Monday, October 5, 2015

REVIEW: 'Quantico' - Alex Stands Out Amongst Her Fellow Trainees in Both the Present and the Future in 'America'

ABC's Quantico - Episode 1.02 "America"

Alex is on the run and must outsmart Liam and his team to get into her apartment for anything that could help clear her name. Meanwhile, in a flashback to Quantico training, the NATS are tasked with finding a needle in a haystack while looking for potential threats to national security.

Quantico was one of the few new shows to actually stand out amongst the new broadcast offerings this fall. It seems audiences agree with that - seeing as how it's been the highest rated show on ABC for Sunday for both its first and second episodes. And yet, the show starts to dig itself into a tiny bit of a hole in this second episode. The premiere was very captivating. However, it was overstuffed with plot and characters. The show has decided to follow that up with even more characters, plots and mysteries. It's certainly one way to tell the story. But it also seems more like the show is focusing on plot than it is character dynamics. That can work too. It will be gratifying at the end of the season to see how everything lines up between the two storylines. And yet, the characters and their dynamics with each other need to be the thing that keeps the audience coming back week after week. Right now, most of the ensemble are still shrouded in mystery and talking in cryptic dialogue. It's nothing that needs any immediate attention. But it is something the show should be aware of moving forward.

The show also seems to be suggesting a lot of firsts when it comes to this crop of trainees and their mentors. Miranda was the first woman to be an Assistant Director of the FBI. Ryan is the first agent to go undercover at Quantico. Simon is the first openly gay agent-in-training. Caleb is the first from his family not to become an FBI field agent. Nimah and Raina are the first twins to go through Quantico as one person. Alex is the first to pass Liam and Miranda's deceitful test of finding any credible and crucial terrorist threats. All of these firsts establish importance for the characters. Saying that someone is the first to do something makes them special. And yet, it's noticeable that the show is seemingly doing that with a lot of its characters. It only really makes a difference when it comes to Alex though.

Alex is the only character of substantial value in the flash-forward sequences. The skills she learns at the academy are directly coming into play in her investigation in the future. She was able to spot the fact that Liam and Miranda misled them with the assignment. She knows not to trust the first piece of information she is given on any investigation. That makes her an efficient agent even in her days at the academy. In the future, she is following the clues that no one else seemingly cares about. Liam and new addition Nathalie are certain that Alex is the terrorist. They aren't looking at any other possible suspect. It's up to Alex to figure things out and clear her name. That does make her a more endearing and compelling leading character on the show. But it also puts Liam and Nathalie in an unflattering light. Nathalie is introduced purely as a rival at the academy to Alex. That tension continues to play out in the future as Alex pleads for Nathalie to see things from her perspective and she refuses. Again, Alex seems like the only good FBI agent on the show right now.

The supporting ensemble around Alex are still just mysterious entities. The show is keeping the possibility alive that any one of them could be the future terrorist. The show is clearly keeping its options open. And yet, it's going to be much more thrilling when the show gets decisive and starts showing those other trainees in the future to see how they are reacting to the situation with Alex. The urgency will force character dynamics that are slowly being built in the present. Right now, it's a bunch of characters who are doing their best at the academy but they all hold some vague secret that could allude to darkness. Simon's glasses aren't real. Shelby is talking to someone on the phone in what I presume is Arabic. Nathalie has a scar that may or may not be covering something. Caleb isn't his real name. All of these reveals are designed to be surprises for the audience. A way to keep them guessing even though all of these things can still be realistically explained away. No one has definitively done anything yet that can build actual suspicion.

So right now, the show is still just building its world. It is expanding the cast which is at times chaotic and at others intriguing. The agents-in-training meets the analysts-in-training. That's how Caleb is able to come back to the show following the accident that killed the other trainee in the premiere. It also leads to the introduction of Elias Harper, a gay analyst and lawyer who quickly has his eyes on Simon. Sure, that entire dynamic is very formulaic. Two gay characters are introduced and by the end of this episode there is already established interest between them. That was very predictable. Additionally, Miranda and Liam's partnership is further explored. They are both working with agents at the academy for some reason that's unknown to the other. Miranda doesn't know what Ryan is doing there and Liam doesn't know what Miranda has planned with Nimah and Raina. But their dynamic only builds to the exposition that she stopped an attack on a school a few years ago that was probably planned by her son. Furthermore, the future alludes to a bit of a love triangle between Alex, Liam and Ryan. That doesn't sound all that interesting. But it is informing the character dynamics so it must be taken seriously. A lot of careful work is being done on the show right now. But it's not going to become clear to the audience until much later if all of it pays off.

Some more thoughts:
  • "America" was written by Joshua Safran and directed by Stephen Kay.
  • So Miranda doesn't have any actual proof that Alex is not the terrorist the FBI is searching for in the future. She just doesn't believe that Alex could be the one to plot this horrendous attack on the city. She's not blinded in a way that Liam clearly is.
  • Caleb's parents and sister are all agents for the bureau. How soon until they show up to interact with him and perhaps some other characters?
  • In the future, Ryan's plan to keep the FBI from finding Alex is to confirm that she was the one who shot him in the first place. That will only keep them on their current path of thinking. So, it's a little hard to see the value in that plan. Also, just how seriously was that gunshot wound if Ryan was able to heal so quickly?
  • Nimah was the least defined character in the premiere. And now, she and Raina continue to be so bland. They don't really have distinct personalities yet - except that one likes Simon and the other does not. And how soon until someone at the academy notices that there are two of her?
  • Liam has looked into Alex's father for her. He was an agent with the FBI. And yet, that's all he knows or is willing to tell her right now.
  • The scene where Elias notes that Simon's glasses are fake features one of the worst pieces of ADR I've seen in a long time. It was laughably and noticeably bad.