that “this couldn’t be happening.” It’s a coping mechanism to avoid a painful reality, emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This refusal to believe that Deeks had killed Boyle was a common sentiment, even after we heard Deeks confess at the end of the episode. As wikiDeeks Contributor Brenda put it, “I strongly believe that Deeks has been through rough times but has a good heart and solid character, so I just couldn’t (wouldn’t!) buy the ‘deep, dark secret’ thing.”
It’s funny because I wanted Deeks to be a complex character and when I got it, it shook me up a bit.
–Lindy via email
For wikiDeeks Assistant Editor Lindy, there were subtle hints during the episode that limited (but didn’t eliminate) her surprise at the ending. She noted, “I don’t think it was an accident that the scene with his mother in the jail dealt with his shooting his father to protect her. That should have been a tip-off to me, that he did in fact shoot the man he was accused of killing, but I held onto my belief that he was innocent until the end. That final scene was a shocking moment, and yet not, at the same time. Stunning describes it better, but so well handled by the writers, director and especially Eric Christian Olsen and Linda Hunt, that it took awhile for me to take it in.”
I don’t like Deeks being called a murderer because he is not. There is definitely more to the story.
-Donna Marie on wikiDeeks
It was the subtle hints leading up to “Internal Affairs” that had resonated with me (see Deeks’ discussion of murder for the “right reasons” in “Unspoken”), so I experienced less shock than most. But I continue to struggle with feelings of denial. Denial can even reappear after you think you’ve accepted a painful situation. For me the exact circumstances of the killing are important, and I vacillate between accepting the idea that he may have killed Boyle in less than a self-defense situation and completely refusing to believe that could have happened. In fact, sometimes I think Deeks could even still be covering for Tiffany, the real shooter. It’s like my mind just does circles as it tries to understand what really happened.
Anger, or How could Deeks do that?
Feelings of anger also occurred, although with less frequency than shock and denial. Anger following a loss is the mind’s way of fighting back. Like denial, it may ebb and flow. I saw anger being directed at Deeks for a wide variety of offenses: the actual killing, the cover-up, even the way he treated IA Detective Whiting. But the most frequent source of anger seemed to be the fact that he had lied to Kensi, both before and during the episode.
I’m pissed with Deeks because of his lying, because of his playing the victim, I won’t jump ahead and say that he was guilty of murder, but he sure as hell wasn’t innocent… I’m pissed because he had the opportunity for months to tell Kensi the truth when she was pleading with him for it… To sum up: Yes, I’m angry at Deeks, just about everyone is right now, I mean, we have always known that he’s a liar (even over tiny ridiculous things that he has no reason whatsoever to lie about), and I’ve always been able to accept that as a character flaw, something that made him interesting. But now that character flaw is really screwing with even the best parts of him, and it’s making it harder to see those good parts.
–Divergent338 on Tumblr
In addition to anger, some fans felt let down by Deeks. wikiDeeks Contributor Courtney felt “Disappointment that Deeks is an even bigger liar than I imagined he would be. His playing it up as a victim to Kensi was completely unnecessary.”
I’ve done nothing but rant and analyze this on my Tumblr this past week, so I’ll spare you guys from repeating anything that has already been said here… I’m still pretty disturbed by this episode, but trying to recover from it.
–Courtney on wikiDeeks
Fans with conflicting views also caused frustration. Lindy says, “I found myself getting angry with other fans who didn’t support him, and it made me defend his actions even more.” Gayle experienced something similar: “We don’t take this one instance and extrapolate it to his entire character; we know Deeks isn’t a sociopathic serial killer. In fact, we know it’s the polar opposite. It’s trying to prove and get others to believe it that makes the matter so much more challenging to take calmly.” Sometimes it was the way fans expressed these views that led to additional irritation. As Courtney says, “I think it’s very interesting how everyone has a different interpretation. That makes for interesting television and discussions. I just wish that everyone could understand that people can interpret things differently and be upset about situations without belittling their opinions.”
While I did see some anger directed at the showrunners for allowing Deeks to get away with killing someone, I did not see similar anger regarding their decision to have Deeks actually kill Boyle. I attribute that to the hints they dropped along the way and to the development of Deeks’ character with a definite dark side. The lack of anger here is a pleasant change from seasons past, when many of us were frustrated with the show’s direction. Heading into the episode, my biggest worries were whether Deeks would be kept in character and whether there’d be glaring canon inconsistencies. I think because these problems didn’t arise, I got through anger-free. (Or maybe it’s because I’m still in denial!)
Dialogue and Bargaining, or Let’s talk it about how it really happened…
For many, our way of working through feelings of denial or anger was by talking it out on social media. I have never posted so much to Tumblr in an effort to work through my disjointed thoughts and feelings, not to mention the strings of emails flying back and forth. Dialogue is a reaching out to others, a desire to talk about our feelings (and theories). It’s part of a struggle to find meaning for what has happened. Courtney for example dealt with her feelings by “Talking with friends, ranting on Tumblr, writing bitter poetry…okay, not the last one.”
…maybe his internal struggle is that he has spent all these years questioning whether he could have handled it differently. That is where all the guilt comes from, not that he wasn’t justified in taking Boyle down.
-OhBuddy66 on wikiDeeks
For some, part of the dialogue included discussions that sounded a little like bargaining. Bargaining involves looking for ways to change the situation even when it’s out of our power to do so. I think many of us tried to justify Deeks’ behavior as a way to make it less shocking, formulating scenarios that put Deeks in the best possible light. Some even developed alternate theories for what had really happened.
I have a couple of theories on the killing…  Deeks had to take out a dirty cop as his Max Gentry or another identity, accidently killing rather than wounding him…  Others were there, Deeks drugged before passing out fires blanks at Boyle and someone else follows up with a silencer actually killing Boyle at the same time…
-Trytofindme on wikiDeeks
Other forms of justification came when we tried to defend Deeks’ behavior, for example, by comparing it to similar acts we’ve seen from the other characters. The idea is that if Deeks’ behavior is like theirs, then surely he didn’t really do anything wrong. They’re all good guys, right?
None of us want Deeks to be a killer, justified or not or for the ‘greater good’ as Hetty likes to put it, but think of how many people the team has killed on this show… Every week bodies pile up and granted they are all ‘bad guys’, but so was Boyle… We want to think of Deeks as one of the good guys, which he most certainly is, but on this show, killing people is actually par for the course.
–Lindy via email
Or as Gayle related, “…from a rationalizing aspect, everyone on the team has been forced to take more than one life in an effort to protect the innocent. The events, as presented to us, portray a justified killing.” These efforts at bargaining seemed to go hand in hand with the dialoguing. I certainly felt like if I could convince someone of one of my theories or defenses of Deeks’ behavior, then it was more likely to be true. Similarly, Brenda found herself gravitating towards the comments that fit with her ideas. She describes it saying, “I ended up deciding that the posts in this vein [that agreed with her] were ‘correct’ and everyone else I ignored.”
Sadness, or Oh Deeks what have you done?
While I haven’t seen evidence that “Internal Affairs” launched any fans into actual depression, thank goodness, a number of us did experience a degree of sadness. Many felt this way because they worried for Densi’s future.
I want to think that he has no choice and he want to save the young girl. But this makes me really sad. And the secret he keeps from Kensi, that scared me… I’m scared that this may lead to a break up, when she will find out she could lose the trust in him and this would be the end of Densi.
–Vale on wikiDeeks
Some empathized with the painful emotions Deeks himself was experiencing. At the time, I commented, “Deeks seemed so sad, so defeated, in that amazing final scene. My heart sort of breaks for him there.” But I was also tremendously saddened at the possibility that he might have committed premeditated murder, something that would require me to reevaluate everything I think I know about him.
Mainly I’m just sad, because they’re messing with my favorite and they’re messing with his future and the girlfriend who has been absolutely amazing during this whole situation.
-Divergent338 on Tumblr
For Gayle too, the episode raised doubts. “If anything, as this show so often does, it left me with even more questions in confusion,” she said. “Did he honestly have to kill the officer?… what about the ethical implications?…” The end result: “Overall it’s with great sadness my view of the detective has been tarnished.” One of the best ways to cope with sadness is to accept support from others, which is what many of us did via dialogue.
Acceptance, or OK it happened, but we’re gonna figure it out
After all that turmoil, most fans seem to have worked their way to some degree of acceptance, to make peace with what has changed and look forward to the future.
True acceptance is the final stage, but it does not magically dissolve our other emotions. For many, acceptance may only happen gradually, interspersed with some of the other phases.
The thing is, I feel there is more depth to him now, various shades of darkness, or maybe just more human. The consequences of what he went through as a child have really never been fully addressed on the show, and that kind of abuse will always shape a person to a certain extent…
-Lindy via email
Unfortunately acceptance does not necessarily mean happiness. Some may never fully trust in Deeks again. After all, we still don’t know for sure the exact circumstances of the shooting. Exactly how dark Deeks is will remain a mystery, at least for now. This lack of detailed information may keep me from finding complete acceptance- if I can’t figure out exactly how to reinterpret Deeks in light of what happened, I’m not sure I’ll be able to really make peace with it, to stop thinking about it.
I have been struggling with these issues since Monday, as well. Yes, I have lost some respect for him, and I also feel like I understand his character a lot better in the process. This has made me realize exactly how damaged and fucked up this character is. I don’t think they’ll ever tackle it on the show, but clearly his abusive upbringing took a heavy toll on his psyche.
-Courtney on Tumblr
Events from “Cancel Christmas,” which came quicker than planned after the episode order was changed, have played a role in helping many people forgive Deeks. Courtney, for example, is “still working on acceptance now, but his confession and apology to Kensi is helping with that.”
I expect Kensi to love him despite this, so it’s only fair that I do too.
-Divergent338 on Tumblr
Brenda described her experience, saying, “I actually wasn’t expecting a resolve [in ‘Cancel Christmas’] because they so often leave things hanging so I was expecting to live in denial and never reach acceptance! Nice to have the validation of how it turned out, but it was a bit of an emotional ride in the meantime!” Gayle is choosing to remain optimistic. “…the logical side reminds me this is a fictional story,” she notes. “Thus, it’s far easier to progress to acceptance because 1) there’s very little alternative, 2) I have faith in how the story will be handled in the future (to Deeks’ long-term benefit), and 3) because there a trust and loyalty built with this character over the past five-plus years.”
These stages aren’t experienced in any one order. In the past few weeks I’ve found myself moving back and forth through denial, bargaining and acceptance. Every time I’d write something in defense of Deeks, I’d soon find myself questioning my own words, poking holes in my theories. Eventually we may find out the details of Boyle’s killing, but if we don’t I’m going to try to think the best of Deeks, to maintain my faith that he is a good man, the best in fact. The events of “Internal Affairs” did change CC’s opinion of Deeks for the worse, but she says, “I don’t expect it to be permanent. Over time I will forget how horribly manipulative I perceived him to be in this episode. His face in other new episodes will help me with this. :)”
Lindy seems to have found true acceptance, saying “I find that now I have come to accept his actions as another layer of this character’s personality, and it has made me want to delve even deeper into what makes his character so compelling.” I definitely look forward to watching Lindy and other fan fiction writers move forward and incorporate these revelations into their stories. Lindy went on to say, “As a fan fiction writer I became invested in this character almost from the moment he appeared… He feels like family to me, so no way could I abandon him now. I think the episode has crystallized my feelings for the character of Deeks. I’ve become quite defensive of him, and I am a bigger fan than ever.”
However, Lindy does worry about the possible ramifications for Deeks with other fans. “It was a brave thing to do with such a beloved character,” she says. “Even though Deeks confessed to the killing, I wanted to believe he did it for the right reasons, and I think the writers thought this character could withstand what this might do to fans’ feelings for the character. I hope they’re right.”
Rather than cause fans to think the worst of Deeks, these revelations could also do the opposite. Gayle spoke about “the almost ingrained motivation to root for the ‘underdog’, a description consistently applied to Deeks since we knew him as only Jason Wyler. We want Deeks to ‘win’ in the end, to overcome a string of tragedies. So in the end, it extends beyond acceptance to protection. For someone who subscribes to keeping others safe, it prompts feelings in us to do the same for him.”
Differences in opinion and perspective are what make it fun to participate in a fandom. In the past few weeks I’ve found it tremendously helpful to read others’ thoughts and interpretations in order to process my own feelings. I hope we can all be mindful that everyone is processing these revelations differently and that we can “respect the pace”- and the direction- that each person follows.
After the shock, the denial, the anger and sadness, each fan may or may not see Deeks differently. For those who do, most feel that the writers have shown us new layers to his character rather than taking us on a dubious detour that’s not true to his nature. That is impressive writing, and I’m grateful for it. I take the depiction of my favorite character quite seriously, and I’m pretty sure you do too.
There are indeed many shades of grey of Marty Deeks and regardless how dark they are, seems that I love them all.
–Maria on wikiDeeks
Thanks to all the other folks whose heartfelt comments on the wikiDeeks “Internal Affairs” review have been quoted here, thanks to Lindy for sharing some of our private correspondence, and thanks to Divergent338 for sharing her Tumblr thoughts as well.