Quantico: Found – Dark Web to the Rescue

YASMINE AL MASSRI, PRIYANKA CHOPRA, JAKE MCLAUGHLIN, JOHANNA BRADDY, TATE ELLINGTON, JACOB ARTIST

In Quantico this week, Found sees Alex pulling out all the stops and turning to the dark web  in a self rescue attempt. After learning that the FBI put out a shoot to kill order, Parish holds on to Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Braddy).  This episode attempts to tie up a lot of loose threads as well as intertwining the multiple threads that creator Joshua Safran has woven throughout the series thus far. 

At the start of the episode, the government agency has upped the ante by having the media castigate Alex. Newspapers have her picture on the front page and have coined the name “Jihadi Jane.” A mockup of what looks suspiciously like a FOX news desk has a news personality calling for “Jane” to be caught and punished.

It is easy to get behind Alex in her struggle to prove her innocence.  By the time the end credits roll, there is one more member of the “Parish is innocent” brigade marking up a total of four FBI agents (if indeed Simon is still with the bureau, that was a bit shakily explained last week), Miranda, Ryan, Simon and now Shelby.

In Found, as in each episode, the plot jumps backward and forward with the show following the NAT’s progress and tries to marry up the backstory with the intense journey the Alex faces now.  Caleb and Shelby finally “happen.”  Clearly, however, the act of coitus seems to mean little to Haas, who deserts Wyatt after their session to miss the bus back to the academy.

The trainees are sent  out into the field in their latest assignment, ironically it is all about going undercover, and each NAT is given a legend to portray and must convince Liam O’Connor and Miranda Shaw. After succeeding, they are sent to a DYKSTRA convention and tasked to get a meeting with the company’s CEO.

Just before the trainees are to enter the latest test, they are forced to switch identities. Caleb haunts Shelby, he is under the impression that she turned him in for illegally using the FBI gun range, making her fail repeatedly. Nimah and her twin have to do double duty as Miranda forces them to approach the task “for real.” Each twin changing over on an hourly basis.

Nimah wins the meeting with the CEO and Ryan, Alex and another NAT all win by getting the invite to meet the company head as well. Booth and Parrish celebrate by continuing their role play and presumably they have a repeat of their pre-Quantico car fling.

Simon is uncovered by Elias, he meets Mark the “boyfriend” that Asher has been using to bolster his claim to be gay.  After the test, Simon confesses to Harper that he is dangerous, a charge made by Elias at the convention.  Apparently Asher did some pretty awful things working for Israeli intelligence.

MAXWELL EDDY, TATE ELLINGTON

This is presumably the beginning of Simon’s fall from grace and “dismissal” from Quantico.      Another thing revealed in the flashback sequences has Miranda tasking Booth with learning what O’Connor has against Parish. Later on, she picks her former lover’s brain over drinks and learns that Alex has “something over the bureau.”

Shaw then tells Ryan to drop his investigations. In the present, Shaw has obviously changed her mind as she helped Parrish to escape.  The “Unknown” from the dark web reveal that Alex had ties with terrorism via friendships she made during her “missing year.”

After reaching out to the “dark web” (who put Parrish  “on trial” before airing a live interview) Alex raises questions over the FBI’s version of events and goes into hiding with the subversive group’s help.   The two who help Parrish  also provide her with fake identification and offers of further help.

At long last Quantico has stepped away from the overt  “terrorist  under every  bed” drill  and is now headed toward a more personal vendetta against the new FBI agent.  The show does still have that sense of terrorism paranoia  (that the most tangible threat to the great US of A is from within rather than without) but at least the frantic flag waving has calmed down a bit.

Audiences who watch this crime/mystery who possible tuned in to watch USA network’s Mr Robot, or indeed just reads the news (re:Anonymous or WikiLeaks, et al) will notice something far more disturbing than the creator’s theme of bombers hiding behind the neighbor’s bushes.

The dark web is something that exists, although it is specifically the haven of hackers and those nefarious types who want to drain your bank account, and requires a special type of software to access, apparently. Either way, hacking is the theme behind the USA series, a cracking show, and it is a trifle unsettling to see this “world” pop up on another television show.

Scary internet realities aside, the flashbacks are starting to “catch up” to now. The present has seen some huge changes. Shelby actively dislikes, or hates, Alex because of something she learned about Wyatt’s family. Simon is out of the bureau (Or is he?) Miranda is no longer  in charge, Liam is.  Vasquez and Booth are an item and Nimah is nowhere to be seen.

JOSH HOPKINS, AUNJANUE ELLIS

Thus far, especially after this episode, clues are beginning to point to Caleb as the terrorist who set Alex up. Look back at the man’s time as a NAT. Prior to his pushing a fellow trainee to kill himself and another member of Quantico staff, the man was rubbish…At everything. Even with the backstory of his parents “buying” his way in, or his sister’s intervention to make him an analyst. Haas was “too bad” to be true.

His behavior with Shelby shows a deficit of emotional connection apart from the physical. Caleb Haas is suspect number one with Liam O’Connor being all too ready to throw Alex to the wolves, initially, and then into the firing squad. One gets the impression that with Liam, it all ties back to Parrish’s father.

Chopra continues to do well in her role as wrongly accused terrorist and her character keeps proving just how clever she is. The whole “Hunchback of Notre Dame” riff with Parrish’s dark web rescuers using the local Mosque as “Sanctuary,” in order to keep the authorities from storming the place and capturing Alex, was a nice touch.

Quantico airs Sundays on ABC and is slowly but surely upping its game.  While the series still has a way to go, it starting to come together. Tune in and see who is setting Alex Parrish up.

Quantico: Kill – Deception Everywhere (Review)

PRIYANKA CHOPRA, JOHANNA BRADDY

The flashbacks this week on Quantico segue way into the episode perfectly. Kill, aka Deception, picks up pace and puts Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) on the “shoot to kill” list after news that she has taken  a second hostage. In the NAT backstory, this episode sees the trainees learning about hostage taking scenarios and we learn how one exercise seriously upsets Alex. 

During the flashbacks, it is shown that Liam O’Connor (Josh Hopkins) after offering to help Alex learn the “truth” about the father she shot and killed, is now out to have her removed from Quantico. In the NAT scenes Booth shows that he would rather support Alex than help O’Connor kick her out and Shelby Wyatt  (Johanna Braddyand Alex become close friends.

In the present, Shelby and Alex are not close, after a huge falling out, not covered in flashbacks yet, when Parrish learns the “truth” about her friends parents.  Booth is helping Alex, despite appearances to the contrary and Ryan even pushed Simon Asher into not betraying Parrish.

Back in training, the NATS  learn all about hostage situations and participate in exercises aimed to teach the trainees teamwork and how to make snap decisions. In the second scenario, a driven Alex, freezes after images of her mother and father replays in her mind. Her inaction gets Ryan shot and then she takes a shot from a hostage. O’Connor tells her off and suggests she leave Quantico.

When Parrish starts to do just that, Booth and Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis) talk the upset agent in training out of leaving and O’Connor is furious with Ryan.  Shaw is busy in the flashbacks, she also talks Nimah out of leaving the experimental “twins as one agent” test she is working on.

Simon comes close to turning Alex over, until Booth intervenes. Asher and Parrish go to Shelby Wyatt’s house, one of many apparently, and the agent comes home. Guns are drawn and the two women reach a stalemate until Ryan shows up and disarms Wyatt. Taking Asher away, Shelby begins fighting Alex and the two have a protracted struggle for control until Parrish finally overpowers the other agent.

In Kill,  by the end of the episode Alex is forcing Shelby to tell her about the primer found in her apartment, which is manufactured by Wyatt’s company and Ryan is telling Simon off for almost turning her in.   The show still has a few rough edges, for instance the flashback sequences, but the pace is picking up nicely and as pointed out earlier, the backstory is matching the storyline.  One problem that still remains is the huge amount of players who have hidden agendas and who are not what they claim to be.

For a show about an FBI devoted to protecting the average American from terrorism from within, an amazing amount of trainees have ulterior motives and secrets that should have been caught. For example, the Mormon chap who shoots himself, and an agent,  when Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers) bluffed the trainee into believing he had learned about a death he was responsible for. 

Another “implied” secret is the one that Shelby Wyatt is  apparently hiding about  the real story behind her parents death, presumably it is not connected with 9/11 at all.  Although this has not been spelled out for the cheap seats just yet.

The actors all continue to deliver, despite the script not following a clear logical progression of storyline.  When Alex chooses to leave Quantico after the hostage “deaths” in training, the sudden change in her mood and attitude are illogical. One moment she is “on point” and in charge almost daring her team to keep up and the next she is in tears.

Certainly the file on her father has caused her problems but because of the limited time given each flashback, it is hard to track. The Simon Asher backstory, with analyst Elias Harper picking at the man’s credentials is interesting but also disturbing. Harper comes across as a combination of jilted lover and xenophobic patriotic zealot.

The storyline now has given Alex Parrish the added burden of being instantly shot by the police. This has increased the pressure on her to find who really blew up Grand Central and who is framing her for the terrorist act.

There are some moments of truth in the show. Shelby finding out about Alex shooting her father from Ryan who thought she already knew and the two women bonding in their shared room.

Quantico airs Sundays on ABC.  Tune in and see if the series ever gets the formula just right or continues to flounder. Thus far, the show is a little hit and miss but still has potential, see what you think.

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: Cover – Trust No One (Review)

JOHANNA BRADDY, PRIYANKA CHOPRA

Quantico with its new episode Cover proves that the verse is getting a little more convoluted and that Alex should trust no one, even her mother has turned against her. The flashbacks are, it seems, starting to “catch-up” although the whole “terrorist under every bed” schtick is getting old. As Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers) says in the locker room scene:

“Hey, really cool spy training. What’s next? How fast you can close a sandwich in a ziplock bag?”

Last week saw Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) learn that her apartment was full of incriminating evidence and she barely escaped being caught. She is still on the run and turns to Simon Asher  (Tate Ellington) who is no longer with the bureau, having “washed out” of training, for help. 

The flashbacks show the NAT’s training during the psyche portion of the syllabus.  The emphasis is on each trainee learning what their fellow NAT’s weaknesses are. After an exercise where they must list each “down side” the trainees are told by Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis) to chose three NATs to be kicked out, or Miranda will choose 10.

Simon votes someone out, the only class member to do so (although the entire class sans two were getting ready to do the same) and is formally reprimanded by Shaw as a result. This is apparently the first step to Asher being “kicked out” although, as we learn later, Asher is not really out of the program, nor was he, apparently, ever really in it.

Quantico may be tightening up its storyline, oh so slowly, but it still requires a huge suspension of disbelief, all these pretty people all deciding to become FBI agents and most, apparently, with ulterior motives for joining.

It was hard enough to swallow an ex-marine undercover agent keeping an eye on Alex Parrish but now there are two. Booth (Jake McLaughlin) getting shot obviously necessitated the use of Asher, but wait… How can he be undercover when he got booted from the program? 

There appears to be too many devils hiding behind every rock in this show. Between the paranoiac rants of a bomber under every bed, turning on your neighbor, or family, and the total amount of “undercover agents” all out to get new agent Parrish this one is a tough sell.

The show may eventually find its feet though. This episode, with the new and improved “narrative” at the open by Chopra about her character, feels smoother and better paced. This could be down to the writers’ vision coming closer to fruition or the series could now be coming together, i.e. flashbacks now equalling more clarity versus an excuse to see the pretty kids playing at FBI training.

Quantico still suffers from too much information and plot devices in too short a time.  With all the “game changing” twists thrown at the viewer it is difficult to maintain too much interest in the characters on offer. Each one has some sort of secret.

“Poor little rich girl” Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Braddy) electronically transfers a million dollars toward the end of Cover. Viewers also learn that Ms. “Heartless” Vazquez has a husband (ex?) that is keeping her away from their daughter while she is training.  We also find that Simon Asher is also an undercover agent, along with Ryan Booth. 

At this rate, it is beginning to look like the only NAT who is not some sort of experiment (Nimah and Raina played by Yasmine Al Massri), or an undercover agent for some reason, is Alex Parrish whose job is to be a scapegoat for some terrorist activity. In this episode it is shown that she has been targeted since she arrived at Quantico. 

Mother Parrish tells Liam O’Connor, who she knows already, that Alex went missing for a year…

Thus far Quantico, despite a high rating in IMDb, is still struggling to convince or to overcome its breakneck pace of divulging “secrets” and plot twists. Like the pilot, the episodes are too short for all the information that the show’s creator Joshua Safran is shotgunning at the audience. 

There are glimmers of possible greatness, over and above the cheesecake factor of the entire cast, performances that shine and actors that are struggling to get over a sense of truth with their character.  While this new series is not everyone’s cup of tea, it may eventually get to point where it starts to entertain instead of merely frustrate.

Priyanka Chopra is the brightest spark in this show (followed closely by Johanna Braddy) and her first move to break into the American market may be hindered by an obtuse plot line and too many pretty co-stars.  Quantico airs Sundays on ABC. Tune in for the eye candy and the multitudinous plot threads being machine-gunned at the viewer.

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.