Season 1, Episode 1
AIR DATE: September 27, 2015
With all the public interest in shows about secret agents and law enforcement types, ABC attempts to show us what it’s like for the most recent trainees of the FBI Academy, “Quantico”.
The show opens with a disaster, a’la 9/11: New York’s been bombed and sirens are wailing. Of course, the show jumps back in time to show us how we got here, taking us to the home of Alex (Priyanka Chopra), a Middle Eastern woman, who is running late for the biggest job of her professional career. When a cab arrives, she tells the driver she’s going to the airport — and crumples up a train ticket. We see her on a plane she flirts with Ryan (Jake McLaughlin), a young guy sitting across the aisle from her. They share a drink and both lie about who they are and where they are going. When we next see them, they’re having sex in his car — and she ends up knowing everything about him anyhow. She’s just not “into him”.
We learn right away that Alex is sassy and doesn’t take guff from anyone. That, and everyone’s got secrets — but more on that in a few. The show features an ensemble cast, so we get our normal diverse stereotype fritatta: the dude-bro, Caleb (Graham Rogers), the gay recruit, Simon (Tate Ellignton), the handsome Mormon, Eric (Brian J. Smith), the perky blonde Shelby (Johanna Braddy), and token Muslim recruit, Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) among others. The whole teaching division is run by Liam O’Conner (Josh Hopkins) who was assigned the class by Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis). We learn that Liam’s an alcoholic who used to have a romantic relationship with Miranda and that this class is his “last chance”, just in case you haven’t knocked out those tropes on your “Quantico” bingo card yet.
This is all sauce for the goose as we’re told, by Miranda, that the terrorists are often those you least suspect or they’re somebody you’ve already met. These profiles include “a stranger or a one-night stand you may have had” which is meant to foreshadow the attack we’ve already seen but also comes across as slightly ridiculous. The show doesn’t stop there with it’s “oh come on” moments. As is custom, the recruits are given credentials, phony guns (for the purpose of getting used to the weight of a firearm on their hip) and “gender-neutral outfits” consisting of matching polo shirts and khaki pants — but Alex is sassy sexy and gurl has bewbz, so she makes sure that nearly every button of her top is opened up, teasing the goods. She even reveals to everyone that her and Ryan got it on before they got to Quantico for no other reason other than to be sassy and annoying.
The pilot episode is mainly about the dark secrets that otherwise normal people hide from others. As such, their first assignment as recruits? Each of them has to pick a folder from the tables in front of them. The folder is the FBI file on each recruit and contains one redacted item. It’s the recruits’ jobs to figure out what that redacted item might be. This would be believable if you can forgive the fact that this is the FBI who should already know these secrets and wouldn’t leave it to students to humiliate other students. This unfortunate point is actually driven home when Caleb, who is near-failing in the Academy, taunts Eric with his “secret”. Eric is uneasy as Caleb continues to hound him and, eventually, shoots himself when Caleb threatens to come forward with it during their one-on-one. Packer, as it turns out, knocked up a 14-year-old Malawian girl and she got an illegal abortion.
And Mormons thought the “magical underwear” bit in the episode was “offensive”. Sheesh.
Simon, who is hyper-observant, has a thing for Nimah and, having spent some time in Palestine (despite a really Conservative upbringing), questions her about why she pins her hijab to the left and, sometimes, to the right. Nimah evades the line of questioning — but we later learn that she has a twin sister in Raina, thus the reason for the direction of their head-wear. How did twins get by the FBI? Who knows. There’s a lot this show asks you to forgive and forget. Interrogating others with one class on the subject? Not a problem. Shelby’s parents being a victim of the 9/11 attacks? All right. Interesting — except when she reveals that she “has a piece of one of the planes”, and you’re already face-palming since, y’know, that’s evidence in a major terrorist attack.
Alex’s secret, as it turns out, is that she shot her Dad when she was very young. Ryan doesn’t divulge this during their “session”. She confesses this later to O’Conner. Her father was an FBI agent and she came to Quantico to get the truth behind her father and his secret life. Ryan, meanwhile, is already an agent. He feels terrible about tricking Alex and lying to her but O’Conner doesn’t care. He just orders Ryan to keep doing what he’s doing and to “not sleep with her again”, which is weirdly ironic for an organization who encourages its own trainees to do anything they can to learn each others’ secrets.
After everyone learns each other’s dark secrets, Miranda spins it all the only way she knows how: she tells them they need to know the truth about themselves to get the truth about others which is absolute bullshit masquerading as “wisdom”, but the show’s not done: FBI agents raid Alex’s apartment where they find explosives and Ryan lying in blood and, for some reason, they allow her watch all this via live-steam on a laptop because fuck judicial protocol. They arrest her and toss her into a police van — but hold on a second! Miranda’s at the wheel and she’s gotten rid of the van’s co-pilot. She tells Alex that Alex is being framed and that she needs to find the truth about what’s going on. She gives Alex the keys to her cuffs, and a bag of clothes so nobody will recognize her. Oh, wait…
That’s seriously the last shot of the show. It’s done in slow-mo as if Chopra is modeling for a fashion magazine. She not only walks directly into the crowd of people who just saw her escape from an FBI van, she also walks right by FBI agents all streaming towards the scene. Agents who knows what she looks like. Agents who are well-trained. Agents who don’t recognize her because she’s wearing “certain stuff”.
Quantico is fun fluff, much like the thrill rides Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder from ABC’s Shonda Rhimes. This is a series that you really want to like if it weren’t for the moments that make you want to yell at your screen and throw something across the room. The plotting comes at the viewer hard and fast and gives you no time to breathe or think. That last part’s important because, ultimately, what we’re watching is extremely dumb when you turn your brain on.