How Does the ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ Premiere Compare to the Rest of the Franchise? (RECAP)

Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant in NCIS Hawai'i
Spoiler Alert
Karen Neal/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the NCIS: Hawai’i series premiere.]

After three successful NCIS series — we still remember the Red backdoor pilot on Los Angeles —  CBS is hoping it has a fourth on its hands with Hawai’i. But do we have another team on our screens we want to see running around solving crimes each week?

In Hawai’iVanessa Lachey stars as the first female special agent in charge — and franchise lead — Jane Tennant, who makes it clear to the newbie, Kai Holman (Alex Tarrant), that she considers her team — Jesse Boone (Noah Mills), Lucy Tara (Yasmine Al-Bustami), and Ernie Malik (Jason Antoon) — a family. (Tori Anderson‘s Kate Whistler isn’t technically part of the team — she’s their liaison with the Defense Intelligence Agency — though she has a fun connection to one of them, as revealed in the premiere.) It’s a sentiment shared across pretty much every procedural drama.

Let’s compare the Hawai’i premiere to NCISLos Angeles, and New Orleans‘ in a few key areas:

The Cases

On Hawai’i, the crash of an experimental Naval aircraft leads to the team uncovering a ring after classified information on the project using cocktail waitresses to lure in the pilots. (The latest victim was poisoned.) Tennant jumps off a cliff, followed by Kai, to take down the leader (with some help from a massive wave).

It certainly had some action, but it just didn’t have the connection that New Orleans‘ did to the community as Pride (Scott Bakula) and his team investigated the murder of a young man he mentored, nor did it have the high stakes and suspense of Los Angeles, in which a young girl’s father is more involved than they thought in the case. And NCIS‘ was just a lot more fun, onboard Air Force One and with the team stealing the body away from the FBI (and putting Michael Weatherly‘s DiNozzo in its place).

Noah Mills as Jesse Boone, Jason Antoon as Ernie Malik in NCIS Hawai'i

Karen Neal/CBS

The Team

The premiere does a pretty good job of establishing the members of the team: Jesse is the second-in-command (and the one who has known Tennant the longest), Lucy worries about getting on her boss’ bad side, Ernie is the quirky tech guru, and Kai is the newbie who’s a bit resistant to entirely fitting in and finding his place. But it seems to push a bit too hard on establishing these as people who gather outside of work with the gathering at Tennant’s place, with her kids, at the end. There’s a disconnect there. Sure, we can see the relationship between Tennant and each of her team, but not really among the team members or everyone as a whole. We just don’t feel the bond like we should among people who (mostly) knew each other already.

On the other hand, that wasn’t the case for NCISLos Angeles, or New Orleans, though all had an advantage that Hawai’i doesn’t: They were all introduced in backdoor pilots on other shows (JAGNCIS) in the franchise. Even so, there were bits sprinkled throughout those premieres that made us believe these characters cared about each other (at least somewhat) outside of work, such as the welcome back for LA‘s Callen (Chris O’Donnell) when he returned to work after getting shot, or the NOLA team helping Brody (Zoe McLellan) find a place and Pride cooking in the kitchen in the office.

Yasmine Al-Bustami as Lucy, Tori Anderson as Kate in NCIS Hawai'i

Karen Neal/CBS

The (Potential) Romances

Now, this is where Hawai’i thrives where the other shows didn’t. The premiere establishes two will they/won’t they (or will they again, in one case) relationships. Tennant and Lucy both clash with others involved in the case — Captain Milius (recurring guest star Enver Gjokaj) and Kate, respectively — and at least one party in each pairing seems intrigued by the other. Tennant and Milius’ tentative professional (and likely soon personal) relationship is just beginning.

Meanwhile, Lucy clashes with Kate over (the sensitive information of) the pilot’s autopsy report (he was poisoned), and yes, that tension does lead where you might be thinking it will based on that interaction: a kiss when Lucy goes to apologize, and no, it’s not the first time. But while Kate calls it a “horrible mistake,” Lucy doesn’t exactly agree. If this is going anywhere (and hopefully it is), we’re definitely excited to tag along for the ride.

On the other hand, the romances of the other shows didn’t come into play (and many of the characters involved didn’t first appear) until much later. For example, Eric Christian Olsen‘s Marty Deeks didn’t join LA until near the end of the first season and officially partnered with Daniela Ruah‘s Kensi Blye in the second, and Pride was separated from his wife.

The Location

Hawai’i also has the edge on incorporating the location and its culture, especially as Kai uses his local knowledge during the case and reconnects with people from his past. It would be nearly impossible for it not to get a win in this regard, considering how gorgeous the island is.

New Orleans did a good job of using its location as well (and continued to do so past the premiere), especially when it came to the food and music.

What did you think of the newest NCIS series? Let us know in the comments below.

NCIS: Hawai’i, Mondays, 10/9c. CBS