Did the Recent ‘NCIS’ “Flashbacks” Help or Hinder the Show: Fans Weigh In?

NCIS has been using the flashback for quite some time now (albeit sparingly). Whether the writers exploit the tactic for easy-to-attain character depth or use it appropriately remains a controversy. Does the flashback take away from or add to the episode — detract from the narrative at hand or provide an account of a past event that serves to augment understanding of the present? In this case, the flashback wasn’t exactly a literal past occurrence, complicating the issue.

Mark Harmon as Agent Gibbs NCIS
Mark Harmon as Agent Gibbs of ‘NCIS’ | Eric Mccandless/CBS via Getty Image

Sometimes, flashbacks feel necessary, yet other times they feel forced — used to advance a narrative or explain a predicament in a lazy and uninspired fashion. While the flashbacks of NCIS’s yesteryears are often deemed top-notch, how have fans responded to the more recent flashback sequences? 

‘NCIS’ fans talk season 17, episode 16 and flashbacks: those who hated it…

Season 17, Episode 16 of NCIS titled “Ephemera” used flashbacks in a unique way — in a manner unfamiliar to the show, as the characters were featured playing out of character roles. Whether it worked or failed remains up for debate. In an online discussion about the episode, fans against these scenes explained why they felt out of place: 

Story was okay, but the flashbacks just ruined what was happening. It was trying to be sweet (the long lost lovers) but also funny with the acting out the flashbacks. In the end, for me, it managed neither.

Reddit User 

I hate elaborate flashbacks using the show’s regular actors as other characters. This case is beneath the NCIS Major Case Response Team.

Reddit User 

While many fans felt this narrative choice was “beneath the NCIS” team, others felt that it represented a risk-taking mindset, and the show’s desire to step out of its comfort zone despite its continued success. 

‘NCIS’ fans who appreciated these odd flashbacks…

 Many NCIS fans noted that the show needed an approach that would spice things up, and season 17, episode 16 definitely added enough unpredictable spice via these narrative sequences. Fans stated:

I dont recall NCIS ever doing anything remotely like the flashbacks. The overall writing for this episode is exponentially better than 95% of the last 3 seasons writing. Maybe now that the writers have tried something different and shaken things up a bit, they might possibly stop making such huge and stupid mistakes.

Reddit User 

Its nice that the writers are trying something new for a change. Maybe this means they are going to put more effort into the scripts now and stop making really stupid mistakes.

Reddit User 

While some fans compared the recent episode to poorly constructed soap operas, others admired the change of pace. Some felt that NCIS should not rely on narrative tendencies akin to teen dystopian romance novels and Days of Our Lives, but others were content with the window into another perspective (a parallel world of sorts). So, will the NCIS writers continue to break the mold they have cemented, or return to their comfort zone moving forward?