NCIS Los Angeles “Descent” – Final analysis of Season Four Finale by Phillydi

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I thought I would give it at least week to let the dust settle so I could properly digest the final episode of NCIS Los Angeles’ fourth season.  The writers already have the conclusion to this cliffhanger neatly tied up in a bow since the first episode of season five was shot directly after they finished the finale.  Unfortunately, the fans will have to spend the summer agonizing over the brutality of Sam and Deeks’ torture, praying that Kensi can rescue Michelle and wondering if Callen will enact his revenge on the Chameleon once and for all!  I’ve read all the reviews and pondered over your comments and no matter how many different ways you dice and slice this show it all comes down to one thing…. trust.  As Sam says to Sidorov “We have trust issues.” And boy, do we ever!

Trust Doesn’t Come Easy to Callen

Of course trust has always been a tattered ribbon that has weaved its way in and out of this show from the very beginning starting with the resilient G. Callen.  Having endured the shortfalls of the foster care system as a child, Callen is often known as the lone wolf.  Having to depend on help from other people does not come easily to him….if Callen could solve all the crimes at NCIS by himself I think he would prefer working totally alone and in a bubble.  Despite his better judgment, Callen must put his trust in one of the greatest adversaries of his career and this misplaced faith may result in the death of his closest friend and confident, Sam Hanna.  His actions may have dire consequences for the rest of the team as well, along with the possibility of nuclear annihilation if the bombs get in the hands of the wrong people.  There has never been any love lost between Callen and Janvier but what will Callen’s next step be once he finds out the fate of Sam, Michelle and Deeks?  The scars Callen obtained during the drive-by shooting from season one will be mere scratches compared to the wounds that will be left behind if this mission fails. Janvier may get his death wish, but who will be left to pick up the pieces for Callen?

Sam Wrestles with his own Little Green Monsters

Sam also seems to be wrestling with his own feelings of insecurity when it comes to his wife, Michelle.  Not sure if Sidorov wants an assassin or a lover, Sam has little tolerance for any man standing between him and his woman, even if she is working undercover.  Despite Michelle being a trained CIA operative, Sam doesn’t agree with her desire to get back into the game.  Sam has trouble trusting her decision but when fate gives him no other choice, he struggles over how he will protect the mother of his children from these monsters.

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It’s this intense fear that precipitates the hostile reaction he has to the announcement that Deeks will be his new partner.  He has worked with Callen for so long he’s only comfortable with his trusted partner by his side.  Having to rely on Deeks is a whole new ballgame.  This attitude didn’t just start with the final episode though; Sam has had a hard time taking Deeks seriously from the very beginning.  We finally find out what’s really behind all the insults he has been dishing out to Deeks over the years.  He calls him different; he has a problem with his character because of the way he looks.  Sometimes being a product of the military system means you are so use to taking orders, it’s hard to think outside the box, or in his case, accept anyone outside the box.  Sam’s fear has exasperated the situation but Deeks finally calls him out.   Sure, he feels more secure with Callen by his side, but not even his partner will be able to protect the people Sam loves with the stakes being as high as they are in this mission.   Hanna will get to find out if his instincts are right (or wrong) about Deeks.  It was heartbreaking to watch him struggling in pain while begging the LAPD Detective with his eyes not to give into the indescribably torture and reveal Michelle’s cover to Sidorov.  He has no choice but to trust in the man who he has repeatedly criticized in the past for being different.  Ironic how things come around full circle.

Densi, Trust and Matters of the Heart

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Finally we come to our favorite couple, Densi who reinvented the term dysfunctional when it comes to fear and trust issues between a man and woman.  In the previous episode, Parley, Monica Davis has both Kensi and Deeks contemplating the true connection they have between each other.  She’s not questioning the lack of professional trust between partners but the lack of trust that comes from unresolved matters of the heart.  Everyone who works alongside the couple can see there’s a love affair going on here… except Kensi and Deeks!   Even Hetty decides it’s time to give her blessing.  Let’s face it, Kensi has been afraid of intimacy ever since she was abandoned by her fiancé, Jack and paralyzed by the loss of her dad as a young girl.   On the other side of the coin, Deeks tends to agonize over his undercover persona, Max Gentry and whether Davis was right.  “You know you can’t trust him,” she tells Kensi.  Does Gentry come from a part of his personality that he keeps hidden and locked away?  Kensi would never trust Gentry but can she truly trust Deeks?

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As Deeks watches Kensi prepare for her trip to Iran, he is afraid if he can’t accompany her, he won’t be there to protect her if something goes wrong.  In the past, Deeks has always had great faith in Kensi’s readiness but now he is in love with the woman and this is a huge game changer. Kensi recognizes there is something different in his anxiety over her safety this time and she doesn’t know how to respond to his love and concern.  Instead they dance around their feelings and the meaning behind their veiled words to no conclusion.  It’s all too frightening for Kensi because she really doesn’t know how to give her heart to Deeks after all of her loss.  Even though she tells Davis she trusts Deeks with everything, her reaction to the kiss is a perfect example that she is still struggling.  Kensi may have been a bit stunned by Deeks impulsive method of communication, but the mission was a convenient excuse to act like the kiss never happen and run quickly away.  As she motors off into the distance not knowing the fate that awaits Deeks, what will happen when she finds out her partner is near death or dying from the torture he endures at the hands of Siderov?  Will this lack of trust and uncertainty turn into overwhelming grief, misery and ‘what ifs’ for the agent?

There is no doubt that all the members of this team will be severely changed by this mission.  The entire group dynamics will be affected.  You can’t expect to overcome brutal torture, unbearable fear, anger and unrequited love and still be able to survive all that carnage unscathed.  Without a doubt, these men and women will be transformed…and I believe one or two of them substantially.  We can only hope that the resiliency of the human spirit will win out in the end.

Some final thoughts:

I found it funny that Sidorov trusted Janvier because he is a sick bastard.  I guess there is honor among thieves.

There have always been trust issues between Granger and the team and between Granger and Hetty.  Despite the high stakes of this mission, Granger’s executive decisions may also cause the team to continue their estrangement from the Assistant Director.  Oh, it’s lonely at the top.

Assuming he survives, will torture affect Deeks’ personality the most?  Will this change his laid back, sweet disposition?  Could it force him to withdraw or will it strengthen his resolve even to the point of finally taking Hetty up on her offer to become an agent?   Deeks wants the respect of his colleagues, especially Sam, which is why he has taken his crap for so long.  I wonder if a Special Agent Deeks would be seen differently in the eyes of Agent Hanna?

If Sam and/or Michelle are still alive next season (!), what will be left of their marriage after this mission?  Will she still want to continue as a CIA agent and will Sam be able to accept her decision?  Whatever the answers, things are going to be changing in the Hanna household and safety issues will become a top priority.

I know many of you have expressed concern after watching the torture scenes.  I don’t think it was gratuitous violence and it was there for a reason.  Although not exactly easy to watch, it will set the team up for some real soul searching as we go into season five.  If you want to find out what makes these characters tick you have to put them in indescribable circumstances and watch them find the courage to fight and crawl their way back to the light.  The original definition of courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning to share your whole story with your whole heart.  When these characters triumph despite all odds, we applaud and cheer and when they fail we cry.   You can tell the writers of this show love these characters and it’s important that they put all of their strengths and weaknesses on the screen.   It’s how they emerge out of the other side of the darkness that is the true test of their metal.  This act of courage is an act of storytelling….and it’s the best on television today.

Exclusive Review

20 thoughts on “NCIS Los Angeles “Descent” – Final analysis of Season Four Finale by Phillydi

  1. Anna

    This review is absolute perfection! It’s everything I have been thinking but in words, totally agree with everything you said. Season 5 is going to be one emotional roller coaster for the team.

  2. Sosou

    I don’t know how Kensi could react in another way, I mean Michelle was already leaving, it wasn’t the time for a long hearth to hearth discussion, and knowing the character, she need time to analyse what had just happened, a love declaration at this moment would be out of character for me.
    But she clearly enjoyed the kiss 😀 she was stunned, she couldn’t look away and break eyes contact

  3. Carrie

    LOVE!! I thought the finale was great, full of tension and trust issues. I remember in the episode Kill House the team learned that they are stronger together. In the finale they all separate again and ultimately fail to protect each other.

    While the torture was tough to watch and listen too it felt right that they did that. It was part of the storyline and other than just killing off our beloved characters they had to do something. Those boys got caught plain and simple.

    Great review and thanks for doing these reviews!! Its always great to see other peoples thoughts on what happened.


  4. Deb

    I only found your site a few days ago (5/21) and I already love it. I read the initial review and made a comment and had to come back when I read there was going to do another one after the dust settled. You didn’t disappoint. Great analysis of the characters and the emotional turmoil that is going on behind all the action. For me the depth of the characters and their relationships is what makes the show. Not that I want a soap opera. I certainly like the action too, but action without emotional connection between the characters just doesn’t cut it for me. Maybe that’s why the first few episodes in season one didn’t work for me and I stopped watching. The connections seemed forced or just weren’t there. I started watching again last season and what a difference. I went back and watched season one and two to see what had changed and found the difference. Deeks! Before Deeks, Kensi was all over the place. It was like they didn’t know how to use her; sometimes she was in ops with Eric, sometimes with Callen, sometimes with Dom, sometimes with Nate and sometimes on her own. And poor Dom was like a mini Sam want-a-be who was in the background most of the time. When Olsen followed by Smith joined the show, everything started to gel and the team/partner concept really took off. The characters have only gotten deeper and richer since then, when they’re not taking out bad guys, of course.

    The finale was not without flaws, but for a procedural, it was emotionally very powerful and your analysis was spot on. I’ve bookmarked this site and since NCIS LA has become one of my favorite shows, this will now be one of my favorite sites. Thank you for a job well done.

  5. Irene

    This is one great analysis. You totally nailed it!

    Although the finale was difficult to watch, I also think it was a great and compelling episode.
    I can’t wait to see how everything unravels in season 5.
    I just hope the situation between Deeks and Kensi won’t be weird and that they’ll talk about their feelings at some point.
    Of course, Deeks (and hopefully Sam and Michelle) shall survive and make a full recovery in the first place.

    It’s way too long until September comes… GREAT SHOW!!!!

  6. Phillydi

    Thanks all for the great comments and kind words! Our readers are the best! Phillydi

  7. lou

    Oh dear I hope strongly that the authors do not really think of torturing the poor Deeks and Sam to get them to go out of your mind and change their personality so much as having to then do a reverse path to find themselves, it would be for me devastatnte, I am firmly convinced they’ll find a way to get them to safety before the psychological damage is total and irreversible seeds …… talking Dense then, some time ago I read a few lines of social networks Eco and Ruha where he, referring to their characters, stated that “She really loves him,” and I also hope that eventually one way or another the two souls meet, maybe thanks to the risk that Kensi and Deeks is running to lose her find the courage to tell him how you feel accepting of truly to be loved in turn, would be great, I also saw pictures of presumably after the scenes of torture, and Deeks did not seem particularly devastated and hope for the best …… we’ll see you soon!!!

  8. Judy

    Great analysis of the finale, Diane!! ‘Trust issues’ were the underlying theme throughout the finale and wow, Deeks was the target of both Sam and Kensi’s verbal jabs.
    I was really surprised by Sam’s admission that he has a problem with Deeks’ character and personality because of ‘the way he looks’. I really hope that Deeks doesn’t break under the torture and that Sam will respect the guy in the future – assuming they both survive, of course!!
    I adored ‘The Kiss’ – a truly beautiful and breathtaking moment and the reactions of Deeks and Kensi after it were great! I must admit that I have a problem with Kensi’s ferocious jealousy – not so much in the finale but in Parley it was so overwhelming that I thought Kensi’s behaviour was unacceptable. Sorry – don’t mean to offend anyone!!
    The torture scenes at the end didn’t bother me too much – I’m an avid Dexter fan, so nothing much shocks me these days!! Oh My God though, poor Sam and Deeks!! I really hope Callen finds the guys before too much permanent damage is done to them.
    Anyway, thank you for all your reviews over the last season and also thanks to the ladies who run ‘Callen’s Corner’ (love it!!) and I can’t wait for ‘Decidedly Deeks’!!

  9. LasiaMsinRed

    Great analysis!!!!
    I totally agree Callen has to work on his trust issues!I know it’s not easy but things are getting out of hand as we’ve seen.
    I even have an idea: G needs therapy(He always needed one if you ask me) a psychologist…perfect timing for Nate to come back.Maybe his expierence in the field will help him to deal with Callen.(but if I think of the “dating trick case”I realize the chances are low.)
    Well,he should come back anyway.Maybe Hetty should talk some senses into Callen and then hand him over to Nate.

  10. Tara

    Great review! Everything you said, I agreed with. This case will definitely change the team, in so many different ways. Can’t wait to see what the writers come up with. Hopefully the material will give each member of the cast a chance to shine.
    As for the torture scenes, I don’t think it went to far. I believe the show handled it just enough that it showed the audience what was happening, but it didn’t cross the line to the point where you had to cover your eyes because the torture was too graphic.
    Season 5 can’t come soon enough.

  11. Aria

    Great review on a great season finale.

    All year long I wasn bitching (excuse me for the language) about the Densi relationship. In fact I was convinced that they would never risk moving them to the next level (at least fot the next 2-3 years). The teasing and flirting was always there but with nothing deeper. Was i wrong? YES!!! And they proved it.

    I was surprised by Kensis temper throughout the whole episode. I guess she had been stocking her emotions for too long and the Monica situation drove her to the outburst. It seems that “Parley” effected her more than she admited.

    You got me thinking with the whole alter ego of Deeks. I never really thought about it until I realised how effortless it is for him to play the bad guy. Maybe he does hide a darker version of him somewhere within.

    The kiss was perfect. I was so glad it was not a “near death experience” kiss that both could take back next year. No, they both wanted this. I was also happy that Deeks was the one to make the first move.

    Kensi had to other choice but to pick up her pieces and follow Michelle. The eyes usually say more than actual words, and I have to admit her look after the kiss was priceless. But the least she could do was look at him before she drove away.

    I may have flinched at the totrure scene but I was not shocked. In fact I kinda wanted to see the team getting hurt cause they always and up with no scars and bruises. I needed some reality.

    Can’t wait till September. We are worried about the fates of Deeks and Sam that we forget about the fact that Kensi is also in danger. How is she going to pull Michelle up with the two chicks lurking from behind, ready to shoot her in the back?

    If I start talking about Sam and his behavior towards Deeks I am going to be pissed for one more time. Right now he owes him both his and his wives lives. He better show some respect next year.

  12. Justine

    What can I say – Diane fantastic review!It was pleasure to read it! I agree in everything!! thanks for all your work!!

  13. raffaella

    Ho scoperto solo ora questo sito, grazie.
    Concordo in pieno con la recensione e i vostri commenti, attendo con ansia la prossima stagione, ho adorato il momento del bacio, trovo questa coppia bellissima, e penso che anche lei sia innamorata, ma avete visto come si è sciolta e come lo guardava! secondo me era amore 🙂 😉
    ciao a tutti

  14. Diane

    More great comments! Keep them coming….and yes, Raffaella, I think it is definitely love too! Glad you found our site! Thanks to all….Diane

  15. Richtsje

    Loved your analysis, as ever! And indeed, season 5 must be a season in which – in my opinion – all team members will have to regain trust, equilibre and sanity after what happened in the finale. It’s far from safe at this moment. It might be so that the only one who seems in control right now, the team leader, will suffer most from what happened, in the end.

    Hopefully, the writers have their storyline in mind already. It’ll be a long, long summer indeed!

  16. Jack

    Great analysis! Can’t wait until next season. Best finale in the NCIS:LA history. This will be a long summer…

    Does anyone have a time machine? 😀

  17. Domingo

    I very much like this trust theme and would like to add something, will Callen be able to trust his own assesment of situations? He knew somthing was wrong at the meeting of Janvier and Siderov and did not follow through with his feelings, a miss judgement.

    As LasiaMsinRed said a nice time for Nate to return, they are all going to need some support, things will not be the same for any of the team members.

    I do wonder if the fact that Callen was not backing him was a contributing fact to Sam sounding off at Deeks, he trusts Callen completley and had never had Deeks as a partner in such a dangerous situation.

    Will any of them trust Hetty after she spit the team up? I know she had very valid reasons for doing it……

  18. monty

    I’m writing from Roma, Italy. Sorry for translation.
    Here, the series has stopped for summer to the episode 4×12, so the others I’ve seen sub.
    Your analysis is interesting, even if I did not like this episode.
    This episode has only served to arrive at a final shock.
    Pretext is interesting, evolution devoid of any logic.
    After this final would be obvious to close the section of LA because the team no longer exists, is destroyed deeply, hopelessly.
    The road taken hardly lead to a happy end.
    How will the authors?
    Hetty and Granger have everything just wrong at the worst time! (possible?)
    Hetty has in mind Janvier and travel to Iran. This removes any choice of action and control G.
    Sam is hysterical! Unbearable! I thought he was a professional and instead work with his wife makes him a fool (character unrecognizable).
    Deeks is too good … the horrible things (outside each criterion) that says Sam can not be deleted.
    When everything is finished nothing will remain of Sam and Martin.
    Their cooperation is over.
    Deeks will never betray Quinn.
    Sam will be the nurse Deeks and become best friends?Ridiculous!
    I love Martin Deeks and in this episode is abused like never before.
    He is in support of Sam and Michelle because it is unprepared for the mission.
    4 agents are “veterans” … he’s a cop liaison.
    Whose fault is it?
    Hetty and Callen?
    In these three years his partners (Kensi included) have always treated an unreliable, silly, superficial and irresponsible.
    Find me, please, where an episode is praised.
    Ok … I love him and are not objective but … want to talk about Kensi?
    I find it very unpleasant and unwelcoming (Mrs. Ruah is fantastic and beautiful).
    Martin is always very friendly (which does not mean to be in love, but polite),but she never has. Jealous tantrum like as if it were a 2 year old baby.
    In the latest episodes but I saw Deeks very very tired! tired of Sam, tired of Kensi.
    I read around the blogs that he is madly in love and always looks with tearful eyes.
    I see a man tired and often irritated by the attitudes of its partners. In his eyes there is resignation, sadness and disappointment.
    I think that Kensi is immature for a relationship with a man like Deeks.
    A man who is always cheerful, funny, sympathetic, affectionate, honest, prepared. A policeman who likes his job, a defense attorney . He loves his dog (her baby) and … speak with dogs as children do, with a disarming naturalness and simplicity.
    A man of whom we know little that seems to carry around a big pain slouching in that body (I’m not referring to his father).
    I think for a man so cool and fantastic we need a woman super mega hyper! Kensi still is not.
    Mr. Brennan has created an incredible character, perhaps inspired… long, thin, with bulky hands and melancholy as Dr. Spencer Reid and brave, suffering, dress shirts and guns as Sam Winchester. … almost beautiful as Sam Winchester. And Mr.Olsen did become flesh and blood. Great, great!!
    We talk about the kiss? I found the scene without rhyme or reason. She cries out with nonsense (fourteen? never says what he thinks? … she’s crazy), the eyes and the phlegm of him reminded me of the silence and resignation that my mom had when she had to get out me of bed for go to school! Desolation.
    The kiss of Deeks is quite nervous, without romance and without passion.
    Luckily, as usual, Kensi did not understand anything and left with the bike roared.
    I do not know you, women, but I would be dropped from the bike, I would have pulled on his jacket and I would have kissed him for a lifetime!
    Ah, last thing to say and this will anger many “Densi”, brrr … this story of sunshine and gunpowder …
    Even Sam he smells of … and gunpowder. Remember?
    Anyway, on that occasion, Kensi goes away, as if the words were not worth anything.
    Since no one said it, I say.
    Martin, you smell like the salt … and sea.

  19. lou

    In parte sono d’accordo con quello che scrive Anna, pensavo che le cose tre Sam e Deeks si fossero sistemate già da tempo; non capisco neppure io le inutili torture al biondo surfer, speriamo non lo facciano uscire da ciò psicologicamente distrutto, in effetti non sarebbe più lui….no la squadra li salverà prima che le cose peggiorino, lo fanno sempre;
    Deeks non lo vedo poi così stanco ma effettivamente è un po meno Deeks del solito…..diciami scazzato?io sono un’accanita fam Densi quindi ritengo che gli autori abbiano in mente qualche cosa per i due e finalmente si dichiareranno, ma sono sempre d’accordo con Anna che negli ultimi episodi Kensi sia nettamente peggiorata caratterialmente e a tratti sia un filino petulante…….
    dopo aver letto il suo post ho rivisto la scena del bacio, effettivamente non è appassionatissimo….lo avrà fatto per farla stare zitta? no sicuramente prova qualcosa ma insomma dovrebbe decidersi una volta per tutte e magari lei smollarsi un pochetto dai ammettiamolo qui in italia verrebbe apostrifata come “maria n’filsa”.il fatto che se ne sia andata bhe doveva seguire Michelle, il povero Deeks si sarebbe fatto trapanare i denti a gratis se poi la sua “donna” non fosse riuscita a salvarle la moglie di Sam…ma l’avrà salvata?
    a presto e un saluto ad Anna!

  20. Sweet Lu

    I thought you summed up the final episode very neatly, which is saying something, considering how many loose ends were dangling at the end. I loved your point that the entire episode and quite possibly the season was about trust. What a twist that Callen had to trust Janvier in order to save the world. That’s a scary thought. His anger at the betrayal was so full of emotion and that’s when Chris O’Donnell is at his best.

    The promos gave us hints about some of the action…Sam in the water, Michelle hanging out of a building and The Kiss, but I was surprised by Deeks calling out Sam on his treatment of him. That was new. The two haven’t quite gotten along since the beginning, except for that airplane connection over Deeks’ vacation photos, but the writers built up quite a bit of tension between the two men over time and to see Deeks finally stand up for himself sent my heart racing and I gave a silent cheer. That Sam was so unsettled by his fear for Michelle that he would question Deeks’ character in the middle of the op seemed unusual for such a professional, but it set up the ending so perfectly that without it the tension of the final scene would have disappeared. I thought this was the best season finale of the series. Deeks’ screams still echo through my mind and it will be a very long summer. The possible fallout for every character has me anxious for the new season to start. Standing ovation for Shane Brennan, the writers and for the always amazing actors. You tore up our hearts with this one.

    Thanks Diane, for your excellent insight during this season. Loved reading every review.

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