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How FBI: Most Wanted Will Handle The Aftermath Of The Big Death And Julian McMahon's Departure, According To The Showrunner

FBI: Most Wanted fans had weeks to prepare for the departure of Julian McMahon as Jess LaCroix, but few probably expected the show to kill him off in such a heartbreaking way in his final episode. Showrunner David Hudgins explained why Most Wanted decided to end Jess’ story with the twist that left Sarah devastated, the team trying to process, and Byron facing the task of helping to tell Tali what had happened to her father. Now, with the show continuing without McMahon, Hudgins has previewed what the aftermath looks like for the people who Jess left behind.

Jess died right when he and Sarah were planning a vacation together as he continued to enjoy “freebirding” after Tali left for boarding school, and Barnes and Hana broke the news to Sarah while Gaines and Ortiz went to tell Byron. When I spoke to David Hudgins about what happens next on FBI: Most Wanted, he explained:

Well, the immediate aftermath is loss, right? Grief and absence. And in the subsequent episodes without Jess there, there's storylines about that, about how the team's dealing with his absence, what it does to the dynamic, what it does with a bit of a power vacuum, and what it does to them emotionally. You know, Isobel comes in for the episode after. And there's just this whole idea of, you know, it's weird. It's two things. One is like, you've got to be professionals, you've got to move on, you've got to keep doing your job, but you're also human. And taking that baggage, if you will, out on the road on a case is something that I think FBI agents have to deal with. So we're playing that emotion both in the workplace, amongst the team as they're handling their next couple of cases, and then it trickles into their personal lives into some scenes and some stories we have about how it's playing out there as well.

The death of Jess will clearly affect the larger FBI universe as well as the Most Wanted team, with FBI’s Alana de la Garza reprising her role as Isobel Castille. David Hudgins’ comments about the agents having to move forward with their work echo his explanation that Jess died as a way to honor that “it’s a very real risk of the job” and “we felt like it was true.” The next two original episodes won’t actually feature an official leader for the team, although things will change in April with the introduction of Dylan McDermott’s new character. 

FBI: Most Wanted brought back Terry O’Quinn as Byron to join Sarah in telling Tali (off-screen) that her dad had died. Although the episode didn’t show his immediate reaction like what Jennifer Landon delivered as Sarah, his part in the aftermath isn’t over. David Hudgins explained how they recruited O’Quinn back for such an important emotional storyline, and confirmed that both he and Landon will be back:

Terry is amazing. We love him in the show. I think the audience loves him as well. He certainly understood when I explained to him what we were planning on doing, the importance of [Jess'] father being there. Because obviously we have Tali off at school, and the idea of having to go and tell the news to Tali, we just thought was so powerful and so emotional. And we knew that Terry could do that, along with Jen Landon who plays Sarah, so that was part of it. And he's still around in subsequent episodes as the team processes their grief.

The show is honoring Jess’ legacy by continuing to explore the fallout of his death rather than going right back to business as usual, which includes keeping his loved ones in the mix. Two episodes without a leader is a fairly long time for a show to go without finding a replacement, and will hopefully help fans find some closure. The show is bringing in somebody to lead the team down the line, with Law & Order: Organized Crime’s Dylan McDermott jumping from playing a villain on OC to playing an FBI agent on Most Wanted.

Few details are available so far about Dylan McDermott’s arrival to fill the void left by Julian McMahon, but fans can look forward to seeing how he mixes things up in the final episodes of Season 3. For now, you can always revisit Julian McMahon’s glory days on FBI: Most Wanted (opens in new tab) with the full series so far streaming with a Paramount+ subscription, and check out the next new episode on Tuesday, March 22 at 10 p.m. ET to close out a night of FBI action on CBS. For more viewing options now and in the coming weeks, take a look at our 2022 TV schedule

Laura Hurley
Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.