The Crime of Their Lives

When Mysterical-E editor Joe De Marco mentioned Spring 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of his becoming editor of the site, I decided to take this column to explore character arcs over ten seasons or more on two of my favorite current crime dramas, NCIS and Bones.

The first big change for NCIS came when Sasha Alexander asked out of her contract toward the end of Season 2. She had found the schedule and physicality of her role as Secret Service-turned- NCIS agent Kate Todd too demanding and wanted more time for her personal life. NCIS creator Don Bellisario accommodated her exit, having Kate killed by Mossad double agent Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin). Alexander went on to get married, have a child, and find success in the less physical role of Dr. Maura Isles on TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles.

Meanwhile, Kate’s death remains the most resonant of the many on NCIS, ushering in Cote de Pablo as Ari’s half-sister, Mossad officer Ziva David, who became a staple of the show and broadened its appeal over the next eight seasons.

On Bones, the character of brilliant, maladjusted intern Zack Addy (Eric Millegan) was written out at the end of Season 3. Hollywood was recovering from a writers’ strike, and Bones’ producers thought it a most dramatic way to come back. Under the spell of a cannibalistic serial killer, Zack caused an explosion in the lab. His subsequent confinement to a psychiatric facility began the show’s formula of rotating interns that has brought the show more humor, while giving us glimpses of all the interns’ lives over the subsequent seven seasons.

Trauma from an explosion ended Season 3 on NCIS and allowed us to see Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon)’s life before NCIS, with his first wife Shannon and daughter Kelly, who were killed by a Mexican drug dealer. Gibbs’s softening might be the most obvious character change, but I’d also like to highlight Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and McGee (Sean Murray).

DiNozzo began as a chauvinist, immature character who might have loved Kate, though he never said so. In Season 4, Tony was in a relationship with Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson), but it turned out to be part of an undercover assignment to keep tabs on her arms dealer father Rene (Armand Assante). Tony went on to have a will-they, won’t-they dynamic with Ziva. He was finally able to say and show he loved her, but only after Cote de Pablo chose not to renew her contract for Season 11.

In Season 12, Tony reconnects with Zoe Keats (Marisol Nichols), his former partner on the Philadelphia PD, now an ATF agent. In the episode that aired this week, “No Good Deed,” we learned he’d given Zoe a key to his apartment, and at a point where they might have broken up, they chose to stay together.

One of McGee’s love interests tried to kill him and another at least put his life in peril before he began dating Department of Defense analyst Delilah Fielding (Margo Harshman) in Season 11. McGee and Delilah’s relationship was tested when she invited him to a gala dinner. He finally decided to commit to her, but the gala ended in an explosion that paralyzed Delilah. In the aftermath, I’m glad to see Delilah return to work despite her disability and she and McGee become even closer.

As it was renewed beyond an average hit show’s five seasons, Bones’ Brennan and Booth (Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz) became a couple at the end of Season 6, had a child in Season 7, and got married in Season 9. In Season 10, Brennan will be pregnant with her second child, as is Deschanel. It’s one of the best TV examples of how two people can work together through life’s changes.

Meanwhile Brennan’s best friend Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) and colleague Dr. Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) have seen their own way to marriage and parenthood. Though Hodgins began as a cantankerous conspiracy theorist, he’s become a father figure to the younger interns, and along with Angela, one of Brennan and Booth’s best friends.

Clearly a key to both shows’ success has been dramatizing the characters’ lives away from work or how their personal lives play into their work, but neither could have developed these character arcs if they weren’t given time. I hope you find Mysterical-E has aged as gracefully.

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