Hello everyone and welcome to the review for the second part of Smokescreen that first aired back on 27th of January, leaving us a few weeks to dream up worst-case-scenarios for our favorite team of operators and the residents of the City of Angels. We knew that there were already victims from the explosions in the theater but what would the next threat turn out to be? A mass shooting as families and first responders descend on the theater? Was there an unknown target that would turn out to be much worse than the incident that had already claimed so many innocent victims? And with Sam and Callen trapped inside, how long would it take for them to be rescued and what carnage could occur during that time? What would the Masriq Army target next? When would the city escape the siege?
Well, now that we know, let’s see how the second part stacked up against its predecessor.
Let me be honest and say that I was disappointed overall with the second part of Smokescreen. I felt that all of the tension and drama from the first partwas wasted and this episode was a weak follow-up to one of the best episode this season. Basically, after the huge build-up, I was seriously let down by the simple distraction operation) the entire ‘terrorist’ attack that this turned out to be (hence the title of Smokescreen). Talk about a waste of potential! This had the ear marks of the beginning of a serious story arc that could have run over the course of several episodes and maybe even span a couple of seasons. They got us with the ole ‘bait-n-switch’ method of story-telling – make you think the case is about this but it’s really all just fake and the plot is not as involved or dangerous as you were made to believe.
While the first part was written by Andrew Bartels and directed by Dennis Smith, this one was penned by Matt Klafter and Kyle Harimoto and directed by Sherwin Shilati. I’m no expert on how TV shows/films are made but why in the world were the two parts of a two part episode both written and directed by a different set of people? That makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine!
I haven’t had the time to do this but I challenge someone out there to watch these two episodes back-to-back and let us know if they feel the same or if they are noticeably different in mood and feel. If I was a betting man, I would almost guarantee that the differences are obvious. If you’ve been on this site for very long, you may have read some of the roundabout stories that we’ve posted where each chapter is written by a different person. While each chapter is good and gives you a cohesive story, the writing styles are very different; from tone, focus, or even grammar styles. That’s what this felt like and while the story remained the same between the two episodes, the style and mood changed too much to feel like it was still the same story.
I was hoping that we had witnessed the intro of a new terrorist/bad guy/gal or some evil doer that would be on par with some of the baddies we’ve seen over the years. The Masriq Army was seemingly unstoppable and operating freely; they were well financed and killing civilians at will while staying ahead of the best that NCIS has to offer. Wow, what a season this was turning out to be! But … surprise, surprise … no! This was all a fake-out! And just like usual, the real bad guy turns out to be someone who was presented as one of the good guys. TPTB played the same tired old playbook of “writing a weekly show” formula that I am frankly growing tired of. Let me explain:
Usually, in crime procedural shows such as NCIS:LA, somewhere in the first two segments, you are introduced to the characters that are not part of the regular cast. At this stage, you do not know who the real baddies are while they play a major/minor role until the big reveal toward the end of the show. Sometimes the revelation comes out of nowhere and catches you by surprise but too often, the viewer figured it out before too long. Sometimes it’s because the show gives up the clues and the viewer is paying attention. Other times it is just because out of all the new characters that have been introduced, there are no other possibilities because there are only a few characters left alive. Whichever the case, this time when FBI Agent Ross stepped out during the gun battle, I barely even noticed because I already knew it was coming and it held no surprise whatsoever. I’d had my suspicions about Ross (How did the bad guys know the route, travel time or the make of the vehicle that the doomed agents would be in?), so I was not truly surprised when he turned out to be the traitor.
Now, what would have surprised me is if up in Operations, as the final chase unfolds, Nell discovers a vital clue that had eluded all of them up until this point but before she could warn anyone, Agent Namazi whips out her sidearm and starts shooting up the place. A few analysts are killed/wounded, Eric is slightly injured but before the turncoat can finish her evil monologue to a stricken Ochoa, who was one of the main targets, Nell recovers and has to shoot the woman who had become a trusted ally and friend (if TPTB could create a fake terrorist threat to get LAX to shut down, then why not do this to get the powers that be at NCIS to call in a unused and unknown agent, who has been a sleeper for this group, just waiting for the chance to get ‘invited’ to join a task force to hunt down the very cell she helped create). This would have fallen within the Masriq Army’s stated purpose of attacking the military as NCIS falls under the Department of the Navy. I don’t know about you, but that would have been a lot more surprising than the regular ‘feel’ that this second part had for me.
If you had left out all the references to the theater and those victims, this particular show could have stood all by itself and it would have felt like a single episode instead of the conclusion to a two-parter that should have been a nail-biter. The first installment had me on the edge of my seat the entire running time, then I was holding my breath over the weeks until the next one aired … then I watch it all turn right back into a basic jailbreak with very few bullets flying and even less tension than when Sam and Callen were trapped on the sinking submarine. I mean, I suffered more anxiety when back in Better Angels where Deeks was out of ammo and pinned down after Turk abandoned him in that alley (even when I KNEW nothing serious would happen to the detective)!
I will say that the opening scene with the two brothers trying to sneak out of the movie house so they won’t get into trouble with mom was pretty good and held some tension as Callen came to the rescue. It was also a relief when Sam was able to save Dan, the husband with the dislocated collar bone (Ouch! Is that even a thing? I’ve taken a lot of tumbles in my day and seen LOTS of musculoskeletal injuries but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of that one). Was it just me or did Dan look a lot like Jeremy Renner? Then at the closing, the candlelight ceremony that the team participated in at the make-shift memorial was actually very beautiful and touching.
And the only real banter we get is between Callen and Sam discussing G’s aversion to tools and how little G knows about Aquaman? Really. Ugh. Then we have the bomb threat at the airport which was the hinge of the whole operation to get LAX to shut down. So, while the two South-African mercs are standing around not doing any work, the rest of the ground crew is running around like busy bees and not one of the others said anything to the two slackers? I don’t know about you, but where I work, if part of the crew is busting out the work and a few folks are just standing around doing nothing … there’s about to be a problem that would not require NCIS agents to rectify.
And that brings me to another pet peeve of mine regarding this show.
We already had the explosion at the theater which killed/wounded several people and cause severe damage to the building. The explosion from the bomb in the gym bag was fairly decent except for one thing … it apparently had no effect on bullet proof Sam Hannah. Comparing the two incidents, we have Callen and Sam thrown to the ground, dazed and confused from the relatively small suicide vest (which are built on the premise of causing as much carnage as possible) but the one at the airport destroys the cart, the tow vehicle and all the luggage … and Sam dusts himself off like he fell off the jungle gym at the playground. Explosions not only kill from shrapnel or the impact from airborne objects but also the pressure wave caused by the explosive itself and there was enough plastic explosive in that bag to put a dent in the earth. A large enough charge can kill without any thing solid actually striking the victim and based on the timing given to us by the scene, Sam was well within the explosion’s kill zone, about ten to fifteen yards away when we saw him on his feet.
Realism goes a long way in selling the threat and I feel like we got very little in that particular scene. Yes … I know this is a make-believe TV show and we have to have to have a good helping of the suspension of disbelief, but sometimes it simply becomes a bit too much and distracts from the realism that the story is attempting to convey.
On a side note: while this is going on, Kensi spots the secondary shooter in the terminal posing as a janitor who had a gun out in plain view on his cart? Are you serious? The point of being the sleeper is that you do not do anything that would indicate that you are one of the bad guys! You don’t stand there with your firearm in plain view! And he was supposed to be trained soldier on top of that! And I know Kensi is fast but how did she run back out through the entrance, around the front of the building and cut off the perp before Deeks even gets through the door when he was only about eight to ten steps behind the guy? That stood out to me as well.
I’m not saying you have to kill off a main character on each episode but what makes a character believable is their humanity … their weaknesses. We get a lot of the emotional side of that aspect but far too often, when the bullets start to fly and things go ‘BOOM’ … we have to watch people survive things on screen while we know deep inside that there was no way on earth that they would have lived, much less walk away unscathed. At the very least, in the aforementioned scene, have Sam appeared stunned and disoriented … have him favoring an arm or attempt to hide a slight limp … anything that would show us a human being and not a superhero that is impervious to anything. I mean, they had to give Superman a weakness so that we as mere mortals could relate to the Man of Steel … and unless the team members are hiding their capes, we should expect to see a little more frailty from the heroes.
And where was the DENSI?
After the pillow talk in the first installment, the lack of any DENSI whatsoever stood out like a sore thumb. No meaningful discussions about the brevity of life, that there is no guarantee of tomorrow, or that you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it … we got nada. After watching this for the second time, it looked like Eric and Dani were simply told “Stand here and say these lines”; they did their best but they really were not given much to work with. After Better Angels and the first part of Smokescreen, I was hoping for a Kensi revelation about how she saw their future at NCIS but I guess that’s going to come in a later episode this season. Right? This season, not next year? Hey, I can dream right?
I know we are building to the mysterious wedding episode, but I am afraid that they may have these two tie the knot without resolving some of the major issues that popped up before the trip to Mexico. I know Deeks loves Kensi and will follow her anywhere and I know that Kensi loves Deeks and wants a life with him … but ignoring a sticky issue doesn’t not make the issue go away. It only pops up later at the worst possible moment and sometimes the damage is irreparable. I hope that I am wrong and that Kensi and Deeks will find a solution that will only make them stronger together and this will all be forgotten, kinda like the box. Box? What box?
It was a refreshing surprise to see that Deeks was not just the comic relief this time around. He had at least two moments where he was able to display his detective’s sharp mind in making a couple of logic jumps to fill in some unanswered questions about some of the case particulars. I like the times when he is treated with respect, not only by the other characters but the show writers as well.
Unlike some of the staff at WikiDeeks, I do not watch the show to see how Eric Christian Olsen has styled his hair this week or if he might appear shirtless in a particular episode. I watch because this is my favorite show that airs on television and the characters are intriguing and fun to see get into and out of trouble, week in and week out. Good or bad, I’m a fan of this show and the people who work so hard to make it happen, even when I rake them over the coals sometimes.
I do apologize … it feels like all I did was complain and give you a list of gripes but as a fan, I want this show to be the best that it can be. There have been episodes that made make my heart hurt and those that made me seriously think about the sacrifices that are made on our behalf. Then there are the ones that make me scratch my head and ask myself, “Was I supposed to believe that they would survive?” or “I can’t believe they expect me to think that this was even probable, much less possible.” And “Was that supposed to be funny or serious … humorous or sad … poignant or pointless?”
Let us know how you feel about the Smokescreen duology. Did the second part live up to your expectations or were you disappointed? If you enjoyed it, let us know what you liked about it and if you didn’t, tell us about that as well. What is going on with Ochoa? It seems like he’s going to be around and hopefully we can get more info from the new addition that has taken to the team a lot better than Mosley ever did. We are nearing the end of season number 10, so what are you hoping for before summer arrives? Will the wedding bells finally ring for DENSI or are they simply giving us another smokescreen? (See what I did there … pretty cool, huh? Well, at least I thought it was. Never mind.)
And, of course,