Which ‘NCIS’ Character Has Grown the Most Since the Start of the Show?

NCIS has been on the air for seventeen seasons, and it’s showing no signs of ending. Some cast members come and go — Cote de Pablo, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette — while others remain steadfast in their commitment to the hit primetime procedural. 

Both Mark Harmon and Sean Murray have been with the show since season one — and neither departed to return down the line (which Cote de Pablo did…albeit in glorious fashion). Yet, this list will not merely highlight longevity. This list will bring attention to the two characters who have shown the most development throughout the years — transforming with time and establishing a refreshing three-dimensionality with each passing season. 

NCIS cast
NCIS cast | Mark Davis/Getty Images

While Agent Gibbs is integral to NCIS, he started as the boss, and he still is the boss. Though he has been hardened by experience — and has consequently lost some of his humorous inclinations across time — he does not top the list. Gibbs grows with his pain and responds to heartache by breaking some coveted “rules” and changing his approach, but he remains rather true to his initial illustration. Instead, Cote de Pablo’s Ziva David and Sean Murray’s Agent Timothy McGee seem most deserving of this honor. 

Timothy McGee has grown a lot since his first day as an ‘NCIS’ agent

Timothy McGee started out as a wee trainee in NCIS — he was a bit timid, and was often behind the computer, working on the technical side of solving the case. With time, and especially following Tony DiNozzo’s departure, he grew into his own.  His competence as a leader on and off the field has come to the forefront in recent seasons.

McGee is now Gibbs’ second in command, and he is respected and beloved by many fellow agents. Yet, McGee retains the interpersonal skills that turned him into the show’s heart — he is the one who handles the tough conversations, for, no matter how much responsibility he acquires, he never loses sight of the man he is or the talents he has always possessed. 

Ziva David changed drastically during her original run, and again when she returned to ‘NCIS’ 

Ziva David entered NCIS following Kate Bishop’s death; she was unwilling to trust, self-preserving, and skeptical. As time went on, she opened up her heart; she went from eschewing Tony DiNozzo’s affection to allowing him in. DiNozzo and David even went on to have a daughter together.  

Ziva went from respecting Gibbs to admiring him — from questioning to trusting. They became like father and daughter. Yet, throughout this emotional discovery, one trait remained consistent: her resiliency, and her unwavering, unshakeable essence: the very quality that the writers fractured upon her return. 

When Ziva David returns to NCIS, fans find out that she has anxiety, and they quickly realize that she has lost a bit of faith in Gibbs; she expected him to keep looking for her, and he didn’t. Cote de Pablo’s Ziva — who seemed unbreakable and initially pushed people out (presuming they would let her down) — became a different person.  

She let Gibbs in and allowed him to disappoint her. And, through all her subsequent heartache that occurred while she was gone, her psyche finally took a hit, yet she was coping. She was willing to accept that she needed medical assistance, which may not have been true of Ziva on day one.