'NCIS' Fans Say Agent Gibbs Obeys This Cliché Narrative Trope

NCIS, currently in its seventeenth season and growing strong, is one of, if not the most popular show on network television. The show, boasting a talented ensemble with leads entwined in complex interrelationships and battling internal turmoil, thrives on its characters, as opposed to its narrative continuity. 

While the show captivates viewers with each suspenseful episode, it retains viewers due to the beloved and ever-consistent faces. Agent Gibbs (portrayed by Mark Harmon), Agent McGee (Sean Murray), as well as the frequent addition of talented artists who come and go — Jamie Lee Curtis, Lily Tomlin, Maria Bello (still there!), etc. — make the procedural what it is. And yet, though NCIS has managed to develop and retain a loyal fanbase, not everything about the show is perfect. 

Many NCIS fans admit that Gibbs virtually falls into a pool of TV men who have grown cliche. His stoic and stiff nature is grounded in a past muddied by childhood disappointments and such a backstory unfolds in, unfortunately, quite a trite way.

What ‘NCIS’ fans have to say about the relationship between Agent Gibbs and his father 

Those who have been watching NCIS know that Gibbs and his father do not have the best dynamic. Let us not forget that Jackson Gibbs showed up to Shannon and Kelly’s funeral with a new girlfriend, and Gibbs didn’t love how easily his father moved on. And, as a result, Gibbs often carries a stoic and cold disposition. The show then exploits this fact so that when Gibbs becomes vulnerable and opens up (to everyone’s utter surprise), it is a significant moment. Though an effective narrative tool, many NCIS fans argue that it is a bit cliche and lazy. In an online discussion about Agent Gibbs and his father, one fan explained the narrative motif here:

It’s the “broken man who shows emotion” trope. By keeping him cold and aloof almost all the time, it makes every time he opens up a gut punch of feels.

Dr. House

Dr. Cox

Elliot Stabler

Don Draper

Leroy Jethro Gibbs

It’s an effective narrative tool.

Fans go on to explain that Gibbs cannot have a strong relationship with his father because he is supposed to be a man who has nothing more than his job — nothing to lose or gain on the personal front. While this changes with time (as his fellow agents become a dysfunctional family), it is the basis of Gibbs’ evolving identity. One fan noted: 

Gibbs is portrayed as a broken man. A man who has his job and nothing else. A healthy relationship with his father would have changed that narrative.

Though many fans understand why the NCIS writers made the choice they did, several argue that those behind the show could have discovered new ways to develop drama or intensity, and avoided such a cliche. Fans stated:

Why don’t the writers want them to have a good relationship with their parents? It’s a crime show they have plenty of other ways to create drama

…the writers for NCIS are dysfunctional as hell, and write almost all of their characters as having issues with their parents, or not letting us see scenes of them with their family.

In short, NCIS has many strengths; however, many fans feel that upholding one of the most common crime drama narrative go-tos is not one of them (even if it works to create drama and develop the character). 

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