FBI: Most Wanted‘s fall finale is not only different in that it will air an hour earlier (this Tuesday at 9/8c), but in how it represents a “huge departure” for the CBS procedural, says series lead Julian McMahon.
The holiday-themed outing opens festively enough with McMahon’s Special Agent Jess LaCroix out Christmas shopping with daughter Tali (YaYa Gosselin), girlfriend Sarah (Jen Landon) and his dad Byron (Terry O’Quinn). But just as they run into FBI colleague Sheryll Barnes (Roxy Sternberg) and her expectant wife Charlotte (Fedna Jacquet), gunshots ring out across the mall, as three masked and armored shooters terrorize shoppers.
LaCroix and Barnes swiftly swing into action, doing their best to ensure the safety of their loved ones while also trying to neutralize the threat; along the way, they get an assist from a former Texas lawman, played by K. Todd Freeman (A Series of Unfortunate Events). Meanwhile, Special Agents Gibson, Ortiz and Gaines (played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, Miguel Gomez and Alexa Davalos) work the case from outside.
What follows is “huge departure” for FBI: MW “in regards to the format” McMahon tells TVLine. “We usually start with a Muster Room thing where we get the information about what happened, and then we go into an interrogation process and end up catching the bad guy in the end.” The fall finale, though, “starts out as our Christmas episode, and then all Hell breaks loose, so to speak, and it becomes a format unto itself — something we haven’t done on this show.”
Jess’ father gets pulled into the derring-do at one point — “It was so cool, the moment where he steps up and says it’s that time in his life where he has to do something,” his TV son raves — while Tali and Sarah form a stronger, long-elusive bond because of the harrowing ordeal. “The Sarah/Tali thing was really quite beautiful,” McMahon offers. “It’s an interesting thing to be under so much pressure, and what comes out of that.”
Sheryll, meanwhile, is aghast to realize that Charlotte never made it outside to safety.
“Emotionally, the connective tissue of this episode is different,” McMahon says. “You’ve got all of your family members pretty much in the mall, and an emotional through-line connects of all of them as this tragic moment touches everybody’s lives in a way you can’t do without an extreme reality. Usually you go to Jess’ house, or you go to Barnes’ house… but this is everybody. They’re all connected and they have a common goal.”
Though McMahon promises that Most Wanted‘s fall finale “wraps up with a Christmas bow,” the fact is that in today’s America, there is never a good time for an episode such as this to air, especially as viewers are braving the malls themselves. But McMahon has to wonder if seeing fictional FBI agents fell some baddies somehow provides a relief from real-world stress.
“It’s an interesting thing…. I kind of feel like with these shows, you always get asked, ‘What does the audience get out of this, and why do they keep coming back?'” the Australian actor shares. “I was thinking over the weekend that there’s always something to lean into that’s tragic, but there might be something in the fact that when you sit down and watch a show like this, with all the stuff that’s going on in the world, it’s almost like you can hand the responsibility and stress about what’s going on in our society to Jess LaCroix and his team and say, ‘Go take care of it for me,’ and that’s what they do.
“For an hour of your life, you give the responsibility to somebody else and you see the good guys win,” he continues. “It’s almost therapeutic, where you say, ‘Everything’s crazy, but these guys are gonna fix it’ — and at the end of the day, they do. I’d like to think there is solace in that.”