Viewers of Dick Wolf’s Law & Order spinoffs knew better than to expect anything original when it came to his new show on CBS, FBI. Sure enough, it didn’t take very long at all for the old tired liberal TV tropes to appear on the September 25 series pilot.
FBI premieres with FBI Agent Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym) and her Arab-American partner Agent Omar Adom "OA" Zidan (Zeeko Zaki) investigating a horrifying explosion in the South Bronx that completely dismantles an apartment building, killing several people, including children. Initially, the suspects include members of African-American gangs and MS-13, the latter of which is described by Agent Bell as having been “started to protect Salvadoran refugees from black street gangs.”
Soon a second bomb targets a recreational center nearby, and a young man named Wilmer who works there is brought in for questioning when it's discovered he sends money back to his family in El Salvador. “Don’t worry, we’re not looking to deport you,” Bell tells Wilmer, only to then threaten his family back home should he not talk once he’s been caught on camera accepting the bomb from a more stereotypical looking MS-13 member, complete with the face tattoos.
But in classic Dick Wolf fashion, we don’t even meet the true mastermind until halfway through the episode when white nationalist Robert Lawrence (Dallas Roberts) pops up our of nowhere as a suspect. African American FBI analyst Kristen Chazal (Ebonée Noel) figures out that the bomb is similar to one which was used to target a synagogue, which they almost nabbed Lawrence for last year.
Lawrence is frequently on TV and described as “the guy they always put on when they want the alt-right to seem legit,” though “if you listen closely to his dog whistles, the guy’s a Nazi.”
The FBI agents put their heads together and surmise that white supremacist Lawrence partnered with MS-13 for the money, though not solely for that. “He starts a race war,” Zidan offers. “Mud people start blowing each other up.”
When Bell and Zidan do meet with Lawrence, the conversation goes about as one would expect, with talk of his organization the Fund for National Greatness, Nazis, what’s “good for our country” and how “God intended” things to be.
Lawrence: Are you familiar with Godwin's law? It's the idea that the end point of any intellectual debate is one party calling the other a Nazi. I'm not a Nazi.
Bell: You prefer white nationalist?
Lawrence: I prefer Americanist.
Zidan: Except in your America, it's okay to blow up Jews, African Americans?
Lawrence: I don't believe in violence as a means to any social end.
Bell: So what do you believe in, Mr. Lawrence?
Lawrence: The Fund for National Greatness was founded to examine public policy under a single objective lens: Is it good for our country?
Bell: So you protested the opening of a synagogue, then tried to bomb it, because it was bad for America?
Lawrence: I told your colleagues last year, I don't know about the bomb. I do know New York has more synagogues than any city outside of Israel.
Zidan: And that's a problem for you?
Lawrence: They pushed out a hospice, and we don't have enough of those.
Bell: Oh, so what you're really passionate about is health care?
Lawrence: We spend billions of dollars on these people in the last year of their life. 75% of that is in the final few months. I mean, don't you see the absurdity in that?
Zidan: You must be the most boring speaker at these hate rallies.
Lawrence: It's not a joke. We should put these people in hospices, let them die the way God intended, and then spend that money--
Zidan: Let's go back to talking about bombings on synagogues and minority communities.
Lawrence: Is our conversation too difficult for you to follow, Agent Zidan? You must be terribly conflicted.
Bell: We're not here to discuss politics.
Lawrence: Or maybe you and your partner can't handle uncomfortable truths. [Chuckles] Don't you have anything to say?
Zidan: Not to you.
Lawrence isn’t the only white supremacist criminal mastermind, though! Brick Peters, a rather Irish-looking man with his pale skin and red hair who runs the recreational center, has helped with the bomb making. He knew Lawrence from their time in the Army together at Fort Bragg (disgruntled veterans? CHECK!) and there's a reference to the Charlottesville riots - a joke about how the two didn’t have time to buy their “tiki torches.” When Agents Bell and Zidan get Peters in the interrogation room he quickly ends his charade of acting like an upstanding citizen when he asks Bell if “they pay you extra to drag this affirmative action baboon around?”
What ultimately gets Peters to talk is concern for his mother, since he says he “can’t leave my mother alone with those animals in the South Bronx,” which is the only reason he’s given for being in the area to begin with. She runs a diner there, which, according to him is always getting robbed.
In the end, Chizal is able to find the next bomb Lawrence has planted, and Bell and Zidan arrest him. Zidan is even able to have the last word. “Do you know what you made possible that is good for our country? This,” he says as he handcuffs Lawrence. Mic drop from the heroic Middle Eastern FBI agent. Because there just aren’t enough tropes from this show.
This isn’t the first time, however, that Hollywood has turned to the alt-right white supremacist boogeyman when they needed a terrorist mastermind. We’ve seen this before, with Quantico another FBI-themed show on ABC as well as ABC's Designated Survivor.
We’re used to these liberal plots, but couldn’t Dick Wolf try to come up with something new, even just for the sake of variety?