“Hairtrigger” tackles a complex subject with admirable sensitivity in the best episode of FBI: Most Wanted so far.
This recap of FBI: Most Wanted Season 1, Episode 3, “Hairtrigger”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episodes by clicking these words.
It’s pretty typical that no sooner do I describe FBI: Most Wanted as boasting “simple procedural pleasures” the very next episode tackles the enduring, controversial issue of mass shootings in the United States. And what’s more, “Hairtrigger” isn’t shy about the topic. For network TV it’s surprisingly heavy, amounting to an episode without a clear moral solution that stands out as easily the most significant of this still-young season so far.
Strongly concerning the exploits of teenager Doug Timmins (an impressive Charlie Tahan), FBI: Most Wanted Episode 3 opens with him shooting and killing both a drunk driver and the cop who responds to the commotion. It’s a surprisingly frank opening that puts across Doug’s resentment of authority, his instability, and the fact that “Hairtrigger” isn’t going to be going easy on the subject.
The procedural A-to-B plotting of the episode gradually reveals the root cause of Doug’s instability and the shape of his plans; a survivor of a school shooting which claimed the life of his friend, he has spiraled deeper and deeper into mania ever since, directing his ire at the U.S. government and its various institutions that have, in his mind, failed the people they are designed to protect by refusing to legislate gun reform. In that opening scene, he berates the attending cop for hassling drunks but not being there when it counts. Doug’s reactions are clearly criminal and immoral, but they’re rooted in his post-traumatic stress and his – on some level justifiable – frustration with a climate of fear that engulfs the survivors of preventable tragedies.
This being a Dick Wolf procedural, there are no shortage of twists and turns in FBI: Most Wanted Episode 3, the most significant of which being the role of Doug’s half-sister Molly (Jess Gabor) in his predicament. It builds to a finale in which the antidote to violence is, on some level, what Doug wanted all along: Dialogue. Jess LaCroix (Julian McMahon) orders his team to lower their weapons in the standoff and talks to Doug about “his message” while the young man holds a gun to his own head, intent on martyring himself for his cause.
This scene goes on for a while, and I appreciate that “Hairtrigger” didn’t allow its outcome to become too uncomplicated. Despite LaCroix’s willingness to listen to Doug, insistence from other sources that he’s doing the right thing, that he will be remembered, that his life will amount to something, are enough to keep him on the brink of suicide until LaCroix is forced to physically intervene. The most powerful moment of the episode is Doug face-down on the floor while being arrested, screaming his apologies into the ground for having failed in his “noble” mission. It’s an uncomfortable moment to close an intense sequence; a not-too-happy ending to what was otherwise a success. While it’s easy to dismiss a network procedural for how capably it provides essentially the same story and experience week after week, FBI: Most Wanted Season 1, Episode 3 proved that we shouldn’t be so quick to do so.