“The state of this country is the most precarious it’s ever been. Not only are there more threats than ever before, but the majority of those threats don’t come from known organizations or extremist groups but our own backyard — a neighbor you grew up next to, a one-night stand you had, perhaps even a family member. You applied here to protect your country from those threats, and while your ideals and your test scores might have got you here, they will not be enough to keep you here. The FBI Academy is the toughest boot camp, the hardest grad school rolled into one. It is not college. It is life and death.”
These are the words of FBI trainer Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis) as she welcomes a group of new recruits to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., during the pilot of ABC’s new guaranteed-to-be-a-hit series “Quantico,” which airs on Sunday evenings. If you can watch the pilot for this show without becoming completely hooked on it, you need to make an appointment with the Wizard of Oz to get a brain, a heart, and a soul. Anyone who doesn’t find this show totally engrossing must be one of the walking dead.
Now I need to be very careful in talking about this show because I don’t want to spoil any of the numerous surprises it contains. Therefore, any details about the plot are going to be intentionally sketchy.
“Quantico” tells the story of seven recruits who have been accepted into a class of trainees at the FBI Academy, and all of them have issues. Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra), is the central character who hopes solve a mystery about her late father, who was an undercover agent.
Joining Alex as principal characters in the drama are the following: Ryan Booth (Jake McLaughlin), a former member of the military; Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Braddy), a prototypical Southern debutante who lost her parents in a tragedy; Eric Packer (Brian J. Smith), a Morman harboring a dark secret; Nimah Amin (Yasmine Al Massri), a mysterious Muslim; Simon Asher (Tate Ellington), the FBI’s first gay recruit not to hide his sexual preference; and Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers), a guy with family ties to the FBI.
The story actually begins in the past as Alex and the other recruits arrive at the FBI Academy to begin their 20-week training session, and we have the chance to see them engage in some of their activities before switching ahead nine months to New York City, where a terrorist attack has leveled Grand Central Station. As FBI agents are combing through the rubble, they find someone alive, and it turns out this person is a member of the FBI recruiting class. From this point on the time frame alternates between the training period at the academy and the aftermath of the terrorist attack, and the recruit discovered at the scene becomes a prime suspect.
During the scenes at the academy we get to know the main characters, and in the sequences focusing on the attack, we watch the FBI question the recruit about everything from what kind of training went on at Quantico to very personal information. And the pilot really leaves you hanging and wanting much more.
“Quantico” ranks right up there with “Blindspot” as one of the best new shows of the season. The acting is consistently excellent, the characters are well developed, and the show offers plenty of surprises along the way.
Chopra, who was born in India and won the Miss World Pageant in 2000, is marvelous as the lead character in the series. The winner of numerous acting awards and nominations in her native country, she has more than 50 films to her credit, and she certainly shines in her first starring role in America. In a recent online interview with Eric Leijon she explained what attracted her to the series.
“I’m a really avid follower of pop culture and entertainment, so when I decide what I’m going to do—whether it’s a movie or a TV show—I like to watch the best things. When I read “Quantico,” that’s what it was. It’s pop drama, yet it doesn’t take your intelligence for granted, and I love that. And Alex as a character is so my alter ego. She’s an amazing character: She’s cool, and she totally has it together even when she’s unraveling. She’s badass and flawed, yet extremely confident. She’s an amazing character to play.”
She also explained that she has much in common with Alex.
“A lot of it is me. She dresses like me all the time. If you see any of my outfits when I’m traveling, it’s jeans, leather jacket, and boots. I told our stylist Alex dresses like me, and she said they took a bunch of pictures of me from Google and styled the character after those. I said, ‘That explains it!’ I think over time Alex and I might merge, but for now we’re getting to know each other.”
Another thing Chopra likes about the series is that it shows the human side of FBI agents.
“You always see people in the FBI and law enforcement as these authority figures, but they’re also human, and there’s a human aspect of how cases affect them, especially terrorism and cases to do with children. That was amazing to me, because ‘Quantico’ is about real people who happen to be at the FBI agency. It’s really about relationships and human interactions.
“They’re a bunch of people who happen to be FBI agents or trainees. That happens to be the scenario they’re in, and it’s primarily about interpersonal relations and what happens to people when they’re put under dire circumstances. That’s what makes it interesting to me. We’re having fun, it’s funny, it’s intelligent, and it keeps you on your toes. It’s almost everything you could want from pop entertainment, which is my favorite genre.”
Alex is going to be a fascinating character to follow during the series, but so are the other six recruits she knows because all of them have some baggage that I assume will be addressed in future episodes. Their interaction in the pilot promises some very interesting developments to come.
In addition to the outstanding acting and directing, “Quantico” has a big-screen look and feel to it. The photography, sets, and costumes all are superb, and it’s really intriguing to watch the recruits respond to the tasks assigned them,
I predict “Quantico” will be one of the fall season’s biggest hits, and it earns the final score of an unqualified 10. Add this one to your do-not-miss-it list.