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Why NCIS Fans Think Gibbs' Backstory Changed His Character

While the intrepid investigators of "NCIS" stand as a crack investigative unit that can track down and bring the world's most notorious criminals to justice, the bedrock of their band of naval crimefighters is easily Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). Gibbs has been the stoic mentor and the firm, but fair taskmaster of the NCIS for nearly all of the show's 19 seasons. But it should be noted that Gibbs' character didn't start out that way, not precisely. For the first two seasons of the show, Gibbs was a much different leader of the NCIS, one more prone to cracking jokes and behaving in ways viewers would come to associate with his colleague and protégé Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly).

In a recent Reddit post, "NCIS" fan supersevenj observed the change with some confusion: "Why did they change Gibbs character in first 2 seasons he was so expressive smiling, making jokes so much interactive now I'm in season 10 he is strict boss last time I remember he like Tony in an episode where Tony takes the lead now he barely talks." So how exactly did Gibbs change from the expressive, warm figure from early "NCIS" into a gruff, stoic mentor?

Gibbs' character changed significantly over the years

Another fan, u/anxiousrabbit23, posited that Gibbs' wasn't quite the man we'd later come to know, observing, "In season 2 I don't think they had quite yet developed Gibbs backstory (which really starts to come out in season 3/hiatus)." u/yeetyeeter13 offered a similar theory, as they believe this may be tied to the death of NCIS agent Caitlin "Kate" Todd (Sasha Alexander) in the show's second season: "It seems he changes after Kate's death, during season 3 and 4 he seems to be really strict compared to the other seasons," they wrote.

u/Aandiarie_QueenofFa, agreed, writing, "I think he became more strict because he thought it'd keep them alive. Also not being emotionally attached could help in some situations."

Certainly, Gibbs' character changed over the course of the early seasons of "NCIS," particularly following Kate's death while in the line of duty. The emotional toll of that moment was likely a contributing factor to his change of command style as the series progressed. But there is another factor that likely caused this change — the character hadn't had his greatest loss written into his backstory yet.

Gibbs' past wasn't fully fleshed out

Easily the worst losses Gibbs ever faced were the tragic deaths of his wife Shannon (Darby Stanchfield) and his daughter Kelly (Mary Mouser). Both lost their lives in a car wreck caused by one of Gibbs' enemies. Of course, there was another reason the team didn't know, as Redditor u/Powerful_Lynx_4737 pointed out. "Not a lot was known about his backstory basically even Ducky who he was closest to only knew he had been divorced 3 times but he didn't know about Shannon and Kelly. Also Gibbs has been to hell and back about 50 times in his life at some point you're just done. Especially after losing a wife and daughter I don't know how anyone could come back from that."

The real reason the Gibbs of the first two seasons of "NCIS" was so different from the Gibbs we'd come to know later was simply because the character's past hadn't been fully written in yet, and as a result, the character was a lot less defined. As the creators fleshed out his background and solidified his role on the team he would become the character we know and love. It's part of what makes a television series so interesting, as the characters grow and evolve over real time before our very eyes.