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Processing Deeks: The Emotional Aftermath of “Internal Affairs”

NCISLA IA Deeks mainThe 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… [1] Deeks had to take out a dirty cop as his Max Gentry or another identity, accidently killing rather than wounding him… [2] 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.”

Moving Forward

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.

About Karen P (277 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.

10 Comments on Processing Deeks: The Emotional Aftermath of “Internal Affairs”

  1. hermionesmydawg // December 29, 2015 at 6:20 AM // Reply

    Great synopsis of our fandom’s week of turmoil, Karen. Deeks is a beautiful liar and I still love him anyway. 🙂


  2. Thanks for the therapy session, Karen. The turmoil still lies beneath the surface and cries out for a Deeks M. two parter, or at least an episode that gives us a little more information about what went on in that motel room and in Deeks’ mind. Will we get either? My faith in that is slight, but my faith in Deeks continues. I cannot desert him now. How a fictional character can elicit such deep emotion in all of us might be fodder for another analytical piece, Karen. We are certainly invested in this character, so whatever our mixed feelings might be, I’m confident most fans will hang around to see what happens next.


  3. Thanks for this accurate analysis of most viewers’ and Wikideeks readers’ reactions after “Internal affairs”.
    The first thing I felt after the episode was astonishment: I couldn’t believe the authors had really made our beloved character guilty of a crime in a show where the main characters get always cleared after a couple of hours at the most. A bold move, indeed!
    It helped me a lot to read other people’s comments to process my own feelings.
    What I know for sure is that I am so grateful we got Deeks’s confession and apologies to Kensi for lying just after a week from “Internal affairs”. I found that scene very powerful. Maybe it was a way the writers had not to make the fans too angry with the direction the show had taken with Deeks.
    We still don’t know many secrets of his past but this is the fuel that makes us keep on watching, isn’t it? And I’m so glad that Kensi supported her boyfriend body and soul and Densi has overcome this huge bump in the road – so far at least.


  4. Wonderful recap of the show that stirred so many emotions in all of us. We still don’t know the whole story of what happened that night. We only know that Deeks was trying to protect a woman from being killed and to me that is self defence. His protection of women stems from him protecting his mother from his father. I still don’t like the fact that the writers choose to go this way with the storyline. However all of the characters on this show have things in their past as well. I believe that because Kensi knows about that night she also knows the whole truth because she stands by Deeks and stills loves him no matter what. I love Deeks and always will. Eric Christian Olsen deserves a lot of credit that we have come to care about his character so much. He is definitely a much loved character/actor on this show and Densi have become just as well loved.


  5. It has been a couple of weeks since the episode aired and I have watched it probably 5 times (so far). I was not surprised that Deeks killed Boyle, even though I had predicted otherwise (so much for my predictive abilities). Deeks did not seek forgiveness for killing Boyle.. he asked for forgiveness for hiding it from Kensi and the others – Hetty knew and he knew Hetty knew.

    We know Deeks has a “dark side to his force” that could have come to the fore in that highly charged situation… we saw him whup on Scarli back in season two when Carli was in custody and had no weapon… protecting a helpless girl (she was only 17 at the time and weighed 100 lbs) from a corrupt cop with a gun may be a crime at law but may have been the right thing to do in that instance and may have been partially triggered by his history of abuse in his family.

    That no more secrets pledge could get very sticky on both their parts. All of the main characters have a multitude of skeletons in their closet and which of us does not have things we are ashamed of in our personal histories?

    The show runners have not made Deeks appear to be a modern-day Tom Sawyer although some viewers may have chosen to see him that way. They have presented us with a complex character: joking, self-deprecating, wise cracking, teasing, sometimes a skirt chaser but also a man with a huge dark shadow over him and one who will face torture and death to protect his team. I for one thought it was totally in character for him to seek forgiveness for hiding his role, but not for the actual killing. He is human and he has human failings but he also is totally, completely in love with his partner. And I like the human Deeks better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed reading this article, lots of different fan views and perspectives. I have also watched the episode 5 times , it was just so powerful and so well done . To me it seemed like one of the more character consistent episodes they have delivered from the show. Although I did think Deeks killing Boyle was consistent with his character it still surprised me and that was part of what made it such a powerful episode . It seemed to me that Deeks had no choice but to kill Boyle, if he had not killed Boyle, Boyle would have killed Tiffany , and I think then Deeks would have to live with himself forever knowing he let an innocent young girl die , and that would not be consistent with his character. I thought the episode went out of its way to make Boyle and Steadman culpable and capable of murder.

    I did not really have a problem with him not telling Kensi, I take him at his word in Cancel Christmas , he was protecting her and NCIS. I thought it was also consistent with his character that he had to tell her sooner than later , and she forgave him, which allows their relationship to move forward, just a great arc for Densi. I do agree with Norm though, no more secrets as you move forward could be difficult as all the main characters do have skeletons in their closets.

    I am really happy that they chose to make Deeks such an interesting and complex character .As someone said above, ECO has created a character we care deeply about. I do hope we get more scripts like this for him .

    I know this has been said before but I will reiterate that it is really nice to have the wikiDeeks site where not only can people express their opinions without being belittled, but fans are actually strongly encouraged to present different views and to engage in a productive discussion of episodes. The fact that there were more than 60 comments on the IA episode indicates a job well done !


    • Thanks so much! I have to say we have some really smart and sophisticated readers and it is a pleasure to see such great fans come together to express their feelings freely and openly. You guys are the best!!


  7. Fabulous article – sorry I’m so late to the party. So many great thoughts and all wonderfully presented here. It is what makes WikiDeeks such a valuable resource.


  8. Thank you Karen so much for the excellent article. I am glad that, this time, it follows the excellent episode which (sometimes) is not the case. Namely I noticed that reviews/discussions/articles on this site were better/more serious/funny and smart than the concerned episode itself and that annoyed me a little. Seemed to me that fandome cared more for the serial than its creators. Luckily it is not the case this time as we see how an excellent story(telling) caused so many different reactions from the fans. As many of you, I also went through all the stages you wrote about above, but I have never thought less of Deeks, I was never pissed with him for not telling anyone. I wondered why he didn’t tell to Kensi, but as (I think it was) sassyzazzi said, he was really protecting her, i.e. not allowing her to become an accomplice. He is a lawyer, so I am pretty sure he knows all about that.
    However, he is still my favourite character ever, I trust him and I trust that show runners saw the fantastic response on Internal Affairs episode and they will continue to give us episodes that will be able to cause such commotions and disturbances with the fandome.
    I always liked movies and cinema and I am still going to cinema very often and try to enjoy the movie, But honestly last time I was so rocketed from my comfort zone was after watching Melancholia from Lars Von Trier.
    Thanks once again for this site and the this article, thank you for all the work you do everyday on WikiDeeks and all the best to all & happy and healthy New Year!


  9. Thanks everyone for all the great comments, and happy New Year!


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