NCIS: Los Angeles 13×02 “Fukushu” is the kind of episode NCIS: Los Angeles hasn’t really done often before, the kind of episode the world we live in demands. Procedurals were, at some point meant, or thought to be easy shows to watch, a case-of-the-week that is solved, one way or another, and a set of characters you get to know through those cases. Not much more, not much else.
Except, that’s not all procedurals are, at least, not all the new age of procedurals has become. Procedurals these days are mainly about family, not the one you’re born into, but the one you choose. And yes, they’re also about finding love, and finding a sense of self within the work you do.
But procedurals can also be a very powerful weapon when it comes to depicting the world as it is – good and bad things. Because the case-of-the-week format allows writers to showcase issues in a way shows with a, planned arc might find it hard to do. Which is why it was so great to see NCIS: Los Angeles 13×02 “Fukushu” deal with AAPI hate this episode.
The show only has one Asian-American main character — Fatima — but the episode was written by show vet Kyle Harimoto, and it’s easy to see there’s care in every second of the writing. NCIS: Los Angeles also has the advantage of a pretty diverse cast for a procedural, and it allowed Fatima and Sam, and later Roundtree and the guest stars, to center the conversation – which is just what the episode demanded.
You cannot talk about AAPI hate, or any minority centered story through the eyes of the white characters on your cast. That this show never does is something that should be commended, and that this episode fictionalizes something that we’ve actually seen happen, and never pulls a twist that’s like oh, no, this wasn’t just a hate crime, it was actually about something deeper, is also something to be applauded. Because yes, sometimes — often times, sadly — people are just this bad. These things happen. And more often than not, there’s no reason that makes sense.
However, the show also never pretends it has the right perspectives to tell this story fully, and they even take advantage of that by using Kensi and Deeks in an interesting way. I’m not sure I would have been as happy at how much time to unpack these issues they got, considering the theme of the episode, except that the show used them to touch upon a subject TV rarely touches up – interracial adoption, and what it means to raise a child from a different race than you. There are no answers to this question, of course, but that NCIS: Los Angeles allows Kensi and Deeks to raise the question, to wonder how they would do, and to recognize the importance of different cultures, is already more than I think I’ve ever seen on TV.
But the show also, once again, through Kensi and Deeks, showcases how out of touch privilege makes you. Before the, frankly, great conversation about adoption, Kensi and Deeks have another one, where they reflect on an idea of America that has only ever existed for people who look like them. “We have to be better than this,” Deeks says, and the way he says it indicates that he’s starting to realize the truth: we aren’t better than this. And we’re far from where we need to be.
Is it a little off-putting, considering what just happened, to hear Deeks refer to the United States of America with adjectives such as “most powerful” and “greatest”? Yes. Would it have been out of character to do anything else? The answer is also yes. We are our experiences, and though Kensi and Deeks – and Callen and Killbride, who don’t get to shoulder the burden of these realizations this time – have been shown to be anything but racist, they also exist in a world that considers them the default, and therefore, are afforded some privileges. Those privileges often give us blind spots. The show could have pretended these characters didn’t have those blind spots, painted them as the perfect heroes we want to see, but that, in my opinion, would have been wrong.
The only way to show people that they can be better than what they’ve been taught is this. Maybe some of us have never stopped to consider the things Kensi and Deeks were forced to confront this episode – good and bad. Maybe getting to experience this case, seeing the decisions all characters make this hour, hearing about Fatima’s experience, as well as Roundtree’s …well, maybe that will make one person think.
If so, then NCIS: Los Angeles will have done a good thing. No, it will have done a great thing.
Whoever said procedurals were about turning your brain off has clearly not been paying attention. Because NCIS: Los Angeles doesn’t just want you to think, it wants you to change. It wants you to be better. And it’s not afraid to take its characters through the journeys we, ourselves, should be going through.
Things I think I think:
- Kyle Harimoto wrote this episode, and it shows.
- The beginning of this episode made me as mad as an episode of this show has ever made me.
- “For someone your age”? Sam’s gonna murder you, Deeks.
- I love when we get casual team scenes. Thirteen seasons in, they’re one of the reasons this show still works – we believe these people like each other.
- The convo between Fatima and Sam was really, really good. The show doesn’t always allow its characters space to have these conversations, the cases aren’t really geared towards it.
- Not that I don’t appreciate the convo between Kensi and Deeks, but there’s a lot more power to letting this story be driven by the POC in this cast.
- Kensi and Deeks can run up the hill on this one.
- However, the conversation about adoption Kensi and Deeks have? That was also really on point, because we never, ever see those conversations on TV, and yet there are many adopted children in that exact situation. Some get the parents that want to cherish and uplift them, some don’t.
- They always, ALWAYS run.
- Deeks doesn’t even complain about Kensi’s driving anymore. Growth.
- Desks take time, Roundtree. Time!
- Also, yeah, when was the last time they used that wardrobe space for anything that required it to be there?
- “Hell no, not for my dad.” Roundtree giving us some insight into his family life.
- And Killbride too. Wonders never cease.
- I got a little emotional when Killbride said “it’s my honor.”
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of NCIS: Los Angeles 13×02 “Fukushu”? Share with us in the comments below!
NCIS: Los Angeles airs Sundays at 9/8c on CBS.