Is Quantico — a new drama about a group of FBI trainees (one of whom may have just committed the biggest terrorist crime on U.S. soil since 9/11) — ABC’s blatant attempt to put a Shondaland spin on Homeland? And even though Shonda Rhimes is not involved at all, Quantico is still quite successful. The good definitely outweighed the bad in the series premiere, thanks in large part to Quantico’s international superstar lead. (WARNING: Spoilers from the Quantico series premiere ahead.)
What we liked: P.C., as former Miss World/pop star/award-winning Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra says her friends call her. She’s completely likable, tough, smart, vulnerable, sexy, and, bonus – sorry, Carrie Mathison – but even her cry face is a thing of beauty. She’s the action heroine network primetime needs, and there’s every reason to believe she’ll thrive in a storyline that’s going to include action scenes galore (her newbie FBI agent Alex Parrish is on the lam, after being framed – we think – as the suspect in the bombing of Grand Central Terminal in New York), frequent time jumps, romance, and twists that will likely prevent her from ever being certain about who she can trust.
And speaking of twists … there were some legitimate surprises in the fast-paced premiere, which is not a small accomplishment for a network drama. Trainee Eric’s meltdown while heading into the lie-detector test? Alex as the one who shot her dad? Her dad being an FBI agent? Ryan Booth as an undercover agent pretending to be a trainee to spy on Alex (apparently as far back as their spontaneous post-airplane hook-up)? FBI boss Miranda Shaw as the driver of the van who aids Alex in breaking out of FBI custody? Surprises all!
Oh, and one more cast call out: Crash and Believe alum Jake McLaughlin, the real-life decorated Army veteran-turned-actor who’s playing Alex’s love interest, Ryan. That works, especially after we find out Ryan, like pretty much every other character on the show, has some secrets of his own. That flashforward that suggests he’s been shot to death at Alex’s apartment? Not loving that twist, but more on it below.
What didn’t work: The by-the-book characters among some of the supporting cast. Trainee Caleb Haas is cocky, but inept in seemingly every area an FBI agent should not be inept in, including going straight to wig-out mode when Eric pulls a gun on him. But as soon as he reveals he’s only at Quantico because his mommy and daddy are both agents, we’re supposed to sympathize with the underachiever of two overachievers? And no-nonsense Assistant Director of the Training Division of the FBI, Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis)… she’s initially presented as such a cliché of the ball-busting female leader that even one of the recruits, Shelby, says, “You do really well here — best-case scenario, you end up a sexless, heartless, pontificating robot?”
And Shelby (Johanna Braddy)… already hoping that she turns out to be the terrorist, only so it might mean the character will go away. We’re introduced to her as she packs up her mansion to leave for training, where she arrives and makes her snotty comment about one of her bosses, then later parks herself outside Caleb’s door and gawks at him when he’s wearing nothing but a towel, telling fellow trainee Simon, “I hate that I can’t stop looking.” But we’re supposed to find her sympathetic when we she shows a bit of vulnerability later by revealing that her parents were killed on 9/11.
Watch the opening scene of Quantico here:
Our burning questions:
1. We know Alex’s childhood was chaotic because of her parents’ fighting and her dad’s death (again, at her hand)… but that doesn’t necessarily explain why she lied to her mother about going to Quantico. And is she still lying to her? In the back-and-forth timeline of the pilot, she left Oakland for Quantico nine months ago, spending six months in training before becoming an agent and getting assigned to New York City. If Mama Parrish doesn’t know by now, she’s probably in for several shocks when she learns her baby has become the world’s most wanted suspected terrorist.
2. Simon (Tate Ellington) really wants people to know he’s gay, or think he’s gay. Is he? Either way, why is he spending so much effort to make sure people know about his sexuality?
3. Nimah (Yasmin Al Massri) appears to have a twin, who’s also living in her solo room at the FBI trainee dorm. Is the FBI vetting process as shockingly bad as it appears to be — they also somehow missed that whole scenario with Eric and the 14-year-old girlfriend’s abortion and death — or is the FBI privy to Nimah’s lookalike roommate?
4. Miranda and Special Agent Liam O’Conner (Josh Hopkins) have a very complicated history that includes being partners, being lovers, and having both lost families because of “the job.” She also mentions some trouble he had in Chicago, trouble that led to her saving his bacon, and his pension, by getting him a job at Quantico. Yet he seems ungrateful, poking fun at how ambitious she is. We’re gonna need to know the delicious drama behind that tension.
5. Booth (Jake McLaughlin) spying on Alex for O’Conner … why? How long has it been going on: Before or after Alex told O’Conner her father was an FBI agent named Jeff Michaels? And is Miranda in on O’Conner’s order to Booth to spy on Alex?
6. Who is setting Alex up as the architect of the terrorist act at Grand Central? Who planted the C4 in her apartment? Is Booth really dead, shot in her apartment? Or is that a plant to make her look guilty? And why is she a terrorism scapegoat?
7. Assuming Alex isn’t a terrorist, which agent did have a hand in the destruction of Grand Central?
8. Why did the super ambitious Miranda risk her career, and her freedom, to help Alex?
Bottom line: There are so many twists, so many dangling plotlines and questions, so much Chopra, that the show’s writers have set themselves up, potentially, with at least a whole season’s worth of balls to juggle before sliding into a satisfying finale that, as Chopra told Yahoo TV the writers have promised, will definitely answer who the Grand Central Terminal terrorist is.
Quantico airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC.