Monday, March 7, 2016

Quantico 1x12 "Alex" Roundtable: Who's Ready for Color Wars? [Contributors: Jenn and Meredith]

Original Airdate: March 6, 2016

We're back, everyone! Quantico has officially returned from its hiatus, which means that Mer and I will once again be reviewing the show. We'll be switching off each week in our reviews, but for the midseason premiere of "Alex," since we both watched the screener, we decided to combine our powers and do a little bit of a roundtable discussion about our thoughts. Who made it out of the command center alive? What did we think of that mini time-jump? And what happens next?

Check out our thoughts below!

What did you think of this episode, both as the midseason premiere and in general?

Jenn: I think that as a midseason premiere and an episode, it worked fairly well. I like the fact that we get a “new” mystery to solve, even if it technically is connected to the old mystery that we spent eleven episodes trying to unravel. I think the miniature time jump really worked in the show’s favor, too, so that we got the chance to see just how the characters are doing after the traumatic events of the second bombing. I think that this is going to be a good place to start for the show in the present.

I like the integration of the NAT training flashbacks, but hope that they don’t get too repetitive, given everything we’ve seen in the first eleven episodes, you know? The pacing of this episode was a little bit slow, mostly because it spent a lot of time setting up the final few minutes. And while I think some of it was necessary, I’m not sure exactly HOW much was necessary. (And as a related aside, I still like the notion that whatever the group learns in the flashbacks somehow applies to the present-day situations.)

Mer: Hmmm. As an episode I think it was solid. Lots of new groundwork was laid, old questions answered, new questions posed, and all that good stuff that moves a plot and story and show forward. As a midseason premiere, I was a bit underwhelmed until the end. I agree that the pacing was slow, my attention drifted a couple times, and then those scenes when and immediately after Alex changes her position — in the courtroom and the boardroom when the gang is all together and they all walk out on her? That actually felt a bit rushed to me. Maybe in general the pacing of the present-day scenes could have been more evenly spread out.

I did find the flashbacks to be paced well, but I also agree that I worry about them becoming a bit repetitive. Hopefully the introduction of some new NATs will help with that.

This episode set a lot of questions into motion, while seemingly wrapping up some of our problems. Do you think this will work for the show moving forward?

Jenn: I think that if Quantico does this right, the new “bomber mastermind” mystery could work very well for the show. I worry though, like I mentioned above, that the show will start spinning its wheels again and make this pretty similar to what happened in the first half of the season. Though it’s hard to tell simply based on the fact that we didn’t get much intel about this bomber until the end of the episode, I’m hopeful that this mystery will be less of a guessing game of who — in the class — could be the suspect and more about teamwork. (Though with the team being as fractured as they are now, that might not be the case.)

Mer: I actually am not sure many of the problems have been dealt with. I think there are still a lot of loose ends, and things that maybe seem like they’re resolved but will come up again later in the season. But I do think that will work for the show. I think the show has the potential to be surprising, but that it had lost some of that to predictability the last few episodes. By making it look like we’ve wrapped up certain storylines, only to bring them back up later, the show may be able to get back some of its shock and suspense.

I’m definitely intrigued by the new storylines — The Golden Retrievers in the flashbacks, with Female Golden Retriever’s fake sister’s husband and all that jazz, as convoluted as it sounds, is interesting me. The twins and Charlie feels a tad contrived, but I actually have the feeling this will be very important.

And of course the biggest storyline of them all — when did Alex cut her hair? Nah, I actually am obviously referring to who is blackmailing her?

We see a different kind of Alex in this episode  pretty unhinged and isolated from the rest of the team. What did you think about her character and the fact that it’s now her trying to prove she’s right again?

Jenn: I realized this when Mer pointed it out to me, but it’s interesting that the show has chosen to go the whole “Alex vs. everyone” route this time around again. While I kind of like seeing Alex unhinged and obsessive over what other people believe to be a conspiracy, I also think that Quantico functions best when it utilized its ensemble to the fullest potential. And having the group fractured in the present-day (especially with that extremely icy Shelby/Alex relationship) is really difficult. But this episode was important though for the sake of Alex Parrish as a character. I think that we lost a lot of her and her journey in the conspiracy and mystery of the first half of the season. And it might seem contradictory to what I just said, but I think we needed a “reset” of sorts with Alex as the focus for this episode in order to remind us why we care about the rest of the team and their journeys alongside Alex in the first place. While seeing her a bit unhinged in a totally messy apartment, drinking and stealing fob keys to gain access to the intel she wants, it also made a lot of sense. Booth tries his best to point out that she dealt with a traumatic experience and it’s okay if she needs help processing it, but that obsessing over something like Elias’ last words is not the way to do so.

I’m definitely interested to see where Alex’s character goes from here. We all knew that she was right about Elias not being the only terrorist in on the bombings out there and this being a bigger conspiracy than anyone realizes (she’s our protagonist, so of course she’s right). And now with Natalie having a bomb strapped to her chest, maybe everyone else will finally believe her? At least we can hope, right?

Mer: Yes yes yes to the “Alex vs. everyone” thing. Le sigh. I’m over it. This is some of that predictability I was talking about earlier. Of course Alex is the only one who believes what actually turns out to be the truth. I mean, she was proven right the first time around so it makes total sense that nobody believes her now, right? No! No it doesn’t! We all know slowly but surely the whole crew is going to come around and be on her side, and I just don’t know why we need to go through Alex is All Alone 2.0. I think it would be more interesting and unique to not do this again, but that’s just me. And it really felt like “gang up on Alex unnecessarily” when she finally gave in, toed the line, and then she got yelled at for not doing it for the right reasons. Why? That doesn’t make sense.

From what we see in the flashbacks, Alex is the star student at the academy. Everyone know she’s smart and has great instincts, so why does nobody seem to trust or believe her? Even the man whose life she saved, more than once? I don’t know. This was probably my least favorite part of the episode. I don’t mind seeing an unhinged an off-kilter Alex, but I do mind seeing her unhinged, off-kilter, and isolated yet again.

In the flashbacks, we’re getting introduced to a whole lot of new characters. What do you think of them?

Jenn: I think I like the idea of the NATs being challenged by people who are about a month ahead of them in school. It’s good to see the characters (especially people like Shelby and Natalie and Caleb) getting the chance to encounter conflict that doesn’t involve one another. I think that adds to the tension and it’s nice that for now, Alex’s tension seems more minimal than the rest with her upper-class NAT counterpart (because of course everyone has counterparts — why wouldn't they?!) and that’s good because Alex has a lot to deal with in the flashbacks, including apparently avoiding drink dates with Liam.

I like that Caleb and Shelby have a story in this episode too in the flashbacks, especially because it seems like it will be something that will force them to be cordial toward one another and actually work together. With Raina and Nimah off doing interrogation duty, it’ll be nice to get some new faces into the show on a regular basis.

Mer: I’m basically going to just agree with everything Jenn said here. Although at first I was like more new characters? But I realized quickly that we need this to keep things fresh and interesting. I enjoy the Golden Retrievers’ storyline, as well as the twins. The flashbacks can be hit or miss, but I think they were pretty solid this week.

While the episode was pretty mellow, the last few minutes were definitely gripping. Any ideas as to who might be the other person behind the attacks on Grand Central?

Jenn: I think that Quantico purposefully integrated even MORE NATs into the flashbacks so that we would have a larger selection of suspects, don’t you, Mer? If we’re going by strictly the main cast, Caleb and the twins are the only people we didn’t see in the present-day and know are alive. I suppose it’s probably going to be one of the upper-class NATs, or the show will end with the revelation that it was Gossip Girl himself, Dan Humphrey, who was behind it all along!

(Sorry if I spoiled the ending of Gossip Girl, but also that show is way old by this point, so really not sorry.)

I actually am wondering if the show is even going to continue using every episode as a “whodunnit” now that we have so many characters in motion. I kind of hope that it doesn’t end up that way, simply because — again — we’ve seen that done before and the show is much more interesting if it focuses on the characters we do already know and care about.

Mer: I actually think exactly that, Jenn. I had that same precise thought while watching — they introduced this new slew of NATs just to broaden the suspect pool. But now... now I’m wondering if they’re maybe going to throw us for a loop and have it be Liam. The NATs get so much of the focus, but we know Liam has a shady past, and they actually seem to be trying to redeem him in the flashbacks a bit, which lends me to believe he may have something to do with this. I figured out Elias was involved pretty early on, just going with my gut, and right now my gut says keep an eye on Liam. We’ll see what happens as things unfold.

Any final thoughts about the other characters in the episode or the show as it moves forward?

Jenn: I really am glad that Caleb’s skeevy dad is gone. I’m interested though to see Caleb in the present-day, since we didn’t get the chance to see him or Raina and Nimah. Speaking of the twins, I’m really entirely over whatever trouble Miranda’s son was in with terrorists. I didn’t care about him before the midseason finale, and I definitely don’t now (and was struggling to remember what exactly happened to him and why I needed to care about it). I will say though that his conversation between Charlie and Raina about being profiled and comparing circumstances was pretty great.

I guess we’re going to be getting more insight into how Liam got into his whole unrequited love thing with Alex, based on that disappointed look on his face during the text message scene. In the flashbacks, I still love Caleb a lot because he’s a perfect blend of sass and intelligence (and smarmy). I’m looking forward to seeing more of our favorite returning characters, too (like Simon and Booth who were not as prevalent in this episode because they were absent from the flashbacks).

I’m interested to see where the back half of this season goes. I think that the show stumbled a bit toward the midseason finale in figuring out how to balance characterization with plot and not get muddied down by the conspiracies and secrets. My hope is that “Alex” served as a reset point for Quantico to get back to the core ensemble and focus on them working together rather than separately. We see a fractured team in the flashbacks and we definitely don’t need another one in the present-day, especially if that dynamic continues to be “Alex vs. everyone.”

Mer: I missed Simon and Booth in the flashbacks, and I wasn’t such a fan of Booth in the present day. His vehement disbelief in Alex made no sense to me, given their history. I still find Natalie useless — I kinda always have and don’t really see the point of her character? She was maybe supposed to be part of a love triangle between Alex and Booth but in present day they broke up and in the flashbacks she’s still hooking up with that guy whose name I don’t know? So I’m confused. Are Alex and Natalie close? Why is Natalie being used as the bait in the blackmailing scheme? Wouldn’t Alex’s old BFF Shelby make more sense? Or Booth?

I wonder if these are questions I’m supposed to be asking right now, as in the show is leaving things intentionally vague, or if this is just sloppy set-up and characterization? This show does some things really well, but the problem is that it then becomes even more apparent when it does things... well, not so well.
Quantico airs Sunday nights at 10|9c on ABC.


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