NCIS: Los Angeles started off as a show I watched because it was on right after NCIS and it was always enjoyable, even if the stories and character interplay didn't hold a candle to the original.
Nowadays, however, it's starting to approach that must-watch caliber. Simultaneously character-driven and action-packed, episodes like last night's can't help but leave you counting down the minutes until next week.
The third season premiere commenced just 53 minutes after we last saw "Lange, H."
We began with Hetty in dire straits, and what followed, unfolding almost in real time, was her team's frantic bid to rescue her. By the end of the episode, we learned so much, yet were left with yet another cliffhanger.
Viewers who have watched NCIS: LA from the start have waited two years for a substantive reveal of who Callen really is, and last night didn't disappoint, peeling back layers via flashbacks, stories and present-day actions.
Hetty, as we know, tried to con the head of the Comescu family into believing Callen was dead. What we didn't know, until this episode, was why. The explanation not only made sense, but exceeded expectations.
A longstanding feud that spanned multiple generations of Romanians left him as the sole survivor of his bloodline - and target of the Comescu family. Until Callen had been eliminated, they would not rest.
Meanwhile, Callen was reliving memories of his childhood, on a beach by the Black Sea, when his mother was brutally murdered and a mysterious woman with a strange tattoo appeared and took him away.
That woman could only be Ms. Henrietta Lange.Because Callen's grandfather, an OSS agent (now the CIA) had killed one of the Comescu elders, the entire family had been marked for death. Callen's mother eventually returned to Romania under a new name, but was slain.
Hetty was supposed to save her, but was too late, although she did save Callen, obviously. One wonders how the assassin didn't simply end the little boy's life to if he was right there. Questions for another time perhaps.
After revealing the origin of the feud, the head of Comescu family shot Hetty, who appeared to be fine at first, only to collapse as the credits rolled. It's unclear how badly she was wounded, but it's not looking good.
Will she survive? In the NCIS world, you can't take it for granted.
Another major twist in the premiere was the role of Agent Lauren Hunter (Claire Forlani), who appeared to be a member of the Comescu family, only to save Callen at the last possible instant following the team's raid.
Working undercover for years as a Comescu granddaughter who lived alone in Argentina and wanted nothing to do with them, Hunter infiltrated the family and likely fooled more than a few viewers as well.
Of course, there are plenty of unanswered questions - what is the link between Hunter and Hetty? And what is the true origin of Hetty's relationship with Callen? How far back does it go, and with what complications?
This 24-style episode, by nature, offered less of the witty banter and free-wheeling style the show is known for, but it was effective. It will be interesting to see the long-term ramifications of the mission and what transpires next.
There were some quality Kensi-Deeks exchanges, particularly playing tourists on the beach, while Eric and Nell did their best to offer some comic relief while putting together the pieces back in ops.
You really shouldn't eat in there, though. Just saying. Crumbs and computers? Bad combo.
Vance was also around, which made sense in that this took place in May, right after the Season 2 finale. By the time last night's NCIS premiere took place, in September, he'd have been back in D.C.
What did you think of the NCIS: Los Angeles premiere? How do you think it will play out next week? Will Hetty survive, and what's next for Hunter's character? Comment below and discuss!