NCIS

Dead Man Walking: The NCIS Episode That Left Fans In Tears

“NCIS” has covered a wide range of thematic territory over the course of more than 450 episodes and counting. To this day, one of the show’s emotional high points remains an episode from Season 4 that has fans talking more than 15 years after its premiere.

In “NCIS” Season 4, Episode 16, titled “Dead Man Walking,” Naval Lieutenant Roy Sanders (Matthew Marsden) personally requests that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service identify his own murderer. Though he’s still alive at that point, he’s in the process of dying from radiation poisoning. As a motive, he suspects that someone wanted to keep him from his duties as an inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency and poisoned him. All the while, Special Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) develops feelings for Sanders, so his eventual death becomes all the more tragic in spite of its inevitability. In future episodes, a detail some fans may not have noticed is that Ziva even wears an orange beanie in his memory.

On Reddit, user u/nodaybuttoday__ started a thread proposing that “Dead Man Walking” is one of the saddest episodes of “NCIS.” They sympathized with Sanders, in particular, and praised Marsden for his performance. User u/ptazdba, meanwhile, replied that Ziva is the episode’s standout. “It was the first episode where they showed the softer side of Ziva,” they wrote. “It was a great story and an exercise in the fruits of just human kindness.”

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Plenty of NCIS fans have shared their emotional reactions to Dead Man Walking

This isn’t the only Reddit thread dedicated squarely to the proposition that “Dead Man Walking” is among the saddest episodes of “NCIS.” In the top comment of another such thread, for example, user Shy_Moon_ argued that neither Roy Sanders nor Ziva David deserved their respective fates. The thread’s original poster then replied, “I genuinely cried for ages, neither of them deserved that i agree.”

The opening post of a similar Reddit thread simply sharing a title with the episode reads, “I am crying so hard. Poor Ziva.” Two commenters then replied that the episode is among their favorites for the emotions it evokes in them.

Such sentiment seems to be shared among “NCIS” fans across various social media platforms, from additional Reddit threads dedicated to the episode to posts on X, formerly known as Twitter. User @fake_morgs on the X platform, for instance, shared “Dead Man Walking” as an example of a TV episode that makes them more emotional than most others. User @REES1776 on the X platform, meanwhile, praised the episode in response to an unrelated post by Matthew Marsden. “One of my favorite episodes,” they wrote. “Great acting and hits right in the feels.”

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