Spoilers ahead for the March 9 episode of NCIS on CBS, called "Winter Chill."
NCIS brought the action back from Afghanistan with "Winter Chill," and most of the episode was more or less business as usual as the agents investigated a murder involving food truck feuds. That said, they were also dealing with the losses they sustained earlier in Season 18, which made the new tragedy by the end of the hour pack even more of a punch. NCIS has killed off another character. Emily Fornell is dead.
The death of Emily Fornell was a sharp downturn from what had previously seemed like a happy story for Tobias Fornell. Inspired by Jack's story before she revealed her real plan for leaving NCIS, he declared that he was planning to move to Costa Rica, saying that Emily was on board and he was even hoping that his daughter would come with him. Gibbs was already sad at the prospect of losing another friend (although he tried not to show it), which made the news that Emily had overdosed both unexpected and heartbreaking. And if you ask me, Season 18 went too far in delivering this tragedy at this point.
It's impossible to watch NCIS without accounting for some tragedies to happen, as this show can't be nothing but fish shenanigans and playing with electric staplers, but Emily's death comes after Jack departed, and that came after Palmer lost his wife to COVID. Before that, Gibbs shot McGee multiple times and could have killed him, while Bishop was lucky to avoid being blown up in an exploding plane. Even what could have been a bright spot in the darkness in the form of romance between Bishop and Torres isn't exactly generating a lot of light without squinting.
Even though Jack did get to leave without being killed off (and with the door open for Maria Bello to potentially return someday), the death of Emily Fornell felt like just another blow after a series of losses, and I for one could have used an episode that actually wasn't much more than fish shenanigans and food truck feuds centered on corn on the cob.
As much as Emily wasn't exactly a major character on NCIS, her struggles with addiction have been covered over the years of the show, and it seemed like she had finally beaten it. Plus, her dad was happy, their relationship seemed to be going well, and there was every reason to be optimistic about their future. Emily dying because she relapsed, alone in the hospital where her dad wasn't allowed to be with her, was just so sad.
The blows just keep coming, and Vance reading the poem to close the episode took some of the shock value without making it any less heartbreaking. On the upside, Gibbs took Fornell home, and he wasn't going to be alone after losing his daughter. Torres saved some corn for Bishop, which resulted in a touching hug. Kaisie's mom and sister are going to be okay, and... well, Torres hasn't killed Jack's fish. On the whole, however, this was just an emotional blow that NCIS didn't need to deliver at this point in Season 18. Just adding an episode or two before killing off Emily would have helped!
Hopefully this at least means that NCIS is done with tragedies for the time being, especially since the future is uncertain for the show itself. NCIS: New Orleans is ending in May, and the future of NCIS might depend on Mark Harmon and whether he wants to continue playing Gibbs on a full-time basis. For now, Season 18 of NCIS on CBS continues with new episodes on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.