After finally figuring out that the ultimate culprit from season one’s ongoing bombings was FBI director Liam O’Connor, Alex Parrish was rising from fugitive status to heroine. Being recruited by the CIA in Quantico’s final moments of season one, season two’s opening is in much the same fashion as last year’s premiere, we find Alex in the middle of New York City when a series of bombs go off. In Downtown, The Citizens’ Liberation Front has taken responsibility for the bombings and have taken hostage a room full of diplomats and politicians, including President Todd (guest star Danny Johnson) attending a world summit about potentially stopping worldwide surveillance.
Who happens to be in the room when all this is going down? Ryan Booth and Raina Amin, the latter is relegated to translating the terrorists’ Swahili to a live audience. The episode takes place about a year and a half after the season one finale and sticks to its usual formula of cutting back and forth between timelines. Before we’re really able to wrap our heads around what is happening presently, we’re transported back to the CIA recruitment phase. Where Alex and Ryan have been unknowingly recruited into the same case manager program. Which means, of course, that they are once again caught lying to each other in the process.
What would the show be without its group of aspiring recruits? This season, we have new CIA recruits Harry Doyle (Russell Tovey), León Velez (Aarón Díaz), Springer (Ehad Berisha), and Lydia Bates (Tracy Ifeachor), who is later revealed as a case manager and the daughter of head trainer Owen Hall (Blair Underwood). The CIA training facility, which is called “The Farm” and immediately brings up an image of a herd of sheep, is shrouded in mystery.
The premiere is so heavy on the CIA aspect of it all, I’m starting to wonder why the show hasn’t just changed its name to Langley instead. Alas, the CIA recruitment process is different from the FBI’s (there’s a lot of snarky comments made from both sides). Alex and Ryan are actually undercover FBI agents, asked to infiltrate the CIA under the tutelage of Miranda Shaw. There’s a conspiracy that’s happening and they need to find out what it is and who is involved before anyone gets hurt.
Back in the present, the hostage situation escalates and Ryan finds room to reason with the terrorists. Even going so far as to arrange for the president to speak with them. Where there are people in the room who are also playing both sides. Alex manages to make it into the building (her penchant for always being able to be in the wrong place at the right time is noteworthy, but not in a good way) and has a physical altercation with one of the masked men. Before jumping out of the window, his face is revealed and it turns out Alex knows him. The only thing is…he’s supposed to be dead. Alex claims to have killed him herself.
Of course, amid all the action and time jumping, there’s the transient and constantly fluctuating relationship between Alex and Ryan. Since the series premiere, the two have struggled to maintain a solid foundation. Between all the lies, Ryan’s ex-wife, and all the melodrama from last season, the season two premiere finds them in a semi-long-term situation. Ryan is prepared to propose to Alex and things are looking up for them, but she tells him that they should wait until their CIA assignment is over before saying yes to the proposal.
This may be all well and good, except for the fact that they have one of the most unhealthy relationships on TV right now. A year after the (sort of) proposal, the tension is back and it doesn’t seem like they’re together anymore. I wonder how I could ever root for a couple that struggles to have any semblance of a conversation that doesn’t involve their jobs, pettiness, or lies that result in almost hostile arguments. If anything, this episode only solidifies that perhaps the next time they break up, it should be for good.
Quantico showrunner Joshua Safran, promised that this season will be “a little bit slower” than the last. If the season two premiere is any indication, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit. One of the downfalls of this is that because there’s so much going on, there’s no breathing room. The show is content in keeping the structure and pacing it has built for itself, but with the FBI training gone, the CIA recruiting program and the bombings later on feel too much like an exact replica of season one.
The plot holes continue to wrack up and the overall lack of cohesion debilitates the show. Character development is practically non-existent. Which is a shame because if they’re going with a reality where the country is facing major threats and bombings every year that are a result of inside jobs at either the FBI or CIA, then character relationships and interactions should be grounded and more integral to the show. Ultimately, Quantico’s season two premiere has a lot going on, but it still hasn’t learned how to balance its characters with its plot.
Quantico stars Priyanka Chopra, Jake McLaughlin, Yasmine Al Massri, Tracy Ifeachor, Russell Tovey, Aarón Díaz, Pearl Thusi, Ehad Berisha, Blair Underwood, Johanna Braddy, and Aunjanue Ellis.
It airs Sundays at 10/9c on ABC.