Since its premiere two weeks ago, Quantico has risen as one of fall’s hottest new shows. Among long-established dramas like Homeland, The Walking Dead, and the Shonda Rhimes TV empire, fresh shows often struggle to break out in primetime. Quantico, however, is the fourth highest rated new show of the season. The formula isn’t the most original: a beautiful girl with an uncanny skill for reading people (think Scandal’s Olivia Pope meets Psych’s Shawn Spencer) and a dark past finds her calling in a covert operation. One of the first scenes of the premiere depicts main character Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) making out with a guy in a car and calling him out on his earlier lies with a series of rapid observations that reveal his identity.
While this trope is tired, the supporting characters bring layers of originality, shown in a brief exposé of each one. Shelby walks through a beautiful old home in Augusta, Georgia, rubbing a warped piece of metal between her fingers. Eric shakes hands and greets acquaintances in a lush room in Salt Lake City, Utah, before pausing to stare longingly at a picture of himself volunteering in an African school. Simon pays a man on a busy New York City street to kiss him for a selfie. Nimah pins on her hijab in a Logan, Ohio gas station bathroom, after throwing down an American flag keychain at the Islamaphobic clerk who refused her the key until she made a purchase.
Despite the shallow and stereotypical representations of a few of these characters (Simon is gay, so his first scene has to be gay; Nimah is Muslim, so her first scene has to depict her putting on a hijab; Eric is a Mormon, so his first scene has to be about his volunteer work), their later scenes develop them into very cool and complex people. They, along with Alex and the mysterious car-sex-scene guy (whose name is revealed to be Ryan Booth), all converge at Quantico – a top secret FBI training program. Each of the characters have their specific secrets and skill sets, revealed piece by piece with the recruits’ first mission: to dig up as much dirt on another Quantico trainee as possible.
In a tense simulation of an interrogation broadcast to the other recruits, each one uncovered secrets with a lie detector and retina cameras. This all culminated in a dramatic scene where Eric, after stressing about his secret being discovered all episode, put his gun in his mouth and shot himself to avoid the consequences of his darkest moments. We find out that the famously moral and pious Goodman Eric Packer impregnated a 14-year-old African girl while doing missionary work and took her to get an abortion. His incredibly dark revelation made it clear that there are things about the recruits that even the FBI hasn’t unearthed, lending to a burning curiosity about what the real truth is about each of the trainees.
Another shocking twist: Nimah’s on-and-off friendship with Simon is explained when we see that she is literally two people. Twins Nimah and Reyna have somehow fooled everyone into thinking they’re one person, and plan to continue the ruse as long as possible. Their motives are unclear, but I’m willing to stick around and see where that story goes.
This premise of the training at Quantico is cut by flash forwards to the site of a terrorist attack, with Alex being the prime suspect, and Ryan dead in her apartment surrounded by explosives. The FBI is convinced Alex has information on a traitor within the system from Quantico, and she narrowly escapes being locked up in prison thanks to the Quantico director Miranda Shaw, who crashes the van to give her a chance to run. The shock value of this plotline may be cheesy, but it’s addicting as hell. How did Alex get into this mess? Is Booth dead for real? Who is Shaw working for? Who is the traitor? Where are the other trainees?
“Quantico,” while occasionally melodramatic and formulaic, is riveting in its own right, with intense cliffhangers that leave viewers anxiously awaiting the next episode. I, personally, plan on tuning in every Sunday until I’m as much a slave to this show as I am to Shondaland.