It's a time of transition for the loyal agents of NCIS in Season 14 of the top-rated drama. Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the major Case Response Team continue to answer the call of duty whenever and wherever crimes involve the U.S. Navy.
This season, two new agents are welcomed to the family: Nicholas Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) and Alexandra Quinn (Jennifer Esposito). Also joining the crew is MI6 Officer Clayton Reeves (Duane Henry) who specialises in cases with international repercussions.
From terrorists and assassins to cyber-threats and anti-government militias, these fearless agents go where the evidence leads to keep America safe and sound.
This is an exclusive 6-disc, 24 episode collection. Each episode has an individual director.
I have seen many episodes of NCIS since it first aired on television, but I had not seen any of the Season 14 episodes so I was prepared for a binge watch this time round! I rationed myself to an average of two episodes a day, watching them in chronological order in case there were any double (or multiple) episodes, but in this season all the episodes are self-contained so the watching order does not really matter too much - even the crossover episode ("Pandora's Box Part 1", Episode 15) can be watched as a standalone. However, it is good that the crossover ("Pandora's Box Part 2"), which was part of NCIS: New Orleans (Season 3, Episode 14) is included in this box set immediately after Part 1 so that the two can be watched as a double episode.
There is some reference to characters' own backgrounds and personal life throughout the season, but none of this is really complex enough to affect the watching order. Even the episodes that fill in some of the background details for the two newcomers, Alex (Episode 5, "Philly") and Nick (Episode 21,"One Book, Two Covers") do not necessarily have to be watched in sequence. This is useful if several people are watching a series and one of them misses an episode - they can always go back and catch up later. There are other references spread throughout the season also, particularly with regards to Nick and the inference that he is "different".
The episodes are formulaic, so once I got into the series, I knew what to expect. Each one starts with one or two "events", the titles follow, and then the team goes into a case briefing and strategic planning session. There is plenty of action, some of it reasonably violent, so the M rating is appropriate. I enjoy a good action film so these are just up my street. The episodes are divided into sections, each ending with a black and white freeze frame - presumably where the commercials would be slotted in when they are aired on commercial television!
In terms of the acting, I thought that Jennifer Esposito (Alex Quinn) was not especially convincing in the first couple of episodes. She was supposed to be presenting a serious role, but I thought her performance was too lightweight. By Episode 3, however, she seems to have become more comfortable in her character. Mark Harmon is superb in his role as Gibbs. Not only does he act in all of the episodes in this season (with the exception of the linked NCIS: New Orleans episode), but he is also one of the executive directors. This is one of the reasons this season is so cohesive; there is the exchange between actor and director which means that both perspectives are taken into account, and the result works. The other actor who stands out for me is Pauley Perrette (Abby Sciuto). While she adds a touch of humour to all her scenes, she is cast as the main character in "Pandora Part 1" (Episode 15) which gives her the opportunity to extend her dramatic capabilities.
One of the extras included with the box set is a collection of behind-the-scenes documentaries. I watched them all after I had viewed the season proper, and found them almost as entertaining as the scripted episodes. They are distributed across the six discs, covering material far more extensive that what is usually included in a "making of" section. I was particularly interested in the "Brian Dietzen's NCIS" documentary, which offers an in-depth tour of the various stage sets. For anyone like me who has worked for many years in stage management and construction, this was a treat indeed.
The nightclub scene in "Pandora's Box Part 2" (the NCIS: New Orleans crossover episode) was enhanced by a cameo performance from Maren Morris. This, combined with the Mardi Gras masks, helped to emphasise that this was not part of the mainstream NCIS series despite the presence of McGee and Torres. The challenge for the writers collaborating on the "Pandora" crossover episodes is analysed by scriptwriters Christopher Waild and Christopher Silber in another compelling documentary, "Opening Pandora's Box". Although each wrote his own episode, there were points of continuity which needed to be addressed; it is fascinating to learn of the processes they followed.
If I had not already been an NCIS fan before this, I would certainly be one now. The presentation is slick and audience-friendly, and the predictability (mostly) of the stock characters means that it is easy to focus on the plot. If at times it all becomes somewhat far-fetched, it is all with the intention of delivering a good yarn to provide enjoyable entertainment.
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