How the ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ Season Premiere Stacks Up Against Debuts From Other ‘NCIS’ Shows

by Leanne Stahulak
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“NCIS: Hawai’i” made its debut last night, and so far reviews have been mixed. But how does it compare to the season premieres of the other franchise shows?

TV Insider did a deep dive into different components of the premiere and how it fared against the flagship “NCIS” and the spin-off shows in L.A. and New Orleans. Fair warning, there will be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for last night’s first episode of the Hawai’i spin-off show.

First off: the big mystery. In the new show, a strange aircraft crashes into a cliff, exposing a crime ring to the “NCIS” team. Special Agent-in-Charge Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) and newbie Kai Holman (Alex Tarrant) eventually take down the leader, with the help of a huge ocean wave. But according to TV Insider, something was missing from the case this time around. Maybe it needed a more personal connection to the team, like in “New Orleans.” Or it needed to be more high-stakes, like in “Los Angeles.” Or it needed to not take itself quite so seriously, like the flagship’s pilot.

But “NCIS: Hawai’i” does do a good job of establishing the team right off the bat. We know Jesse is Tennant’s right-hand man, as a former homicide detective. Lucy is still trying to prove herself to her boss as a junior agent. Ernie the tech guy is quirky and funny. And Kai the new guy isn’t totally comfortable with fitting in just yet.

At the end of the episode, everyone gathers at Tennant’s place for a backyard potluck. And while it’s easy to see their relationship to her, the other team members don’t seem to have that same level of comfortability with each other yet. It doesn’t help that in the previous “NCIS” shows, we saw characters make cameos on the other shows and establish relationships with each other. When we met them on their own shows, viewers felt like they already understood the bonds and relationships in place.

Here’s Where ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ Excels Compared to Other Franchise Shows

Right off the bat, the new show dives right into the romances of the seasons. We see a clear history between Lucy and DIA Kate Whistler, who share a steamy kiss on-screen that Kate regrets and Lucy doesn’t. We’ll see if that relationship pans out in the future.

Some romantic tension also brews between Tennant and Captain Joe Milius. They’re forced to work together professionally but might end up liking each other more than we think.

In the other “NCIS” shows, romance waited until at least a few episodes into the season. And the characters who became romantic interests weren’t even introduced in the pilot in some cases. Take Eric Christian Olsen’s Marty Deeks, who becomes partners with Daniela Ruah’s character at the very end of season one.

But the one place where “NCIS: Hawai’i” really raised the bar? Location. Nothing beats the gorgeous views of the islands, the waves, the people, and the culture in the opening episode. We get to see Kai interacting with the locals as he connects with his past, even bringing in the Hawaiian language. In comparison, only “New Orleans” did an okay job with blending the food and music of the city into the pilot.

Outsider.com