FBI is a made-to-order Dick Wolf recipe at its finest, falling right in line with Law & Order and the Chicago shows. It is Wolf’s first CBS show since 1997.
Nothing here is new or groundbreaking, and of course, by nature, it feels like an extension or spinoff of Law & Order or Chicago Fire. It focuses on the FBI’s New York City bureau, which focuses to not only keep the city, but the country safe.
The cast is led by Missy Peregrym, who stars as a veteran agent, Zeeko Zaki as her newbie partner, Ebonee Noel as one of the bureau’s tech analyst and Jeremy Sisto as Assistant Special Agent in Charge. Connie Nielsen is in the pilot as bureau chief, but is written out by the second episode as Sela Ward, who portrays the Special Agent in Charge steps in.
Rookie Blue alumna Peregrym is outstanding and Ebonee Noel, known to most American viewers from the short-lived ABC Shonda Rhimes period drama Still Star-Crossed, is a delight on-screen. But even with their performances, the show comes off as a bit stiff.
This may be hard to believe, considering the episode starts off with an explosion, but despite having the Wolf recipe, the series does not “pop” in the pilot. Maybe it’s due to the yin and yang nature of Bell and Zidan’s relationship, Bell as a tough-as-nails enforcer, hardened by the job and the loss of her husband, and a fast fearlessness as a new agent coming from the DEA. The growing pains of their partnership apply to the show as well.
The show is also a bit uneven at times, tackling heavy crimes and subject matter but attempting to balance it with workplace banter that comes across as natural for characters on Law & Order: SVU.
The fact that the series has a woman at the focal point, a character who is Muslim and speaks Arabic and a black woman character who leads the charge for tech ops (especially with a show of this premise) is a symbolic statement from CBS, a network that has made moves to become more diverse after intense scrutiny.
The pilot even has a timely storyline that reads like a newspaper headline in the Trump era, including immigration, gangs, the border, white supremacy and the alt-right.
In true Wolf and Law & Order fashion, the crimes and circumstances are not always as they seem, and most cases are not cut and dry.
The perfect formula is there. FBI has the rubric and in order to have longevity, it needs to figure out how it can be different from its predecessors and contemporaries.
FBI premieres Tuesday, September 25 on CBS.