Review: “NCIS: The Port To Port Killer” (Season Finale/ TV Special)

2014 NCIS Port to port review sketch

Well, although this was originally shown on Channel 5 in October, I only got round to watching a recording of it a few weeks ago. Anyway, I thought that I’d write a review of it – I’ll try to keep this review as free from SPOILERS as possible, but there may be a couple in this review.

“The Port To Port Killer” is the three-episode (“Baltimore”, “Swan Song” and “Pyramid”) season finale of season eight of “NCIS”. If you’ve never watched this program before, it’s an American detective show which revolves around the US Navy. Although it’s a fairly traditional forensic/police procedural kind of detective show, it refreshingly takes itself very slightly less seriously than most detective shows do.

But, if you’ve never seen “NCIS” before, then it probably isn’t a good idea to start with this three-part episode, since it relies slightly on the viewer knowing all of the various characters quite well.

These three episodes revolve around the NCIS team trying to catch a serial killer called “The Port To Port” killer who has murdered several police and navy officers. “Baltimore” begins when DiNozzo’s former partner in the Baltimore Police Department falls victim to the killer and NCIS begin to investigate the case. This is mostly a self-contained episode which focuses on DiNozzo’s backstory, although it’s obviously left slightly more open ended.

The other two episodes (“Swan Song” and “Pyramid”) are more like a conventional two-part episode. Whilst the NCIS team manage to learn the identity of the killer relatively early on in the second episode, the killer proves harder to track down than they anticipated. Of course, there are also plenty of plot twists, sub-plots and other things (which would probably be pretty major plot spoilers). Plus, being a season finale, it also sets up a few new sub-plots which will presumably be continued in season nine.

One of the surprising things about this finale is the sheer number of characters in it – pretty much every major recurring character throughout the series turns up in some way or another in this episode. In addition to this, there is another NCIS team – led by Agent Erica Barratt – who is also working on the case too.

Although I haven’t seen many other episodes of season eight, this other team turns up in them too (and there’s a reference to the “Port To Port Killer” too – so I’m guessing that this was a sub-plot for most of the season too). Despite this larger than usual cast of characters, the special never gets confusing – except possibly if you’ve never seen this show before.

My favourite episode out of the three is probably “Baltimore”, mainly since I’ve always wondered what DiNozzo was like before he joined NCIS. It’s also the only episode out of the three which contains the classic “NCIS” sense of humour too – as dramatic and compelling as the other two episodes are, they’re a lot more serious and depressing than most episodes of “NCIS” are. Whilst this is understandable, given the events of the finale, I personally prefer the slightly more light-hearted episodes of “NCIS”.

Also, whilst the sub-plot about the killer’s motivations and the is fairly dramatic, I’d have preferred it if the killer’s identity had remained a mystery until near the end of the third episode. Whilst this finale still contains a fairly large amount of suspense, there isn’t really as much as there could have been because of this. Even so, the second half of the finale is still very thrilling – even if there’s less suspense than there could have been.

Most of the writing is also fairly good too, although a couple of plot twists and plot elements seem more than a little bit contrived. I’m thinking in particular about something in the first episode which, whilst initially quite dramatic, just seems completely nonsensical when it’s explained a few minutes later. There’s also a plot twist in the final episode about the identity of one of the characters which doesn’t seem to have been foreshadowed enough and just appears out of the blue. Then again, I haven’t seen most of season eight, so there could have been clues in earlier episodes which I haven’t seen.

The acting and in this finale is as good as ever and I’m still really impressed by the amount of characterisation (particularly for DiNozzo) in these episodes too. But, as I said earlier, this episode has been primarily written for people who already know these characters very well and at a couple of parts of this episode probably won’t have much of an emotional impact if you haven’t seen that many episodes of “NCIS”.

All in all, I can’t say too much about these three episodes without giving away any major spoilers, but these episodes are certainly worth watching if you’re a fan of the show. Yes, there could have been more mystery and suspense, but this is still a fairly good season finale.

If I had to give “The Port To Port Killer” a rating out of five – then “Baltimore” and “Swan Song” would get four and a half, but “Pyramid” would probably only get a four at the most.

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