The NCIS franchise started a new chapter this week with the NCIS: Hawai’i premiere, which introduced a new team of agents to TV viewers. “Pilot” featured the NCIS Pearl Harbor squad probing the story behind the crash of an experimental Navy aircraft, convinced that foul play was somehow involved in the terrible accident. They also welcomed a new team member who caused them some trouble. But were they able to catch the culprit? And did they convince audiences to tune in next week?
Here are the highlights from this week’s NCIS: Hawai’i episode. Viewers will also want to check out my interview with series executive producer/showrunner Jan Nash about how this latest NCIS spinoff came together behind the scenes.
001. This unit might work inside the system
NCIS: Hawai’i showed signs of bucking one of the genre’s oldest tropes, where it’s always the heroes’ team against whatever other organization is involved. Whatever kind of show it is, the other—local cops, incoming federal agents, lawyers—is depicted as egocentric, getting in the way of the heroes’ investigation and not caring about anything but their own interests. But this series might mercifully depart from that trend.
In “Pilot,” Special Agent Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) had to navigate things with Captain Milius (recurring guest star Enver Gjokaj, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD). The two of them wanted to pull rank on each other early on but actually talked out their disagreements like normal people. Tennant let Milius take the credit with his “wolf pack” to sell his cooperation without losing face, and Milius apologized to Tennant for being overprotective in one of the final scenes. They butted heads but they did it with respect, they heard one another, and their conflict didn’t overshadow getting justice for the victim.
Special Agent Lucy Tara (Yasmine Al-Bustami) also ran afoul of Defense Intelligence Agency operative Kate Whistler (Tori Anderson). The show undercut this somewhat by revealing that the two had been romantically involved, which created the question of how much Whistler helped NCIS on merit versus how much she was influenced by her personal history with Lucy. But there was a pretty well-rounded relationship where NCIS got Whistler in trouble with Milius, owned that and tried to fix it. The NCIS agents didn’t get to run around doing whatever they wanted without consequences. And Whistler stepped up and helped instead of holding onto the “government secrets” card.
Her character is a series regular, so keep an eye on how she’s worked into future cases going forward. It would be a breath of fresh air if NCIS: Hawai’i showcased a crime-solving team that works within the system instead of running over it, and healthy relationships with other agencies where people are allowed to have conflict but can also be good collaborators. Hopefully it will avoid future scenes depicting local police as single-minded and flesh out that relationship as well.