Review of FBI (CBS) – Pilot, S1/Ep1

(Disclaimer: If you are watching FBI simply to be entertained, don’t read this review. I’m here to provide a reality check for those who want to learn about the real FBI.)

Recap:  After a bomb explosion devastates a residential apartment building, special agents Maggie Bell and Omar Adom “OA” Zidan of the New York Office of the FBI investigate a possible war between rival gangs.

Review:  I enjoyed the pilot. It’s difficult for me to watch cop shows in general and shows about the FBI are even more problematic. At times the episode was a little over the top – bomb explosions, MS-13, and white supremacist all in one investigation? However, I believe the TV FBI will be a positive platform to showcase the real FBI, and that’s what I was hoping for.


Here’s where they got it right, got it wrong or used creative license and the applicable 20 FBI Clichés Reality Checklist number:

I’m impressed with the Maggie Bell character. She reminds of many of the female agents I worked with during my career. She was married to another agent (I’m sure will hear more about how he died in future episodes) and, in the Bureau, there are plenty of agents married to other agents. At one time, the Philadelphia Division had seven such couples. If only Maggie had kids . . . (#12)

Where was the NYPD? Although they were mentioned, a bombing in the middle of the city with multiple fatalities would be a joint investigation, and assigned to a joint FBI-NYPD Task Force. The ATF would also play an important role in the type of case. (#2)

The Special Agent in Charge (SAC) was at the crime-scenes and actively participating in the investigation. This rarely occurs. Although a SAC may make an appearance at a crime scene for a quick assessment of resource and manpower needs, there are others in the chain of command—squad supervisors and Assistant Special Agents in Charge (ASAC)—who would more likely be present as the incident commander working with the agents assigned to the case. No SAC would conduct subject or witness interviews. (#6)

Maggie and Omar pick up evidence from the crime scene. In real life, an Evidence Response Team (ERT) member would have collected evidence carefully photographing and labeling it first and maintaining a strict chain of custody. (#17)  A bomb tech would be present to assess the post-blast site and the evidence collected to determine the type of explosive device used. (#18) Listen to FBI Retired Case File Review – Episode 086 to learn more about what a bomb tech does.

The depictions of MS-13 telling new members not to get face tattoos was accurate. Nicely done! However, Maggie’s threats to a gang member would not have been very effective in real life. Intimidation rarely works. She needed to discover what he wanted and then what she could use to bargain with him for his cooperation. Perhaps, help to his family in El Salvador would have been a better bargaining chip. (#7) To learn more about MS-13 listen to FBI Retired Case File Review – Episode 103.

There were a few other issues noted that will be discussed in future episodes, but this one gets a thumbs up from me.


If you don’t have the 20 FBI Clichés Reality Checklist, you can join my Reader Team to get it. 

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 200 episodes available for free subscription on all popular podcast apps.

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