REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (EPISODES 1 - 4) | WHERE TO WATCH: NOWTV, SKY GO
After conquering Chicago with his recent franchise of hit shows (uh, let’s not mention Justice), producer Dick Wolf returns to New York, spiritual home of the hugely successful Law & Order behemoth, for a crack at federal crimes. The series centres on two agents, Maggie (Missy Peregrym) and Omar Adom (Zeeko Zaki), known as OA, and these first handful of episodes cover bombings, poisonings, human trafficking and a sniper with a grudge. It’s as flashy and well-made as you might expect from the CBS network but don’t go thinking they’ll be much substance to it, at least not initially.
Instead, FBI is a ruthlessly efficient procedural with sometimes shaky or too-convenient writing, which pays very occasional attention to character development for Maggie and OA but is mostly focussed on putting us in the middle of heinous crimes. Moving sharply and swiftly from one scene to the next, its approach is probably best encapsulated in the character of assistant special agent-in-charge Jubal, played by the fine actor Jeremy Sisto. Sisto’s role consists here almost entirely of shouting exposition at the other characters to make sure there’s no need to think about nuance, or the drama and truth that can be found in silence.
It probably sounds like we don’t like FBI, but that’s not the case. For a network show utterly unconcerned with making anything other than a broad-strokes attempt at investing you in the players, the plots are solid and surprisingly bleak at times as well as compelling, and production values are high. The acting is all uniformly good, with Peregrym a seasoned series lead, ably supported (even if it’s mainly yelling information to whip the week’s case along) by Sisto and Sela Ward as the team supervisor. MVP must go to Zaki however, who invests former soldier co-lead OA with heart and hidden depths. And that’s something else to note, with the middle couple of episodes (production order is not broadcast order) hinting at taking the foot off the narrative gas long enough to allow us a little more reason to care. Another point in its favour is that at this stage it largely eschews the absurdly cartoonish version of right-wing politics that afflicts early Blue Bloods, which is definitely a good thing.
And so, although it might perhaps damn FBI with faint praise, what we have is a good, entertaining series for fans of the network approach which shows promise to become potentially more than that.