NCIS Los Angeles Finale: Did Torture Scene Go Too Far?

at . Comments

The morning after the NCIS: Los Angeles season 4 finale, "Descent," I went to read the comments on my review and was taken aback by what I found: many people were highly disturbed with the torture of Sam and particularly Deeks.

I saw the scene as part of the story and didn't even consider the possibility that it would be controversial. But I appeared to be in the minority.

However, it also wasn't the first or most brutal torture scene I'd watched on network or cable television this year.  For cable, Philip was tortured intensively to determine if he betrayed his country or not on The Americans. On Justified, Constable Bob was brutally beat and tortured for information.

Brutal violence may be more commonplace on cable, but network shows weren't immune either. On The Following, Mike Westen was captured and put through a series of torturous rounds and stabbed to break him for a person's location. Nora, on this week's Revolution, was water tortured, beaten and given drugs for similar information.

Torture on television isn't a rare occurrence. Many of the comments indicated shock that NCIS: Los Angeles would go there in an episode. Over the past four seasons, the show hasn't been a series of pleasant tea parties, Hetty's excluded of course.

The show is violent every week. People are beaten, shot, killed and even blown up. The NCIS agents have been put through the ringer, too, though not to this level before. Although Ziva was also tortured on NCIS several seasons ago. The torture in "Descent" was not gratuitous because it was integral to the storytelling. 

I rewatched the scene in the video released by CBS and understand why people were uncomfortable with the torture, but I'd be concerned by anyone who enjoyed it. The actual torture was only shown for seconds and was more disturbing to see outside the context of the full episode.

The entire hour built in tension and danger up until the moment Deeks screams. It was Eric Christian Olsen's brilliant performance during those final 30 seconds that sold it as a horrific, painful event; not the viewing of actual torture. 

Was the scene too much? I don't think so. In fact, it was somewhat toned down from what it could have been. Sam was electrified a few times and that wasn't nearly has painful as the look on his face when he feared for his wife's life.

The visual torture of Deeks lasted only a few seconds. It was just enough to get the point across without overdoing it. Ultimately, it wasn't the physical action that sold the excruciating pain, it was Deeks' scream.

Do you think the torture scene was outside the realm of what should be on NCIS: Los Angeles? Was it integral to the story? Was more graphic than it needed to be? Or did you find it to be well done? 

What did you make of the NCIS: Los Angeles torture scene?

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


The writers of ncis la are doing a great job with the story lines. That being said, please don't do the same old tired frustrating thing that most tv shows do and have Deeks and Kensi keep doing this will they, won't they song and dance thing. They have done it on ncis and look where it's taken them. 8 years of will they won't and wouldn't you know, they won't because ziva is leaving. The sexual tension angle with main characters should only go so far before you either split them on take their relationship to the next level. There is alot of storylines that could be written with them being together. Do I want Deeks and Kensi to take their relationship to the next level? Sure why not. But dont let the way that they are right now go too long. It's getting too drawn out and boring. Just like the ncis storyline of Ziva and Tony.


The torture finale was over the top and totally unnecessary. We did not have to see those two characters being tortured. Gave me nightmares for days. The ratings war seems to be so over the top now and spoils the enjoyment of the programme. Cliff Hangings (not literally again please)are one thing; The show has very good script writers, you can get just as much out of words re: previous episode with the exchange of words between Callen and Hettie over the use of, and raising of Orphans as spies. That was stunning. Now that would have been a good ending - a similar exchange of words between Hettie and an unknown person on the end of a phone; WHERE ARE DEEKS AND SAM etc etc.......? following on from the control room screens going fuzzy when Sam is thrown into the pool and Deeks follows. The End.

@ Karen Saunders

I totally disagree the torture was real as in real life we dont want fairy tales its not true to life at all well done to the scrift writers


It fit the context of the whole episode and it met the level of what was at stake. The only reason they had to stay quiet was for fear of what would happen to Michelle if they didn't. It is shocking, it was extreme, but when it's a show about agents who will put their lives on the line if the job calls for it then it'd be wrong not to demonstrate that. All of those closing scenes had me completely on edge, from seeing the flashback about the message on the eyelids. It was also a powerful scene for the viewers because we know Sam had a lot more invested in not saying anything whereas Deeks could have been the one to break - it's possibly why his seemed like more extreme torture. The screams at the end were chilling, which was more than any visual impact could have offered. And also, after Deeks' kiss with Kensi combined with the closing screams, the first thing I did was check for spoilers to see if Eric was leaving because that would have led into the perfect exit. (So glad it's not though).


English super fan here. Loved the episode and thought it was fine. Please pleas please dont kill Deeks though. He is fab and live his character. Love the show great writing and acting and I live the character interplay and development. Keep going. Only complaint is having to wait to long for next season.


I think that the torture scenes were a necessary evil for the character development of Deeks. He is one of my favorite characters on the show and his relationship with Kensi is to me the best part. But he has been put in the role of the 'class clown', who always seems to be happy-go-lucky even though he is constantly the butt of the others' jokes. The torture will likely cause his character to grow up(not too much hopefully) and gain respect from the others. As for the torture scenes being misplaced for this show, I can only say that for a show that is all about agents hunting down terroists and killers every eposide, it can't be aspected that the main characters win every battle.


whyyyyyy do they leave us hanging for months with a ending like that... now this is what i call torture..
as far as the torture topic goes, sam's was grand, but im not looking forward to how far they go on deeks.
on a side note..
favorite character is Kensi..but thats only because of the relationship with deeks, every character is paired perfectly that makes this my favorite!!!
If they ever visit Ireland, im shaking their hands, they really do a great Job!!


im still in shock! deeks is one of my favs on the show after ll cool j of course. number one kids shoulnt be up that late! and number 2 a little hurting on the person is part of a tv show! these people are agents, and should be seeing some blood and gore! I love the show and cant wait to see what happens but if deeks is taken off the show because of death it wount be the same to watch anymore


My problem is having to wait until the fall to get a conclusion. I hate that. I think the scenes were just a one-time "leave you hanging" thing. I seriously doubt they'll go all 24 on us. And speaking of 24, I find it ironic one can watch 24's torture scenes and say NCISLA was worse. Makes no absolute sense considering the well-known controversies and issues surrounding 24 while it was on the air.


My problem with the torture scene was that it was unpredictable. Had it be predictable I would not have watched the episode. If it becomes predictable, I will not watch any in the future. The writers have gone to great lengths to make the characters of Callen and Hanna tough-as-nails bad asses. They have gone to equally great lengths to make the characters of Deeks and Kensi less so, even amusing. Skilled operatives, definitely, but equally sympathetic. What next? Does the character of Nell get -her- face drilled into? She is, after all, a part-time gun-toting field agent, too! Viewers have expectations that are carefully crafted by the very talented writers. To violently exploit those expectations for their shock value makes some viewers feel they have been toyed with, viewers who may or may not show up next season to see if the writers have any more emotional strings they can yank. [Forgive me if my comments lack professionalism. I am simply a viewer who happened across this column.]


My only problem with the torture scenes is having to wait until next season. People letting their minor children watch this show regardless of its "light nature" are a bit ridiculous. The viewers were allowed to use their imaginations to create a lot of the gore that seemed to be happening in the scenes. I say A + for LL and the guy that plays Deeks. I am so disgusted with having to wait. It was so good I wished I hadn't seen it until next season's premier was around the corner.

Tags: ,