Synopsis – A look at the lives of young FBI recruits training at the Quantico base in Virginia when one of them is suspected of being a sleeper terrorist.
Episodes – S01E01 to S01E22
My Take – So after a long and harrowing stint we have finally seen the face of the terrorist who has been keeping us as a viewer on knees for about 6-7 months now. Yes! The season 1 of this ABC thriller starring Bollywood import Priyanka Chopra finally closed curtains on its high on entertainment 22 episodes adventure into the fictional life of ‘NATs’. A sudsy, snappy mash-up of How to Get Away with Murder and Homeland, ABC’s Quantico boasts one of the most breathless major network premieres in recent memory, a brisk and batty hour packed with dramatic confrontations, steamy car sex, deadly standoffs, off-the-wall twists and just about every other trick in the soap-opera sandbox. Here is a series that, similar to NBC’s Blindspot aping The Blacklist, would have looked drastically different in a parallel world, and that works diligently to align itself with the Scandal creator’s ethos of diversity and duplicity. Before I proceed further I need to warn, you will find SPOILERS ahead. Quantico is one of those shows that all of us have seen before. Not literally, but as far as storyline and creativity go, we’ve all seen it. But what makes this show a stand out is – its suspenseful character driven writing and of course the star of the show Priyanka Chopra. Initially when the show started there had been a lot of concern regarding the unrealistic approach the show took.
Well, as far as I am concerned, it was never meant to be documentary, it’s a TV show and it’s meant to be entertaining, not instructive. Constant comparisons where also drawn to Showtime‘s more realistic and brooding Homeland (which I am a big fan of too), which (according to me) are quite unfair as both shows flow in different directions in terms of the characters, motivations and final outcomes. True, Quantico as a show never blows your mind, mainly due to the inconsistency of logic behind the actions of Fed’s or the agents or the terrorist as shown especially in the final episodes. But I don’t fault it for that since, to me, it’s not even it’s function to be one. It’s supposed to be an entertainer, and does a decent job of being one! The story follows Alex Parish (Priyanka Chopra), a whip-smart, confident FBI trainee who enters Quantico, Virginia, alongside a diverse crop of recruits, determined to prove that she has what it takes to serve her country as a federal agent. The training is intense, pushing Alex and the others to their breaking points physically and psychologically. But viewers already know that Alex will be among the graduates, because the show tells us that in the beginning itself. The real action of Quantico picks up nine months later, when the freshman agent finds herself at the center of a deadly terrorist attack on New York City’s Grand Central Station. Inexplicably unharmed by the blast, she crawls out of the rubble, only to discover that she’s suspected by her overseers of carrying out the attack herself. Knowing that if she surrenders, she’ll never see the light of day again, Alex must rely on her memory of the other recruits to figure out which one of them was responsible. With the story shifting between the present day (a shocking terrorist attack and the efforts to find the the suspect) and the past (the training and relationships of a class of recruits at Quantico, each of whom has their own tangled motivations for wanting to be an FBI agent). The flashback technique used here is very effective and allows the viewer to get to know the characters through the training they undergo and their own individual stories, which are slowly revealed to the viewer in each subsequent episode.
Every week, this show had me hooked. Mainly due to the help of its excellent pacing. It manages to get you involved in the lead player’s stories, while managing to on to your nerves for the suspense that is maintained throughout. In-fact it is so rapid, that you sometimes get jumbled to keep the pieces together, not to mention it’s captivating anyway. Many series also tend to glorify just the main character while leaving the other characters more of a caricature or just fillers. This one’s, thankfully, has not fallen prey to that. There are many characters that are fairly promising to develop into surprises and twists later in the series. This keeps anticipation high. Is Ryan Booth really all that good? What’s Simon Asher’s game really? Shelby’s story sounds too simple to be believed, given the ‘trend’ the story indicates about the messy past of most other prominent characters. Having said all that, the show has its own fair share of ‘negatives’, some of them which have directly or indirectly affected its viewership and ratings. This may sound weird, but this is one of those rare shows which is filled with poorly written ‘male’ characters. Yea I know this is supposed to be a show with a female lead, and I am all for girl power, trust me! But here the male characters are most of the time confused and just doing things without any explanation. Jake McLaughlin’s character Booth leads the pack on this one. Is on-off romance with Alex, was perhaps the most distracting part of the whole series. Agreed while Alex too cant make up her mind about him most of the time, Booth does nothing most of the time other than being her punching bag or some times a tear eyed puppy. I don’t think Jake McLaughin is a bad actor, but thanks to his zero charm, it hard to understand why he would chase Alex most of the time when he has other ladies like Natalie (Anabelle Acosta) or his ex wife Hannah (Eliza Coupe) just round the corner. The same goes for Caleb (Graham Rogers). While Caleb is a likable character most of the time (especially during the final act), his relationship with Shelby (Johanna Braddy) which eventually starts off as harmless, turns into a yawn fest sub plot where he helps to find her presumably dead parents which ends in the most stale way possible with Caleb looking nothing short of a meddling fool. Plus his involvement with a cult starts off a cool idea but loses steam half way with a lackluster resolve.
The reveal of Liam O’Connor (Josh Hopkins) being the man behind the whole thing was excellent! Being an avid reader & watcher of suspense novels/films, it has become quite a habit of mine to pick out the suspects. But this I did not see it coming even from a mile. Facing off a mentor who has taught you everything is a theme explored many times before quite effectively, but here despite having a better chemistry than Booth, the whole Alex and Liam connection feels like a cop out the moment he explains ‘it was his plan all along’. Even know I am not sure I understood his reasoning behind everything he pulled. Plus how did he pull of all that? With some cameras! How did get access to all those bombs? Yet, among the rubble of badly written male characters, Simon (Tate Ellington) breaks out from the mold. He has the most emotional and heartfelt back story to support his character, its just easy to understand his pain and mistakes. And its nice to see the final moment pay an excellent tribute to his character, by giving his own excellent ‘Hero’ moment. Among the ladies namely Shelby (Johanna Braddy), the Amin twins (Yasmine Al Massri) and Miranda (Aunjanue Elli) stand out. Miranda’s equation with her dysfunctional son was excellent. The cast has an amazing, believable chemistry and play their roles well. I was never a fan of Priyanka Chopra when she was doing just Bollywood films (which I still think she is awful in some of them). I was skeptical about her blending in with the Hollywood cast. At first her casting seemed like more of culturally diverse casting coup to grab headlines (which I am pretty sure it was to some extend), yet Priyanka Chopra plays her role very convincingly. She’s more than just a pretty face, the girl has finally shown her talent. She manages to bring so many aspects to her character – strength, empathy, toughness, mystery and vulnerability. She is what makes her character alive. She is what drives the show. Her accent, while Facebook and Twitter trolls would not stop making fun of it, is perfect. She doesn’t try to go over the top, rolling her tongue or not finishing words as the Americans usually do. She speaks each syllable of the word and is very easy on Indian ears. Yes, she isn’t all Raj Koothrapali (The Big Bang Theory) or Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (The Simpsons), who speak English in an Indian accent that we Indians too have difficulty relating to. So does the show work? Yes! Viewers have clearly enjoyed it deliriously fun season of conspiracy-thriller craziness while maintaining a thin line between its overly familiar aspects. On the whole, ‘Quantico’ Season 1 is suspenseful and character-driven despite being a bit too cheesy at times, the series maintained its momentum of being an entertainer. It remains to be seen if Season 2 follows the same tropes and stay exciting or loses steam like most such kind of shows do.
Creator – Joshua Safran
Status – Season 1 (Completed)
Network – ABC