Quantico: Kill – Turning up the Heat (Preview)

 

PRIYANKA CHOPRA, JAKE MCLAUGHLIN

Last week’s episode had a lot of tension between the NAT’s after their psychiatric section  of training and it seems that the discomfort and stress have carried over to their next bit of training.  While Kill increases the stakes for Alex in the present, the past also shows that the new FBI trainee put herself under a lot of pressure.

Most of Parrish’s issues have to do with that file on her father but it also appears that Liam O’Connor, for reasons unknown, wants Alex out of the FBI training program. This news makes it almost a certainty that he could be behind the frame up of Alex. So Parrish in the past is being pushed by others as well as by her urge to “win.”

Back at Quantico during the training flashbacks, the NAT’s are undergoing hostage training. There are two  scenarios and in each one, aggression, grudges and competition rear their ugly heads between several of the trainees. Some unlikely pairings also prove to be interesting as Simon and Nimah partner up with Elias Harper as their analyst.

Shelby and Natalie are put together  and Booth is partnered  with Alex. There are issues. Parrish has problems during the hostage taking exercise and O’Connor is pushing for her to leave the academy. The viewer learns about Ryan (Jake McLaughlin), his being “undercover”  and why he was  assigned to Alex.

It is still not clear just why Elias Harper is so fascinated with Simon Asher (Tate Ellington). There is the feeling that the analyst may be displeased with Simon’s using the gay card to get into Quantico as it appears that Asher not homosexual at all. A lot of things about this intense trainee  do not add up, as Harper points out, Simon has “fronts” like the coffee he makes but never drinks.  

In the present we see that things have changed between old friends at the academy and as more betrayals are brought to light, the news comes out that Alex’s status as a suspect at large has been updated.

Things have escalated to where all law enforcement agencies are told to treat Parrish as armed and dangerous. It is still not clear who is attempting to set Alex up, but this episode reveals who can be trusted so far.

Quantico is picking up steam and starting to come together that little bit better. Show creator Joshua Safran is starting to tie all those annoying threads together. While the pacing of the flash backs and flash forwards is still a bit off, things are becoming clearer. More hints are dropped as to who just might be  behind the frame up of Alex. 

The Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers) and Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Braddystoryline is still a tad confusing as she seems to be enamored of the annoying analyst (who has never been as bad as Wyatt makes him out to be) and one questions why.  These two have not spent a lot of time together. The show implies that they have but the viewer has never seen it.

Quantico airs Sundays on ABC. Tune in and see where the show is now heading. Viewers will learn some truths about Alex (Priyanka Chopra). There are some good hints as to who is behind the whole  Parrish terrorist plot and a line is being drawn between the “good guys” and the bad. Some, like Natalie, Simon and Shelby, feel like an odd combination of both.

Quantico: America – Changes for Gravitas (Review)

Priyanka Chopra

The poor decision to make the pilot for Quantico too short, in other words “normal” episode length, rather than a full feature length open is still an issue. This week’s episode, America has changed the series format aiming, it seems, for a sort of gravitas. The addition of a Priyanka Chopra voice over at the start of the episode does little to improve the show.  It is still a messy and somewhat convoluted plot that goes in all directions while the series’ creator continues using fiction as thinly disguised  patriotic flag waving. 

Alex Parrish is still on the run, from last week’s episode where the former director of the academy helped the accused agent to escape. As she attempts to discover who has framed her for the explosion, the series continues to bounce back and forth between her training and the “present.”

While there are many things that annoy about this show, it does have moments of truth, the monologue from Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis) about human behavior and that people tell “truths” about themselves based upon what others want to hear, for example.  The interactions between the trainees, the competition, the jealousies and the curiosity all feel spot on. 

In terms of plot, the disgraced Caleb has returned as an analyst (thanks to his sister we learn later in the episode) and he is joined by a group of  data specialists. One of whom zooms in on the first openly gay NAT, Simon Asher (Tate Ellington). The new analyst, Elias Harper (Rick Cosnett) first hits on Simon and then begins digging into the trainee’s past.

A few things have been cleared up, which could have been done earlier if the pilot were longer, such as the twin thread. It now turns out that the director, Shaw, is conducting some sort of ground breaking experiment.  Something must go wrong since Miranda is “out in the field” getting Alex away from Liam nine months later.

We learn that the assistant director Liam O’Connor (Josh Hopkins) had a thing for Parrish (and who can blame him) and also has something over Ryan Booth’s head. Booth (Jake McLaughlin) says to O’Connor at the meeting in the woods that “This is Chicago all over again.” The assistant director then tells the undercover agent that if he wants to see his family again, he will do what O’Connor instructs.

There are a number of hints that no one in this particular class of NATs are who or what they claim to be.  As a montage or two shows, each one has secrets, skills and abilities that do not match their profiles. All the better to make the viewer feel a sense of paranoia, which seems to also be the theme of Quantico. (Apparently we now need to suspect and turn in anyone whom we believe to be a threat and this equals patriotism…)

Johanna Braddy
Is that Arabic Shelby is speaking?

The spiel by the director states clearly where and how a threat to the country could be from within:

“Our own backyard… a neighbor you grew up next to, a one-night stand you had, perhaps even a family member.”

Sounds more like the “good old days” of Russia, under Stalin, where neighbor’s turned in their neighbor, family members contacted the KGB about siblings  and life was one paranoid trip of turning in your friends before they turned you in.

There are issues with the flashback sequences not providing clarity in the right areas. This will, presumably, be sorted out as Parrish gets closer to clearing her name. The NATS and the analysts are all still very attractive, even the newer ones. The recruit Natalie Vazquez (Annabelle Acosta) who jumps to the fore this episode as Alex’s shadow (main competitor) and analyst Harper both look like models out of the pages of either Vogue or GQ respectively. 

Regardless of the America’s Next Top Model look of the cast the acting is, thus far, more than acceptable. Chopra is, of course, perfection in her role, despite the somewhat disjointed script. McLaughlin is convincing as Booth and the rest of the cast all fill their character’s shoes with conviction.

Quantico has gone overboard to give the viewer as many suspects as possible.  All the NATS seem to be either hiding something or pretending to  be something other than what they appear. Add to this group of potential terrorists, the staff, Director Shaw and her former partner (On and off the job?) with their little secrets and sidelines and it appear that anyone and everyone could be real bomber.

Alex may be the best of the best thus far, it is mentioned again via a flashback that this young recruit is sharp, and innocent of the charges levied against her.  However, she has the whole “I shot my father and killed” storyline where  Liam is looking for information about her late FBI agent father.

The addition of Alex Parrish telling the viewer what is happening to her at the start of the e episode  feels a little too Kung Fu or even The Fugitive (the television show and not the film) where  either a character or an announcer declares, “Accused of a crime…” A little old hat but obviously deemed necessary by producers to help diminish the confusion.

Rick Cosnett
The Vampire Diaries actor Rick Cosnett…

Quantico, via the auspices of the show’s writers, is trying to improve the appearance and the storyline of the series. This second episode is picking up the scattered pieces in an attempt to clarify and smooth its rocky opening. The series airs Sundays on ABC. Time will tell if this one straightens out enough kinks to become addictive or whether it merely continues to irritate.

Quantico: Every One is Beautiful (Review)

PRIYANKA CHOPRA

Quantico premiered on Sunday night and ABC have added what may turn out to be great addition to their fall lineup. However, the new show has some problems, more than just the “Everyone is Beautiful” cast. There may well be a large amount of agents in the FBI who look as though they belong either on a catwalk or on the pages of a fashion magazine, but it is not likely.  While the stunningly good looks of the main cast members provides some very nice eye candy for the viewer it does not go very far toward building credibility.

Add  to this  the far-fetched plot thread of  Elder Eric Packer managing to hold on to his “live” weapon and, undergoing a guilt trip of epic proportions, shooting an innocent woman (rather than the douche who has been heckling the poor chap non-stop) and then killing himself.

While the moment is pretty impressive,  the fact that the FBI training facility at Quantico apparently rely upon an “honor” system of the trainees returning their live pistols to get back the faux red-handled weapons they are required to wear at all times is a bit dodgy at best. This “system” alone beggars belief as well as the fact that the thoroughness of the vetting process managed to miss tragic “crime.”

In essence,  Eric Packer slept with an young Malawi girl (the girl was 14) and got her pregnant. Taking the girl to an illegal abortionist, she dies. Packer manages to keep the bureau in the dark about the crime. As the director of the training program relays the details of the crime to her second in command she pins the blame on to him.

Herein lies another problem with the plot. The deputy director, Liam O’Conner relays to the director, and the audience,  the plethora of checks that should have caught the crime.  Yet moments earlier, Alex Parrish is told by the agent in charge after the Terminal Station explosion that the FBI received a tip that one of the new agents was a terrorist.  Surely all the checks, tests, background research and so on would have made this an impossible situation.

ANTHONY RUIVIVAR, PRIYANKA CHOPRA
Alex being question about the explosion.

The worse offender of the “unbelievable” plot device is the Nimah Amin “twins” thread.  The fact that, due to her religious beliefs, the agent in training has her own room does help facilitate the ruse. However,  to infer that the FBI training and vetting program is that inept must be ruffling a few real feathers in the real Bureau.

The last “nail in the show’s premiere coffin” is that  “undercover agent,” Ryan Booth (Jake McLaughlin) who has apparently been keeping an eye on Agent Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) under orders from the former deputy director who is now director of the training facility. Apparently, the two meeting on the plane was not a fortuitous event at all and has shades of Stitchers all over it.

There are too many lose ends and tangled threads in this season one opening. By the time end credits roll, we learn that Booth is dead and that Parrish is blamed for his death and the explosion.  The former director, Miranda Shaw,  helps Alex to escape custody in order to find out what is really going on.

Quantico starts off with a pilot episode that could have used a lot more time to set itself up. The implications are that none of this scenario is real and all part of the agent’s training.  Although apparently this is not the case…Who knows? What does not help is that several of the story lines fail to mesh convincingly and some scenes feel tacked on in an attempt to make the characters feel more real.

For example, Johanna Braddy’s character Shelby Wyatt commiserates with Caleb, the candidate who made the late Eric Packer’s life a misery until he killed himself. In the scene, he asks why Wyatt is being so nice to him as all he has done is treat her horribly. At no time in the pilot do we see Caleb being horrid to anyone apart from Eric.

The scene is meant to show Shelby’s compassion but feels added on to round out her character.  Perhaps the biggest clanger is the change of Chopra’s character. After having sex with Booth at the airport carpark, she shows that her mind is almost Holmes-ian in its ability to analyze clues on the spot. Yet later when she is asked to help to investigate the explosion she flounders from minute one.

While the scenario of the terrorist explosion and Parrish being the scapegoat are, apparently, meant to be “real” versus some classroom exercise, it feels disjointed and false. This is another example of a television show premiering with too little time spent on-screen setting up the audience for the verse they are presenting.

Quantico may well turn out to be a winner for ABC. Certainly the cast are attractive enough, as well as more than capable performers, but this one may take some time to find its footing.  Thus far the series feels more like a template and somewhat less than a “unique” offering. Perhaps as the series moves forward things will become clearer. The series airs Sundays on ABC.

 

‘Quantico’ ABC and the New Elite FBI (Preview)

PRIYANKA CHOPRA
Nothing breeds imitation more than success and Quantico seems to prove that. The newest ABC offering shows us a group of new elite FBI agents with one “special” agent being targeted after graduation as suspect in a terrorist act. This new series has a “coincidental” plot point that it shares with at least one existing series.

ABC Family have Stitchers a popular show about to start filming its second season and while it is not allowed to point out any specific similarities at this juncture (which would be seen as pre-airing spoilers), after the show airs on September 27, all will be revealed. That is, if the viewer is aware of both programs, if they are not; here is a tip: Someone close is not who they appear to be. Further discussion will be available with the review after the first episode airs.

Despite the one glaringly obvious “borrow” in the series’ plot, the story of a group of recruits entering the FBI training academy (shades of Silence of the Lambs here) is entertaining enough. The cast is stellar and why shouldn’t it be with a former Miss India and Miss World as star and more than enough stunningly gorgeous performers to make the viewer drool.

In case the wildly talented Priyanka Chopra (The Miss World star of the show) is not the viewer’s cup of tea, there is the delectable Johanna Braddy (Paranormal Activity 3, Video Game High School) and Jake McLaughlin (Safe House, In the Valley of Elah) not to mention Aunjanue Ellis for those whose palate goes for the slightly (only a little mind) more mature entertainers.

AUNJANUE ELLIS
AUNJANUE ELLIS

Although, as the clip below promises, there is much more here than the academy training program. As seen by the wreckage that Special Agent Alex Parrish (Chopra) is laying in, things have moved past the training program and into the real world of explosions, terrorists and finger pointing. Of course those of a certain age, viewers old enough to remember The FBI television show with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. will be a bit surprised at just who the modern and politically correct organization are recruiting.

Never mind that almost all the new potential agents have a background of money and privilege, although not each class member falls in this category, but there are enough to make it noticeable. One of the trainees is apparently, and openly gay plus two of the new recruits are from muslim backgrounds. It is interesting to note that show never questions the gayness of the one class member while it highlights the Mormon in the group. While it is unclear what message this is sending it does come across as rather odd.

Considering how little time is spent on each agent in the training program, they do come across as likable, however the character’s are only slightly above two dimensional stereotypes. Rather interestingly, in terms of characterization, only two could be deemed middle class average. Parrish and former Marine Ryan Booth (McLaughlin) are two who do not come from families above upper middle class.

Parrish’s character is interesting. Just how much is revealed in this premiere episode via a class project. This assignment is designed to not only show the candidates what will be expected of them as agents but also serves as an initial paring down exercise. Herein lies the first plot hole of the episode, which is connected with another portion of the trainees day to day regimen. (Clue:Red.)

Suffice to say, after the series creator Joshua Safran spends a lot of time pumping up the agency as an elite “best of the best” organization, an oversight, or lack or procedural control, allows something to happen that stretches viewer’s belief to breaking point.

GRAHAM ROGERS, BRIAN J. SMITH, JACK MCLAUGHLIN
Plot holes aside, and ignoring the other “reality” issue of another candidate in the FBI training program, Quantico is entertaining and does leave one wanting to see what happens next. Even if the next episode just clears up the sudden left turn of the series’ premiere episode.

Perhaps Quantico could have benefited from a two hour, or even a 90 minute, premiere. Things shift suddenly and although the use of flashbacks is effective, there are many occurrences and shifting of roles that are not explained enough to be satisfying or to clear the confusion.

In terms of acting, however, this is a top notch effort by all. Chopra proves that those earlier pageant crowns do not define her as an actor. This performer has got massive chops in that department as do McLaughlin, Braddy, Ellis and Yasmine Al Massri (as Nimah Anwar).

The episode’s score has a “Resident Evil” feel to it, in other words the soundtrack by Joel J Richard (who has scored a huge amount of shows) has a science fiction taste and texture to it. The music fits, however, and moves things on nicely.

Quantico may turn out to be a solid hit for ABC. This is, after all, the network that just gave us The Whispers which was brilliant. The series airs Sunday on ABC, tune in and see what you think, if for no other reason than to see Priyanka Chopra make her move on the American market.

http://www.disneyabcpress.com/abc/video/so19gdzlfv_fxvwq9cecwu4bnja3kyxd/embed?t=45

Believe’ A Child Shall Lead Them

Believe’ A Child Shall Lead Them

Believe, brought to audiences from the man who gave the world Gravity, is about a gifted child who different people want for different reasons, in essence a child leads them and the only question is who shall win this tug-of-war over Bo. Alfonso Cuarón created this world with Mark Friedman and it is almost as captivating as his big screen space drama.