Were NCIS' Latest Deaths Way Too Dark For The Time Slot?


Warning: spoilers about some depressing NCIS deaths ahead for the March 16 episode, called "Watchdog."

NCIS picked up the action following the devastating twist at the end of the previous episode, and unsurprisingly, Gibbs didn't deal with Emily Fornell's death by taking some time off to deal with the tragedy in an emotionally healthy way. Unfortunately, "Watchdog" hit Gibbs' berserk button in an unexpected but super dark way: doing very bad things to dogs. Yes, NCIS killed some dogs in "Watchdog," and I can't help but feel that the deaths were way too dark for the 8 p.m. ET time slot on CBS.

When I say that NCIS killed "some" dogs, I'm underselling what happened. And I'm about to get into what went down with the dogs, in case you want to scroll down past the dark details to the adorable picture of the very-much-alive pooch.

NCIS killed a LOT of dogs in "Watchdog," although fortunately not on screen. Still, it was pretty hard to face what had happened to the animals, especially once the episode showed a dog sporting gunshot wounds and showed the drowned body of a pit bull mix that had been locked in a cage and thrown in a pond. In the 8 p.m. time slot! On a Tuesday! On CBS, of all the broadcast networks!

That said, I can concede that NCIS has delivered much darker deaths over the 18 years on CBS so far when it comes to humans, and "Watchdog" had to do something pretty dastardly to push Gibbs far enough to snap and beat the stuffing out of a guy rather than arresting him. Gibbs snapped and attacked a man who seemingly was responsible for the deaths of some dogs, and it took most of the episode for the team to be able to prove that the guy truly was guilty, with some minor perjury in the process.

Horrible killings of dogs were believable as something that could make Gibbs snap to the point that he didn't especially regret what he did, and the twist could very well be setting up the departure of Mark Harmon as Gibbs in the event that NCIS is renewed for Season 19, with a new character already on board. The episode did end with Gibbs not giving Vance any option other than suspending him, and Gibbs gave up his badge and his gun.

The dogs dying sadly made sense from a story perspective, especially once the bad guy was revealed as a gambler invested in dog fighting. But I 100% did not need the visual of the drowned dog in a cage being fished out of a pond. At the very least, I wasn't prepared for it when it comes to NCIS airing in the earliest hour of primetime. Killed dogs on FBI: Most Wanted? Sure, I could see that coming. NCIS? Not so much.

Now that I've gone on about the tragic fates of well over ten dogs, here is a picture of one of the very much alive dogs from the episode looking downright adorable to make things a little better:

I can't speak for anybody else, but I definitely needed the scene of Kasie feeding salmon to the dog to Torres' amusement to lighten things up a bit. Honestly, I wouldn't be against Kasie and Palmer keeping a dog around in the long term for whenever things get especially dark on NCIS. Palmer deserves a break for sure, and we could use some dog breaks! Like commercial breaks, but with dogs doing things completely unrelated to the cases of the week.

In all seriousness, NCIS ended on a pretty wild cliffhanger with Gibbs surrendering his badge and gun without even trying to avoid suspension. Since this came shortly after Gibbs shot McGee, said goodbye to Jack, and sat with his friend as his friend learned about the death of his daughter, it seems like Gibbs might be willingly walking his way past a point of no return.

The end of Gibbs as an NCIS agent could open the door for NCIS following the example set by NCIS: New Orleans coming to an end after its current season, but only time will tell if NCIS has a future beyond Season 18 on CBS.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).