A couple years ago (oh, the time flies!), I cringed and whinged about several new female characters on NCIS. While one of them toned down and grew on me (Ziva), the other’s bar was set so low one would have thought it impossible for her to get worse. Yet she did.
I’m talking about NCIS Director Jenny Shepard. Spoilers for the S5 finale will be included in this post. You have been warned.
I was genuinely excited at the prospect of a woman in a leadership position of a lesser-known government agency, even fictionally. I thought it was about time, and something that could be explored with great results. Unfortunately, that isn’t what we got.
Director Shepard came on board with baggage – a previous relationship with one of our field agents, Gibbs. This alone wouldn’t have caused irreparable harm, but for the fact that every single scene of hers, at the beginning of her tenure, included flashbacks of her and Gibbs in bed together. This was coupled with a distinct lack of respect from Gibbs, and the fact that the opening storyline included some terrorist going after the womenz in Gibbs’ life. She was a little woman who needed protecting – i.e., her being there was really, really all about Gibbs.
Eventually, TPTB weaned way from the flashbacks, thank goodness. Gibbs finally seemed okay with having a woman in a position of power. Her role was relatively unobtrusive for a while. Not what I wanted out of a female director, but at that point I took it.
Then, though, they created a new awful storyarc for Shepard: a vendetta against an arms dealer responsible for the death of her father. It became all-encompassing and clear that she was using her position for her own gain more than anything else. She put one of the agents in super-secret undercover operations to bag this guy. Not because it fell in the confines of her job, or her agency’s, but because it was personal to her. Instead of getting flashbacks of her shagging a now-subordinate, every time we saw Shepard it was to demonstrate her growing obsession. That one ended, finally, with Shepard flat-out murdering the guy. And having Gibbs cover her for it. *head desk*
Enter the S5 finale, in which we learn a bit more about the flashbacky sex scenes. Shepard and Gibbs were on an undercover mission at the time of that tryst, in which they and one other agent each had a mark to eliminate. Somehow, it got all fouled up and years later, someone was after the three agents. Want to guess how it got fouled up? Yeah. Jenny Shepard didn’t kill her mark. She let her go, and the mark now sought revenge.
The demise of Jenny Shepard was officially in a gunfight in the middle of the desert, where she is holed up with a retired agent (friend of Gibbs’). Before the gunmen come for her, she discloses one of her greatest regrets was letting Gibbs go, romantically, in the pursuit of her career.
The real demise of Jenny Shepard happened when the writers conceptualized her so poorly.
Do I need to recap all the ways NCIS’ PTB failed with this character, or is the summary of events enough?