“Quantico” has been a bright spot for ABC this season, proving two things: The threat of terrorism hasn’t stopped a pretty sizable audience from watching related fare as entertainment; and in terms of being derivative, it’s possible to get away with murder – twice.
Indeed, the initial impulse here was to dismiss the show as a “How to Get Away With Murder” wannabe. Yet with that series having already begun to repeat itself in less-than-flattering ways, this one somehow seems fresher and more enjoyably ridiculous. Nor should anyone underestimate the power of presenting a lot of absolutely gorgeous people who, when they aren’t protecting America, are having sex with each other, while modeling a line of tight-fitting training clothes that the real FBI should probably seek to trademark.
Using the same time-bending device as “Murder,” “Quantico” closed the first half of its season Sunday night (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched) with a literal bang. After starting with a terrorist attack in New York, the episode culminated with another one, not only putting several of the agents in apparent peril but offering not much more information in the way of identifying the mole responsible for the earlier attack and framing trainee Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra).
Written by Joshua Safran and directed by Thor Freudenthal, this latest hour was about as subtle as everything else associated with “Quantico”– which is to say, not at all. At times, the flashbacks feel less like a camp for training elite FBI agents than spring break in Florida.
Yet as with Shonda Rhimes’ Thursday-night dramas, dealing with serious subject matter in a frothy, at-times silly way oddly works for this show, as the terrorist threat often takes a back seat to the agents’ peculiar courtship rituals, including the have-sex, meet-cute, on-and-off-again romance between Alex and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin).
“Quantico” has thus become an agreeable time-killer, mostly for its wacky twists and unabashed Revlon-commercial style. It’s certainly not because there’s any reason to spend time speculating about the central mystery – having introduced a veritable pond full of red herrings – or because the plot always makes sense (the let’s-tie-up-Simon-with-a-detonator bit was a genuine head-scratcher).
Nevertheless, the show has reasonably caught on, which might be a testament to the casting more than anything else. True, the people on TV are invariably better looking than their real-life counterparts, but seldom has the FBI looked more like it recruits from Victoria’s Secret catalogs and men’s water polo teams.
While Chopra was the one splattered all over billboards prior to the premiere, the supporting cast has also flourished in unforeseen ways – no one more so than Yasmine Al Massri as twins Nimah and Raina, whose tag-team-wrestling act, in hindsight, really could and perhaps should have been its very own show. (OK, so the Nolans already did it in “The Prestige,” it’s still kind of fun to watch.)
Based on the mid-season cliffhanger, “Quantico” appears to be in no hurry to disgorge its big secrets, raising the question of how long those threads can be teased before they begin to unravel. Still, the show that ABC opted to schedule after the low-mileage “Blood & Oil” is looking like an unexpected keeper. And thanks to its credibility-be-damned zaniness, there’s less danger that this drama, at least in the near term, will run out of gas.