Sunday, October 18, 2015

Quantico 1x04 "Kill" (One Giant, Flashing Warning Sign)

Original Airdate: October 18, 2015

The theme of this week's episode of Quantico is isolation. While the past few weeks have been devoted to secrets and unearthing the best and worst parts of the recruits, this week was an exercise in practicality –– in understanding how those traits and those secrets actually impact you in the field. For Alex, this week we got the opportunity to see shades of that "lone wolf" archetypal character that I had feared she would become when I first watched the pilot.

But I absolutely loved Alex Parrish this week. Why? Because the writers of Quantico did a fabulous job showing us throughout the course of the first few episodes that Alex NEEDS people and that she wants to need them, too. She's not someone who desires isolation. She doesn't want to close herself off to people at all. She's not a loner –– she doesn't function well that way. In fact, I think that "Kill" made it pretty evident that when Alex sets out to do things on her own, without the help of anyone else, she can succeed briefly, but ultimately falters. So by setting Alex up initially as a strong woman who needs other people, this "lone wolf" persona actually gives her character more, not less, depth. It allows us to see that she uses her isolation as a wall and as an excuse to keep other people out.

What's so impressive is that the show doesn't just present Alex to us this week as a lone wolf –– it depicted a few different characters' fears and highlighted why the recruits need to work together, not alone, if they ever want to succeed (or stay alive) in the field.


Most notable of all of these pairings was Raina/Caleb. Have you ever watched a show that included a certain character pairing and thought: "I didn't know I needed this until now"? That's how I felt about these two this week. I'm not sure I would have ever thought that Quantico could pair them together successfully, but the show managed to do just that. It's one of the things that the series has done really well thus far –– shake up character pairings to allow for depth and growth.

With Nimah gone, Raina is struggling and not just academically or on the firing range. She's fighting against her own insecurities without her sister. She's floundering in a world where she was secure and where she was confident and where she was supported by her twin. Now, she's alone and she's struggling to find her identity apart from being with Nimah... and it's showing. Miranda knows that something is amiss, but doesn't know quite what it is until later in the episode when she manages to track down Nimah and talk some sense into her. (And not just sense, really: Miranda allows herself to be emotionally vulnerable in order to remind Nimah of the stakes of what they are both doing at Quantico –– leading Nimah to return to her sister by the end of the episode.)

In the pilot, Caleb was impressed with Raina's (or Nimah's) wit and humor. He respected her. But since he's become an analyst, Caleb has become more astute. He's still smarmy in some ways and still unbearable in others, but "Kill" was the first episode where I genuinely had no complaints about him. He genuinely wanted to help Raina. And when she –– like us –– questioned his motives, he proved to her that he wants to be good at his job and he wants to see her become better at hers, too. He's the person who is able to talk Raina through what needs to be done –– he wants to prove to her that he's not just able to help her, but that he's willing to help her. The tone of voice he uses is even and calm, and honestly, the fact that these two were paired together throughout the episode was so rewarding for me to watch as a viewer. It let me connect more to Caleb and to Raina, emotionally. Good on you, Quantico!


The other relationship heavily highlighted throughout the episode was that between Alex and Shelby. Evidently, something happened between them at Quantico –– something that destroyed their friendship and turned the two women against one another. In the present, Alex and Simon are on the run, trying to figure out where the wire from the explosives that are being pinned on Alex came from. When the pair discover that they originated from a company that Shelby's family owns, they naturally broke into her house, searching for answers.

Months prior, at Quantico, Alex and Shelby's relationship wasn't exactly sunshine and roses either. Both women hid things from the other and Alex, acting as more of a lone wolf than leader, verbally burned Shelby by saying that the reason she's keeping secrets is because they're not really friends –– after all, they've only known each other for about a month. This obviously hurts Shelby and it's also obviously untrue.

What I really love about Quantico (I've said a lot of things I love about the series already, of course, so bear with me) is something I talked briefly with Mer about this weekend –– the depiction of female relationships is so wonderful and so important. Shelby, Nimah, and Alex are not pitted against one another as romantic rivals or enemies. The three women genuinely care for each other, even though they're in a place where competition should be their primal instinct. For some of "Kill," it's Alex's instinct –– to fend for herself and refuse to rely on any other person for support. Relying on people requires trust and that's something that is really difficult for Alex to do.

But here's the kicker –– in any other show, in the hands of a lesser actor or a lesser writing staff –– this is where the story would end: with the character realizing they're better off alone, on a one-person crusade. That they don't need others. Instead, during a training exercise, Alex expresses this very notion to Booth. Her isolation and her determination to be a one-woman team got her team killed during the hostage negotiation exercise. It was exactly what Liam wanted –– to see Alex quit Quantico.

It would be easy to end her story that way, because it's ended that way for so many others. For Alex to play the part of the tragic, brooding heroine, doomed to a life of isolation would be nothing new, really. What IS new, however, is that Quantico refuses to allow her to be that kind of hero. Alex, instead, allows others to support her. She chooses to reframe her story and her future. She ends the episode's flashbacks by sharing her secret with Shelby. The two women hold hands and unload their burdens and honestly, it's such a beautiful display of female characterization that I legitimiately don't know what to do with it.

Instead of pitting Shelby and Alex against one another –– thereby driving them both further into isolation –– the show chose to use "Kill" to bring the two women closer in the flashbacks. They may not understand one another and they may always, in a way, be butting heads and fighting against one another. But they're not enemies. They're not adversaries. They unload their secrets on one another and they become stronger characters because of it. This is what female friendships truly look like. This is what makes Shelby/Alex so compelling.


I joked that the tagline for Quantico was "trust no one," and I was pretty much right in assuming that (considering the official promos use the phrase: "trust no one, suspect everyone"). But honestly, for a show that is all about mistrust, Quantico certainly focuses a lot on the importance of teamwork and the importance of not keeping secrets. The series has already delved into the consequences of secret-keeping –– these are life and death matters, not to be taken lightly by the recruits.

And even though everyone at Quantico is hiding something, that's not what is really important in "Kill." What is important is how the recruits deal with such burdens. Are they shackled by them, prevented from making any lasting connections and relationships? Are they crippled by these secrets? Do they even acknowledge that they HAVE secrets?

I think that the most interesting and unique thing about Quantico as a series is that it allows us to see the present-day consequences of actions in the past. We are slowly filling in the gaps and it's extremely illuminating. I didn't think I would enjoy this structure, but the more I grow to learn about all of these characters, the more captivated I am by their journeys –– and the more I want to know the "why" and "how" behind the "what."

Additional fun:
  • "We don't wanna see what you do on your best day. We wanna see what you do on your worst."
  • "I got your back." Caleb and Raina bonding this episode was everything. Have I mentioned that?
  • "You can't do your job and not care."
  • "I know you exist. That's not what scares me. Who you are? That's what does."
  • "And that's what you are, Simon Asher: one, big, flashing warning sign." I haven't mentioned lately how much I appreciate Rick Cosnett in this series, but I am really appreciating him in this series.
  • "Sometimes I feel I'm losing myself."
  • "Kill" featured Booth officially turning against Liam's instructions in the flashbacks, which sets up the present-day pretty nicely. Oh, speaking of Booth –– we already pretty much knew this based on Alex's rooftop dialogue with Nathalie, but apparently Booth and Nathalie are romantically involved in the present.
  • Shelby's secret? She has a half-sister!
  • "How long do we hold hands until it gets weird?" Shelby/Alex scenes are the absolute best.
  • The Booth/Alex bathroom scene though was so cute and adorable.
  • The Golden Retriever OTP was adorable at the gun range.
  • Liam is getting shadier and shadier by the episode, y'all.
  • PLOT TWIST, THOUGH: Liam was being recorded by Booth when he revealed his evil schemes. And his mini-evil rant was being fed right to Miranda.

1 comment:

  1. It's kind of frustrating because this show could be awesome, but instead it's in this no man's land between high quality TV and guilty pleasure. They're going over the top with everything, like this ultra conspiracy that they're trying to develop and inflate too fast, and a lot of the characters are kind of ridiculous.

    That said, the basic premise and the acting is pretty superb. I loved that montage that had Alex picking up the phone, and hesitating a bit before finally calling her mother to tell her that she's actually at Quantico, not at grad school, and then the transition to Shelby finding Caleb at the gun range and joining him - there was some great subtle acting, just as simple as facial expressions and body language that really sold the emotions, and I also loved that they used "Maps For the Getaway" by Andrew McMahon as the background music.

    The way they're developing the relationships between all the characters is really the strength of the show, I just wish they didn't resort to the cheese so much, or if they did, they went all in and got ridiculous. Hopefully they're still working the kinks out and they can find the right consistent tone by the end of season 1, because there's lots of potential here.