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Poster for ABC's Quantico

Quantico, Season 1, Episode 1 - Exciting and Fast-Paced Without the Flare of its Competition

HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell Quantico opens with total confidence, almost arrogance, in its premise and direction. With snappy editing and boisterous music, it shoots us snaps at a small handful of characters we’re obviously going to get to know, but in a pretty jarring manner.

From the go, it wants us to know that it is a modern, open-minded and politically correct tale. One of the first shots is a man kissing his male partner and taking a selfie on a busy city street, before later bringing the framed picture into full focus (if only for a second). One girl comments on a ‘win for equality’, noting the gender-neutral clothing. There is a Mormon, a secretive Muslim, a conservative gay man, and strong women with dark pasts. The diversity is on full show, but it’s a common way to conceive a modern network show.

Quantico follows a large group of trainees looking to secure their place as agents for the FBI. Weaving between the introductions to these characters is a story that takes place six months later, in which a terrorist attack has taken place and an as yet unknown member of that group of recruits is the prime suspect.

The main story, the aftermath of the attack, helps to distract from the exposition going on in the past, which nevertheless isn’t altogether overt anyway. What is overt is its absolute devotion to its diversity, a modern performance of a fictional 9/11 with enough cultural flavour mixed in to keep everyone happy. That too is used to further put the microscope on a varying number of characters, ultimately defying our expectations and also playing with some pre-misconceptions.

The cast is headed by Priyanka Chopra, who brings a powerful but possibly overly confident portrayal of the young FBI recruit Alex Parrish. Jake McLaughlin plays Ryan Booth, who we first meet seated across from Alex on a plane, and who is analysed in an early scene in meticulous detail (a teaser of things to come).

Watching as layers are stripped from a select few characters is fascinating, particularly due to the fact that now we’re looking for the enemy too. Anonymity is played up in the first episode, and red flags are no doubt set to be false ones as the mystery wears on.

Mind games and meticulous word smarts are the central key to building tension in the pilot, while its training sequences are far less interesting. That there is always an eye on someone, or a remark that questions another person’s personality; that everyone has a secret is what drives the plot. Each of the characters, despite all this, feel very real, like people we might actually meet on the street. And just like us, they have secrets, but they also have believable personalities. A lot of time went into creating each of these characters.

Zooming out to take a look at the Quantico opener as a whole, it feels like a stylish, unashamedly over the top drama-thriller, flashback heavy in much a similar way to Lost, with mystery and intrigue to vie (unsuccessfully) with Homeland. If we’re comparing it to other notable tales of character drama and terrorist operation, it feels like a rushed effort to diversify our television and build a compelling mystery. Many questions are raised in the opener to keep us interested moving toward the second episode, but maybe too many.

Its diversity in the end feels fake, a tacked on modern socio-political angle that is on the surface successful, but can’t wrench the show free of one nagging flaw; it's all show and flow, and very little more. Its lightning fast pace wants to excite and intrigue us, and with a curious assortment of characters the formula sounds foolproof. But it is so invested in the moment, and even more so in the next moment, that it demands that we be just as excited as its writers and editors.

No clearer is that than in the music, so loud it often makes it difficult to hear the characters. When you can hear them, it’s all about pairing them up into two-person conflicts, which is a rather one-dimensional way to utilise a broad cast. So, fittingly, the final sequence of the episode, an uninspiring chase sequence, tasks two characters with the escape. This feels cheap and a basic excuse to end the episode on a cliffhanger and with no other way to achieve it.

Quantico has its flaws, and those flaws might just become clearer and clearer by the second and third episodes. It’s an exciting, fast-paced action drama with a weird kind of reality TV vibe (49 recruits to go), but with none of the flare to match other similar dramas of its kind.


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HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell

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