NCIS, Season 10, Episode 15: “Hereafter”
Written by Nichole Mirante-Matthews
Directed by Tony Wharmby
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
Despite the strengths for which it is praised, NCIS has its share of recurring issues, occasionally exhibited by withdrawn characters, uninspired subject matter, emotionally weightless subplots, and flat attempts at humor. The greatness of a season or a single episode fluctuates depending on the emphasis given to each element. “Hereafter” manages to spotlight the best and the brightest, resulting in a well-rounded episode in spite of brief moments that recall those issues.
The episode assumes the task of dealing with the emotional aftermath of Jackie Vance’s death, allowing Rocky Carroll a shot at all the heavy lifting. He carries the story from beginning to end, though it takes a few undesirable twists. His confrontation with his wife’s lawyer and scenes with his children display the range of emotions he’s experiencing as a newly-widowed father and a grieving man with the responsibilities left to him by the woman he lost. His character’s history deserves expansion into his home life, and his search to uncover secrets kept by his late wife is compelling, but that is all that is necessary for the hour. A line into repetitious character behavior is crossed when Vance returns to work prematurely and assigns himself to Gibbs’ team for the current investigation. The concept doesn’t work comically, feeling more hokey than amusing, and it doesn’t work from a practical viewpoint; Leon Vance doesn’t come across as a former agent who excelled in the field, so his contribution to the case is minimal at best. The lack of a parallel between the details of the case and his state of mind disconnects from the emotions displayed at the beginning, but the end regains that fervor when the parallel is instead drawn between Gibbs and Vance, both of whom have suffered the loss of their wives. Vance’s desperation to relate to Gibbs adds depth to their relationship, equating them as victims of the tragedies of life. But even with the passing of time between the separate incidents, Gibbs continues to occupy himself with his vast collection of tools in his basement, a sign of his inability to do what he wishes for Vance- to move on, leaving everyone wondering when the next boat will be fit to sail.
Greg Germann’s continued role as Deputy Director Jerome Craig is quickly losing steam as the new sheriff in town, though he and everyone else seems certain that he never had what it takes in the first place. It’s a shame to see his character slowly wear away to being no more than the recipient of Tony’s judgmental personality, which grates when he steps forth as the funny man. Tony has been known to get along with and even relate to young children, but here he is averse to the notion of babysitting the Vance kids while their father works late. Even though he warms up to the kids and plays around, it’s still off-putting to see moments of regression and contradictions to his recent maturity.
The actual case has its share of back and forth proceedings, playing out with so few original setbacks that it feels neglected by thoughtful planning. Resulting in an explanation for torture and murder within a marine company that’s unsatisfying in every way, the unusual injuries, deaths, events, and confession feel carelessly written, relying on underground fighting as a false lead and perceived insanity to conclude the investigation. The focus on Vance doesn’t detract from the potential for an intricate case, but resuming the search for Jackie and Eli David’s killer would have been a more suitable pairing for the subplot, were it not being saved for the finale.
Once again, NCIS uses its strengths in scripting solemnity as a saving grace for an episode that would have otherwise fallen by the wayside. Instead, it stands above recent installments as an engaging, though inherently flawed, acknowledgment of the affects a death has on our ability to continue living. While it may not have been a massive game-changer, it succeeds in building character and providing a genuine look into the human element.