NCIS fans realized that Mark Harmon’s absence would define Season 20. After the long-running actor left his position as Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Gary Cole was picked to take over as Alden Parker. While some fans will always be Gibbs-only supporters, Cole has done a wonderful job as Parker and NCIS has remained quite popular. The show’s depiction of Gibbs and Parker as vastly different characters has aided the transition.
Except from ignoring one of Parker’s most important relationships, NCIS has done a good job of fleshing him out. Parker has had a lot of defining stories and distinct character features in Season 20.
Yet the lack of comparison was shown in NCIS Season 20, Episode 14, “Old Wounds” in which Parker tried to be like Gibbs – and it didn’t work.
How NCIS Made Parker Different From Gibbs
Parker is significantly different from the rule-following style of Gibbs, which has introduced a new aspect to NCIS. Parker makes advantage of technology, whereas Gibbs was lucky if his flip phone worked at all. Gibbs was tough and down-to-earth; he would show up every morning with a cup of black coffee and go to work. Parker brings in pastries every morning and is a much better conversationalist. Gibbs like boat construction, whilst Parker enjoys birding. But for this episode, they had completely different personalities.
Parker lost his calm in “Old Wounds” after seeing some familiar-looking narcotics. He enlisted the assistance of Jeremy Wright, an old FBI friend. As Wright arrived, NCIS revealed that he was in a wheelchair after being sho’t in the back during his previous case with Parker. They eventually solved the case, but Parker showed a new side of himself that fans had never seen before. He was harsh and aggressive, while concerned with the investigation. That was eerily similar to Gibbs, and not in a good way.
Why NCIS’ Parker Should Never Again Imitate Gibbs
Parker was fascinated for a reason: he was personally responsible for Wright’s disability. Parker had accidently sho’t Wright during a fierce firefight with a drug lord’s hired muscle. They chose to keep it a secret so Parker wouldn’t lose his job, but Parker had been carrying that burden for years and had never forgiven himself. It made him unpleasant and insulting to the rest of the team, and he went off on his own to catch the drug lord even after Director Vance benched him.
Parker’s dedication, roughness, and go-it-alone attitude reminded me of Gibbs. Gibbs spent 18-and-a-half seasons often putting matters into his own hands or becoming obsessed with a case. The same strategy, however, presented Parker in a bad light. While Cole had an excellent performance, “Old Wounds” proved that Parker is more effective when he’s calm and likable. His not being Gibbs is what makes him memorable and has kept NCIS moving forward.
NCIS airs Mondays at 9:00 p.m. on CBS and streams on Paramount+.
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