Quantico: Inside

The 11th episode of Quantico – the one-word titled ‘Inside’ – serves as the so-called ‘Fall Finale’. In eleven weeks, Alex Parrish hasn’t exactly made any progress, finding the one(s) responsible for the bomb that went off in the pilot. Every single trainee has got something to hide; there’s no clear suspect yet. It’s just one beat around the bush at a time. Also, another bomb should’ve gone off long ago, but for some reason still hasn’t.

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Happy Holidays
We fall right in the middle of Christmas time at Quantico, FBI training center. Some people went home, because, you know, Christmas, but some decided to stay. Working cases that no one’s ever managed to close. Alex (Priyanka Chopra), Shelby (Johanna Braddy), Natalie (Anabelle Acosta) and Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) are going to try to solve unsolvable cases, from inside a campus building. At least they’ve got something on their hands, while not spending the holidays with their loved ones.

Triple C
Until Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers) walks back in. He’s in need of a quick tuxedo change. Bored out of their minds (you can only stand on one leg for so long), the girls decide to go with him, to the party of his parents. Shelby meets her father- and mother-in-law, and I would’ve expected something of an attraction between her and Caleb’s dad Clayton (Mark Pellegrino), but no. The moment when their sparks seriously started flying is saved for another day. Shelby’s mostly bonding with Caleb’s mother Claire (Marcia Cross) – a lot of C’s in the Haas family, aren’t there?

Trouble in Several Paradises
Shelby loves Caleb, she ‘really does’, but she doesn’t share his quest for truth. Especially now she’s learnt about the time he joined a cult and wanted to blow himself up, for a good cause. He was ‘just seventeen’, which is, like, just a few years ago, I imagine? Anyway, it’s enough reason for Shelby to end their on and off relationship.
One relationship already broken, is the one between Alex and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin). Ryan’s at the party, too, as ‘fate’ would have it, in full undercover mode, playing husband and wife with his former wife Hannah (Eliza Coupe). For another year, at least, they have to pretend playing house, according to Hannah. Alex is beyond jealous, but there’s not much to be done, except act like a jealous teenager who regrets ever dumping this pretty good guy. A brief kiss in an empty room is all she gets.

Do We Care?
The question is, why should we care about all of this? Showing the Quantico training period was a nice plot device, because there’s a mole, but it’s about time they’d focus on the more serious problem at hand. Like stopping another bomb from going off in the heart of New York City, nine months later.

Nine Months Later
Elias (Rick Cosnett) comes walking into the command center, with a head wound. Somebody tried to push him in front of oncoming traffic. Or so he says. Wouldn’t that have been a nice stunt, for the show? Why didn’t we see it, then? Perhaps because it never happened. When he tells Liam (Josh Hopkins) and Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis), the team flies out to investigate. Elias walks away with a smile on his face. Okay, that was too easy. Every time Quantico tries too hard to serve up one of the characters as the bad guy, it’s not that simple.

Blackmail
And it isn’t. The team discovers Simon (Tate Ellington), taped to a chair and detonator. If he lets go, a bomb will blow. Elias, after some persuasion, comes clean. He’d been blackmailed. He kidnapped Simon, hoping to lead the team to him and then find a way to dismantle the bomb, but his little plan blows up in his face.
They do find the bomb, the bomb squad freezes the timer so it doesn’t go off, so Simon can let go. When he does, the bomb goes off anyway. A different one. Somewhere else. When they step outside, they see the command center has been destroyed.

Patience, Man
At least Elias is no longer a suspect. He did however frustrate an FBI investigation. The only way to avoid jail time, is to jump out of the window backwards, which he does. So what have we learnt, after 11 episodes? The mole is still in their midst. His or her motive is unclear. His or her goal is unclear. I guess it will take another 11 episodes before he or she’s finally revealed, and then we’ll have the joy of rewatching the whole first season and pick up on all the clues that we’ve missed. It’s a risky move, though. It really tests the patience of the audience, especially now the soapy side plots are starting to get a little annoying. Quantico could use a little Wayward Pines truth serum, explaining the conspiracy in a single episode and go from there.

Quantico: Cover

Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) was found in the middle of Times Square, tattooed all over, no, wait a minute. She’s the one who found the Pre-Cog, right? No. Lives in Berlin? Hit a guy who crashed headfirst through the windshield? No, and no. It does show Hollywood has finally put women front and center, and an even bigger surprise: the series they carry are actually quite good.

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Chapter 3
Chopra’s the FBI recruit who’s been framed, and the name of the show is Quantico. After ‘Run’ and ‘America’, the third episode is called ‘Cover’. Expect one word titles for the remainder of the series. It very much has a been there done that feel to it. A nice gimmick, maybe, twenty years ago. At least choose interesting words, if you desperately want to commit to it. They must surely think the viewer doesn’t care about titles anyway, but I for one do. It’s a (very, very small) disgrace (too hard to see with the naked eye) that, for example, Episodes and House of Cards don’t have titles at all. It’s just Chapter this, Chapter that. That’s lazy.

Squeeze Her
Anyway, Quantico. It has no intention of slowing down. It’s one quickly paced (sometimes helped by the editing, which occasionally just speeds things up when people take a second too long to walk from point A to B) scene after another. Most dialogues consist of a total of only four lines, until it’s on to the next one. It’s professionally done, don’t get me wrong, but you want a little breathing room sometimes. You also want time for tension to build up, like when the FBI brings in Parrish’ mother. When Liam (Josh Hopkins) promises the viewer to squeeze her like a wet towel, in order to get the information he wants, there needs to be suspense. What’s he going to do, how far is he willing to go? But because of the wham bam editing, that suspense never has a chance to grow. It’s not like the scenes fell flat – that’s how good this show is – but the whole interrogation was over before you knew it.

Startup
Parrish is still on the run, and if you were wondering what happened to all the other recruits in the present, the show gives you one answer. She shows up at Simon’s (Tate Ellington) doorstep. He’d been cut from the recruiting program and is working at a startup company. Their first conversation is a bit weird and not because Parrish is all over the news. She’s like: I’m sorry you were sent away, but I liked you. And he’s like: Look at me, I’m a loser, because I’m working for an app company. He’s living in quite a big, spacey, modern house, by the way. So she’s like: You’re doing alright for yourself. And he smiles – which means he agrees. So why be such an aggrieved dick at first? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

Thumb Scar
But he helps her, by scanning the stuff she took from her apartment, running her fingerprints, the usual. They figure out she was framed by one of the other recruits, and was probably handpicked right at the beginning of the program. During Quantico, she got a scar on her thumb. That scar must’ve been there on the fingerprints found on the planted evidence, but isn’t.

Always Go for the Blonde
The show clearly wants you to guess who the terrorist is. And it could be anyone, of course. Everybody’s acting strange. But I’d pick the blonde. The least predictable choice. Shelby (Johanna Braddy) is the lovely country girl, so therefor the ideal suspect. This week we’ve learnt her father died on 9/11. She didn’t say how, or on which side. Later, she’s making a wire transfer of a million dollars. That’s actually too suspicious. It’s almost like they want us to put our money on her, which makes me doubt my choice.

Jakob
And there’s a new boss on the block. Deputy director Clayton’s played by the actor who’ll always be known as Jakob: Mark Pellegrino. He’s working around Liam, and seems to be the one who secretly recruited Simon. Any other show would feel contrived, but Quantico is just great fun.

Quantico: America

Quantico is a hit. ABC’s throwing so-called ‘encores’ around like Christmas morning. I don’t really see the point of an encore nowadays, since everything’s everywhere, at any point, on multiple devices and streaming outlets, but okay. It’s well-deserved, because even though episode 2 doesn’t open up about the whole mystery, it’s wildly entertaining.

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Quick Switch
The only thing about the show that could be done a little better, is the switching between flashbacks and -forwards. At times, the scenes jump from the Training Days 9 Months Ago to Attack in New York Current Day, and back, and forth, within 30 seconds (maybe less, I didn’t keep count). That’s just too quickly. However you decide to edit the separate time lines together, the audience needs to adjust every time – so give them that time.

Automatically on her Side
The flashbacks are fun. They could’ve easily been a boring distraction from the thing that matters most; Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) running from the FBI, while trying to figure out who is actually responsible for setting off a bomb. If she’s not the one, that is. She’s the main character, a likeable, easily relatable character, so you’re automatically on her side, but this show holds so many secrets and is bound to surprise you whenever it can, so we shouldn’t rule her out just yet. The longer it takes before a real bad guy comes into view, the more likely it becomes that Parrish is the criminal mastermind.

Dirty Hills Suspects
However, the flashbacks serve one purpose and one purpose only. To put a lot of suspects in front of you, make them all as suspicious as possible, and leave the speculation up the viewer. It’s a combination of The Usual Suspects, the board game Cluedo and The Dirty Dozen. With a little Beverly Hills 90210 thrown into the mix. It’s because Quantico has seemingly plotted out interesting enough backstories, motivations and quirky personality traits for every single recruit, that makes the training days just as entertaining as Parrish running through New York City, discovering a hidden entrance to her own apartment.

Shadow
If you’re being chased by the FBI, rule number one is not to go to your own apartment, where the evidence is (allegedly) planted. The place is definitely going to be watched, if not crawling with special agents. But Parrish finds a way in. Finds the evidence just sitting there (so why not take a few things with her?) No one’s guarding the door, until what used to be her ‘shadow’ shows up. During the months of training, Parrish found herself in a rivalry with Natalie Vasquez (Anabelle Acosta, Ballers). A worthy competitor, who’s chasing her across rooftops – but ultimately, Parrish manages to – quite simply – handcuff Natalie to a pipe and get away.

Drama Writing Trick
Parrish’ idea is to somehow get some clues from the evidence she snatched. She’ll also get help from Booth (Jake McLaughlin), who was found shot and unconscious in her apartment, but he’s okay now. In order to lead the FBI away from her, he says he needs to act like she was the one who shot him. I’m not sure why. Couldn’t he just have said he didn’t remember? Or if he does, tell them it wasn’t Parrish? I’m afraid this is merely a drama writing trick, to let everybody have as many secrets as they can bear, but they should’ve had Booth explain his reasoning a little better. A few words would’ve been enough, because now it’s kind of just hanging there.

Head Spin
But maybe that’s exactly what they want. Who knows whether Booth is still in Josh Hopkins’ (Liam O’Connor) pocket. Maybe he has no intention of helping Parrish. Or Hopkins. Maybe Booth is behind the bombing.
Well, as you can see, Quantico has put the head spinning in serious motion. Anything’s still possible. No one can be trusted. Hopefully it’s going to stay that way for some time.

Quantico: Run

One of the highly anticipated pilots this year was ABC’s Quantico. The trailer offered a bad ass female action star, hints at a huge conspiracy, but also a breath of soapy elements, almost as if Grey’s Anatomy took place within the (recruiting program of the) FBI. Mind you, as we’ve seen the past week, this series has steep competition, with newcomers Blindspot, The Player, Limitless, to name only a few, so it’d better bring its A game.

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Flashbacks
What that actual A game is, remains somewhat of a mystery, because the show’s kind of split in half. It’s what the first couple of seasons of LOST used to do, using flashbacks in which everybody was trying desperately to find clues about the nature (and/or ending) of the show, but all they turned out to be were unnecessary, tiny backstories that just took away too much time from what we all did want to see; the island. If anything, Quantico has learnt from the ABC show that came before it.

Attack
Most of the pilot, called ‘Run’, is spent introducing the characters on their first days at Quantico, the FBI training facility for new recruits. The idea is, somebody in that group is responsible for a big (terrorist) attack in New York, nine months later. That’s where the flash forwards take place. At the blast site, recruit Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) is picked up – not knowing how she got there.
She’s brought into an improvised interrogation room, with a photo wall of suspects. The FBI has narrowed down the field of suspects to their latest class of newbies (apparently there’s a clue – which is not shared – that it can only have been one of the recruits). They ask Parrish to think back, and retroactively profile her fellow classmates. Who’s most likely to blow up buildings?

Escape
Then the tables get turned. The FBI takes a look in her apartment and finds all the evidence (and more) that she’s the one. C4, schematics, the whole nine yards. We all know it must be planted, but the FBI acts like the typical television version of the FBI and discards even the possibility of foul play. Parrish is taken away, but escapes with the help of one of her training officers, Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis, E-Ring, Justice, True Blood, The Book of Negroes).

A-Team Style
It’s too early to tell, but wouldn’t a bomb threat be more exciting? Now, the bomb’s gone off, so what is there to gain? What if the first season of 24 was all about who assassinated presidential candidate David Palmer, instead of who’s trying to?
Presumably, the recruit who demolished a building will be doing it again. Does this mean we’ll have a different ground zero every week? And Parrish trying to catch him/her, while being – A-Team style – on the run herself? And every episode having flashbacks, like in LOST and Damages?
My bet is, we will. And I can’t say that’s such a wrong move.

Survive
Chopra is great. She’s got the, well, balls, to be a tough and sexy secret agent. She’s surrounded by a great cast, too. Jake McLaughlin (Crash, Believe), Yasmine Al Massri (Crossbones), Anthony Ruivivar (Southland, Banshee), Johanna Braddy (UnReal) and more. I was afraid it’d be too much like a soap opera with guns, but there’s always something serious at stake. It never steeps to the level of who slept with who, gossiping and long stares into space.
The direction is fine. Not great. They’d also better change the editor, because there are some very questionable editing choices throughout the episode. The music’s quite okay, the dialogues have enough meat on their bones, and like a true whodunnit, everyone could be the Nina Myers of Quantico. The question is, with so many new action shows premiering, which one survives the fall. Quantico has a fighting chance.