Sunday, September 25, 2016

Quantico Is Back, But That Doesn't Mean It's Better

(Photo credit: ABC)

Last season, Quantico was one of the most compelling pilots I had seen. It was filled with soapy drama, but not over-the-top about it. It had shocks and secrets and even a little bit of comedy. The interactions between the cast members and their respective characters were engaging and interesting, and the pilot gave us just enough to have us wanting more. Flash-forward, however, about half-way through the first season and the show began to suffer in terms of quality and storytelling. Soon, most of the things that had made the show interesting faded or were relegated to the background. The show became much soapier in terms of romantic drama, most of the character pairings that were interesting didn't get a lot of screentime, and the overarching mystery dragged on until the final reveal, which felt wholly unsatisfying.

So I didn't have high hopes for the second season when I went into it and — unfortunately — those low expectations were met. A lot of what made Quantico great in its early days last year was the fact that it was unlike any other show on television. It focused on a large mystery, which is customary for pretty much every other show on television, but its strength was that it focused on bridging the past with the present-day and allowing us to see two different versions of the same character. The NATs were inexperienced, but they were all in it together. And that made the show a bit special.

But Quantico's return feels like a disappointing re-tread of everything we already went through in the first season. Time jumps? Yup. There are about five or six within the first half hour of the episode alone, as if the show needs to constantly remind us that it's still up to its old tricks. Oh, and do we have a vague-but-dangerous-conspiracy in the season premiere? Yup. We don't know why apparently this new rebel group within the CIA is demanding presidential pardons, but of course, Alex Parrish is the only one who can stop them. Do we have unnecessary and vague couple-y drama that involves lying? Of course! The show really wanted to hammer this one into the ground. As we saw at the end of last season, Alex tentatively accepted a job with the CIA. We see her in that role, and Booth in... well, we actually don't know. We just know that he's doing SOMETHING.

And as it turns out, the two are in a committed relationship which is just starting to get back to a "good place" (Alex's words, constantly throughout the premiere). So of course the show would reveal that Alex isn't working for the CIA — she's working as an FBI informant, spying on the CIA. And guess what? Booth is doing the same thing! What could possibly go wrong with them having to spend time in the CIA pretending that they don't know/have a relationship with one another?! The two don't make it out of their mission without destroying their relationship — in the flashbacks, Booth is about to propose to Alex before they get the call that they're both recruited to a special task force within the CIA. And in the present-day, we see Alex give Booth the ring back.

Honestly, Booth/Alex was grating on my nerves toward the end of last season, with their constant betrayals and fights and will-they-won't-they of it all. Now, it seems like we'll have to suffer through yet another season of them being couple-y in the past and cold toward one another in the present. Essentially, we're going to get to watch the demolition of their relationship. Again. Fuuuuuun.

(Photo credit: ABC)

Speaking of the CIA, of course Booth and Alex get recruited to a special task force within it that no one knows about and of course there's a whole host of new recruits and faces and OF COURSE one of them — a nerdy author wearing glasses — turns out to probably be a bad guy in the present. Remind you of anyone? Maybe Simon? Yeah, apart from a few name drops and brief appearances by Shelby and Raina, the rest of our lovable NATs have vanished. Shelby and Booth and Alex rattle off their names and what they're currently doing in one scene, as if the writers were reminded that they probably needed to excuse all of those absences. And that doesn't mean that our original NATs won't return at some point, but for right now, they're not really important. And while it's true that some of the new recruits are interesting, mostly they feel like the same archetypes we saw last season — as if the writers trying to fill the voids left by our original NATs (one character is a ladies man and drips sarcasm, and if that doesn't scream "Caleb" than I don't know what does).

I didn't feel particularly attached to any of the new recruits, except for Lydia. And — spoiler alert — it turns out that she's not even a recruit! So we're back to square one. Quantico pretty much decided to stick to its formula in season two: the recruits have to learn lessons in the flashbacks that will apply to what they're doing in the present; the writers dangle vague connections and threads ("I killed him," says Alex in the present-day when she sees character we meet in the flashbacks) in hopes that we'll continue to tune in to learn more about this conspiracy and watch the recruits save the day again.

But frankly, I'm not interested in much of anything that this season of Quantico has to offer, except perhaps exploring Booth's character and his ability to lie, and Alex's complex feelings about being called a hero by everyone. Because the truth is that watching Alex run around New York City trying to solve a terrorist plot while, in the flashbacks, she learns things about characters who will be vital to solving this puzzle doesn't do anything for me. I mean, I watched THAT show last year.

And sadly, it doesn't seem like this season of Quantico will be much different than the last.



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