NBC’s newest TV drama, The Endgame (2022 -), features FBI characters and plots that are similar to shows like The Blacklist and Blindspot, which were also popular NBC series.
Here’s the premise of the show:
When international arms dealer and criminal mastermind Elena Federova orchestrates seven simultaneous New York City bank heists, principled and relentless agent Val Turner vows to take her down. An outcast in the bureau, Val soon learns that she’ll have to use clues from her own complicated past to try to decipher Elena’s cryptic games. However, as the mystery starts to unravel and chilling secrets are revealed, Val begins to question her own sense of justice when it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems.
With explosions, gun battles in the street, and car chases, The Endgame and the other NBC shows serve up too much fantasy and not enough reality for me.
That’s okay. FBI agents, retired or active, are not the target audience. I’ve never watched The Blacklist or Blindspot, but I’m sure fans of those series will love this one too.
For this FBI policy and procedural accuracy review, I watched the pilot and episode two. There were several issues, but I’ll concentrate on the main one.
In my reality checklist of twenty clichés about the FBI, The Endgame perpetuates myth number 10 – FBI Senior Executives Are Out In the Field.
In The Endgame, the misconception that FBI Senior Executives Are Out In the Field is part of the primary plotline.
I’m always surprised when the main characters in many of the books I read and the TV shows and movies I watch have senior management-level FBI agents actively conducting investigations out in the field.
During these episodes, the fictional director of the FBI is interrogating criminal mastermind Elena Federova, who is being held in custody in a top-secret underground bunker.
The fictional Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) is on-site in the mobile command post at a bank takeover, actively directing the activities of SWAT, evidence collection, and physical and electronic surveillance of the subjects and victims.
I believe he even pulled out his handgun and was involved in a firefight. Throughout the episodes, our FBI hero, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) of the Criminal Branch of the New York Office Valerie Turner is traveling in her Bureau car with lights and sirens blasting back and forth between the underground bunker and the bank heists sites, providing to the Director and ADIC insights and intel regarding the volatile situation. Where is her squad?
In one scene, the ADIC orders SSA Turner to “Work it from the office.” I never had a boss tell me to do that!
I understand the episode pilot must establish and introduce the main characters and that time constraints and character development dictate that there are only a few people for the audience to follow. But in a real FBI crisis event, lots of lower level FBI personnel, not senior executive management, would conduct these activities.
Seldom does FBI management above the supervisor level go out in the field to take part in searches or arrests.
They had their time in the field, but once they’ve moved up the management ladder, their role is to secure the resources and relationships FBI employees, agents and support staff need to accomplish their work. The last place the Director of the FBI, an assistant director in charge (ADIC), or even a special agent in charge (SAC), wants to be is in the field. What if something goes terribly wrong?
I’m only half joking when I say that. Little good can come from the big bosses being on site. If the operation is successful, they can always take credit for the positive outcome back at the office or behind the podium at the likely-to-be-scheduled news conference.
Productive senior executives in the FBI devote their energy to ensuring that the agents have all the resources and support needed to work their cases.
One exception, a special agent in charge of a field office could be assigned as the on-site critical incident commander to oversee a crisis operation, receiving up-to-the-minute briefings from his staff.
To be fair, one of the reasons FBI senior management is rarely present at arrests and searches is that they have full confidence in the abilities of the case agent and squad members. With input from ASACs, squad supervisors, and case agents (who else knows the targets better?), they review and approve all possible scenarios concerning arrests and searches.
Despite these intentional creative compromises regarding FBI chain of command, The Endgame is an action-packed crime drama, adventure show.
You can watch the official trailer for here.
You can read more about FBI management levels and responsibilities in Chapter 10 of FBI Myths and Misconception: A Manual for Armchair Detectives.