Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
There are already a ton of TV shows about the FBI. Even going back to the 1960’s and 70’s, there was a popular ABC series called The F.B.I. (1965) that ran for nearly a decade. The 90’s had The X-Files (1993). Since the 2000s though, there has been an explosion of TV shows about the FBI. There are shows like Bones (2005), White Collar (2009), Blindspot (2015) and Mindhunter (2017) that come up with a clever premise that engages with the themes of criminal justice and challenging procedural norms. However, there are a bunch of these FBI shows that don’t come up with a clever premise. They are simply about a bunch of random and generic FBI agents solving crimes week-to-week. There’s nothing special or unique about them. They’re just working class people and patriotic types just trying to do their jobs.
Obviously, the latter of which is the most boring kind of FBI show. It’s not simply the FBI, but when it comes to TV shows about any police or law enforcement agency, the tendency is for broadcast networks to give audiences the latter. CBS is probably the worst offender. It has launched a ton of these kinds of boring, law-enforcement shows. These shows are successful, not critically, but just in terms of satisfying the average TV viewer’s appetite for crime-and-punishment stories. It’s an appetite that goes back all the way to the days of William Shakespeare. Over time, a viewer can become endeared to the actors on screen. Often, the writing for a show, even one without a clever premise, can become such that the characters are developed and personalized as the years go on, which can further entrench them in the viewer’s minds. Yet, the run-of-the-mill cases and the run-of-the-mill investigations can still be a dull grind.
Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck and Charmed) stars as Jess LaCroix, a FBI agent who is part of a task force that pursues and captures fugitives, typically high-profile fugitives or fugitives that would be under the purview of the federal government for whatever reason. LaCroix has a daughter. Both she and him are into falconry. He doesn’t seem to have any defining or unique traits that would distinguish him otherwise. His personality is pretty bland and nonspecific. He’s good in standoffs when it comes to talking people out of pulling the trigger on someone or themselves.
We’re supposed to be endeared to him, merely because he appears to be a single father. His brief conversations with his daughter, typically at the top or end of an episode, aren’t enough to really endear us to him. His daughter appears to be half Native American and her mother was a soldier who died in Afghanistan. The show has them dealing with that grief and loss. Written by René Balcer, who has been a writer-producer for Law & Order and its spin-offs, this series tries to squeeze in personal moments like between LaCroix and his daughter just as Law & Order did. We’ll see how the show does as it progresses forward. But right now, I don’t feel like this series has been as effective at squeezing in those personal moments, not just with family or friends of the protagonists but also with insights into how each of the protagonists think and feel about their cases or one another with the exception of one.
Kellan Lutz (The Legend of Hercules and Twilight) co-stars as Kenny Crosby, an FBI agent who is former military. Not much is learned about him in the first four episodes, except that he’s the young muscle on the team who is also possibly good at tech. There is a moment in the second episode where Crosby displays some anger management issues, which might need to be addressed. His issues though are only hinted. We get no further exploration in that episode. I understand that this series will go to 10 or 13 episodes, so Balcer and his writers have time to flesh out Crosby as a character, but hooking us into who he is immediately would go a lot further rather than just having him be periphery, occasionally offering exposition or filling an action figure space.
It wouldn’t be a problem if any of the other characters were standouts in any way. LaCroix has three other people on his team. After the first, two episodes, those three are equally as blanks or place-holders as anything else. If you look at a series like the aforementioned Blindspot, each member of the team is distinct and has a specific role that is clear and understandable. We understand with no doubts what each member’s skill or role is. That’s not the case here.
Keisha Castle-Hughes (The Nativity Story and Whale Rider) plays Hana Gibson, another indeterminate character that floats around LaCroix waiting to deliver exposition to him and the audience. Who she is, from where she comes and any details about her life are not known. Maybe those details will come. This series isn’t like ABC’s Lost (2004) where there’s this huge ensemble cast that needs to be deconstructed. It’s only four people. It wouldn’t take that much time in the first, few episodes to give us something more about these people, but alas no! In the third episode, Hana asks a question to the guys and one of them responds as “too personal.” It’s as if the writers don’t care to get too personal with these characters. Again, with the exception of one!
Roxy Sternberg plays Sheryll Barnes. She is the aforementioned, one exception. She starts as another side-player but she really stands out in Episode 4 titled “Caesar,” which is by far the best episode of the bunch so far. Sheryll is a former undercover cop in the NYPD. It’s revealed in Episode 4 that she is a lesbian. She could also be described as a gay or queer person of color. She’s married to a woman and they have a daughter. That episode engages with Sheryll’s personal life in a way that really works for a show like this. Hopefully, future episodes will flow in that matter. Arguably not all of them can be, but in the first season of a new series, doing so is a huge help.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Tuesdays at 10PM on CBS.