Like every police procedural ever made, NCIS follows a very simple format: the brave heroes vs. the despicable villains. And though they face hardships along the way (every good hero’s tale needs a trial or two), the heroes win the vast majority of the time.
Now, obviously, procedurals don’t have a monopoly on this format. It’s used across every genre of television and film imaginable. The difference is in the way it’s presented.
Virtually every Disney movie, for instance, follows the same general story, but it’s packaged in a brightly colored, light-hearted way. The hero may face a three-headed monster or fall victim to a poison apple, but nothing too terrifying happens before they’re back on top again.
Despite following the same loose outline, police procedurals like NCIS aren’t quite as family-friendly. Nothing made for TV is ever going to be as gruesome as an R-rated horror movie, of course. However, procedurals can (and do) get extremely dark.
They are, after all, a dramatization of the daily lives of detectives whose jobs often entail dealing with the very worst humanity has to offer.
As such, the majority of episodes involve brutal murders and other horrific crimes. Seeing a (fake) dead body or two is par for the course when tuning into NCIS, Law & Order, Blue Bloods, or any procedural drama, for that matter.
That said, every now and then, an episode is so grisly, so unnerving, that it shocks even the most desensitized procedural fans. And for NCIS fans, a Season 4 episode stands out as the series’ most shocking of all.
The Most Gruesome ‘NCIS’ Episode of All Time
After watching dozens of episodes, NCIS fans thought they had a good grip on what the series had to offer. Agents Gibbs, DiNozzo, David, and McGee hunted down some truly awful criminals, but the show was always relatively tame. Until the Season 4 episode “Skeletons,” that is.
Unlike those before and after it, “Skeletons” takes a deep dive into the macabre, keeping fans transfixed by the sheer brutality of its scenes from start to finish. And it wastes no time letting viewers know what lies ahead.
In the very first moments of the episode, a decomposing corpse explodes inside a mausoleum, covering two cemetery workers in human remains. From then on, the NCIS team is taken down a disturbing rabbit hole in search of a mass murderer who dissects their victims after each kill.
The episode then gets even more shocking. In the final moments, the series reveals that the perpetrator isn’t one but two people. A couple, in fact. After the man murders his victim, the woman chops them up inside a van.
Like most NCIS episodes, “Skeletons” ends with the satisfying capture of the criminals. It’s the increasingly horrific twists and turns along the way that makes it the series’ most grim of all.