I know I’m a few years late, but I just watched season 1 of CBS’s crime drama FBI and I was… underwhelmed.
For those of you who don’t know, FBI is a procedural crime drama on CBS from Dick Wolf, creator of the Law & Order and One Chicago franchises. FBI is the first of Wolf’s shows to not appear on NBC and is currently awaiting renewal for its 5th season. The show follows the elite crime-stopping team that makes up the New York field office of the FBI and has already spawned two spinoff shows, FBI: International and FBI: Most Wanted.
To be fair, I started watching FBI on the back of bingeing seasons 1–4 of S.W.A.T. which expertly intertwines interesting cases, character relationships, and poignant cultural statements. That’s not to say that FBI doesn’t consist of nuanced and well-crafted cases that are delivered by a stellar cast, including leads Missy Peregrym and Zeeko Zaki, Law & Order alum Jeremy Sisto, Sela Ward, and the exceptional newbie Ebonee Noel.
I knew I wanted to watch FBI because I love crime shows and procedurals, but mostly because I’ve been obsessed with actress Missy Peregrym for forever. Most viewers have only gotten to know her since her debut on FBI but I’ve been a fan for over a decade after getting hooked on Canadian cop show Rookie Blue (2010–2015)— a series I’ve watched several times over. In that, Peregrym begins as rookie cop Andy McNally, full of good instincts, wit, and charm, and matures over six seasons into one of the best police officers in the city. Not to mention her series-long love story with fellow officer and detective Sam Swarek (Ben Bass).
Viewers were hooked on the pair from the pilot and it truly was their complicated and heart-wrenching on-again-off-again relationship that was at the center of the show. Of course there were thrilling and suspenseful episode- and season-related cases to cover as well as the personal lives of the rest of the ensemble cast, but it was really Peregrym and Bass that sold it. Having known and loved this actress and her previous character for over a decade I was so excited to watch FBI and fall in love all over again. And then that… didn’t quite happen.
FBI is thought-provoking, cerebral, and has been consistently in the top 5 highest rated shows on CBS since its debut, but I was still expecting more of an emotional punch. By the end of Rookie Blue’s first season I was invested in Andy McNally and what happened to her. After 22 episodes of FBI I’m thrilled that Agent Maggie Bell figured out who murdered her husband, but also… I kind of don’t care?? She’s one half of the show’s lead pair and literally the only things we know about her are that her husband died, she’s from Indiana, and she’s a really good FBI agent. That’s it.
By the end of FBI’s first season we have way more information about male lead Special Agent Omar “OA” Zidan (Zeeko Zaki) than we do about Maggie. There were two or three episodes specifically related to his character and viewers learned about his background in the army, his dead father and fraught relationship with his sister, as well as his Egyptian ethnicity and Muslim faith (both attributes the character and actor share), and how those things affect his experience as a law enforcement officer. This is all excellent and I applaud the show for diving into issues of such cultural significance (despite show creator Dick Wolf claiming FBI is inherently apolitical). But — why can’t we know more about Maggie too?? As the female lead she should be given more characterization than just being a widow. There’s more to a woman than having once been married to a man. And Missy Peregrym has already proven she can easily carry a more sophisticated internal story.
The end of the season didn’t leave viewers with any kind of cliffhanger — everything was tied up in a neat little bow. Special Agent in Charge Dana Moiser (Sela Ward) announced her retirement in the finale so there will probably be a new boss lady in season 2, and it’s suggested that analyst Kristen Chazal (Ebonee Noel) will be promoted to Special Agent, but there’s no other hints at what may happen next or what might come back to haunt our characters.
Even the case of Maggie’s murdered husband Jason was expertly solved in the finale with Maggie handling her job and her emotions exactly right, despite the personal nature of the case. I understand this is a procedural show, but there has to be an element that pulls us back in, no? There wasn’t a single episode where Agents Bell and Zidan and the rest of the team didn’t save the day and catch the bad guys. After 22 episodes it got to be predictable, and without any losses, all of the wins became a little stale. It could be argued that viewers have no incentive whatsoever to come back to FBI season 2 unless they are really just into the cases and figuring out whodunnit.
Obviously, successful crime procedurals are an area that show creator Dick Wolf is skilled and well-versed in, as the man behind the Law & Order franchise. However, he’s also the creator of the supremely popular One Chicago shows which are still procedural but ultimately center around the personal lives of the characters. It’s probable that FBI was created to more closely follow the Law & Order formula and since it has already been renewed for 4 seasons and has spawned two spinoffs, they are clearly doing something right.
Ultimately, FBI delivers exactly what it promises. It’s a fast-paced, high-intensity, procedural, that requires viewers use their brain to follow along. And despite Dick Wolf’s claims, I think many of the show’s cases bring attention to important global issues we’re currently facing surrounding race, gender, economics, and social justice.
I just wish they had made me care a little bit more about who is telling the story.
I’ll be back with more after watching season 2! (No spoilers, please.)