Dick Wolf‘s production company really knows how to build successful franchises. The FBI franchise is the latest one, and it’s managed to spawn three series in three short years. The latest is FBI: International, about a Budapest-based “Fly Team” that goes into international cities to root out threats to American interests. It debuted as part of a crossover with the other two FBI shows.
Opening Shot: Budapest, Hungary. FBI Special Agent Jamie Kellett (Heida Reed) gets a call while her boss, Special Agent Scott Forrester (Luke Kleintank), instructs a group of Budapest police on how to disarm a gun-toting bad guy, including kicks to the nethers.
The Gist: In the meantime, in Zagreb, Croatia, a plane lands and guards meet an American billionaire named Colin Kent (Oded Fehr), as he loads a blindfolded and scared young girl into a black car. The guards shoot the police officers that arrive on the scene.
Forrester leads the FBI International Fly Team, which can drop into an overseas location at a moment’s notice and try to neutralize threats to American interests. Rounding out the team is Kellett and Special Agents Andre Raines (Carter Redwood) and Cameron Vo (Vinessa Vidotto), who literally just arrived from her last post in Seattle. The team’s Europol contact, Katrin Jaeger (Christiane Paul), is supposed to be called when the team goes to a location to investigate, but they can also go on their own, without Europol backup.
The first episode centers around Kent and human trafficking; the case is presented to them by Special Agents In Charge Isobell Castille (Alana De La Garza) and Jubal Valentine (Jeremy Sisto). The group immediately goes to Zagreb, to the benefactor’s house where the billionaire is supposedly in hiding. When Croatian law enforcement finds out that the FBI is there, they put a stop to it; Forrester thinks that the cop is in Kent’s pocket and tipped him off.
But when they spot one of the detectives on the scene looking ashamed at the proceedings, they have Jaeger arrange a meeting, and they lean on him to help them find Kent. Joining the team for this sting is Special Agent Omar “OA” Adom (Zeeko Zaki) from the New York office; he has a personal reason to take down Kent, based on a case he worked back in the states. Forrester needs to convince OA to not take down Kent, though, until they have the information he’s carrying on the larger trafficking ring and where a particular girl that’s missing is located.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? FBI: International is the third in Dick Wolf’s relatively-new FBI franchise, so let’s say the show most closely resembles FBI and FBI: Most Wanted.
Our Take: Here’s what we liked about FBI: International: We liked the Budapest base, and the fact that the show actually shoots there. It gives the exterior shots an authenticity that shooting in any North American city other than, say, parts of Quebec or Montreal, can’t. We liked the fact that the show established a crossover vibe immediately, because, well, the units are supposed to work together, right?
We didn’t watch the first two parts of the crossover, so there’s a scene where Jess LaCroix (Julian McMahon) of the Most Wanted team visits someone in the hospital and Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym) offers her help that would have made more sense had we watched the first two shows. But otherwise, the episode felt self-contained, even when OA flies in from New York and tries to bigfoot the team into doing things his way.
But the whole show just feels… well, it feels generic. Despite the location shoot, despite the funky, dusty interior of the Fly Team’s Budapest office, and despite the shaggy dog that actually goes with them on cases, the team just doesn’t have any really distinctive personalities. The characters feel like amalgams of wisecracking characters from all of Wolf’s franchises, including Law & Order and the Chicago shows.
There was nothing particularly wrong with the first episode, even with idea that Kent is a pretty obvious stand-in for Jeffrey Epstein. The chase scenes are well-done, the acting is as wooden at times as you expect from these kinds of shows, and the case itself made sense from a story perspective. But everyone on that team, especially Kleintank as Forrester, just doesn’t stand out.
Unlike the other two FBI shows, International doesn’t have those one or two veterans who draw people in; there’s no Sisto or McMahon in this crew. Kleintank is supposed to be that guy, but his character is so “moral tough guy” generic that he blends in rather than stand out. While that may make for a more cohesive team later in the season, it just makes the show boring at the start. It’s not good when Zaki, who’s a star on the original FBI, stands out more than the show’s regulars do.
Sex and Skin: None, except for the parting shot (see below).
Parting Shot: Forrester comes back to his bland-looking Budapest apartment, pets his dog, and sees the light on in his bedroom. He goes in and sees Kellett naked on his bed (in a network-appropriate manner, of course). He shuts the bedroom door behind him.
Sleeper Star: None, to be honest.
Most Pilot-y Line: “I will not let him get away again!” OA screams about Kent in Forrester’s face. “You will if I say you will!” Forrester screams back. May the battle of the alphas commence!
Our Call: SKIP IT. Unless you really get juiced up by the FBI franchise, there just isn’t enough to get excited about on FBI: International to recommend it.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.