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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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Sue-ann

TWO I agree, the sound sold this. I do not watch (shows which contain) torture, generally, but I do read books which contain it. It was certainly memorable and disturbing. But, not too much for me. I do believe it would have been better at a later hour. That show is on at 8 o'clock in the center two time zones, still the so-called "family viewing time". Had I young children, I would not let them watch this program. When I was young, I never ever saw The Untouchables. My classmates spoke of it, but my parents "broke" the TV for a few years there. After a week's consideration, while I was very unhappy with the torture of Deeks, I was even more unhappy with the heavy-handed continuation of the contemptuous attitude of Sam and also of Kensi, towards Deeks. He deserves a great deal more respect than he gets. Kensi, I understand. Displaced sexual tension. Sam, his attitude is ridiculous, and he should know better. 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.

Sue-ann

I wasn't very happy about the torture, but that is because I like Deeks so much. I don't really want anyone to take a drill to such a pretty face. If he is not rescued rather fast, the damage is going to be financially, physically, psychologically and emotionally huge, and particularly take a long time to fix physically. I mentioned flippantly in the post after the review of this episode that I figure Sam is going to need to kiss Deeks's feet after this, rather than take the nasty attitude he has been, because I think Deeks will not break. Were Deeks to break, I figure his character would have to leave the show, and Eric Christian Olsen has signed for another year. Both Sam and Deeks himself would insist upon it. If he breaks, there would be no fixing him so he could look the rest of them in the eye. So, he will not break. Just MHO, of course. I agree, the sound sold this. I do not watch (shows which contain) torture, generally, but I do read books which contain it. It was certainly memorable and disturbing. But, not too much for me. I do believe it would have been better at a later hour. That show is on at 8 o'clock in the center two time zones, still the so-called "family viewing time". Had I young children, I would not let them watch this program. When I was young, I never ever saw The Untouchables. My classmates spoke of it, but my parents "broke" the TV for a few years there. After a week's consideration, while I was very unhappy with the torture of Deeks, I was even more unhappy with the heavy-handed continuation of the contemptuous attitude of Sam and also of Kensi, towards Deeks. He deserves a great deal more respect than he gets. Kensi, I understand. Displaced sexual tension. Sam, his attitude is ridiculous, and he should know better. 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.

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I too was shocked by people's reaction. I have posted on several sites an opinion similar to yours. Almost everyone had more problems with the torture of Deeks which was only a few seconds and you didn't see much. It was the horrific screams of agony that echoed even after the screen went black that were the most disturbing and made you squirm. Eric Christian Olsen did a fantastic job in putting a very human face to torture. The scene wasn't supposed to make you comfortable, it was supposed to make you think and to remind the viewer how dangerous this job is. The job is not all gloss and comic banter, there are real stakes and the main characters can face real jeopardy. I thought it was very well done. Deeks screams combined with the guilt, pain and fear on Sam's face left a memorable and haunting image. I just wish we didn't have to wait till next fall for resolution.

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It was horrific to watch, especially the solid acting from Sam and Deeks which left little for imagination. However, this is NCIS agents working undercover. Things doesn't always goes right every time. The brutal violence isn't the worse we have seen on television and while it is difficult for me to watch, having to grow fond of the show, the finale wouldn't have been so successful without seeing the brutality of the violence.

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This is CBS! Home of Criminal Minds, it's failed spin-off, 3 variations of CSI and Survivor--which rewards people willing to starve themselves for money (effectively). They do violence. The only shock is that people didn't expect to see it in the world of NCIS. Alias ripped Jennifer Garner's tooth out with pliers in the pilot episode, surely violence against women has to provoke more vitriol than this. This spin-off has been consistently glossy and flashy. This time they made it real and upped the stakes.

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I watch criminal minds and I watched Alias and some of their scenes were too much. The scenes with Sam and Deeks were bearable

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its not as bad as the torture scene we get from any other cop show

Marissa

I thought the torture scene was fine it went perfect with the story and it wasn't to horrible I've seen way worse before. I think it was just right for NCIS: LA and if got the message they were trying to send across. They could of made the torture scenes a little longer and the way they tortured them a little worse actually to give a better effect they were trying to do.

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