May 16, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Quantico”


The fact that ABC’s QUANTICO has been renewed for a third season (albeit with a 13-episode order, a reduced network license fee and an as-yet-unchosen replacement showrunner) tells you everything you need to know about broadcast network television circa 2017.  Qnantico has recently been earning same-day 18-49 ratings at the 0.5 level, a number that wouldn’t only have ruled out a renewal just a year or two ago, but would have probably had it yanked off the schedule and tossed in a cellar.  But as with FOX’s The Exorcist, CBS’s Elementary, and NBC’s Timeless, profitability has been redefined by the networks.  Particularly where a series is produced by the network’s in-house studio (or as with Timeless, where that studio is a co-production partner), the network run is a loss leader for SVOD, international and other ancillary sales, which is now where the real money is made.  When a network renews a marginal show, it loses the potential upside of ordering something new that might be a much bigger hit, but the networks seem to be accepting the fact that those kinds of hits are going to be few and far between in this era, and by sticking with something that’s already on the air, they save the costs of a marketing campaign necessary to introduce something new.

To be honest, all this is more interesting than Quantico itself, but the show did have a notable, if unsuccessful, 2d season.  Newly-ousted series creator and showrunner Joshua Safran attempted the feat of an in-season reboot, radically changing the show while it was on its midseason hiatus.  He simplified the chronology, keeping the story in a single present-day timeline, instead of bouncing between past and present.  He streamlined the narrative, getting rid of the double-, triple-, quadruple- and quintuple-crosses that were a regular feature of Season 1 and the first half of Season 2, where the main thrust of the plot was figuring out who was or could be a traitor.  In addition, he made a strenuous attempt to keep the show topical, something that’s extremely difficult for a scripted show that by necessity is written weeks if not months before it airs.  Quantico added a Trump-esque politician who eventually became President (played by Dennis Boutsikaris) who was determined to undermine the Constitution, and it devoted episodes to such current events as “fake news” and a Muslim registry.

Some of these changes were advisable, even necessary, because Quantico had proven itself incapable of telling the more complicated story it had in mind, and it was all but incomprehensible.  The downside was that the show slid too far in the other direction, and became so blunt as to seem simpleminded and even silly as our troop of heroic CIA/FBI/Something Else agents fought against the President and his evil cabal.

Tonight’s season finale, written by Safran and directed by Jim McKay, was more topical than it could possibly have known, as it turned on the President character consorting with the Russians, even as the promos for the night’s news roared claims that real-life state secrets had been disclosed to the Russian Foreign Minister just a few days ago.  With Safran’s removal, though, it’s hard to tell how relevant the episode was to whatever Season 3 will look like.  No doubt due to the fact that renewal went down to the wire, the hour felt like it could easily have been a series finale, permanently removing the President by having him shoot himself after Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) and the rest of the heroes foiled his Constitutional Convention by revealing his Russian ties, and also resolving the romantic subplots between Alex and Ryan Booth (Jake McLaughlin), and Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Braddy) and Clay Haas (Hunter Parrish), respectively happily and not.  As with most of the rebooted season, the episode was slick but never convincing for a second, with ridiculous sequences like Alex handing an empty hard drive to the Russians, confident that all the incriminating information she was peddling would download in the time it took the bad guy to plug it into his laptop.  (It did.)

A 13-episode order will be a good thing for Quantico, which seemed to load on reversal after reversal simply because it needed to fill 22 hours for the season.  Chopra is an enormously charismatic lead, and McLaughlin and Braddy provide strong support.  Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess what direction Quantico will take in its third season.  Perhaps the greater mystery is how much lower its ratings can drop before ABC would finally grit its teeth and wield its network axe.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."