FBI crossover with FBI: Most Wanted paves way for future success

FBI rolled out its first official FBI: Most Wanted crossover this week, and set the CBS franchise up for years of future crossover success.

Season 2 of FBI has already become one of the best TV crime dramas, and this week’s FBI: Most Wanted crossover proves that CBS was more than right to turn the series into a franchise.

Tuesday’s episodes, titled “American Dreams” and “Reveille” respectively, were the first proper team-up between the two series (the first not being a full crossover, but the backdoor pilot that introduced the FBI: Most Wanted characters and premise).

And they were just about everything that TV fans have come to expect in a world where, thanks to Dick Wolf, crossovers have become a hot topic of conversation.

Wolf has found a way over the last several years to integrate his TV series like never before and make crossover events part of the plan. But fans still had to see that bringing FBI and Most Wanted together was worth the time and effort, and not just done for the sake of having a crossover.

Tuesday’s episodes weren’t only worth the wait, they also had a thematic approach that was unique to this franchise, and will make future crossovers engaging regardless of what the specific plot is—looking at the differences between the two teams, and not overly focusing on their similarities.

Particularly in “American Dreams,” we saw the vast difference in approach between Jubal Valentine (Jeremy Sisto) and Jess LaCroix (Julian McMahon). It was even commented on by their colleagues, who pointed out that Jubal deals in facts while Jess is more focused on hunches. Audiences got to see those differences play out on screen, which opened up a much broader and more interesting story than if everyone got along and was all on the same page.

That’s the biggest issue with crossovers. Two connected teams come together and oftentimes in becoming one unit, they also homogenize into one group where everyone agrees and collaborates, and no one is distinct from anyone else. There’s a real danger of characters devolving into just pieces to move a broader story along. FBI and FBI: Most Wanted avoided that trope, and that will be the hook for when they do this again in future.

Working together doesn’t mean that everything has to be together. Having characters debate the best approach, having different philosophical viewpoints, maybe even making choices that cause conflict with other heroes or wind up being mistakes—those are the things that make any episode outstanding, let alone a crossover. They give audiences more to dig into and also take away that safety net of thinking everything will work itself out because everyone’s getting along.

It will be interesting in future circumstances to ask how Jubal and Jess will hash things out, or if Isobel’s experience being in charge of both units might eventually come into play, or how Hana would work in a scene with Maggie (Missy Peregrym being absent from this two-parter). What we don’t know, makes us want to know more and breaks from the expected crossover formula.

That also ultimately enhances both series. FBI: Most Wanted and FBI have certain aspects in common, being part of a franchise, but fans should always feel like there’s a reason for each one of them to exist. They need separate identities, like the shows in the NCIS franchise.

So when they come together, if we see different strengths and weaknesses on each side, we know that there’s a reason not only to watch both shows but to have them come together—because they’ll balance each other out, instead of solely adding on.

Next: CBS All Access' best crime dramas

Both FBI and FBI: Most Wanted air Tuesdays starting at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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