Well, that was some unfortunate news to wake up to…

There are arguably some characters that are not just integral to a show, but rather, they define it.

For many, Leroy Jethro Gibbs is that for NCIS.

Created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill, the police procedural served as a spin-off of Jag and premiered on CBS in September 2003. Since then it has gone on to earn one of the most admirable legacies in American television.

Over the years we have seen a wealth of faces come aboard to share in its success, but Mark Harmon was there on day one. Despite being on the show for decades, audiences’ interest in his character hasn’t dwindled. He remains a fond favourite.

Approaching season 19 – which started airing back in September – there was some concern that he’d be taking a bow though. Indeed, it was recently confirmed to be the case. So, why is Gibbs leaving NCIS and is it for good?

still from NCIS,CBS Broadcasting Inc. , IMDb

Why is Gibbs leaving NCIS?

Although the actor hasn’t made an official statement regarding his departure, CBS Entertainment boss Kelly Kahl has previously commented on Mark’s home at NCIS: “We take it year by year with Mark, we’d love to have him as long as he’d like to be here.”

Taking this into consideration, it’s likely that the 70-year-old actor simply didn’t wish to be on board the show anymore.

He has been portraying Gibbs for 18 years now, so it’s not difficult to imagine that he may feel he’s reached the end of the road with the character.

It might not come as too much of a surprise to certain audiences because he only signed on to reprise the role for season 19 in a limited capacity. So, the signs were there that he was preparing to ease out gradually.

Gibbs almost died in the season 18 finale but, of course, death isn’t the note you’d want to end your legacy on, so fans were fortunate to see him leave in a more respectful fashion.

He and McGee went to Alaska to hunt down a hitman but he ultimately decided to stay, telling his fellow agent that he’s “not going back.”

NCIS | Season 19 Promo Trailer

NCIS | Season 19 Promo Trailer

Is Gibbs leaving NCIS for good?

Mark hasn’t said he’ll be returning but others on the show have given fans hope that they’ll see Gibbs back again at some point.

Kelly Kahl explained that “Mark’s always been part of the show, Mark’s always going to be part of the show,” adding that “in terms of his on-air appearances, we’re just going to have to see how it plays out going forward.”

Echoing this, executive producer and showrunner Steven D. Binder has assured audiences that the door is always open to the legend:

“As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show. Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go.”

He added: “So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years… never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”

“It feels surreal”

Fans of NCIS have wasted no time in flocking to Twitter and reacting to the big farewell.

Needless to say, some simply don’t think it will ever be the same without him:

NCIS continues on Mondays over on CBS.

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