“My name is Alex Parrish. Protecting our country had always been my dream, but my life took a drastic turn.”
That’s how each episode of ABC’s Sunday drama, “Quantico,” starts out, and if that isn’t a line to get you hooked, I don’t know what is. But is it a good thing when nearly every line delivered in the show is meant to be a hook like that?
Hooks and cliffhangers are great for dramas. They give the audience a reason to return week after week. But when they’re used as much as they are in “Quantico,” they can lose their effect.
That said, “Quantico” is an interesting show. It follows a young woman, Alex Parrish (played by Priyanka Chopra), as she trains at the FBI boot camp in Quantico, Virginia, along with other young FBI hopefuls. There are eight main trainees and two main trainers in all, and in the show’s pilot episode, the complicated backstory of each one gets its moment in the spotlight. Now that we’re at the fourth episode, though, the backstories have become hard to keep straight and few storylines are resolved.
The complications and cliffhangers stem from the series’ structure. About half of each episode takes place in the past at the FBI base while the other half is today, nine months later. The trainees have graduated and the FBI is sifting through the fallout from a bombing in Grand Central Station in New York City.
The FBI believes one of the trainees is the culprit. And Alex, having been framed, is suspect No. 1. She must work to clear her name while also evading government officials trying to catch her.
It’s a cliffhanger, for sure, but the “she-can’t-trust-anyone” mentality can run thin, because who she can and can’t trust changes several times in each episode’s 42 minutes.
There’s a positive side to this: it makes the characters dynamic and allows each actor a time to shine. For example, Yasmine Al Massri plays identical twins Nimah and Raina Amin, who the FBI has contracted to enter into boot camp and pretend to be one person in order to track down domestic terrorist cells. While the sisters are at odds a lot, their scenes are often the most interesting ones, since no trainees know their true identity.
But there are also incredibly clichéd characters, like Caleb Haas (played by Graham Rogers), who comes from a prestigious family of spies but gets kicked out of training in the first episode. He’s reinstated as an analyst, at which he proves to be competent, but his storyline is the classic wealthy privileged kid who acts lazy but has redeemable qualities. See Logan Echolls from “Veronica Mars” for a precise definition.
The storyline that takes place today is typically more interesting than the training base plotline. After all, Alex is being accused of being a terrorist. However, the drama keeps introducing new plot points that are yet to be fleshed out in the training storyline and therefore lack coherence for the viewer. And since these nuggets of information are introduced with extreme rapidity, it’s hard to keep them straight and get a sense of which ones are important and which ones aren’t.
But perhaps this abundance of information will make “Quantico” a brilliant show when whoever is framing Alex is finally revealed, which we can bet will be in the season finale. Since no character is free of suspicion right now, the switching from today to yesterday and back makes for an exciting ride — if you don’t get cliffhanger fatigue first.
Emmy Freedman is a junior history and media arts and design double major. Contact Emmy at email@example.com.