Portraying women can be hard. Making them mysterious without being grotesque or comicky is even harder. Thankfully the writers on NCIS Los Angeles got it right. Developing a group of versatile female characters with one common characteristic. All of them were mysterious.
Kensi Blye is shown as a strong, independent, competent women who always fit better with the boys than the girls. Maybe because she lived with her father growing up.
Donald Blye taught her everything she needed to know as far as survival goes. In her own words he wanted a son so Kensi learned every skill a boy with a marine as a father would. She is trained in hand to hand combat, can use a knife, read tracks, rides a bike and is a sniper.
In the beginning we know very little about her. We get to know her better simultaneously to the progress of her relationship/ partnership/ thing with Deeks or when a case requires some kind of information. For instance the episodes Blye K part 1 and part 2 supply the information on why Kensi joined NCIS- so she could solve her father’s murder case. Offering us precious background on her relationships with her father and mother.
The White Ghost plot line revealed her complicated story with ex fiance Jack. During a case we learn that she lived on the streets.
Most of the information about her character is scattered in tiny bits through episodes.
The majority of her emotional growth comes from her thing with Deeks. Kensi was rather closed off and liked to keep everything bottled up before her partner came into play. It is Deeks who opens her up. He was the one who encouraged her to repair the relationship with her mother.
The relationship between the agent and detective is one of my favourite aspects of the show, in all honesty they were probably my very first ship ever, but it irks me a little that to see Kensi grow as a character she needed Deeks as a catalyst.
Although most of her character growth came from or was influenced by her relationship with the detective she has overcome quite a few hardships-the loss of her father and previous partner, the torture in Afghanistan and paralysis.
Even though the agent is portrayed as strong, loyal, kind and competent she is in no way flawless. She is stubborn, often thinks she knows better even if she doesn’t. She always has to lead and everything is a competition for her. She’s very ambitious and always has to win or be the best.
Her character needs to dominate which adds a new facet to her relationship with Deeks. It’s also one of her most annoying characteristic second only to her communication issues which caused quite an upheaval in her relationship. In her defense her partner has the same issue.
Kensi Blye can be quite the role model for ambitious women who want to have a professional career, even if she still has to grow up to have a family of her own (and there’s nothing wrong with it). Thankfully that leaves room for character development.
The intelligence analyst with spunk
Penelope ‘Nell’ Jones starts as the new mysterious kid on the block in season 2. She has some trouble fitting in with the makeshift family in the beginning. Especially since Hetty doesn’t like intelligence analysts. That could have been the reason why she came off as shy and timid. Thankfully it was just nerves. That provided a comical relieve for a short while. She quickly became a valued team member. Often crucial to solving a case.
Even though Nell was always honest while answering questions about herself we know very little about her. Especially about her family. They appeared briefly on the screen of OPS and we met one of her sisters-which was an interesting dynamic to show and play with. During that plot line Nell was portrayed and treated like the stereotypical little sister. It also showed in her behavior. I especially enjoyed how she stood up to her older sister.
Nell is whip smart and good with technology. While talking about her areas of expertise she is confident. She can also get very sassy at times. That’s one of her most endearing qualities.
What I also enjoy is that her slow burn relationship with Eric is completely different than the slow burn between Kensi and Deeks.
What’s also satisfying about it is that Nell can and did grow as a character without the relationship.
Her journey from analyst to field agent is also an interesting aspect. Her learning experience shows that she can take the lead when she knows what to do. She’s also not afraid to admit when she doesn’t know something or has questions. It shows an eagerness to lern.
The transition wasn’t always smooth sailing. Nell had quite a few mishaps along the way. She was kidnapped, had her first kill while undercover as Hetty and dealt with the aftermath of that.
Nell’s character and journey show that smart women can and will make careers in various men dominated fileds. Giving all smart girls an example how to succeed.
The tea sipping Svengali
While talking about mysterious women one simply must mention Henrietta ‘Hetty’ Lange. She’s practically the embodiment of mysterious. There are few people who really know her or even about her, if she doesn’t want them to know.
While she strives to be honest she has no problems with bending and manipulating the truth to suit her agenda. And you better believe that she always has an agenda, more or less hidden. Which is understandable since she’s the operation menager at OSP.
Hetty is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma enclosed in mystery and secrets. Of all the characters on the show she can well be the most dangerous one.
The operation menager is a skilled operator, speaks several foreign languages and has a wide net of contacts and connections in sometimes the weirdest places. She often deals in a unique currency known to all politicians… favors.
Probably one of the most impressive of her talents is the illusion that she knows all and hears all. Often foreseeing events or having people search for information that’ll be needed in the next steps of an investigation, while her team didn’t get to that clue yet. In her own words, she’s a fast reader. Leaving her seemingly omnipotent.
While I understand that she can’t disclose all the information to her team on everything. It started to really annoy me how she manipulates the other team members like chess pieces. Although she herself states that she rather than moving pieces moves boards. Her constant intrusions and plotting got to much for me with the White Ghost story line.
She justifies her actions with the good of the team or mission but I find hard to believe after the 5th season. She played God in the lives of the other team members to many times.
One can’t deny that she’s skilled, patriotic and has great accomplishment. On the other hand she seems to dodge any consequences to her actions and her mistakes often go unpunished. Even her supervisors can’t or won’t control her letting her run everything as she pleases. Which is one of the reasons why I started to dislike her character.
Hetty is the perfect example of a brilliant dictator distinguished as an older motherly figure to a bunch of talented operators, that runs her show silently enjoying the outcomes. We all should be happy that she never decided to cross over to the dark side.
Perhaps portraying women isn’t as hard as I thought.