The Fall of Rome: NCIS Charts the Arc of Post-9-11 Loss of Faith in the System

The first episode of NCIS aired on Sept 23, 2003 just two short years after the terrorist attacks.

It’s clear in the writing that America is number one, minorities and women are stupid, and queers are totally icky. God, Country and Guns are the whole of the law. There are some truly offensive, not to mention constantly repeated transphobic jokes in Season 1 that I can find absolutely no record or anybody caring about at all. But it was 2003. We didn’t even have Facebook back then. The Internet consisted of AIM, MySpace and LiveJournal.

By Season 5, which started on September 25, 2007, George Bush’s approval rating was hovering below 35% and things had taken a drastic turn. The character who made the majority of the transphobic jokes was brutally shot in the head in 2005 and replaced by a badass lady assassin who has alluded to her own bisexuality multiple times.

In addition to perennially cheerful ghoth forensic scientist who’s been part of the main ensemble since episode 1, the supporting cast is stacked with competent, amazing ladies like the spy-turned NCIS Director, the genius lawyer who’s having a secret affair with the ME’s Assistant, and the germaphobic analyst who is fluent in both Kurdish and Arabic.


During the course of Seasons 4 and 5, you see the US government straight up murder servicemen and women in order to cover up their own incompetence not once but twice. Stalwart retired Marine team-leader LJ Gibbs is questioned on his patriotism when he takes objection to the poor treatment of injured veterans at the severely overtaxed Bethesda Naval Hospital. And the general feeling is that maybe the war isn’t such a great thing.

Also, that our government is cocking it up. The fact that reservists were sent on active combat duty for months or years at a time is brought up constantly, and returning veterans suffering from everything from PTSD to severed limbs, to persistent vegetative states are on screen almost every episode.

With the show currently entering it’s 13th season, I have no idea how far down this unamerican rabbit hole goes, but I like it.

What I do know is that apparently nearly every character I’m watching currently is dead by Season 13.