Monday, October 12, 2015

REVIEW: 'Quantico' - Alex Learns the Truth About Her Father and Reaches Out to Simon For Help in 'Cover'

ABC's Quantico - Episode 1.03 "Cover"

At Quantico, Alex finally receives information about her father and his FBI past, but in the future it's her mother, Sita, who plays a key role when Liam convinces her to participate in a press conference on national television begging Alex to turn herself in. The NATS learn the art of profiling and focus on their classmates' strengths and weaknesses, ultimately challenging their confidence and camaraderie.

The sheer amount of plot happening on Quantico right now is starting to get very exhausting. It's hard to emotionally invest in any of the stories because things are constantly flipped on their heads in the very next scene. The show is simply trying to do too much right now at a very fast pace. It's okay for shows like this to move this quickly. And yet, it has seemingly become the norm in a post-Scandal world. But the necessary character work to make all of these plot reversals work is still very troubling. Everyone in this world is treated as a construct for the story. They're set on one particular path. Each episode wants to surprise the audience with as many twists as possible. And yet, that's not creating a coherent story that is exciting and engaging to watch.

Everything happening right now is centered around Alex. In the future following the big terrorist attack, she's on the run and everyone at the FBI is trying to locate her and give an explanation to the horrible events of the day. It's amusing that Mark Pellegrino's FBI Assistant Director character needs something he can give to the American public that can provide a simple narrative to follow when the show isn't aware of how overbearing its own narrative actually is. Over the course of the three episodes so far, it feels like half of the NATs have been revealed as double agents working for some higher official in the organization. It's a twist that has become expected of the show. Does anyone at Quantico not have a secret agenda that has somehow remained hidden from what's suppose to be the smartest people in the country? Is anyone truly out of the program after making a mistake? Or is everyone just so deeply connected that these kinds of undercover operations are capable of happening very easily? It's all very confusing. Plus, it loses slight of what the characters' emotional appeals are.

Alex finally gets confirmation of who her father was as an FBI agent. Sure, it's a tad puzzling why Liam is so comfortable handing over his file to her. She's still just an agent-in-training. Why would she be able to see everything in that file? Liam and her father did have a relationship that is fueling his handling of Alex during her days at Quantico and her mother, Sita, in the future following the massive attack. And yet, it remains just vague hints meant to excite the audience. Answers are presumably coming. But will it even matter in the end? Will the resolution of this story make every single twist and role reversal feel justified? With the sheer volume of them, that seems rather impossible to do. The twists dominate the narrative. They bog it down so it's hard to understand why anyone does anything outside of a vague and cryptic answer. That's just not the proper way to build a story.

The big reveal of the episode revolves around Simon. He is the first person Alex goes to while on the run to help prove her innocence. Ryan is doing his best to control the situation on the inside while Natalie is fully convinced of Alex's guilt. Simon is the first person who can help her analyze the evidence she found at her apartment. Apparently, he was kicked out of the program over some incident. Now, he has an amazing apartment and a new job working for a tech start-up. That gives him access to certain pieces of technology that come in handle when analyzing these clues. They provide a lead for Alex to pursue. But it mostly just gives her the realization that whoever is framing her started since she joined the Quantico Academy. That's really the only thing of true substance from this story because the rest of it is largely just action to create suspense and tension. Can Alex trust Simon? That's the question she and the audience should be asking. The cut to act breaks provide sensationalized moments where it seems he might be working against her. He proves himself to be an ally. But it's still for some unknown purpose. He is working with Director Clayton for some reason. He's gotten close to Alex in a time where the FBI should be concerned with tracking her down. That means this cause is one of two things. It's noble. More people at the FBI believe Alex may be innocent. It's just Liam and Natalie who are passionately pursuing her for this crime. Or it could mean that this conspiracy goes all the way to the top. A twist that has lacked all originality for a long time in the medium.

Similarly, the exercises at Quantico are starting to feel formulaic. They teach lessons that are suppose to provide valuable insight into the dynamics of the characters while also informing the story in the future. And yet, once again it's just a psychological assignment paired with some physical training. Miranda asks the NATs to analyze each other and then posts the most brutal comments for all to see. It creates tension amongst the group - which is later heightened by her asking them to cut three of their classmates for her otherwise she'll drop ten of them. All of this happens for the purpose of breaking these people down in order to build them back up again. And yet, that was apparent very early in the story. Nothing about it was surprising or entertaining. It's simply just story that doesn't do a great job of telling the audience about the emotional states of the characters. It just continues to prop up the overall allure of mystery that probably won't be satisfactorily handled in the end.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Cover" was written by Jordan Nardino and directed by Jennifer Lynch.
  • Alex opens up and tells Shelby and Ryan about her father. She is more open with Ryan. Their bond hasn't been satisfactory defined. Why is she so willing to trust him with the whole truth about her instead of Shelby? It's good that she is sharing her secrets. But now, the audience needs to keep track of who knows the full truth and who knows just part of it.
  • The Simon of the future is slightly different from the Simon at Quantico. So, is Ryan correct in thinking that it's all just a performance in order to make the best impression during the training? If so, who is the real Simon?
  • It's so hard to care about Nimah and Raina because the audience still can't tell which one is which. That makes their story about sibling bickering feel completely forced. It has no emotional value whatsoever.
  • Spending time with Miranda as she visits her son in prison who is about to get parole seems like a huge waste of time. How is that ever going to be important? Except in the broad terms of her recognizing terrorists?
  • Natalie apparently has a child she isn't able to see and that's why she is so mean. Or something like that.