Bogeymen, Boxes & Circles of Hell: Literary & Cinematic References in NCISLA “Mother”
Last week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode, “Mother,” written by Eric Christian Olsen and Babar Peerzada and directed by Dennis Smith, has been universally acclaimed by fans thanks to its suspense, romance, and character-driven drama. One aspect that may have been overshadowed by all that fabulousness was the writers’ use of a variety of literary and cinematic references, which can add even more depth to your next rewatch.
A Life of Violence
Before we get into the literature review, let’s talk about one of the writers’ literal references. In interviews before “Mother” aired, ECO described one of the inspirations for the story as coming from On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Dan Grossman. This non-fiction work looked at how the military trains its soldiers to be able to pull the trigger and kill another human being. He explained, saying, “So much of it wasn’t about the individual. It was never about one’s own desires. The only way to get that success rate – and I say success rate understanding the irony – the way to get these people to fire the gun, the weapon, was making it about something larger, and so it was about family. It was about protecting democracy.”
The book explores not just how the military achieved this goal, but the repercussions for those soldiers and law enforcement officers, including the psychological costs for anyone who wasn’t mentally prepared or able to justify their actions. That’s part of what ECO and Peerzada set out to show in “Mother.” They approached it by taking the extreme situation where, described ECO, “this life of violence and all of those things that give it justification and rationalization, which are democracy and family love, when those things are stripped away and we’re left with just the violence.”
Ahkos, the “soldier” in question, describes his actions, as well as those of Fimmel and Hetty, as a betrayal of humanity, creating “a debt that can only be paid with our blood.” We’ve seen all these characters use violence to stop violence, but Ahkos decides to turn his skills and inclinations (his “black heart”) against those very people who trained him. He tells Hetty, “I’ve saved humanity from [Fimmel’s] transgressions.”
There’s a ton to unpack with this theme, and I’m not going to attempt it here. Instead, I invite you to come back in January for a special feature on this very topic from the dynamic duo of Brenda and Jericho.
In his promotional interviews, ECO also mentioned Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as an inspiration, and it’s easy to see Hetty and Ahkos as Frankenstein and her monster.
For those of you, like myself, who’ve never actually read the book, here’s a quick recap. Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, as it’s actually titled, is a horror story of an ambitious science student named Victor Frankenstein, who creates a new being by stitching together decaying body parts from different people (sound familiar to any Frank Military fans?) and using chemistry, alchemy, and electricity to bring it to life. Only rather than care for his creation, he abandons it in fear and disgust. The creature lives a lonely existence and is treated cruelly by others. Rather than take out his anger and anguish on the world, he vows revenge on his creator by taking the lives of those he loves, and in fact kills Frankenstein’s new bride.
ECO and Peerzada tell us that Ahkos would seem to have been doomed from the start, with a name meaning “the grief of the people” and countrymen thinking he was “devil born.” The horrific way he murders Fimmel shows us that he’s turned into a monster. One of the tragic things about his story is that Ahkos himself realizes what he’s become, and, as ECO notes, “he’s horrified.”
Ahkos: Why’d you do it? Why’d you enslave me in this life? Huh?
Hetty: Because this life gives us purpose, and ideals to live by, and in return, that’s what we give the world.
Ahkos: Let others sleep peacefully in their beds at night because creatures such as you and I stand ready to commit violence on their behalf. Those are just lies you tell to pacify the demons you’ve created.
Similarly, the monster tells Frankenstein:
Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.
Early in the episode, Ahkos tells Callen, “I am you when the days drop. Once the favorite son, now a fallen angel.” This understanding of what he’s become matches closely with Frankenstein’s monster, who tells his creator, “I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed.”
In both stories, the monster seeks vengeance on the creator who abandoned him. Frankenstein’s monster says, “I too can create desolation, my enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him.” Both the monster and Ahkos succeed in obtaining vengeance against their metaphorical fathers, but Ahkos fails when it comes to his mother.
The other common theme between the two works has to do with pride and ambition. Victor Frankenstein lacks humility, and aspires to create life without any thought to the consequences of his actions or their ethical implications. He says, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve their’s.” Frankenstein becomes so wrapped up in the fantasy that he is unable to anticipate how his experiment could go very wrong. He’s expecting gratitude, but what he really creates are conditions that inspire hatred and revenge.
Just like Frankenstein, Hetty means well. She’s set out to pluck an unknown number of orphans from a life of poverty or violence. Nell describes it as trying “to play god in the lives of the people you say you love.” Unlike Frankenstein, Hetty does love these young people. But like him, she doesn’t always seem to have anticipated the downside of her interventions. She’s horrified by the monster Ahkos has become, and horrified at her role in it, vividly illustrated by her reaction when Ahkos bitterly asks her, “Do you see your creation, Mother? Are you proud of what you brought into this world?”
Frankenstein vows revenge for the death of his bride, but he also shows regret, telling a magistrate, “Man… how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom! Cease; you know not what it is you say.” Hetty too, for possibly the first time, also second guesses her actions, telling Callen, “He was right about one thing. I failed him. This was not the life for him. I’m worried that this isn’t the life for you, either, or maybe any of us.”
The Path to Paradise Begins in Hell
The episode is replete with quotes from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. They’re striking and ominous without any additional context, but knowing their origins adds another layer to the episode. Of course, the extent to which ECO and Peerzada intended the additional meaning behind the quotes is unclear, but those origins do fit very well with the episode’s story.
Again, for those of you, like myself, who haven’t read this epic narrative poem, you should know that it was written in the 14th century and is considered one of the greatest works of world literature. It’s divided into three parts: Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise or Heaven). It’s a travelogue that follows Dante and his guides on an imaginary journey through these places, but allegorically it represents the soul’s journey towards God. (And by the way, it’s not actually a comedy; the term comes from the way it begins badly but ends well – the opposite of a tragedy.)
The poem begins with Dante lost in a dark wood (understood as sin), assailed by beasts (a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf) he can’t evade and unable to find the way to salvation. He runs into Virgil (a Roman poet and author of his own epic poem, the Aeneid), and begs him to save him. Virgil agrees and tells him he must pass through hell and Purgatory to separate from the world and be disabused of his sinful ways. He guides him first to hell, a cone-shaped crater caused by the fall of Lucifer. This gives us the first reference in “Mother,” on the torn cardboard message Deeks picks up on top of the explosives, “The path to paradise begins in hell.”
Dante’s hell has nine circles through which Dante and Virgil must pass. The punishments suffered by the people in each become increasingly severe to match the vices of the individuals trapped there. For example, in the second circle, lustful people are blown about in a violent storm, without hope of rest. In the third, gluttons are forced to starve while being surrounded by all sorts of delicious looking fruits. The slothful are forced to run constantly. Fortune-tellers must walk with their heads on backwards, unable to see what is ahead, because that was what they had tried to do in life.
Ahkos is like Dante, with Hetty as his guide in the Virgil role. The first time we see him, Fimmel is telling him, “You- You died,” so maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that Ahkos, believed to have been killed a decade before, might see himself as already being in hell. His reference to himself as “now a fallen angel” would also fit this interpretation. He appears to be trying to literally send the team to hell, hence the message on Deeks’ bomb, along with the note on Fimmel’s hands: “Through me, you go into a city of weeping. Through me, you go into eternal pain. Through me you go amongst the people lost.”
He may also be trying to carry out punishments befitting Hetty’s sins, trying to make the punishment fit the crime. He holds her ultimately responsible for his own actions, among them the bombing of Nathasa’s family, shown on a loop lighting up Fimmel’s office. Nathasa even describes the act in vivid, hellish terms, calling it part of “the scorched earth of your foreign policy” and describing how her world “turned to fire,” wiping everyone she ever loved “from the face of this planet.” Perhaps his choice of explosives to take out Deeks and Kensi was at least a subconscious choice to mirror that sin?
Then there’s the especially gruesome way Fimmel is killed. Dante and Virgil do come across a sinner whose severed hands spurt blood; his offence was starting a feud between the two parties that divided Florence, the same type of meddling, or playing god, that Ahkos believes Fimmel carried out as director of Covert Operations. Dante sees other men who’ve been sliced apart from chin on down, and one particular headless man who walks about, holding his head by the hair like a lantern. In life, this man took a great deal of pleasure in seeing towns leveled, and he turned a prince against his father, the king. The man tells them, “Because I parted persons so united, parted do I now bear my brain, alas!” (See below under What’s in the Box? for a little more discussion of severed heads.)
Another aspect of the poem that bears a resemblance to “Mother” is the relationship between Virgil and Dante. Virgil isn’t simply a guide, he acts as a moral teacher, looking out for Dante on their journey. Dante in turn is kind of like the son Virgil never had. In the end, Virgil cannot accompany Dante into heaven, so the two part ways. Like Virgil, Hetty and Fimmel served as Ahkos’ guides. Hetty acknowledges as much when she tell him, “I’m the one who led you down this path.” Hetty cared for him until they were separated, and thought of him as a son, while he obviously saw her as his mother. And in the flashback to his childhood, he sits with Hetty at the museum, surrounded by but kept safe from some of the same beasts as those that attacked Dante.
Inferno contains lots of gory details from which ECO and Peerzada could have drawn inspiration, but I think the most important moment of the Ahkos-Hetty storyline comes from the repetition of these words from Inferno:
To get back up to the shining world
From there my guide and I went into that hidden tunnel
And following its path through a round aperture
I saw appear some of the most beautiful things that heaven can bear
Where we came forth and once more saw the stars.
The lines come at the very end of Inferno, as Dante and Virgil climb out of the underworld and back to the surface of the Earth onto the island of Purgatory, which Dante tours in the poem’s next section, continuing his trek towards salvation. Dante has taken the first step towards that salvation, and ending his nightmarish visit to hell by gazing up at the stars of heaven is an optimistic note on which to end Inferno.
It also makes Hetty’s recitation of that particular passage as Ahkos lies dying by her hand very moving. She’s taking him back to one of his few happy memories, but she’s also telling him that he will find peace, and that he’s not condemned to eternal damnation by his acts. It’s an incredibly comforting message, made all the more moving when Ahkos himself utters the final line, seeming to find solace in her words. Hetty can only hope that like Dante, he makes his way out of hell, through Purgatory, and into heaven.
The John Wick movies are hyperviolent tales of an assassin nicknamed Baba Yaga, or bogeyman (the fabled Baba Yaga is actually female). I’ve included the films here not so much because I think ECO and Peerzada necessarily used them as inspiration, but to show how much Dante has inspired similar works. The movies show an alternate universe where assassins live by their own pseudo-religious code. The first film is filled with references to Inferno, such as when a woman tells Wick that his journey to redemption “begins in hell.” Viewers can imagine Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) as Dante, cast back into the hell of his past life as an assassin (he’s retired when the movie begins) when he vows revenge on the mobsters who kill his puppy (don’t mess with a man’s puppy!). Willem Defoe serves as his helper – his guide – in the Virgil role. He passes through a variety of scenes, each of which could signify one of the nine circles of hell. For example his house starts out as Limbo, there’s a scene at a vault that represents greed, and a scene in the pools below a bar that represents lust.
What actually caught my eye was the “Mother” shoot-out at the museum, which bore a resemblance to the kind of violent shoot-outs that fill the John Wick films. Callen walks purposefully though a museum, shooting men at close quarter, and emptying an extra shot into each to make sure they’re really dead. He didn’t use Wick’s exact style, but the quantity of men, the close quarters, and the museum setting all called these films to mind.
What’s in the Box?
There’s one more Dante-inspired film I wanted to mention: Se7en. Again, it may not have been an influence – it may simply share common themes – but I have to believe that anyone who seems inspired by Frank Military’s dark approach to material has at least seen this David Fincher-directed horror film. And spoiler alert- if you haven’t seen it and plan to, you might want to skip ahead to the next section.
The film stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as two detectives, Mills and Somerset, who investigate a set of serial killings inspired by the seven deadly sins. Kevin Spacey plays the deranged killer, John Doe. The detectives work their way from one crime scene to the next, each inspired by a deadly sin, and all baroque and incredibly gruesome, befitting their inspiration. For example, an obese man guilty of gluttony is force fed until a well-placed kick to his stomach kills him. A slothful man is confined to his bed for a year and slowly starved. I could go through the list but it’s really too horrific to talk about in detail. The Dante references are overt; Somerset talks about The Divine Comedy being one of the killer’s inspirations.
The wise old Detective Somerset and the younger Detective Mills share a similar guide-pupil relationship with Virgil and Dante, and Hetty and Ahkos. Somerset worries that Mills isn’t prepared to deal with everything he’s going to see in this unnamed big city that may as well be hell. And although Somerset is planning to retire in a week, in the end he ends up sticking around, like Virgil, unable to leave hell, only able to show his pupil all the horrors it contains.
While Se7en may not have been a direct source of inspiration for “Mother,” the reason I mention it has to do with the box. When Nathasa appears at the mission with her box, one of my first thoughts was of the infamous one belonging to Deeks and Kensi, containing everything Deeks ever wanted. But when I saw the severed hands inside, and later Fimmel’s body, I thought instead of Se7en.
Se7en’s famous climax starts with Doe agreeing to confess to his crimes if the two detectives accompany him to the location of his final two victims’ remains. After they arrive at a remote spot outside the city, a box is delivered. Detective Mills opens it to find his wife’s (Gwyneth Paltrow) severed head. Doe had killed her for the sin of envy, and when Mills’ wrath drives him to kill Doe, the horrific murders are complete.
Doe doesn’t think he’s killing innocent people. He tells the detectives he’s doing “God’s good work,” cleansing the city of pedophiles and whores. It’s kind of a perverse version of the dogma fed to Ahkos to get him to do the CIA’s bidding, and a perverse version of the way Hetty sees herself as interceding in others’ lives for their own good, and training them to kill for the greater good. In the end, both Ahkos and Doe die as they lived, in violence.
We’re All Gonna Die
The final reference I wanted to talk about is the song that plays in the background when Deeks goes into the bomb room and when Hetty comforts Ahkos at episode’s end. A huge thank you to @TypingTess for identifying it for me. It’s called “Fourth of July,” and it was written and performed by Sufjan Stevens on his album Carrie & Lowell.
Lines like, “What could I have said to raise you from the dead?”, “and “Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?” make it an eerie accompaniment to the bomb room scene, but it works even better in the final Hetty/Ahkos scene, for the song is about Stevens’ reflections on his problematic relationship with his mother (Carrie), who abandoned him when he was one year old. He later spent a few summers with her and his step-father (Lowell) when he was a young child, but otherwise didn’t really have her in his life in a significant way until she was in the ICU, dying of cancer. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking song. I don’t know who found it or at what point in the process it came to be included in the episode, but it’s absolutely perfect.
Did you get enough love, my little dove
Why do you cry?
And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best
Though it never felt right
The hospital asked should the body be cast
Before I say goodbye, my star in the sky
Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth
Do you find it all right, my dragonfly?
Shall we look at the moon, my little loon
Why do you cry?
Make the most of your life, while it is rife
While it is light
It’s about the pain Stevens feels at losing his mother, and at all that was lacking in their relationship. The references to the stars in the sky are a perfect mirror to Hetty’s Inferno recitation. The song is also an exhortation to others to make amends with those they love before it’s too late. It ends with a stark reminder, the words “We’re all gonna die,” repeated over and over.
Want to Learn More?
- ECO’s interviews can be found at Parade and cartermatt.
- On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dan Grossman
- Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
- Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
- The Aeneid by Virgil
- John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 (both directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad) and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (directed by Chad Stahelski and screenplay by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Mark Abrams)
- Se7en, directed by David Fincher
- “Fourth of July” by Sufjan Stevens
Thanks for reading! If you’ve gotten this far, you are likely a fan who’s going to watch “Mother” more than once, and I hope this info adds to your enjoyment of this fantastic episode. Do you have any different interpretations from mine? I’d love to hear them. Please share your thoughts in the Comments below.
Wow Karen, this is insane! This is over the top insane! This is, for me, hands down the best article you wrote on this site ( and you wrote quite a lot of them – 211)! Thank you so very much for taking your time to think about all the references that kept popping up in the episode. I read also your review of this episode which was again great, but unfo didn’t have enough time to sit down and put few sentences together before I was really too late for the party.
I also immediately recognized Dante’s “La Divina Commedia”. Although I was not really keen on reading it (it was required reading in my middle school) when i was only 14/15 years old, I somehow managed to appreciate it even at such a young age.
I loved “Mother” for many reasons, but I was deeply touched and for me it was the most poignant moment when Hetty held and hugged her son (that she killed) in his last moments telling the words that were so tender. This was the first time in all 10 years of NCIS LA that I shed a tear.
Now about the box! Seems that show runners really like boxes, it is like love affair between them and various (important) boxes that appeared throughout the seasons. This particular box didn’t remind me of any previously seen or met box. The girl and the box in front of supposedly unknown and off limits location of OSP looked very sinister with flair of bad news. My first thought was of the box from the movie “Se7en” and I expected to see the head of Fimmel (the CIA guy) in it. I was for a moment even little bit disappointing that it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I am not some creepy freak, but that would have been such a huge statement which would have shifted us like the million light years from our comfort zones. But as the episode continued to further reveal itself I found out lot of huge moments in it.
I haven’t caught the song and John Wick references, which is actually funny as I watched all of them and find them to be so much more than scene after scene of killings. So thank you for the eye-opening. I have already started to re-think again the whole episode.
Thank you so very much for this article again and thank you for still being here for us!!
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Maria, wow, what an incredibly nice review! I appreciated seeing it this morning. I wasn’t sure anyone would work their way through this material. And I can’t believe you had to read Dante in middle school. That seems like challenging material. In reading some excerpts, I definitely found myself wishing that I could read it in its original language. I’m afraid my Italian is way too limited for that!
I’ll add that I’m a long-time Keanu fan and have loved the John Wick movies, mostly for the action but I also appreciate the world-building.
And you’re never too late to the party! We see and appreciate every comment, no matter how old the article.
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You are always welcome Karen. I honestly enjoyed every word from this article.
It was really strange what was all required reading we had in both my elementary and middle school. i still remember that we had to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina at the age of 15. Can you imagine how stupid that was? i didn’t understand a thing about it as I haven’t known anything about love, passion, longing,unfulfilled wishes, desires…I thought (and i was not alone in my class) that she was totally crazy for leaving her husband and child to be with her lover. That is just one of the examples of the misplaced mandatory literature that we had to read at that time.
I am also long -time Keanu fan and I watched all his movies I think with Matrix been one of the best movies ever.
Once again thank you for your work and devotion to this site and Marty Deeks.
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This is really impressive, Karen! It’s amazing how a very well-written and powerful episode (congratulations again to ECO and Babar Peerzada) can contain so many layers and inspirations.
The parts of your article I liked the most were the ones about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Dante’s La Divina Commedia, two works I have always appreciated.
Of Frankenstein’s creature I have always been impressed by the fact that he was not born evil but became “a monster”, an “outcast”, because society never accepted him. I have always considered the scientist, Viktor Frankenstein, as a very selfish person who wanted to go beyond the human limits creating a life in a laboratory but not hesitating to run away in terror the moment he saw how disgusting the being he had created was. Maybe he should have stopped in time, but he didn’t (can we say the same of Hetty?).
Dante’s Comedy is truly a masterpiece and it never ceases to amaze me how extraordinary it is. I think Heaven and Hell have never been more vivid and real than in his descriptions, just like his memorable range of characters (especially in “Inferno”, where every person is still so driven by human passions and memories of his/her life and sins, suffering and often crying because of the terrible punishments). When in the episode the bomb finally exploded, what Deeks left behind him did seem a blazing inferno.
Thanks again for this awesome article, it’s incredible how detailed and accurate it is.
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Thank you Cladani! I appreciate your kind words and your observations about Frankenstein’s monster. I think most of the time, evil is made, not born, and that story is a perfect example. As for Ahkos, who can say? It would appear that he was troubled from the start, although Hetty certainly thought she saw good in him. So maybe it was Fimmel who led him down the wrong path.
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Karen, you never cease to amaze me. Thank you for this. It added such texture to this episode. I loved all your references, but I’m afraid this comment will be more of a defense of Hetty than a recounting of the incredible work you did here.
The comparison to Frankenstein is so compelling, although Hetty never intended to create a monster. She collected young men and women to instill purpose in their lives, and to use them and encourage them to follow her own ideals, which makes the contrast between Callen and Ahkos is so vivid. Callen never questions as he charges in to save her. It is Callen’s certainty that separates him from Ahkos. He is an avenging angel and Ahkos an angel who has fallen from grace. The question becomes…were his claims correct that he and Hetty were both evil? Did the path she set them all on end in hell? It did for Ahkos, but it did not in Callen’s mind. He found purpose just as she intended, but I’m not sure it gives her any solace. At the end she is questioning all of her motives and the consequences. The final look on her face says she is weighing the balance between the good and evil of her own sins.
Even though her love for Callen is obvious, she was a mother to Deeks as well. After watching Answers, I was struck by one of Deeks’ comments. He claimed his mother was “non-existent” in his childhood. What did that mean? Early in this series I thought Deeks’ mother was dead, only to have Roberta pop up. Hetty was a rock compared to her. Roberta seemed like a woman with a charming personality, even passing along her sense of humor. But we see the contrast between the two women in Internal Affairs. Roberta is ineffectual, while Hetty moves heaven and earth to keep him from suffering for his sins. Deeks respects Hetty for her strength, just as Callen does. They have both become strong men because she brought them into her sphere. She did give them purpose, and I would hate to see Hetty go out as a bitter woman, questioning if she did any good in the world. It wouldn’t do her justice. Like Callen said in the end…she has never failed any of them. She wants them to see the stars, even though one fell to the earth.
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Thanks Lindy! I loved reading your thoughts about the differences between Ahkos and Callen. And also between Hetty and Roberta. I’m not sure I appreciated the contrast at the time of “Internal Affairs,” but wow it is quite stark. As for Hetty, I think Callen’s going to keep her from becoming bitter. Maybe he’ll even help her make peace with her decisions. As for never failing the team, hmmm, it’s too bad neither of us has time for a debate on that…
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For some reason WordPress isn’t letting me give you a gold star like for this…so just know I will happily debate the subject of Hetty anytime we can find the time.
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Lindy, I love your comments about Hetty! (call me ‘the most defensive Hetty supporter on Tumblr!’) and I agree. Hetty was just trying to help these orphans, not hurt them. They made their own choices, she’s not responsible for those choices that they make on their own. Yeah, I also think Callen is the only reason she hasn’t tried to quit anymore then she already has. (still want to know why she’s been so sad this season, though!)
I have always been a Hetty fan, and will continue to be one. But I’m not sure her reasons for collecting orphans to mold into agents was completely altruistic. There was a certain selfishness in putting these young people on such a path. There was a scene from the episode where she sent Kensi to Afghanistan. Callen asks if she would ever stop moving them around like chess pieces on a board. She told him she doesn’t move the pieces she moves the board. That’s what she did for each one of her charges. She put them on a different playing field. And she reaped the benefits as much as they did. Except for Ahkos. The one angel who fell from the heights she had raise him up to.
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Wow, great contrast between Hetty and Roberta and making that connection with Deeks’ comment about his mama being non-existent during his childhood. I’ll look forward to reading a debate about Hetty one day as I have very conflicting feelings about her. Referring to Hetty as a mother figure who has not failed them startled me at first because we know how angry Deeks has been over some of Hetty’s decisions (usually regarding Kensi). But tthen it struck me–that’s the difference between a parent/boss and a friend: they have to make the hard, unpopular, potentially dangerous decisions and don’t owe it to their children/employees to explain the reasons why. They often have the larger picture and longer game plan in mind and act accordingly, no matter how others may feel about it.
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Karen this was amazing and thank you for writing it. This was so insightful and helped me appreciate an episode I loved , even more. I intend to watch it again after reading this. I also want to thank you for including the write up on the music that is playing in the backroom when Deeks goes into the bomb room and then again at the end with Hetty and Ahkos. I knew it was significant but certainly now know how significant. Thank you again for doing all this research for us.
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Thank you sassy! I hope you enjoy the rewatch. I also recommend listening to the entire song. It’s very haunting.
Karen, I’m not familiar with all of these literary references, but I’m so impressed that you are! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this in an episode review, and I love it! it reminds us that even an action-packed procedural can be rooted in the arts, and can become art itself, when the right people come together to create it.
The thought you put into this, the research, and the detail in your analysis are incredible, and I thank you for sharing all of it. We are so lucky to have you, and WikiDeeks!
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Thanks amusement! You’re so sweet. All I did was google “The path to paradise begins in hell,” and the more I read, the more I realized how many layers of the story I had been unaware of the first time I watched. I’m happy that others can make use of my research.
Karen, such an intriguing and well-researched article…definitely you have me wanting to watch “Mother” once again. Thank you for finding out the name of the song playing in the background of the bomb room and in the scene with Hetty and a dying Ahkos… why wasn’t I surprised it was a Sufjan Stevens song? Besides being a great selection I definitely feel a Frank Military influence there, as he used two Sufjan Stevens songs in “To Live and Die in Mexico”… the haunting “Visions of Gideon” during Deek’s first dream/hallucination at the beginning, and “All of Me Wants All of You” (also from Carrie and Lowell) in the final, hospital scene. Again, kudos!
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Thanks Debra! The song info came courtesy of our semi-retired wikiDeeks correspondent Tess, who goes by @TypingTess on tumblr. She also helped me make out one of Ahkos’ lines that I couldn’t quite decipher. And yes, perhaps Frank Military is the Stevens fan, or maybe all their music is chosen by someone with that job responsibility? They have all been very effective choices.
What an amazing piece of literary work, hats off to you Karen for all the incredible research which you undertook to give us all these different references to various books and poems which in some way were related to this episode. I definitely felt and understood much more watching “Mother” a second or third time after reading your article. Bravo Karen and thank you for this article and all your wonderful reviews, to which I very much look forward
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Thank you so much, Aussie Mate! I started off looking up all this information for myself, but by the time I accumulated so much information, I figured I might as well share it with anyone else who might be interested. I’m so glad you found it useful!
See now, this is why you will never convince me to write an episode review, Karen. I couldn’t possibly live up to this kind of standard. Fantastic analyses on so many levels, using a number of references. Very impressive indeed! Like the episode, I’ll probably have to visit this again to think about all of the connections. Thanks so much for doing all of the heavy lifting!
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Hah! You are funny Pysched. I don’t really think of this as a review, just an example of my love of research. I would love to read a review written by you, because I know it would be both smart and funny. Maybe you should partner up with Lindy on the Hetty debate? I’m sure it would be a great discussion!
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With the season almost over, figured it was finally time to read this. (I only said I’d avoid NEW threads, not old ones.)
This is some crazy research!! (plus, this episode is definitely the only GREAT thing S11 will be remembered for anyways.)
Here’s my view on Hetty: I think she trained orphans not just because she wanted to help them, but also because she knows what it’s like to be an orphan herself. (remember the S3 premeire?)
She never meant to hurt any of them. If any of them went bad, that’s THEIR choice, she didn’t force them to go bad. Callen was right in everything he said to her at the end.
As for whether or not he’s actually the last ‘orphan’ standing, maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.