Quantico had my favorite pilot so far this season (although I have to admit that Scream Queens is a close second). I’m a sucker for whodunit mysteries and I love a good flash forward/flashback. ABC has a way of over-utilizing the basic plot of “this is what’s happening now and let’s go into the past to figure out how we all got here.” They’ve done it recently with successful pilots in How to Get Away with Murder and Revenge. It likely all stems from the success of Lost but probably goes back even further than that. Regardless, it’s an effective enough device to hook the audience and it works on me.
The big mystery of Quantico is: who is the terrorist responsible for blowing up Grand Central Station in NYC. The premiere partially focuses on the present day, where our lead Alex awakens in the middle of the debris from an assumed bombing. She immediately gets whisked away by her colleagues in the FBI (she’s a recent recruit who finished training in Quantico) and then slowly realizes that she’s the number one suspect. While being interrogated, she learns that the FBI was tipped off and told one of her fellow trainees (or herself) was a terrorist plant. Her two bosses from her Quantico days play a key role in the NYC storyline. First is Liam O’Conner, deputy director, who we discover has a prior “history” with Alex during her training days. Liam strongly suspects Alex is the culprit and ignores her pleas for help as she is arrested. Second is his boss, Miranda. In the flashbacks, Miranda seems to be the head honcho of the FBI trainees and someone you’d likely suspect would be anti-Alex. In a surprising twist, Miranda is shown driving the FBI truck which holds an imprisoned Alex. She frees Alex after explaining she knows Alex is innocent and tasks Alex to escape and find out who set her up. Ultimately, this exposition serves for what I imagine is the future of our season: Alex must think back to her days at Quantico and figure out who is the terrorist responsible for framing her.
While the terrorist attack, interrogation of Alex, and subsequent car chase all made for great television, it was the flashbacks which hooked me. Picture the premiere of Grey’s Anatomy and you basically get the premiere of Quantico. Pretty woman meets handsome man and has a one night stand. Girl and boy avoid the truth about what they do for a living. Girl starts new training gig and sees boy at her new job. Then a group of trainees learn to navigate their new and exciting job. It really is a rewrite of Grey’s. But hey, why fix what isn’t broken? I do have to give Quantico props for somewhat acknowledging the similarities in pilots and then adding humor to the mix. When Ryan Booth, the aforementioned boy, finally speaks with Alex after their rendezvous in the car, he pretends to be meeting her for the first time. Alex is quick to show she has no shame and blurts out, “we had sex in the car 6 hours ago.” I like her already.
Previously, we were introduced to the slew of supporting characters in a quick montage and we slowly learn more about them throughout the episode. The writers were smart to have the FBI recruits first assignment be to uncover secrets about one another. First, we have Shelby the pretty blonde with an affinity for hunting. We learn that Shelby’s parents died during the 9/11 plane crash and thus she’s here to serve her country. Then there’s Simon who we’re first introduced to as he meets a random stranger to take a photo of him and pretend they are a couple. Come to find out Simon’s a gay virgin Jew who spent time oversees in Palestine (which the FBI agents later allude to by saying they know the real reason he was at Gaza). Next up is the pretty blonde boy Caleb who sucks at everything but is here because his two parents were agents as well. We also have Nimah, the most intriguing, who is a devote Muslim and gets her own room. Simon observe some strange things about Nimah that points him in the direction of assuming she’s two different people (he’s right as we later see Nimah with her twin sister when they both reveal that Miranda is somehow involved in this “twin twist”). Ryan Booth, the handsome “McDreamy” character, is reveled to be an FBI agent under cover as a recruit. None of his colleagues find this out just yet but Liam is in on it. And lastly we have Alex, who tells the story of how her abusive/alcoholic father was shot and killed by her mom in self-defense. While she admits this secret, Liam quickly pulls the plug on the integration which one can only assume means he knows more about the story than Alex is letting on. Come to find out, my inclination was correct, and Alex admits to Liam that she killed her father and shortly thereafter learned he was an FBI agent. So many secrets and so many questions in such a short time.
The biggest disappointment with the premiere was the mishandling of Eric, a Mormon character with (surprise!) a secret. After Caleb is assigned to uncover Eric’s secrets, he begins to taunt him. Eric grows more and more nervous up until the interrogation. He quickly pulls a gun out, shoots the lady administering the polygraph, and points that gun at Caleb. Caleb admits he couldn’t uncover the secret and Eric winds up killing himself. It seemed a bit rushed and pointless. I actually liked his character a lot (until I found out that he impregnated a 14 year old who died after having an abortion). I’m not sure what the point of bringing in Eric was other than just to add some extra drama. Then on top of all that it appears Caleb was kicked out of the program. I’m hoping Caleb comes back. It seems silly to introduce and write off two characters immediately. For now, I’ll have some blind faith that the two play a larger role in the overall series, but I’m betting this could just be a re-casting after the initial shooting.
Overall, a solid pilot and not a single character who annoys me yet. This is one show I will definitely keep watching!