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Review: NCISLA “War Crimes” (S12E02)

Deeks Kensi

This week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, “War Crimes,” continued the new season with an even quieter episode than the season opener last week. Written by Jordana Lewis Jaffe and directed by Yangzom Brauen, the episode continued the storyline from last season’s impromptu season finale “Code of Conduct.” Only this time, we were boom-free.

Courtroom Drama

As we all know, the cast, crew and showrunners are working under extremely challenging conditions and needing to be approach writing and shooting more creatively than ever. This week, the end result gave us a show that felt like a shadow of its usual self. In fact, I wondered if I was watching NCIS:LA at all, or if I was viewing a new courtroom drama. The opening prison sequence had an intensity that had me hoping I was watching a Frank Military episode. After the opening credits, though, they took their time setting the stage for the “case” that followed, giving us scenes from the earlier episode, multiple scenes of the characters talking about the trial, and then a lengthy courtroom scene. I thought that perhaps the writer had gone the way of “Answers,” and was giving us a totally different show from normal.

While the court case did eventually turn into a case case for our NCIS team, there was so little action that I never felt anyone was in real jeopardy. There was some suspense around whether Argento’s scheme would succeed in getting him released, but otherwise we got children playing in a house to force Densi to bring out the guns (so to speak, see image above), a half-hearted chase from Rountree where he didn’t even need a weapon, and a short standoff with Sam. Deeks and Kensi captured the episode’s tone better than I could with this exchange:

Kensi: Quiet neighborhood.
Deeks: Too quiet. Like 28 Days Later quiet. Like zombies quiet. I don’t like this.”

Characters in Balance

One positive element about the episode, just as with last week’s premiere, was how every character got a share of the story. Our favorite duos were largely (Sam and Callen) or completely (Kensi and Deeks) together throughout. We got another cute Densi scene in the armory, and overall more of the pair than I was expecting given Eric Christian Olsen’s latest (adorable) Instagram post. I liked Deeks musing about the use of humor as a coping mechanism (“Without humor there is only pain”), and joking about taking down his first war criminal (“You always remember your first”).

However, I have to take issue with JLJ, who more than any other writer, has often made Deeks the butt of her jokes. Here no one was mocking him, but would it have been too hard to let him show off his ability to assemble his firearm blindfolded? A Competent Deeks could have given the scene a whole different feel, with Kensi finding his skill with a gun attractive, or maybe with a discussion of how Deeks has been mentoring Fatima or Rountree on this very topic. (And for the record, I actually didn’t catch the writer as the credits rolled and didn’t know until after the episode ended. I was pretty certain though, that it wasn’t Military.)

Still, I was impressed with the balance Jaffe achieved, giving every character a contribution. No small task with a growing cast, although since we’re down two at the moment (Beale and Hetty), I suppose it’s less challenging than it will be. Fatima and Nell worked well together. Rountree ventured out on his own. Sam, as always, found the whole case of a SEAL gone bad unsettling (although I’d love to hear stories about his father, as he offered). Plus it was nice – if a bit distracting – to see Astrid’s father from “The Fifth Man” return as a whole different character.

I’m afraid that’s it from me this week, short and sweet (or not so sweet?) for a change. Tell us what you thought about “War Crimes” in the comments below!

About Karen P (273 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.

12 Comments on Review: NCISLA “War Crimes” (S12E02)

  1. A fair and balanced review, Karen. I did happen to see who the writer was at the beginning, so my expectations were low even before it started. I found the opening irritating, even though I understood what Jaffe was going for. I’m not sure why she feels the need to put Deeks down as a clown whenever she can, or make him seem as if he hasn’t been doing this job for years, but it’s getting old. Shouldn’t they be doing that with the new guy? Or maybe the actor just can’t handle the comedy of being the butt of jokes and put-downs, although it would be nice to see him try. The other thing bothering me is how they are using Fatima. Not sure they are doing her character justice. They certainly haven’t let us get to know her enough to care about her, and that seems a waste.

    As for the entire storyline, I believe Jaffe dropped the ball on this one. I understand how difficult it is right now to film, but this effort was just a little too low key as a wrap up for such an intense episode it followed from last year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Catherine Betham // November 17, 2020 at 2:44 PM // Reply

      Thanks Lindy for saving me the typing. I agree with everything. JLJ is my least favorite show writer. Ten minutes in and I was tempted to change the channel. Kuduos to the crew for all their hard work keeping everyone safe and the show rolling on. Thanks Karen for all you do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t think the episode was so bad. I enjoy my NCISLA team no matter what. The ONE problem I did have, however, was the scene with Fatima meditating in OPS with all the lit candles. Really? Hetty NEVER would have allowed this! I am loving Nell taking charge and smoothly transitioning into Hetty’s job even if she doesn’t realize that’s what is happening.
    I love my team and my show. I will watch it until the end of time. Good or bad episodes. With this pandemic they are all doing the best they can to keep the show up and running. I for one appreciate the effort.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree that the scene in Ops with Fatima meditating was incredibly weird. It made no sense whatsoever. I couldn’t understand why she would be so stressed out about what was happening.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I thought this episode was 1 giant snooze fest. I never cared for Code of Conduct, so I didn’t really have big expectations for this episode. (trust me when I say that I’d rather put up with an hour of this episode writer’s corny jokes then a whole hour of really slow nothing nothing!) (cuz at least I’s be laughing instead of thinking ‘I’m bored!’)
    Yeah, if I’m expected to actually get SOMEWHAT used to temporally seeing Nell in Hetty’s chair (which still dosn’t suit her), then I need info on what Hetty is up to! (there’s ways to let us know what’s going on without having to show her!)
    Basically, the only scenes I ‘liked’ were the Densi scenes.
    Fun fact: This episode writer used to be a lawyer (and I also know that every episode of JAG was better then this episode!).
    This may not have been the dumpster fire of last year’s Decoy, but not much better either.
    At least next week’s episode looks a bit interesting. #DoBetter.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Karen, I guess I am thrilled despite the COVID virus, that we are seeing a 12th season, so thank you Sam, callen, kensi, Deeks, and Nell, for giving us a show to watch..and it was great to see that callen and Sam were a team, as was kensi and Deeks.., of course miss hetty but understand with the virus, that her time on air will be limited. Miss eric too..not sure about the two new member, we shall long as they don’t take away from the core team..see how they fit in..thanks for listening..I am a big kensi and Deeks even for one more season or longer. Glad they are back..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A storm caused all but the first few minutes to be preempted for me. It looked like an interesting premise, but now I’m wondering about the follow through. Still, like Kathy (above), I’m just glad to have new content to absorb, and grateful that the cast and crew have done what it takes to make it happen. Having said that, I would completely understand if they felt a need to stand down for a bit right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know that it’s an absolute bonus with the conditions at the moment to have our show back on air at all, but I just found it hard to take in that I was watching NCISLA. I have never been a fan of JLJ, for a start her episodes never really give Deeks any credence, its like he is just a bystander. In a perfect world for me Frank Military would write every episode, without a doubt he always gets the essence of what NCISLA Special Ops is about.
    I also didn’t get the Fatima/Candles scene, thought it was total over acting and unnecessary. For a start I thought that if Hetty had been there, no way it would have happened, maybe Fatima was taking advantage with Nell being there. I hope Eric is back next, the Eric/Nell interaction in ops was missing for me.
    Loved the scenes with the printing guy, great humour from both him and Kensi and Deeks.
    I love this show and would watch it no matter what, I am looking forward to next week, looks like it has got plenty of action.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have only seen three clips. Densi with the other Martin, I thought was funny. Densi in the armoury, was a bit uncomfortable. The scene with the candles I thought was odd, but I guessed it was because I saw it out of context. Other than that I can’t comment. I am just happy and grateful to have the show back, and I too, intend to keep watching. As long as they all keep safe, I hope they can continue.
    ‘Hand to Hand’ is on my TV tomorrow night (YAY!), going to be watching it. Like a few others, I was never interested in NCIS:LA before Deeks. I prefer to see him treated as the competent man he is, and get some credit now and again. I have to agree Frank Military writes the best episodes of NCIS:LA. On the other hand ECO is not too shabby. If ‘Mother’ was his first attempt, heaven help us if he is allowed to get the hang of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JLJ is my least favorite writer also. I was hoping for a good follow up to the Argento story, but that’s not what we got. It was really kind of a snooze fest. While I am always happy to see my beloved characters. I wonder if this is what it will be like all season; just 1-2 people sitting across from each other, talking. Lord, I wish this pandemic would end.
    I still can’t warm up to the new characters. The bit with Fatima and the candles was just plain stupid. What kind of idiot would surround herself with live flames in a room full of million dollar, federally owned equipment, to meditate while on the job? Ridiculous and far-fetched. The Densi bit with the other Martin was cutesy, if a bit too long. At least they were together. The jury is still out, at least for me, on Nell running things, but thankfully she isn’t whining anymore. All in all, a disappointing start to season 12. But I know there is Frank Military script in the pipeline, so there is hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Donna l Hartle // November 21, 2020 at 1:34 AM // Reply

    I must be easily amused. I was not disappointed in the episode.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for your review, Karen. They didn’t give you all that much to work with, for sure. I don’t know how they could followed up “Code of Conduct” (which I greatly enjoyed) with a courtoom episode and expected it to be anywhere near as interesting or entertaining…unless perhaps Argento had escaped. But it is what it is. I do wonder if this episode looked much different than it had been originally intended because of COVID? Was much of the “action” written out because of the inability to film it properly?

    Agree 100% with reebelle4’s description of the meditating Fatima scene as ridiculous, far-fetched, and just plain stupid!

    I did enjoy the Densi scenes with the other Martin, but hell, even I said out loud after Martin said he didn’t have a pic of the guy, “Ask him about security video.” Duh. And you are right, Karen, JLJ could have taken that blinfolded Deeks scene somewhere so much more interesting and meaningful than she did.

    Liked by 1 person

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