Quantico: Inside – All Coming Together (Review)

Quantico: Inside has it all coming together for the midseason finale. The zooming in on Simon, Elias Harper being the wild card in the deck of suspects and a new suspect is provided via the flashback sequences over the “old” New Years celebrations brings things to a head.

RICK COSNETT

Quantico: Inside has it all coming together for the midseason finale. The zooming in on Simon, Elias Harper being the wild card in the deck of suspects and a new suspect is provided via the flashback sequences over the “old” New Years celebrations all combines to bring things to a head.

What the episode does not do, is give us the terrorist responsible for the Grand Central explosion and now the final bomb(s). We see the end of a “major” character, although latter peripheral who was upgraded would be more correct. It could well be that Harper did plant the first one, but…not likely.

Warning: If you have not watched the episode stop reading now…

Perhaps the most annoying thing about this Quantico winter break episode was the overkill direction given to poor Rick Cosnett, as Elias, when he appeared bloodied and “panicked” looking for Alex in command center. 

Last week, unless one was getting snacks from the kitchen or making a cup of tea, Harper was clearly seen slapping a hanky over Simon’s face whilst dragging him behind his door.  The point being that we know Elias is not a good guy. So when he shows up, looking bruised and battered (telling all and sundry that he was pushed in front of a car) we know something is rotten in New York.

Unfortunately, the actor then has to continually telegraph that his character is lying with a catalogue of “tells” like lengthy sidelong glances and avoiding eye contact.  His performance could be said to be taken from The Guide to Obvious Lying for Dummies. The actions of Harper literally scream, “I am lying!”

Later, when Harper allows himself to fall backward from  a window high enough from the street to guarantee his landing will resemble a huge smudge, Cosnett must have sighed with relief.  Director Thor Freudenthal deserves a huge slap on the wrist for that one.

There are a few other annoying things, not least of which the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Zeppo” riff.  In the Joss Whedon episode (written by Joss and directed by James Westmore Jr) Xander has a standoff moment over a bomb. When faced with certain death, Buffy’s guy pal says “I like the quiet,” and quiet is pointed out (stressed actually), as Simon holds a dead man’s switch in the hotel room.

Simon: “Blow it all up just so you can get some damn quiet…”
“You wanted them to find me. That’s why you brought them here before this bomb went off. So you better start telling the truth, or it is gonna get real, real quiet.”

Another thing that has to be mentioned is the fact that three trained FBI agents within arm’s reach of Harper allow him to fall to his death.  A real “what the fudge” moment. Granted it is shocking when Elias self-destructs rather than go to jail, but seriously?

MARCIA CROSS, GRAHAM ROGERS, JOHANNA BRADDY
Marcia Cross as the senator mommy…

In the flashback sequences, and later in present day, the appearance of Brie Van De Kamp, aka, Marcia Cross as Caleb’s senator mother was almost as shocking.  Cross has the ability to look colder than ice and quite fierce with it and her appearance in this episode is no exception. 

Away from this intrusion of an escapee from Wisteria Lane, Caleb (Graham Rogers) puts himself back into suspect status again.  Shelby (Johanna Braddy) comes out with her “cryptic” clue which feels like an over-obvious pay “attention to this one” hint:

“…you are willing to blow things up just to get people to see your truth..”

Like Cosnett with all his tells this screams out to the viewer that it must be Caleb.

But…

Consider this, since creator Joshua Safran has built his show upon the shifting sands of relationships, who does Alex meet at the flashback New Years party?  Ryan’s ex… This woman, who takes the time to tell Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) off is a former counter terrorist.  Add to the partial equation that the woman does not seem too friendly, apart from a pseudo ersatz display of bonhomie towards Alex initially and she makes a reasonable suspect.

PRIYANKA CHOPRA, ELIZA COUPE
Alex and the Ex…

Still, keeping with the overkill philosophy employed thus far, it is apparent that the real terrorist is Caleb Haas. The repeated reminders of his brainwashing at the hands of “The Cult” are not too dissimilar to your old college professor smacking the blackboard and bellowing “this will be on the test!”

(Or conversely metaphorically screaming at the viewer, “THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PLOT POINT!”)

Quantico may have left its more fanciful “dating game” approach behind and decided to become a proper mystery, full of paranoid government agents who are taught to suspect everyone, but it still has issues.  There can be, however, no doubt that something is pleasing the great public.

It could well be the gorgeous cast. The storyline is interesting but with all the flashbacks things can get lost. (I am still confused about the whole “Charlie/Miranda” plot thread.)  Plot threads aside, the introduction of a new suspect each week is going to run out of steam pretty quickly.

Hopefully on future episodes of Quantico directors will refrain from asking their actors to overact. Things are all coming together, although we still don’t know who is behind all the framing and the bombs, or the truth that Alex learns about Shelby’s late parents.  The series airs Sundays on ABC. Tune in and see who is forced to overact next…

Quantico: Quantico (Review)

Looking at the title of the following episode of Quantico, which is a bit of spoiler; Inside, it is apparent that they do not catch the real terrorist before Alex’s time is up. Quantico continues to trot out the same old new suspects.

PRIYANKA CHOPRA, JOHANNA BRADDY, ANABELLE ACOSTA

Looking at the title of the following episode of Quantico, which is a bit of spoiler as it is called  Inside, it is apparent that they do not catch the real terrorist before Alex’s time is up. Quantico continues to trot out the same old new suspects. Although there is a pop goes the weasel moment at Simon’s house at the end of this episode that is surprising.

After taking ages to even itself out, Quantico has finally settled down into a mystery of  almost epic proportions. 61 suspects, more betrayals than even Julius Caesar experienced on that fateful day in March and more reveals than an Amsterdam strip club.  The show began not really knowing what it wanted to be.  A crime drama with more beefcake and totty than the average viewer could shake a taser at.

The women and men; all beautiful specimens who apparently could not wait, to bed the objects of their desire.  Although two, Alex and Ryan got a head start before the first class at Quantico began.  The series has since  been settling down with less emphasis on all the pretty people who want to be the next “big thing” in the FBI and more on paranoia of one’s fellow man, or woman, and how no one is what they seem.

Secrets make the world go round on Quantico.  Simon was a man who lured women into an Israeli organization to be tortured, and worse. Vasquez  wears a fake scar to remind herself of who she used to be.  Shelby Wyatt has been conned for years by a woman claiming to be her half sister, and then she goes on to have a affair with Simon’s father.

These more  “sordid” hidden pasts are joined by Ryan Booth’s being “special agent” sent undercover  to get close to Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra).  Miranda’s son was imprisoned because he was caught before shooting up a school. Liam O’Connor (Josh Hopkins) is an alcoholic who worked with Alex’s father (who a teenaged Parrish shot to death) and the two of them screwed up and allowed a number of innocent people to be killed in a terrorist attack.  

All these hidden agendas and buried skeletons in, apparently, every NATs life make the suspect list even longer for who really planted the Grand Central bomb and another explosive device  that Alex believes it still out there.

Quantico is an odd duck. It combines crime with drama and throws in enough romance, failed relationships and suspects, with an axe or two to grind,  that it feels a little like a daytime soap with prettier actors and a better written plot.

To be fair, creator Joshua Safran is busily ripping back layer after layer of cover ups, lies and past crimes of each of the “main” NATs while pulling us ever closer to the present and the frame up of Alex.  Vasquez is revealed to be a former victim, Simon a “war criminal” and Shelby…

Wyatt may be the most interesting of all once we finally learn the truth about her dead parents. Something that Parrish discovers and becomes  the final straw that ended their friendship back in Quantico as NATs.  Now of course all the “friends” who came to Alex’s aid in the present are feeling betrayed and hard done by.

TATE ELLINGTON
Tate Ellington as Simon Asher

We learn that Simon developed the plan adopted for the Grand Central bombing and that Shelby is once again furious with Alex  but this time for learning about her affair with Caleb’s dad.  Raina and Nimah are at odds as the “virgin” still believes the wounded terrorist that her twin slept with is an idealist and not a murderer.

While Asher still looks pretty good as the main suspect, the re-emergence of Elias Harper (Rick Cosnett) looks to lead the investigation in yet another direction. By the time  that Harper shows up, Alex is once again isolated from everyone who aided her. 

As the next episode suggests Parrish must end up behind bars, all the better to draw out the suspense of who really blew up the FBI agent and Grand Central.  Tate Ellington as Simon rocks it as does Annabelle Acosta as Vasquez in this episode. Chopra as Alex maintains that high level of commitment she started the series with.

Quantico airs Sundays on ABC and the show is starting to come together…finally.

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.