Hit or Sh**: ABC’s QUANTICO
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
When I reviewed NBC’s BLINDSPOT for my last installment of Hit or Sh**, I made the generalization that “[i]t ain’t American Network Drama without a terrorist plot.” Well, turns out I was right. QUANTICO follows a group of young FBI recruits as they battle their way through training at the Quantico base in Virginia. Between target practice and tests of physical endurance, the trainees learn the art of investigation by attempting to discover pieces of information redacted from each other’s files. But, since pitching an FBI training version of BIG BROTHER puts network execs to sleep, the creators decided to include a massive terrorist conspiracy. Turns out, one of these trainees we’ve gotten to know will be suspected of masterminding the biggest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, just a few months down the road.
Pictured: A Red Herring
Clearly, ABC is taking notes from their Shondaland programming (SCANDAL, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER), as they packed this pilot with plenty of twists and turns. Unfortunately, what this results in is a series of outrageous scenarios that make the fact checkers at FOX News look more competent at their jobs than the FBI. Not the least absurd of these is a scene where a Mormon trainee somehow gets ahold of a loaded firearm while undergoing interrogation in regards to his darkest secrets. (WARNING, SPOILER:) As expected, under threat of revealing his dreaded dark past, the trainee kills another agent and himself with said firearm. Unfortunately for our poor Mormon and the FBI, his interrogator was bluffing. The FBI didn’t actually know his secret until after his suicide. Because raping a fourteen-year-old girl who then died during an illegal abortion during his religious mission in Malawi just didn’t make the background check.
Joseph Smith, I’ve failed you!
But this is only one of the many secrets our trainees are keeping. Throughout the episode, we get to know our list of suspects in rapid fire succession, learning that all of them have something to hide. Anything from secret twins, to virginity, to patricide is fair game. It also provides the next couple episodes with plenty of conflicts to explore. Protagonist Alex Parrish is definitely a character I’d like to get to know better, possessing a nice mix of duplicity, sexuality, and good-heartedness. My only complaint is that she gets almost no screentime when compared with the six other trainee arcs we’re meant to follow. Still, I’ll always give props to casting an Indian woman as the lead on a major network show.
*Side Eyes NBC*
Aside from the FBI funhouse of mishaps, the pilot is actually pretty fun. It’s a solid piece of mindless entertainment that’ll carry you over until HOMELAND comes back. That said, QUANTICO has quite a few problems it’ll have to surmount in order to go the distance. Revealing “deep dark secrets” as a plot device can get repetitive quickly, and a terrorist attack can only give a show so much mileage. The music choices will also have to be overhauled if the show wants to establish any sort of cohesive tone (sorry, Cold War Kids). But the largest obstacle of all is the lack of emotional resonance. Most, if not all, of the character’s storylines seem far removed from real life, existing only in the world of black suits and producers screaming “more conflict.” Maybe this will change, and we’ll get to know these characters as people, rather than suspects. I hold out enough hope to make it to Episode 2, but they’ll have to right the ship if they want to keep me invested until the finale.
Maybe she’s born with it…maybe it’s domestic terrorism
Verdict: Sh** Probation
QUANTICO airs on ABC on Sundays