September 28, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Quantico”


QUANTICO:  Sunday 10PM on ABC – In the Queue

The first hour of ABC’s QUANTICO is a bit of a mess, but it’s one of the most slickly enjoyable of the network fall TV season.  Think of it as Shondaland meets Homeland, although Shonda Rhimes has nothing to do with it.  The series creator is Joshua Safran, who came in as the replacement showrunner for the last seasons of Gossip Girl and Smash; this is his first time running a show from the start, and he squeezes so many twists and pieces of business into its opening episode that it feels like he’s terrified the one hour is all he’ll ever have.

The structure recalls How To Get Away With Murder:  we cut between a terrible incident in the present (in this case, the terrorist bombing of Grand Central Station just before the start of the Democratic National Convention in NY) and flashbacks to lay the backstory for the event.  Those flashbacks take us to the FBI training facility in Quantico, Virginia, where–shades of the Grey’s Anatomy pilot–trainee Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra, the closest thing to a new breakout star any series has offered this fall) has hurried sex with Ryan Booth (Jake McLaughlin), only realizing that he’s a fellow FBI rookie when she sees him at the first training session.

A la Scandal, everyone in Quantico has something to hide, as evidenced by the trainees’ first assignment, which is to investigate their fellow students and find out what’s missing from their dossiers.  (Most of the secrets are relatively harmless, but one has tragic repercussions.)  That’s not enough for Safran, because it turns out that for several of the characters, even their cover stories have cover stories–which themselves may be lies.  All this leads to the inevitable revelation that one of the trainees is a mole who’s responsible for the Grand Central bombing, and even that becomes more complicated when Alex is arrested as the prime suspect by some in FBI leadership but sent deep undercover to find the real culprit by others–unless, of course, it will further develop that her “escape” from custody at the episode’s end is itself a con of one kind or another.

It’s a lot to convey in a single hour, and some characters are short-changed by Safran’s script, particularly the senior Bureau training officers Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis) and Liam O’Connor (Josh Hopkins), who have a past that’s barely revealed before they’re being pulled somewhere else by the plot.  Alex and Ryan’s fellow trainees include southern belle Shelby (Johanna Braddy), gay Simon (Tate Ellington), legacy agent Caleb (Graham Rogers), and Nimah (Yasmine Al Masri)–whose secret is ludicrous even by primetime soap standards.

Silliness is going to be a constant risk for Quantico, if it’s going to keep up its current pace of twists.  So is incomprehensibility, and if characters start switching from good to bad with the flick of a script page, its revelations will lose emotional weight.  So far, though, the pace zooms along (the pilot was directed by Marc Munden), the characters are engaging and the set-up is intriguing, assets in short supply this season.

Apart from football, Quantico‘s only network competition will be the faltering CSI: Cyber, so although the numbers probably won’t be big (there are also umpteen cable series airing on Sundays), it should be able to hold its own.  If it can manage to control its own excesses, it could be one of the better rides around.


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."