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+.


I much rather see this then a bunch of grown up having sex with each other at work


Rachelh - I totally agree with you. You pretty much said what I was going to post myself. NCIS:LA has been pretty light on the blood and gore - now staples for many other shows. It has a big family audience - in part, because of this. Same question: are the writers testing the waters to see how far they can push the audience next year with regard to violence and gore? Are they hoping to go down a bloodier road next season? If yes, count me out. (I spent 4 years in the Middle East and got enough of the real stuff).


O.k. really? It was a lot longer than 10 seconds and yes, you did see a lot. The problem with the reactions to torture on here is that the writers are going to think that people like it and want more of that. If that happens, I will stop watching.


No, it wasn't bound to happen. Yes the torture scenes did go to far. My mom used to watch 24 and she said the torture scenes were worse than that of 24. It isn't to expected in a show that has been kind of light. It's like watching a completely different show, and I don't mean that in a good way. It's like their caving into society's desire for violence. Out of place in a show that is meant to entertain.


My husband and I watched the next week waiting to find out what happened to Deeks only to have reruns on. Do we have to wait until next season to find out????


I didn't understand why people thought it went too far. Although Deeks is my favorite character (I almost stopped watching the show until he came on), I thought it was done fantastically. They didn't really show the torture, just the implication of it. Eric Christian Olsen is an amazing actor, although underrated, and he really sold it. By the way he didn't scream like a girl, he screamed like someone in serious pain. Big difference.


the show has always been about controlled violence - the Crew doesn't do gratuitous violence, but they sure do justifiable violence. Deeks screams like a girl. But I expected that.


I think the most interesting take on torture on TV this past month was in Scandal - where one female character took to torturing someone like a duck to water, and afterwards was plainly not just excited, but REALLY psyched by the whole experience. I thought it was a fascinating look at the reasons some people find that they can torture someone else, cause real physical pain and harm, people not previously given to anything like that behaviour at all. I thought it was by far the best examination of torture that I thought I'd ever seen, certainly on TV.


In a show about undercover agents, torture was bound to happen, why the surprise? I thought it was chilling and shocking but awesome in the way that it adds to the story.

Sue ann

THREE Sometimes the writers on this show leave holes in their fast-moving plots through which the viewer could drive Sherman tanks, and they expect us not to notice.

Tags: ,