The NCIS creatives have pulled it off yet again.
Another exotic location has been found to be populated with colorful Navy cops on NCIS: Sydney Season 1 Episode 1.
Sydney is Australia’s most populous city and is best known for its Opera House, prominently featured in this pilot.
American broadcast viewers almost didn’t get the chance to see this series. If not for the writers’ and actors’ strikes, likely only Paramount+ subscribers would have had that opportunity.
But when the cupboard is nearly bare, you air what you’ve got. Big Brother can only air on so many nights.
Then again, maybe airing this and other streaming content, such as Yellowstone and SEAL Team, will ultimately draw more eyes to streaming. There are many exciting series on streaming that many viewers are missing out on.
There wasn’t much of that going on in the premiere because there was an entire team to introduce.
It’s a heavy cross to bear, but Michelle Mackey may yet turn out to be the female Gibbs; she’s from a rural region, talks sparingly, and has a back story that’s just begun to be explored. Her borrowing a chopper to chase the Russian spies is a new level of ignoring protocol for a team leader.
Mackey’s partner in this arranged work is APF Sgt. Jim “JD” Dempsey who will have to make some adjustments to be a co-leader of this unit. He’s used to being in charge. But he also spent the episode attempting to connect with Mackey, something she showed little interest in doing.
These leaders bring along their own lieutenant, about whom little has been revealed so far. Only some much can be handled in an hour.
Dempsey’s is Constable Evie Cooper, who is the more confident of her abilities of the two. Enthusiastic NCIS Special Agent DeShawn Jackson has a vital role as the Mackey whisperer, as he can explain her to the others.
As often has been the case in the NCIS franchise, the most intriguing characters are those behind the scenes — the specialists.
First is curmudgeonly forensic pathologist Dr. Roy “Rosie” Penrose, the voice of experience who measures up to the gold standard (RIP, Ducky). He also brings to mind pathologist Henrik on the Mystery! series Van De Valk.
The other character to watch is brilliant young forensic scientist Bluebird “Blue” Gleeson, who comes off like an Aussie Abby, only more naive. Rosie has taken a parental shine to her already.
What makes NCIS: Sydney unique is that police from two law enforcement agencies must learn to get along and work together. All the previous series in the franchise featured agents from one unit working a case.
And it will take a while for them to gel as a team. This episode was a promising beginning toward that, but it’s a work in progress.
Still, they’re already two-thirds of the way there, so there’s that.
Evie and DeWayne are accustomed to being junior partners. So they fell into an easy relationship as they did much of the legwork on the first case.
Rosie first mistook Blue for one of the protestors outside. But as he witnessed her abilities, he became paternalistic toward her. They should develop into an excellent lab pairing.
The two alphas, Mackey and JD, are still learning to share. He tried to figure her out throughout the case, but she was just too close-mouthed.
Early on, Mackey came on too strong, wanting to solve the case and be on her way. But later on, she tried to convince him to get on board when the squad was kept together for the foreseeable future.
Determining what happened to Petty Officer Flynn was a captivating first case. Flynn was an accident waiting to happen, but how he died got more and more complex as the hour progressed.
Initially, he was the victim of a bar fight. But soon, Rosie ruled he had died from radiation poisoning.
That screamed international incident, with a nuclear sub leaking into Sydney Harbor. But an industrious Blue proved that Flynn wasn’t poisoned by the radium used in the sub but instead by Polonium 210, a favorite of Russian assassins, which was an enjoyable twist.
Since Communist China wants to control the Pacific Ocean, it would have made more sense to involve Chinese spies. But it would have been harder for such spies to hide in plain sight in Australia than for the European-appearing Russians.
Espionage has long been part of the NCIS narrative, especially on NCIS: Los Angeles. It’s good to see that angle front and center in this debut.
Col. Richard Rankin (likely not his real name), the elusive DOD official manipulating events, appears set to become a recurring character.
Chasing what’s left of that Russian sleeper cell, especially the mysterious blonde woman linked to two sailors’ deaths, seems to be the first story arc for NCIS: Sydney.
To follow along with this new entry, watch NCIS: Sydney online
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Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.