Monday, November 13, 2023

NCIS: Sydney: Gone Fission

As a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance and the AUKUS collective security pact, Australia recognizes it shares common democratic values and strategic interests with the United States. Of course, the same sort of people currently conducting anti-Semitic (or rather Jew-hating) rallies would like to see that alliance loosened to the point it might sever. That is why both NCIS and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) need to quickly resolve the suspicious death of American sailor aboard a nuclear submarine docked in Sydney. The respective team leaders will squabble over style and turf, but they still work well enough together to launch a new spin-off in “Gone Fission,” the pilot episode of creator Morgan O’Neill’s NCIS: Sydney, which premieres tomorrow on CBS.

Unfortunately, the AUKUS ceremony did not go according to plan. First a protester disrupted the Australian Foreign Minister’s speech. Then a not-so able-bodied seaman fell dead into Sydney Harbor. Since his death is attributed to radiation poisoning, the boat is immediately sidelined for a thorough inspection.

NCIS Special Agent Captain Michelle Mackey will be investigating, in partnership with AFP Special Agent Jim “JD” Dempsey, but they are so temperamentally alike, they automatically clash. Fortunately, their laidback #2’s, DeShawn Jackson of NCIS and AFP Constable Evie Cooper are similar in ways that help them immediately fall into an easy working relationship. For forensic support, they have the expertise of crusty old Roy Penrose and Bluebird “Blue” Gleeson, his new intern, a quirky Millennial, with an unlikely affinity for the spiritual aspect of their job, which her initially standoffish boss comes to respect. It sounds a lot like a
NCIS series, because it is.

All the critical attention is on the big steamers right now, but the old big three networks are some of the rare places you can find veteran-friendly television. One of the important developments in “Gone Fission” is the discovery the late sailor was in fact poisoned by Polonium and not a leaky reactor. By now, everyone should know Polonium is one of Putin’s favorite assassination techniques. Questions from the pilot remain unresolved, but just offering up Russia as a potential suspect is a good start.

Presumably, Olivia Swann and Todd Lasance will have to develop a more functional bickering, bantering chemistry over time as Mackey and Dempsey. However, Sean Sagar and Tuuli Narkle already have a nice on-screen rapport going as Jackson and Cooper. The same is true for the mentoring relationship between William McInnes’s Penrose and Mavournee Hazel’s Gleeson.

It is nice to see a series that is sufficiently serious about military terminology that it uses it in a key plot point. However, there is one issue that stands out. Midway through, Gleeson says she learned a prayer for the dead from TikTok. It still happens, but at this point, nobody remotely connected to the military or law enforcement should use TikTok. The security risks are just too high. Regardless,
NCIS is more realistic geopolitically than a lot of other shows out there, based on a very promising start. Easily recommended for franchise fans, “Gone Fission” airs tomorrow night (11/14) on CBS.