Probably the weakest of the NCIS series, NCIS: Los Angeles continues along its loud and violent path for its seventh season.
The Production: 3/5
The first of the NCIS spin-offs, NCIS: Los Angeles has been flying under the radar for a few seasons since CBS moved it to a late Monday night time slot, garnering decent ratings for its more formulaic approach to procedural crime solving than its mothership series. By now in its seventh season, the ensemble cast has been performing together quite a long time with no real turnovers in personnel for the last four years, so the show is a well-oiled, if slightly repetitive, machine delivering a hour of fast-paced action, small bits of character development for each of its principals, but a lack of mystery in the stories which its other siblings in the NCIS universe tend to gravitate to.
As with the other shows in this universe, the writers have given several of the characters connected to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service office based in Los Angeles momentous events in their personal lives while they execute their daily routine of snuffing out spies, terrorists, and mostly international killers intent on using the United States and its citizens for target practice. For head agent G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell), he finally meets his father (Daniel J. Travanti), a Russian as it turns out, and learns his real name. He also breaks up with longtime girl friend Joelle Taylor (Elizabeth Bogush) while pursuing a potential romance with Anna (Bar Paly), the daughter of a Russian spy he’s worked with several times in the past Arkady Kolcheck (Vyto Ruginis). Partners Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) and Marty Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) are well on their way to becoming engaged, Kensi having put a past romance with Afghan freedom fighter Jack Simon (Matthew Del Negro) to rest and Marty finally getting out from under an Internal Affairs investigation into something potentially criminal in his past. Operations controller Eric Beale (Barrett Foa) gets to put on his big boy pants and go out in the field after working with the team’s most well-trained agent, former Navy SEAL Sam Hanna (LL Cool J). Sam’s journey during the season, however, is the most emotional dealing with romantic fallout from a woman (Ella Thomas) who became enamored of him during an undercover operation and his being stalked the entire season by Sudan terrorist Tahir Khaled (Anslem Richardson), the duo finally coming face-to-face in the season finale.
As for other cases the team deals with during season seven, many are compromised by the presence of a mole within the Los Angeles office of NCIS (coincidentally and also unimaginatively, the other two NCIS franchise shows also contained season-long story arcs involving agency moles which, for them, get concluded by the end of their seasons. For NCIS: Los Angeles, the mole hunt continues into season eight.) Other cases this season involve Callen going rogue in the season premiere, a Simon Says-style Unabomber, a potentially hazardous radiation leak, preteen suicide bombers on the loose, an insidious ISIS recruitment of girls for its organization, and NCIS psychoanalyst Nate Getz (former series regular Peter Cambor) going rogue with a female terrorist intent on buying explosives for the highest bidder. In all of the season’s cases, the action is always ramped up past the breaking point with armed battles in Los Angeles streets, frequent bombings of vehicles and buildings, and chases either on foot or in high speed vehicles though their cases don’t always seem to tie into the Navy or Marines in the same way they do in the other NCIS shows. Much more so than the other two NCIS programs, the Los Angeles counterpart is high in body count and much more action-oriented as befitting a crime drama rather than a mystery series.
As for the performers, the three pairs who proceed through the show together have all honed their repartee to a fine point, so Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J, Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah, and Barrett Foa and Renée Felice Smith all have their patter down pat and make the show’s grimmer moments more than bearable. Linda Hunt as the agency’s enigmatic West Coast director does less this season than in previous years and sometimes seems a little slow in her delivery and reactions, possibly indicating a gradual winding down for her character on the show. Miguel Ferrer playing the dour Assistant Director Owen Granger, the last of the regulars brought in a few years ago to spell Linda Hunt in actual field work, is the least likable of the ensemble, but he does get to enjoy some splendid emotional moments with his renegade daughter, Korean spy Jennifer Kim (Malese Jow).
Here are the twenty-four episodes contained on six DVDs in the season seven set. The names in parentheses are the participants in that episode’s audio commentary:
1 – Active Measures
2 – Citadel
3 – Diving Miss Diaz
4 – Command & Control
5 – Blame It on Rio
6 – Unspoken
7 – An Unlocked Mind
8 – The Long Goodbye
9 – Defectors
10 – Internal Affairs (actors Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah)
11 – Cancel Christmas (actors Barrett Foa and Renée Felice Smith)
12 – Core Values
13 – Angels & Daemons
14 – Come Back
15 – Matryoshka
16 – Matryoshka, Part 2
17 – Revenge Deferred
18 – Exchange Rate
19 – The Seventh Child
20 – Seoul Man
21 – Head of the Snake
22 – Granger, O.
23 – Where There’s Smoke
24 – Talion
3D Rating: NA
The program is presented in its broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is offered in anamorphic widescreen. Looking extremely sharp (with possibly some minor edge enhancement) and very colorful to reflect the West Coast lifestyle, these 480p transfers are about as good as standard definition transfers can look. Color is rich with appealing skin tones, and contrast has been superbly applied for consistency. Black levels are very good as well. There are some problems with minor aliasing and moiré patterns, but this is expected in most standard definition transfers. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix accurately reflects the network broadcasts though the volume levels seem to be increased a bit from their network counterparts. Dialogue is always easy to understand and has been placed in the center channel. Music gets an immersive placement in the fronts and rears, and atmospheric effects of zooming cars through the soundstage and rapid-fire rounds going off make use of the available channels for one of the most exacting of the network soundtracks. The frequent explosions give the subwoofer a good workout in many episodes. The discs also include a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Audio Commentaries: despite the obvious camaraderie between the actors in both of these commentaries, neither one offers much in the way of behind-the-scene glimpses into the production of the episodes. Fans will certainly enjoy hearing the actors tease and parry with one another, but look elsewhere in the set for specifics on these and other episodes.
Deleted Scenes: nine deleted scenes are scattered throughout the six discs in the set, attached to the episodes from which they were excised.
Getting Personal: Season 7 of NCIS: Los Angeles (24:23): producers Shane Brennan and Scott Gemmill along with the regular cast excluding Linda Hunt comment on the highlights of the seventh season.
Celebrating 150 (5:13): a behind-the-scenes look at the celebration held at the conclusion of production of “Command & Control,” the show’s 150th episode.
Into Africa (8:54): a behind-the-scenes look at the production of “Revenge Deferred,” which partly takes place in Africa, as the show’s director, writer, and art director celebrate how locations outside the city can pass as a stretch of African plain.
Hot Property (11:21): props master Lance Larsen introduce the viewer into the enormous numbers of props utilized by the show on a daily basis. Regular cast members praise the props crew for making their jobs so much easier through their expertise with creating and implementing these props.
Seeing Double (7:46): a behind-the-scenes look at how triplets were created via special effects for the episode “The Seventh Child.”
What’s in a Name? (5:34): a behind-the-scenes look at the preparation for the moment Callen meets his father and learns his identity for the first time in the episode “Matryoshka, Part 2.”
Happy 50th, NCIS (2:59): many of the cast send well wishes to the real NCIS which on February 24, 2016, celebrated fifty years in existence.
Probably the weakest of the NCIS series, NCIS: Los Angeles continues along its loud and violent path for its seventh season. With the show moving to Sundays at 8 p.m. (the old slot once occupied by Murder, She Wrote for over a decade), ratings may see a rise as the producers continue to plot new surprises for the members of this elite federal unit.