NCIS New Orleans new episode tonight: Scott Bakula and The Recruits

NCIS New Orleans heads into its fourth episode tonight titled The Recruits, as the team ventures into a murder on frat row. The spinoff is still finding its footing and allowing its major characters to gel with each other, and each of the early episodes has been more valuable in terms of character development than in terms of actual plotting. And of course the first three episodes have been jam packed with cameos from the NCIS mothership. But tonight’s new episode is the first one without any cameos, so far as we know, which means it could be the first one which the writers feel stands on its own.

Scott Bakula is both the central point and the high point of NCIS New Orleans so far, with his character Dwayne Pride’s overly easygoing demeanor standing in notable contrast to the more rigid Agent Gibbs instead of attempting to be a clone of him. Tonight’s episode gives screen time to Pride’s daughter, further establishing him as a family man after the series premiere made clear that he’s still sorta kinda married. The only knock on Bakula’s performance so far is that fans have been divided over whether his faked local accent is over the top to the point of being distracting.

The other characters have been a mixed bag. Christopher LaSalle feels like he came straight out of Prison Break, and has yet to be developed as a person so much as a caricature. Most of what we know about Meredith Brody so far is that she’s from out of town, a conceit which can only last so long. Doctor Loretta Wade has potential thanks to actress CCH Pounder, but that potential is still largely untapped. And her assistant is an amalgam of every geek character the NCIS franchise has ever mustered.

CBS is going all-in with NCIS New Orleans, giving the show the time slot directly after the main series (kicking NCIS Los Angeles to a different night in the process) and featuring roughly half the original series cast in various cameos already. So far it’s difficult to say whether the show has lived up to expectations, mostly because the three criminal plots thus far have all felt generic and recycled. But the characters all have the potential to grow into beloved ones in due time.

And considering how many chips CBS has put down on this series, we’re guessing it’ll be given a good amount of time to grow into something more. Tonight’s new episode “The Recruits” airs at 9pm.