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Every Main Character From NCIS: Hawai'i Ranked

As the fourth series in the "NCIS" franchise, "NCIS: Hawai'i" has both the benefit of following a tried and true format established by prior successes, as well as the challenge of standing out among a gaggle of similar shows. Sure, the gorgeous scenery, crossover opportunities, and exciting action sequences help, but at the end of the day, what carried this show through its first season and into a second was the compelling characters at its heart. Led by NCIS special agent Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey), this group of surprising personalities is what granted the show its distinctive feel from day one, and that has only continued into its current season.

From a surprisingly insightful patterned-shirt-wearing IT guy to Jane's charismatic kids to an opposites-attract style love affair between Lucy Tara and Kate Whistler, "NCIS: Hawai'i" has gone the extra mile to give us characters we care about while diving into the police procedural drama of its predecessors. Weaving the history of these cast members into the larger "NCIS" story while keeping it distinctly its own thing is a major strength, but of course, there are some characters that get a little more spotlight than the rest. Ranking our favorites is no easy task as each of these characters has uniquely endeared themselves to our hearts. But when asked to choose, we have to admit that some are more essential than others.

9. Julie Tennant

No shade to Julie Tennant for coming in last — this one is more out of lack of spotlight than lack of charisma. Though we haven't seen a ton of Jane's younger child, Julie (portrayed by actor Mahina Napoleon), we know that she is the spitting image of her mom, and the two share a sly sense of humor. Combining an interest in academics with a love for sports, Julie is known for being exceptionally mature for her age, which is reflected in her take-things-as-they-come demeanor.

We don't know much about Julie or how she might step into her character more with time, but there are some clues that we're very much looking at a Jane Jr. here. She and her mom seem to be constantly on time and on top of things, both regarding Alex with a mix of amusement and love as he tends to be a bit frazzled due to his many commitments. Regardless, the Tennant kids both have something very much in common with their mom: They're definite over-achievers, and Julie's status as an academic whiz and soccer star cements that legacy tenfold.

8. Alex Tennant

The baseball star Alex serves as a great foil to his mother's pragmatic, methodical approach to life, throwing a little chaos into her home dynamic due to his comparatively fly-by-night approach to things. This isn't to imply that Alex isn't on top of things, just that he doesn't make it seem quite as effortless as his mother and sister do — rather, encapsulating a combination of characteristics between his mother and her ex-husband, Daniel. Surprising Jane by taking up new interests like cooking and dating a 21-year-old "free spirit," Alex is making strides in finding out who he is, and Jane has only encouraged him even when she finds the lack of structure a little threatening.

Alex and Jane have a wonderful mother-son relationship, and it's been one of the standouts of "NCIS: Hawai'i" throughout its run. Perhaps more than any other team on the show, these two challenge each other's perceptions on the regular, making it one of the more entertaining aspects of the series. Their love for each other always shines through even when they don't quite see eye-to-eye, granting them both plenty of opportunities to grow and learn from one another. The only thing keeping Alex from rating higher on the list is that we still don't know quite for sure who he's going to become, but it's an absolute joy watching him work it out.

7. Joe Milius

The Michigan-born Navy Captain Joe Milius is the classic all-American guy, even playing in a jazz band in high school before going into the military. An affable foil to Jane's more serious temperament, the sparks truly flew between the pair throughout the first season. While Jane goes out of her way to make sure all the bases are covered and everything is taken care of, Milius has a down-to-earth attitude that makes it easy for her to drop her guard and let things play out as they will. While she remains forever focused on work, Milius is able to encourage her to fit fun into her schedule, inviting her out to drinks amid conversations about his work minimizing the threat of global wars.

We know painfully little about Milius' inner world, making him a prime candidate for the series to further flesh out. Likewise, his relationship with Jane is legitimately heartwarming, as he respects her professionalism and work ethic as much as he enjoys her company, making them an ideal example in the realm of the notoriously difficult-to-manage "workplace romance."

6. Kate Whistler

Placing this character so far down the list seems borderline criminal as Kate Whistler is a highlight of NCIS: Hawai'i," but it's just a testament to how many standout cast members this show has to choose from. When Whistler first appears on the scene, she comes off as a bit standoffish, but we soon come to find out that there is a complex person underneath the stark professionalism that keeps people at an arm's length. Naturally, that all came to its logical end when Whistler fell for the comparatively openly emotional Lucy Tara, making one of the "NCIS" franchise's most beloved ships.

Though Whistler is far from perfect, one of the best parts of the show has been her willingness to admit to her mistakes and learn to communicate better. Initially quick to anger, her relationship with Tara and her interactions with Tennant and her team led to a fast-growth arc in which she tangibly changed and got better at managing her feelings honestly. This is impressive under any circumstances, but managing this while in high-stress scenarios is nothing short of applause-worthy. Even at her worst moments, Whistler's desire to do the right thing and take care of people shines through, and her love for Tara has only made her a better person and a more entertaining character. As the character that has changed perhaps the most over the series run, Whistler is a character that just keeps getting more interesting with time.

5. Ernie Malik

The brilliant tech brain of the show, Jason Antoon's Ernie Malik doubles as the comedic relief due to his tendency to always have a quip, pun, or comeback at the ready regardless of the situation. Malik is not one of those people who gets comfortable thinking of himself as the smartest guy in the room, rather, he's constantly challenging himself, picking up new languages and skills throughout the series, and showing a genuine interest in self-improvement. Likewise, he genuinely loves his work and takes pleasure in a job well done. Still, don't let the pattern shirts fool you, there is a sensitive and caring soul underneath all the one-liners.

Though he might be dismissed as a funny guy, there's a surprising level of depth to Malik that makes him a crucial teammate to the others. Not only is he an expert at lightening the often understandably heavy mood, he also gives stellar advice and even plays a sort of matchmaker for Tara and Whistler after Whistler very nearly misses her shot with Tara. Combining his desire to put people at ease with a surprising level of depth and empathy, Malik is a true team player due to his ability to understand others, even in their worst moments, while never letting the crew take themselves too seriously. Did we mention he's also probably a genius? His tech capabilities have saved the day more than once.

4. Jesse Boone

As a husband and father to three, Boone is used to juggling a lot of larger-than-life personalities while keeping his cool. Seemingly unfazed by the demands of the job, his background working in D.C. has made him an impeccable professional. Though he isn't always the most sensitive, there is a desire to do the right thing that guides him, and he's surprisingly observant even when he pretends not to be. Occasionally dismissive, Boone has regularly opened himself up to be corrected, making him an agent who is always willing to see the error of his assumptions.

While Boone is very much Jane's right-hand man, a good deal of his character work is told through his interactions with Holman. The two aren't quite opposites, but out of everyone on the crew, they have the least in common on a surface-level overview. Looking deeper, they are both incredibly loyal, family-oriented, and caring, though Holman has a greater tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve, while Boone is a bit more guarded. In Season 2's "Primal Fear", while Boone tried to explain his lack of faith in a higher power, Holman smiled and asked, "Are you trying to convince you or me?" indicating not only a deep bond of friendship forming between them, but also a hidden desire on Boone's part to share and open up more. It's that kind of everyman attitude belying a more complicated inner world that makes Boone a great addition to Tennant's team.

3. Lucy Tara

The delightful over-achiever of the team, Yasmine Al-Bustami's Lucy Tara is the youngest member of Tennant's crew. She has proven herself to be eager to learn while not overstepping her bounds, carefully observing the rest of the team and learning the ropes while offering up unique insights that set her apart as a great agent even this early in her career. As with much of Tennant's team, we don't know a ton of details about Tara's backstory, but it's been made clear that she isn't especially close to her brothers, and her relationship with her parents became strained after she announced her intention to enter law enforcement rather than pursuing a career in the oil industry, which is more in line with her family's hopes for her.

Tara is also half of the show's only LGBTQ+ romance, having made the decision to move in with her partner, Kate Whistler, in Season 2. These two had a rocky go of things in the first season, but with Whistler getting over her apprehension and opening up to a long-term relationship with Tara, things seem to have settled down. Much of Tara's interest in treading lightly is apparent in her interactions with Whistler, where she is careful to discuss decisions without making assumptions about what the other person might feel. This desire to be certain before acting is reflected in her work, making her proof that Jane Tennant knows how to pick a perfect team.

2. Kai Holman

It's hard to imagine a better counterpart to Jane than Alex Tarrant's Kai Holman, a native Hawai'ian who left the islands after the death of his beloved mother. Though we're still piecing Holman's backstory together as we go along, we know he's returned home to care for his ailing father, with whom his relationship is somewhat more strained. Much of the series so far has followed his journey to fitting in with the team dynamic, making himself useful as the team's only native Hawai'ian (and world-class surfer) and treating cases with a similar sense of patience and observation that his fearless leader is known for. With the others so often focused on end results, Holman is the one most likely to take the extra time to make people feel comfortable.

Though we're always looking to find out more details as to Holman's personal life, he's built a fanbase by being a compassionate and spiritual team member who excels at interpersonal relationships. In Season 2, Episode 4, titled "Primal Fear," when dealing with a murder case that took place on protected land, he was able to assure the land protectors that they would treat the space with the utmost care, with Jane stepping in to assure that they could work in teams so there wouldn't be so many people at once. That extra effort to reduce harm is a key part of Holman's whole bag, making him an essential new character for the franchise.

1. Jane Tennant

It's hard to imagine what "NCIS: Hawai'i" would be without Jane Tennant at its center. While so many NCIS agents are known for their brisk and authoritative manner, Jane mixes an ability to get things done quickly and efficiently with a heartfelt sincerity that endears her to the people she's trying to protect. Her insight and ability to read others by cutting through presentation to the truth beneath it is constantly impressive, with her gut instinct leading her to pick up on clues that might otherwise go unnoticed. Jane is one special agent that goes beyond the surface to get to deeper truths.

Jane contains multitudes, and many fans will agree that her leadership is a major part of what drives the show. Not just a great boss that treats her team as true partners in the quest to solve crimes, while respecting the sacred nature of the island she and her family calls home, she also thrives as a mother. Though her marriage to Daniel Tennant ended and he has since moved on, Jane pulls off the nigh-impossible balancing act of career and parent with her son, Alex, and daughter, Julie. Raising self-sufficient, independent kids while making it clear that there is always a net of support they can rely on, Jane's home life is often just as organized and on-point as her professional life. Though she struggles with control issues and could stand to loosen up from time to time, you can't argue with the results.