From the promotional images I was expecting something that might become a successor ‘Covert Affairs’ now that has ended. While ‘Quantico’ does go some way to filling that gap in the TV schedule, there’s also a lot more and a lot less, going on here.
Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra ‘Krrish‘) is a new FBI agent who becomes the focus of an investigation into a terrorist attack based partly on the one piece of intelligence that the sleeper agent was in her class of trainees at Quantico. Set in both their time training and months later in the aftermath of the attack, we follow Alex and her fellow trainee agents and learn that everyone is hiding something, but whose secret is that they’re a terrorist?
I’ve now seen the first two episodes of this show, and maybe I hoped for too much but so far it’s not got me excited at all. I have in the past very much enjoyed shows with special agents and law-enforcement intrigue, but this feels like it is trying far too hard.
Chopra’s casting makes this (according to Forbes) the first time a South Asian actor has had a headlining role in a major U.S. TV show, which while both interesting and good to see, when put into the context of this whole show just feels like one of the many ways it’s trying a bit too hard to stand out by enhanced inclusivity. Another of the proofs that it’s trying a bit too hard is one Muslim character whose palindromic name hints at their (revealed in the second episode) secret. Partnered these aspects with the checking off a huge list of character types and minority groups, it sadly becomes more annoying than endearing in the end.
It’s not accidental, this is clearly what the producers were going for, aiming to make this inclusive show with so many groups represented, yet it feels awkwardly handled and tokenistic. Plus in the scope of the narrative, someone has to turn out to be the ‘bad guy’ and whoever that turns out to be will likely be of a minority group, or will the writers avoid doing that so it doesn’t look discriminatory? In which case we can cross half (or more) of the characters off the suspect list!
What would be great to see as an unexpected turn would be the lead character turning out to actually be the terrorist, but that isn’t going to happen, it’s far too mainstream to play with the audience in that way. I already have a very strong theory as to what’s going on, though I won’t say too much in case I spoil it for someone, just note it all revolves around Alex and her dead dad.
Aired on a Sunday night, the one evening I have nothing else on U.S. TV to watch except two of my favourite sit-coms ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine’ and ‘The Last Man on Earth’, the positioning is perfect for a strong female-led mystery drama with a well-tuned tone. If it was an enjoyable and captivating hour of television it would stand out from the rest of that evening’s line up. While I wasn’t looking for a replacement to ‘Covert Affairs’, this did feel like it might be on those lines, but despite a few similar elements it’s a very different show and not for all the best reasons. Priyanka Chopra is good but not great as she’s given nothing with the script that gives her much scope to wow, and when you base the main story arc and most of the promotion around a lead character, they need to stand out from the rest of the cast. That’s especially true as the show follows a clear group of trainees but isn’t really set up as a balanced ensemble piece, almost like they have written it sitting on the fence of whether if should follow one or all but then when they managed to cast Chopra swayed towards highlighting her.
I have to be honest, I’d like to see where it’s going, though it doesn’t keep me wondering much past the end credits, and if it was axed tomorrow I wouldn’t spend the rest of my days anguishing over who the culprit would’ve been.
Could it be good? Possibly. Could it be great? Sadly I doubt it. Plus the question isn’t really ‘could it be?’ but rather ‘will it be?’ I doubt it somehow, a show shouldn’t have to try this hard. There was a niche it had the opportunity to fill, but I would predict that niche will once again be available once this season is through.