Warning: Post contains minor spoilers
“NCIS: New Orleans” season 4 continues with one of the season’s, and series’s, best entries yet. “Viral” finds Sebastian Lund (Rob Kerkovich) accused of murdering an unarmed tourist. While chasing after a hit man, Sebastian finds himself under gunfire. Although he insists the tourist was armed, there’s no evidence of a shooting other than Sebastian’s.
Compounding the situation, video evidence goes viral (hence the episode title), and appears to show Sebastian gunning down a civilian. Nevertheless, Lund sticks to his narrative, insisting that he was shot at. Fellow agents Chris LaSalle (Lucas Black), Tammy Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito), and Sonja Percy (Shalita Grant) asked for Sebastian’s location and encouraged him to wait for backup. Despite their protestations, Sebastian pursued the target, thus putting himself in a predicament.
FBI Special Agent Raymond Isler (Derek Webster) returns to “NCIS: New Orleans” for “Viral.” But unlike the playful “The Asset,” Isler isn’t suggesting that Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula) cut corners. Instead, Isler seemingly switched back to his strictly by the book persona as seen in “NCIS: New Orleans” season 3. Initially, it’s a bit of a shock, but “Viral” concludes by explaining this shift.
Both Pride and Jefferson Parish Coroner Loretta Wade (CCH Pounder) take Sebastian’s case rather hard. Lund formerly worked directly with Wade until his post with NCIS, and Loretta consistently exhibits maternal instincts toward Sebastian.
The multi-talented LeVar Burton directs “NCIS: New Orleans” season 4, episode 5, “Viral.” It’s among the series’s finest material, with a case that directly affects the the team. A running theme until this point has been maturation of the team. LaSalle stepped up as a legitimate leader and stand in for Pride, and Sebastian transformed from gangling new NCIS member to confident, composed element on the team.
“Viral” presents a major evolution in Lund’s character arc. Sure, the pop culture references are still there. And he’s ultimately the rambling, adorably awkward Sebastian of old. But this marks the most serious he’s been, and the first time he’s killed anyone. Moreover, it’s a true test of Sebastian’s mettle. Throughout the investigation, he remains staunch in his insistence that he was fired upon.
There’s a neat subplot featuring Isler back to his law abiding self. Yet not all is as it seems here. At the end of the episode, Isler reveals that someone in Washington has it in for Pride. Expect this storyline to return later in “NCIS: New Orleans” season 4.
“Viral” feels like a relevant episode with the proliferation of footage, both innocuous and tragic, which goes, well, viral. Notably, there’s a plot thread during “Viral” where mayoral candidate Zahra Taylor (Amanda Warren) disagrees with Loretta. Taylor believes that Loretta’s concern for Sebastian shades her opinion of the case. However, Loretta begs Taylor to resist jumping to conclusions.
It comes, or should come, as no surprise that Sebastian is ultimately cleared of all charges. Yet, the episode isn’t about a mystery, but rather a glimpse at how Sebastian handles the intense pressure of an internal investigation. Overall, it’s a poignant episode which lets Kerkovich shine.