Spoilers ahead for the two back-to-back episodes of CBS’ FBI: Most Wanted on April 14.
FBI: Most Wanted launched on CBS in the 2019-2020 TV season as an FBI spinoff. Considerably darker than its parent series, Most Wanted follows the FBI’s Fugitive Task Force in hunting down the most wanted criminals across the country. Thanks to a recent connection between Chicago P.D. and FBI, Most Wanted now shares a universe with NBC's One Chicago (and Law & Order: SVU) as well as FBI.
As I spent another night trying and failing to engage with Most Wanted this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that FBI: Most Wanted could learn a thing or two from Chicago P.D.
First, why have I latched onto Chicago P.D. as the show that FBI: Most Wanted could learn from, when it now has ties to all three One Chicago shows, SVU, and of course FBI? Well, the most straightforward reason is that Chicago P.D. is the only one of the NBC Dick Wolf shows that has crossed over to FBI on CBS, so Most Wanted has fewer degrees of separation from P.D. than from any series other than FBI.
Also, P.D. is arguably the One Chicago version of Most Wanted: darker than the series that launched it, airing in the 10 p.m. ET hour, following an ensemble cast, and investigating a variety of brutal crimes. SVU almost fits the bill, but its relatively tangential connections to the other shows in its shared universe, central focus on Olivia Benson, and investigations into a very specific kind of crime makes it less of a fit to FBI: Most Wanted than P.D., in my mind.
So, why do I think FBI: Most Wanted needs to learn some things from Chicago P.D.? It actually took me most of Most Wanted Season 1 and nearly all of Chicago P.D. Season 7 to realize why I couldn’t connect to Most Wanted but have been loving P.D.
The One Chicago series takes advantage of its ensemble status by switching between the characters to star in their own episodes, or at least their own arcs. For example, there are Halstead-centric episodes and Upton-centric episodes and Burgess-centric episodes, without the show being about Halstead, Upton, or Burgess week in and week out. Voight is the anchor, but he doesn't consume the series. While this means that my favorites may only get the spotlight every few episodes, I get to know all the characters and invested in the different ways they relate.
Most Wanted has had episodes focusing on different characters, but Jess LaCroix is clearly and consistently at the center of the series, to the detriment of other characters and viewers who aren't very invested in his character.
And characters and their relationships are very important in procedurals. Chicago P.D. cases are pretty procedural, with the good guys crossing lines to get the bad guys who are generally murderers, drug dealers, and/or kidnappers. If it’s a crime and it can happen in Chicago, Chicago P.D. has probably already done it a few times. But because the characters are interesting and dynamic, the cases of the week that can blend together are worth watching.
FBI: Most Wanted is also quite procedural, even more so than FBI. Admittedly, this is partially due to the format of the series with LaCroix and Co. chasing a different most wanted criminal in each episode, and the fact that Most Wanted doesn’t have a central location like the other Dick Wolf series.
I just need something familiar to latch onto and make me want to tune in to CBS every Tuesday night at 10 p.m. because I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I’m not saying Most Wanted needs to start coupling off the various members of the team or delivering weekly relationship drama, but I want depth on more characters than just LaCroix. I want to care about all these characters.
All of this said, Chicago P.D. has had seven seasons to find its groove, and FBI: Most Wanted hasn’t even finished its first, so it can be excused some of its stickier areas. In fact, FBI took a while for me to get invested. Still, Chicago P.D. is already renewed for three more seasons, and FBI: Most Wanted’s future is uncertain beyond the end of Season 1. I for one would like to see FBI: Most Wanted continue to take advantage of the 10 p.m. time slot but also develop characters, relationships, and dynamics more like Chicago P.D.
Still, FBI: Most Wanted will soon be the only Dick Wolf series with new episodes in the 2019-2020 TV season. FBI, One Chicago, and Law & Order: SVU will soon (or already did) conclude their current seasons prematurely, whereas Most Wanted will be able to run a little longer. You can find new episodes airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS. Neither FBI nor FBI: Most Wanted have been renewed or cancelled for the 2020-2021 TV season at this point.