After playing with statistics in Part 1 to gauge the general health of our NCIS: Los Angeles fandom, today we’re hearing from a group of fans and ex-fans about their current level of involvement. Just where are we as a group? Are we still as passionate as ever? Or have a variety of factors combined to dampen our collective enthusiasm?
Two ex-fans, Courtney (AKA hermionesmydawg) and Colette (AKA homegrownoregano), were gracious enough to share their experiences. Colette says, “I have no enthusiasm or involvement with the show at this point. I still see posts (on Tumblr) occasionally because I have friends within the fandom, but for the most part I have no interaction with the show and have no involvement anymore.” Courtney simply describes her involvement as “nonexistent.”
A second group who still enjoy the show, albeit with a little (or a lot) less enthusiasm than previously, included Randy (AKA Jericho Steele), Gayle (AKA Densiland), Karen S. (AKA Kadiedid), Apryl (AKA aprylynn), and Mel (AKA imahistorian). Randy captures some of their sentiment, saying, “I think I’m still fairly well enthusiastic about the show… I’m always wanting [it] to grow into more than what it is because it simply has so much potential. Right now, I’m sort of at a plateau, waiting to see what new avenues the show takes this season and I’m really hoping that they start us off with a ‘bang’, literally and figuratively.”
And a few diehard fans who are still as enthusiastic as ever included Lindy (AKA Sweet Lu), Tess (AKA Tess DiCorsi), Kara (AKA raccoonsmate4life) and Hannah (AKA Divergent338). Hannah’s enthusiasm is “Extremely high, LOL. Over the moon over the speculation for Season 8 and eagerly awaiting seeing it myself. The show is as fun as ever.” Lindy says, “I have lost none of my passion for Marty Deeks and the show. I am in it for the long run…”
So what specific factors have lessened or maintained enthusiasm levels in the fandom? I asked my panel to tell me about their experiences.
Did all in mean count us out?
Deeks and Kensi first went “all in” in Season 5, although it happened off screen post-“Recovery.” The back two-thirds of that season were filled with controversial episodes, particularly “The Frozen Lake” and “Three Hearts.” This time period also marked the high point of fan fiction volume, which we may want to think of as the point where a decline began, one that continued into Seasons 6 and 7. Might Densi going officially “all in” have been a factor in changing enthusiasm levels?
Our group was unanimously in favor of the pair getting together. For Courtney, it “…was a nice payoff for the years of fun tension.” Colette agreed, saying “I was happy when they became a couple, I loved the journey to get them there and I was pleased they didn’t drag on the will-they-wont-they for too long.”
Most have been quite satisfied with All In Densi, Hannah particularly so. “The decision to put those two officially together gave so much potential for growth in both the relationship and the characters themselves,” she says. “I remember being terrified of them giving up on that ridiculous give and take and fully coming together, scared that they would lose their banter and playfulness as a result, but instead we’ve seen them expanding, growing as people and as a couple, having real conversations… that aren’t metaphors… So them going all in was essential and wonderful in my eyes.” Gayle agrees, noting that “The Moonlighting Curse, that Densi would lose their magic once they officially got together” has not really applied. “Many traditional ‘couple’ clichés’ have gratefully been avoided,” she says.
Lindy was actually a little unsure at first, saying, “It took me awhile to get into it in the beginning, but as Eric Christian Olsen has said, it just seems right that they should be together. I think it is a brave thing for the show to do and opens up so many possibilities… adding the complexities of life to their dangerous jobs just makes their relationship all the more interesting. “
A few people shared that their happiness with Densi together resulted in less need to write “fix-it fics” where they adjusted the events seen on TV. Apryl said, “Most of the stuff I’d write was inspired out of frustration and the desire to fix what I didn’t like. Right now, I’m pretty happy with Kensi and Deeks’ relationship so there’s not as much I want to add to it.” Kara adds, “I give credit to the writers of the show for my lack of [fan fic writing] inspiration because it means I don’t see glaring examples of things that need to be fixed or expanded upon (and I mean that as a compliment to them!)” Karen S. adds, “It’s funny, all we wanted was for them to get together but now that they are, we sort of miss the drama of the chase… We can’t have it all warm and fuzzy you know!” Hmmm, might the high point of NCIS:LA fan fiction volume have actually been a slew of fix-it fics post-“Recovery”/”The Frozen Lake”, with a similar wave post-“Three Hearts”?
Then there were a few who were disappointed in the couple Deeks and Kensi have become. Mel notes that although she’s glad they got together, “There have been moments in the last season when problems between them were manufactured it seemed like purely for conflict rather than problems they would have realistically as a couple.” And while Tess sees a show where they’ve “done a good job of writing them as a couple but keeping them in character and uniquely Kensi and Deeks,” Colette has seen the opposite. “It seems some of the writing staff forgot how to write Kensi Blye and Marty Deeks, and instead wrote ‘Densi’,” she describes. “I loved the ship, but what made it so good was those two characters, and how they interacted, but it seemed that more and more, ‘Densi’ was a character that replaced Kensi and Deeks.”
Was it Deeks killing his ex-partner…
After a lengthy investigation that culminated in Deeks getting off the hook (“for now”) for the death of his ex-LAPD partner, we learned in a shocking reveal that he had in fact shot Francis Boyle and covered it up, keeping it from the LAPD, NCIS, his team, and Kensi. At the time, this revelation shook Deeks fans and spurred tremendous discussion. Not everyone was able to accept his actions in the killing itself or the cover-up and lies surrounding it.
The actual killing didn’t seem to have too big an impact on our panel’s enthusiasm, although Kara was pretty rattled, saying, “This shook me more than I could have anticipated, and maybe in part because I didn’t think the showrunners would actually go as far as to make him a murderer, but it really made my mind reel for quite a while after the episode aired!”
But Tess points out the lengths the showrunners went to in setting Boyle up as a terrible guy who probably deserved what happened to him, something the same team of showrunners has done in other shows they produced. She says, “Deeks killing Boyle is in the show’s DNA.”
Randy saw his actions the way the showrunners seem to have intended. He says, “The fact that he did kill his partner while protecting someone else is perfectly in keeping with his character and this only added to my admiration for Deeks. That took a lot of guts and would forever taint him to his brothers in blue. It was a huge sacrifice on his part, but one he didn’t hesitate in performing.” Lindy felt it made Deeks an even more compelling character. “I was actually shocked the showrunners did that, and I applaud them for going there,” she says. “It added even more depth to that character and showed us the darker side of what he is capable of…” In his conversation with Hetty, “we finally got to see the anguish killing another human being can cause, and Deeks expressed that emotion that we rarely if ever get to see on the show. It was heartbreaking and made me love him even more.”
Hannah had a very strong reaction that in the end left her satisfied. “Not going to lie,” she says, “this situation was deeply problematic for me to watch. I loved seeing his depth as a character and understanding his motivations more, but that level of darkness without real consequences or a conclusion was difficult to watch. It seemed like so much of Deeks’ past is plunged into murky waters and it’s truly haunting. Somehow, I did come out of that episode loving his character even more and having a better understanding for his actions.”
Colette thought these developments were entertaining but nothing more. She says, “I actually thought this was an interesting twist, and a risk I didn’t expect the show to take. While I enjoyed this storyline, it didn’t push me back into the show, or further from it. It was simply a decent episode.”
…Or was it the cover-up?
While most everyone was understanding of the actual shooting, it was the cover-up that followed, particularly the lack of honesty with Kensi, that had a big impact on many. As Tess summed up, “Deeks killed Boyle before he could kill Tiffany. The problem was he spent years lying to everyone about it.” She notes that telling Kensi would have made her part of the cover-up, but also observes that without the investigation, Deeks likely never would have told her a thing. Gayle was likewise unsurprised at his lies given that, “They have both been long-term secret-keepers.” Kara saw it as Deeks not wanting to put Kensi in a position to have to “to either have to give him up or to lie and put her own reputation and career on the line.”
Randy and Lindy didn’t like his actions but understood them. “I had a hard time forgiving him for keeping it from Kensi,” Randy says, “even though I can understand his motivations. I imagine that he feared that it would change how she saw him and maybe even signal the end to their ‘thing’.”
Mel was disappointed in his actions. For her, “His reasons didn’t ring true.” Apryl felt the same way, observing, “[The lies to Kensi] made me angry… After finding out he had done it and then looking back on his actions, a lot of his behavior seems more like he’s trying to protect himself, not Kensi.” But she was able to accept the outcome, saying “…I very much appreciate that he didn’t let much time go by before coming clean to her and that he acknowledged what he did wrong and took responsibility. I’m still not 100% happy with the outcome, but I can say I’m satisfied with it.”
For Hannah, watching the lies was tough. “This almost ruined the entire episode arc for me,” she says, “watching him continuously lie to Kensi, his partner and lover, and still seeing her begging for him to shed light on the situation, so she could properly help and support him through everything, understand so she could act, and then him repeatedly shooting down her attempts to help and holding back essential information.” Colette also found it difficult, saying, “I could understand why he kept things from Kensi in the show, but I didn’t like it. After all they had gone through I assumed they could tell each other anything. Again though, this one thing in particular wouldn’t have caused me to abandon the show.”
For Courtney, Deeks’ lies might have been the single biggest factor in her withdrawal from the fandom. She notes that the killing itself “was a factor but not as large of one as the fact he didn’t own up to it. And paid off someone to act like he didn’t do it… Character morals were sacrificed for a more ‘suspenseful’ storyline, and it failed (for me)… I went on a lot of LA tangents after the ‘Internal Affairs’ episode, and after I calmed down from that, I started losing interest. My favorite character was no longer my favorite anymore. My ship felt tainted.”
Season 5’s writing was the problem. No, it was Season 6. Or maybe Season 7?
Some panelists pointed to specific seasons as the cause of waning enthusiasm, or at least a lot of frustration. Absolutely no one had anything bad to say about the first four years, but Season 5 had its share of critics. Colette cites the “strong character building, team focused, well written episodes, even filler ones,” of Seasons 1 to 4. But she sees the writers “cruising on the success of the show, canon issues, [out of character] traits from the team” and too many filler episodes in Seasons 5 to 7. Apryl was “very dissatisfied with Season 5,” which had “high highs and low lows… The ideas they had were pretty good but the execution was not at all. Since then, it’s been a lot better, but it still doesn’t feel as good as it was before Season 5.” For Courtney as well, the general quality of the writing “has been an issue since Season 5.”
For Randy, it’s been tough to top the “Sidorov-Janvier-nuclear weapons-torture” arc. “The last few seasons have felt a little ‘blah’ to me,” he says. “While I’m not saying that we have to have that kind of tension or build-up, there hasn’t really been a bad guy or gal to replace either one of those characters.”
Kara disliked most of Season 5, particularly Hetty and her handling of the Afghanistan arc, as well as the prolific use of metaphors. Ironically though, it only increased her interest. “The end of Season 5 is actually what made me turn to finding the fandom online,” she says. “I was so angry and ended up coming across fan fiction and all these wonderful writers were fixing things and writing AUs where Kensi and Deeks were actually together, and I was hooked. So in an almost-backwards way, my dissatisfaction with Season 5 is kind of what spurred my increased interest and enthusiasm in Season 6 and beyond. I had a lot of skepticism going into Season 6, but once they turned Densi around, it was worth it.”
Courtney, on the other hand, found Season 6 “boring as hell.” Hannah agrees, saying, “I struggle with forgetting the disappointments of Season 6. It was lackluster and almost emotionless in my opinion. We rarely saw the characters in real danger or real emotional chaos. It was a season of filler episodes, most of which were boring to watch.”
By Season 7, Courtney was pretty much done. “Season 7 had some good episodes and character development for G, Kensi, and Granger, but that wasn’t enough to make up for the disappointments,” she says. “It got to the point by the end of Season 7 where I was forcing myself to tune in every week just to keep up with the fandom. I might not watch at all next season.”
For some others though, Season 7 was a turnaround of sorts. “Season 7 seemed to recover some of the fun and lightness lost back in the beginning of Season 5,” says Hannah. Tess agrees, citing some course corrections made by the showrunners. “Between Seasons 5 and 6, I think there were fans who found the nonsense with Hetty’s manipulation of Kensi, the ‘oh we love each other but we can’t do anything about it’ feel to Kensi and Deeks and the silly ‘cliffhanger’ about will Callen and Sam survive on the narco-sub… to be just disappointing storytelling. And worn out. Season 6 was better and Season 7 was a lot better. There was positive movement on a number of storylines and I think the fan base appreciated a lot of it.”
While not everyone had negative things to say about the show’s writing, several of our panelists cited its variable quality, and a few – women after my own heart – cited frustrations with canon inconsistencies. For Colette, these breaches are “inexcusable.” Apryl notes that “There’s been some major inconsistencies that have been annoying.” Karen S. hopes that “the new showrunners will do a better job of researching past episodes and not contradict themselves.”
Other issues with the show’s direction include Tess’ (and my) frustration with “how they chose to ruin the Hetty character with the White Ghost storyline”, and Hannah and Mel’s over the lack of Deeks’ backstory.
Hannah and Gayle both want to feel a greater sense of peril. Hannah observes, “They’re struggling with recovering their case mojo, the stories sometimes just moving along without real shock and danger.” Gayle notes the lack of any real suspense in the Season 7 finale, observing, “Like addicts, we need bigger, more impactful, longer-lasting ‘hits’.” Randy observes, “One thing that seems to lower my expectations and enthusiasm about the show is a seemingly reduced amount of tension and drama… The humor tends to devalue the drama as it sometimes comes at the wrong time and actually takes away from the scene. To me, that’s something that the writers appear to struggle with…”
Was it us?
We NCIS:LA fans who participate in some way in social media are a passionate bunch, and we don’t always see eye to eye. Most of our exchanges are positive, and contribute to our enjoyment of the show. Apryl says, “I’m only on Tumblr and I’ve been very happy with the interactions I’ve had with people in the fandom. Some of the people I’ve met I consider really good friends even though we haven’t met in real life.” Kara has found Tumblr to be a gateway to her increased involvement in the fandom. She says, “I think being on Tumblr especially has paved the way for my obsession interest to reach the level it has. I’ve always been a fan of the show, but having so many people to interact with on a daily basis who share that passion is kind of awesome! It has also introduced me to people who interpret certain things differently and has really allowed me to see things from many points of view.”
Courtney and Colette have had a more mixed experience. “Some of my best friends are in my life because of this show and for that I’m grateful,” says Courtney. “I won’t pretend that some other fans didn’t contribute to my dislike of the show, though.” Similarly, Colette describes her fandom experience by saying, “Many of the fans are amazing wonderful people, I speak to some of them daily, others I’d rather not interact with again. But that’s fandom, and life in general.” She points to some of us Team Deeks members who have treated Kensi harshly at times. “When Deeks did something that a lot of the fandom didn’t like it was a product of bad writing, not a character fault, when Kensi did something the fandom didn’t like, it was entirely her fault. Kensi Blye was my favorite part of the show, however fandom chipped away at this.”
Hopes for Season 8
Those of us who still love NCIS:LA are looking forward with a variety of wishes for the upcoming season, hoping for a variety of developments that could bolster our enthusiasm. Hannah and Karen S. are both rooting for a “Deeks, M.” episode (aren’t we all?). Karen says, “[Deeks] said no more secrets but I think there may be a few still out there!”
There are many hopes for Densi. Apryl says, “I’d love to see important moments in Kensi and Deeks’s relationship. There’s been a lot of moments that have happened off screen… When they get engaged, I need it to be something we see happen.” Lindy points out the lack of on-screen sexytimes, saying, “…They do show the sweeter aspects of their time together, but for me a few passionate scenes wouldn’t hurt viewership. Nothing explicit, just a scene that expresses the passion they feel for one another with less clothes, especially that ugly tank top.” Tess, Kara and Hannah are looking forward to the season-opening storyline developed to handle Daniela Ruah’s maternity leave. Hannah says, “Any storyline that features my ship and character developing angst is one I want to be a part of, and if they can remember that two people can be in a healthy relationship without mentioning raccoons or boxes, I’ll be ecstatic.”
Lindy wants to see the team become closer and to have a more expressive Callen. “Sometimes you can be too cool and analytical for your own good… That character could offer so much more.”
Tess wants the mole to be someone we know, not another “Randy McRandom in his cardigan sweater.” Randy hopes for “darker storylines where the shoot-outs don’t always end with all the bad guys dead and the good guys shaking off a little dust.” He also thinks better bad guys would help, describing his wish for “a sophisticated evil… someone with more smarts than machine guns and who knows how to intimidate you without having to actually hurt you.” Kara hopes for more undercover ops and multi-episode storylines.
Is there anything that might bring back our two departed friends? Colette says, “I don’t think so… a Kensi-centric story that didn’t rely on her boyfriend or an ex? But to be honest I’m not sure if that would even be enough to get me back into the show.” The same goes for Courtney, who says there’s probably nothing that could bring her back. “The show is getting long in the tooth and there are very few places to go with the characters that wouldn’t feel like jumping the shark,” she says. “And the damage to other characters (Hetty and Deeks for me) is already done and irreparable.”
Whatever Season 8 brings, it seems that if one thing is for certain, it’s that our little fandom will continue to evolve as old fans wander away and new fans stumbling across a cable TV marathon become intrigued. There’s no predicting when or why one’s obsessions might change. Each of us sees the show from our own unique perspective, which makes for fun debates, but can also lead some to lose their passion. Courtney says, “Multiple factors have to play in together to lead to a ‘break-up’ with a fandom.” While I miss Courtney and Colette’s contributions to our fandom, I’m so happy they’ve found new things to love. Colette says, “NCIS:LA was a fun, creative escape, until it wasn’t, so I am thankful for the friendships I made, and the fun I got from it but I’d rather focus on things that bring me some joy.”
I’d like thank everyone who contributed to this article, but in particular I want to thank Courtney and Colette for sharing their experiences. This story couldn’t have been told without their perspectives. Colette told me, “I deliberated even answering [the interview questions] a few times because I don’t like posting about my issues with the show because I don’t want my dissatisfaction with it to make people feel negative about something they still love.” I appreciate their frankness and their sensitivity (more reasons why I miss them).
So before we start debating Season 8’s showrunner decisions and writer choices, let’s pause for a moment to celebrate this long-running show and the collective fun we’ve had obsessing over it. As Gayle puts it, “Everyone needs reflection to truly appreciate what we’ve achieved, what we currently have, and to consider what the future may hold. As Season 8 quickly approaches, this seems to be the perfect time for all of us to take a moment to consider this wonderful fandom we each contribute to and value.”
And value it we do. Randy states that “Real life tries to get in the way, but there will always be a slot reserved on my DVR for NCIS:LA.” Lindy says, “The characters are like family now… It would be impossible for me to abandon the character of Marty Deeks. He is a complex, multi layered character brought to life by an exceptional actor. Deeks tugs at my heart and makes me want to know him better.” And Hannah loves Deeks and the others too, saying, “I still love the characters as much as always and the ever growing relationships between them. Those fun lighthearted moments in the bullpen and the angst filled ones that make me cry. As long as the characters stir those emotions inside of me, I’ll be enthusiastic for their stories.”
To each of you, I wish you much joy in your fandoms, whether they be NCIS:LA or something new and just as wonderful.
Want to Read More
For more thoughts about the last season and the coming one, come back next week for another roundtable from the wikiDeeks gang.
You can also check out the FanFiction.net pages of our panelists:
- Apryl AKA aprylynn
- Colette AKA homegrownoregano
- Courtney AKA hermionesmydawg
- Hannah AKA Divergent338
- Kara AKA raccoonsmate4life
- Mel AKA imahistorian
- Karen S. AKA Kadiedid
- Lindy AKA Sweet Lu
- Randy AKA Jericho Steele
- Tess AKA Tess Di Corsi
And check out Gayle’s (AKA Densiland) amazing Tumblr blog.
Many thanks to wikiDeeks Contributing Editor Diane for reviewing a draft of this article.