‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ Series Finale: Why the Showrunner Left One Storyline Open

“We tried to put everyone in a happy place. And I think we did that,” R. Scott Gemmill tells TheWrap of Sunday’s final episode

LL Cool J, R. Scott Gemmill, and Chris O'Donnell, "NCIS: Los Angeles" series wrap party
(L-R) LL Cool J, R. Scott Gemmill, and Chris O'Donnell attend the CBS' "NCIS: Los Angeles" series wrap party on March 03, 2023. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

This article contains spoilers for the “NCIS: Los Angeles” series finale.

“NCIS: Los Angeles” showrunner R. Scott Gemmill’s goal with the series finale on Sunday, May 21 was to give the characters of the long-running CBS procedural as happy an ending as possible.

“It really was about trying to find a way to wrap up the series that would leave the fans feeling hopeful for the future of all our characters. And so we gave everyone what we figured was their version of happily ever after… at least for the time being,” he told TheWrap in a recent interview.

To that end, in the final episode, Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Anna (Bar Paly) tie the knot in an impromptu ceremony attended by the rest of the team — except for Hetty (Linda Hunt), who sends a congratulatory note.

NCIS: Los Angeles series finale
Anna (Bar Paly) and Callen (Chris O’Donnell) have an impromptu wedding on the series finale of “NCIS” (Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) finds a promising Alzheimer’s study for his father Raymond (Richard Gant), Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) tells Marty Deeks (Eric Christan Olsen) that she’s pregnant and Devin Rountree’s (Caleb Castille) legal case against the LAPD is satisfactorily settled.

“We really knew we had to go through each character and figure out what would be best for them, what place would be the happiest for them once we say goodbye,” Gemmill said.

However, the series leaves one storyline open, with Sam and Callen being summoned by Hetty for a “side project” in Morocco. When they get there, they instead find Nell (Renée Felice Smith), Nate (Peter Cambor) and Vostanik Sabatino (Erik Palladino), who need their help to rescue Hetty, who, as Nell put it, “got herself into a bit of a pickle.” Nell asks, “Are you ready for your next adventure?” and, of course, they are indeed.

TheWrap: How hard is it to wrap up such a long-running show and try to tie up all the loose ends?
R. Scott Gemmill: It’s very difficult to be honest. You know, there’s a lot of emotion involved because you live with these characters for so long and and then try to put them to bed after all that time. Not really easy, but hopefully we did a good job.

You decided to leave things open with Hetty, sending Sam and Callen on another adventure to go save her. Why did you go that route?
It just seemed like that was a storyline that we needed to resolve. And what better way than to go and send a rescue team?

What would you say set “LA” off from the other “NCIS” series?
I think the real difference was probably the familial nature of the show. Everyone was there to have fun. Even though we took on some serious cases, at the end of the day, it’s really a family that enjoys working and playing together. And that’s true behind the scenes and I think that translates onto the screen. I think you can feel that when you watch the show that we’re having fun while we’re doing it.

The show never really got that dark. Was that a conscious choice?
We did some darker episodes. For me, what I thought the show did best was that when you tuned in you knew you were gonna have an hour of escapism. It wasn’t gonna leave you stressed out or worse than when you turned it on. I find some of the darker shows are so dark that it’s stressful, and our show is the exact opposite. We have some laughs and some good times, see a little fun action and then that you can get back to your life. But I always thought our show was this sort of hopeful escape.

You’ve gone 14 years with very little changes to the cast line-up. How rare is that?
Yeah, a lot of shows may run 12 years or so. But by that time you get there, [you may have] replaced the entire cast. We’ve added some people, but we have our main four so I think that this shows you how much everyone enjoyed working on the show and then working together.

What’s next for you? Do you have something lined up or are you taking time off?
A little bit of both. I had some things I was working on before the [WGA] strike came, so everything’s on hold while we, hopefully, resolve this. So at the moment, I’m taking a forced vacation, which is a vacation nonetheless. 

Are you staying in touch with the cast and crew?
Oh yeah. I was just talking to Lance, my props guy, yesterday, and I talked to Eric Christian Olsen this morning. A lot of us are friends outside of the show. It’s inevitable when you work with someone for 14 years. We’ll all be together. And there’s a good chance we’ll be working together [again]. There are other projects we’ve been kicking around. And Hollywood is a small town at the end of the day. 

Deeks’ line about “teamwork makes the dreamwork” kind of sums up the show.
Yeah, it’s been a real family, as much behind as in front of the camera. It’s bittersweet. All of us are so grateful that we had so much time together, but it is tough saying goodbye to everyone.

The series finale of “NCIS: LA” airs Sunday, May 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS, followed by “A Salute to NCIS: Los Angeles” special hosted by Kevin Frazier, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.