Did you catch the new ABC-TV Series called Quantico which premiered on Sunday night?
I did. I especially wanted to see this one because the lead actress, Priyanka Chopra, is one of Bollywood’s leading stars. I also saw her in person last spring at the IIFA held in Tampa. On the surface, it seemed like a bit of unusual casting for American TV – an Indian actress portraying a FBI Agent; but in the name of fairness, I should tell you that Priyanka attended high schools in both Newton, Massachusetts, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
As the show opens, a woman is lying unconscious on a slab of concrete in what looks like the very recent aftermath of a huge explosion. I’ll return to that shortly. But before we can learn anything, we flash backwards 9 months and we cut quickly to Augusta, Georgia, where a blond girl is walking about a large mansion which still has all of its content but the major furniture pieces are all covered with sheets – signifying that it is likely that no one lives there.
And before we can learn anything about her we cut to Oakland, California where we see the original woman from the opening, now jogging. She returns home, and we learn that she is on her way somewhere as her mother conspicuously tells her (and us) You’re going to be late for the train – I printed your ticket. But something is amiss. This woman had concealed some papers under the corner of a rug in her bedroom, and, moments later, as the taxi begins to leave, the cabbie says to her, Train station, yes?, and she says, No – the airport.
In my opinion, this was a bit ham-fisted. We are now thinking – why is this woman going to a unknown destination that she’s been very careful to keep from her mother. Call me suspicious, but while this was not all wrong it came on too quickly and seemed forced. Did we really need to know that she has secrets this early – basically within the first two minutes of the series?
Cut to the airplane which is flying across the country to Washington DC. This time the girl from the slab, and then Oakland, will meet a guy on the plane. It could be she is telling more lies but we will have to wait and see. He buys her a drink.
Flash to Salt Lake City, then to Manhattan, then to Logan, Ohio. In these places we meet a guy in the Mormon Tabernacle, then a gay guy, then a woman who looks Middle Eastern. She will need to buy something in the convenience store in order to use the bathroom. There she locates a concealed phone wrapped in plastic and hidden in the toilet tank. She changes from wearing a dark scarf into wearing a black hijab head covering. Before driving away in a different car than she arrived in.
We know nothing about these people, but you get a feeling about them that conveys that they are all up to something that’s not readily apparent. Now don’t forget we are still in the flashback mode – which places us some 9 months in the past. We then cut to a car parked in the airport garage. Two people are having vigorous sex. It is the Oakland jogger and the guy she met on the plane.
When they are done, he conveys that he’d like her phone number, or an email, or even a name, implying that he’d like to see her again, but she declines – you’re not my type – she says.
A few seconds later we see all of the above people arriving at a destination and we hear them being sworn in. They are at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and they are about to start their training to become FBI Agents.
FBI Special Agent Liam O’Connor: Welcome to the FBI Academy at Quantico. Congratulations. You made it in.
FBI Special Agent Miranda Shaw: Now let’s see if you can survive.
A rather decent opening in my opinion. Various characters from various locations all begin their FBI training. It could be brutal, and some will wash out, or even die – right here in the first episode. And that’s only half the story.
The other half of the story is set in the present. The Oakland jogger, called Alex Parrish, and played by Priyanka Chopra, began the series unconscious on a slab of concrete. The police, and FBI who are on the scene immediately, find her situation puzzling. How could she be where she is – unscathed, unharmed, and without even any hits of detritus from the explosion on her.
What exploded – New York’s Grand Central Station.
On your feet – hands in the air!, they scream at her. She reaches toward her pocket. Stop moving – hands in the air or we will shoot you!
She says something – I’m FBI. I’m reaching for my ID. It’s in my right jacket pocket. Now we know this is all true. But that doesn’t stop these FBI agents from detaining her and then naming her as a suspect in the worst terrorist act on US soil since 9/11.
So that’s your intro and your structure. This is an ABC show and just like last year’s runaway hit – How to Get Away With Murder – the show will utilize the flash back/flash forward methodology. There’s the mystery of who caused the explosion? What is Alex’s role in the act of terrorism?
Is she hadn’t anything to do with it – why was she there? And again, if she hadn’t anything to do with it – who has obviously attempted to set her up?
To get us the answers to those questions we will have to start back at the FBI Academy. Yes all the people we met in this pilot episode have secrets – and as a way of introducing us to those secrets – all these FBI trainees begin their careers with a 24 hour investigation of each other. These recruited future FBI agents are tasked with reading a file on one their fellow trainees with the intent of uncovering a secret about the one being looked at.
As the instructor tells them – uncover the secret and confront the other trainee. If you are right – you stay. If you are wrong and cannot uncover the secret – you will be asked to leave the FBI Academy and this career choice immediately.
I like this show. It has attractive people, it has pace – in fact I think the entire premise is just shouting out excitement and thrilling all at once. Unlike The Blacklist which has a secretive super-criminal now working with the FBI and while cnfronting a new villain each week, he is still keeping his secrets to himself, in this case we have multiple folks to keep track of and care about.
The difference is that here we already know – at least from both the beginning and by the end of the pilot, that they all have secrets that we will have to learn about. I’m hooked.
The first 8 Minutes:
See you next time.