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

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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+.

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