*Spoilers for this week’s NCIS episode!*

In my previous post Killing Off Characters, I wrote about doing it in novels and feature length screenplays. I just watched tonight’s outstanding NCIS episode, and find myself compelled to write about when a TV series does it to a character I love. A view from the other side of the fence, as it were.

Oddly, the same series triggered that other post. They left Ducky lying on that beach for months, and I was really wanting him to still be alive the next time a new episode aired. Cliffhanger time isn’t measured the same way as regular TV episode time. Cliffhanger waits are more like regular episode waits…squared. At the end of Ducky’s, he lives on to make me smile over his one-sided conversations with the nonverbal guests in his morgue.

I am very much afraid Ziva’s very complicated father will not fare so well. He is more likely to be on the receiving end of a Ducky soliloquy to the dead. Or is it actually a soliloquy, in the presence of another character, even a dead one? A ponder for another time.

Watching Eli David struggle with problems ranging from attempting to create peace from chaos to trying to connect on a deep level with the daughter he obviously adores despite his often contradictory actions, it’s impossible to resist being drawn to such a complex character. The writing is faceted and compelling, but for me it is the multilayered performance of Michael Nouri that makes it so riveting. I’ve been a great admirer of his work for several years, and am often moved by his ability to convey emotion with the simplest of gestures and expressions. I look forward to his guest appearances on NCIS, and would hate to see them end.

So, my writery brain latches onto the tiniest hint and hopes that there is more to come. Perhaps a plot twist I can only play guessing games with will keep the character around to wreak havoc and heartache another day. That’s what the words “To be continued…” always mean to me, until it becomes clear that in any particular case dead really does mean dead.

In a different sense, it’s interesting to be on the other side of the magic curtain made of words and flickers of light.¬† Of course I hope to someday have my own words and flickers of light absorbed by the masses in our entertainment hungry world. I realize that when I’m absorbed in writing, I’m thinking of the characters and what works best for their particular stories. It’s like tunnel vision, with the real world outside their microworld invisible to me even as I live in it, while I write.

A small part of that process knows that there are three layers of people to consider–the characters, their creator, and their readers/watchers. It’s really only when I am solely the consumer of someone else’s work that I’m hit hard by the idea of how much responsibility writers actually hold. It falls to them to make decisions of fictional life and death. If they get it right, no matter how much a character’s death may be a blow to the reader’s/watcher’s gut, it will still be a satisfying experience.
What NCIS did tonight is a fine example of making it count…assuming “To be continued…” doesn’t actually end up meaning Ziva’s dad, as well as the episode.

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