Finally, it has happened. An Indian actor has finally broken through the glass-ceiling. Former Miss World, Bollywood star and part-time Pitbull muse, Priyanka Chopra makes her debut as the lead in the new show, Quantico in what is touted as perhaps the first show to have a person of South Asian descent as the lead. Well, good for her. And it works in her favour that she stars in a vehicle which has genuine star-making potential. So it is a shame that the show, the pilot episode at least wasn’t exactly the best showcase for India’s PC.
The people behind ‘Quantico’ are the same people behind Ms. Pope’s ‘Scandal’ and last fall’s breakout hit ‘How to Get Away with Murder.’ In fact, one of the producers had called this show a hybrid of Homeland and Grey’s Anatomy. Wow, that’s a tough ask to climb. One, a once-terrific show that made a small comeback last season and the other an often schmaltzy show that nonetheless, has its charms. However from what I saw, Quantico is certainly more HTGAWM, than either of those shows. And, that may or may not be a good thing.
Quantico follows Alex Parish (Priyanka Chopra), a newly-minted FBI agent who finds herself at the center of a massive explosion in New York City. So obviously, because this is American television, she is the main suspect. Cut to nine months ago, where Alex is among 50 other recruits at the training facility in Quantico. What follows is a shoddily edited montage of cuts and flashbacks which introduce us to all the major characters in this show, guilty or otherwise.
WOOS: For a show based on a silly, even ludicrous premise, it’s great to see the producers treat it as one. For starters, Quantico does not try to achieve neither the lofty intelligent heights of Homeland (During its best moments), nor the adrenaline rush of Jack Bauer’s 24. It’s palatable nonsense served on a platter, to be had with an ounce of guilty pleasure. There is a sense of pulpy fun to the proceeding, a slight vein of unabashed entertainment value, which makes it great when they throw interesting curveballs your way (FBI Polygraph test).
Priyanka Chopra. I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of hers. But, in a generic ensemble of newcomers, she shines splendidly, whether in a flight, or a car or during an interrogation. True, there is not much ‘acting’ to be done in the episode but, there is a magnetic screen presence she brings to the screen. Looks like Kerry Washington has got competition at hand.
MEHS: For a show that takes a lot of inspiration from Viola Davis’ Emmy-award winning show, Quantico also inherits much of the same issues. The momentum steams and lurches whenever the episode cuts from present-day to flashbacks, and back. And it certainly doesn’t help that the editing is hapless. Fun and pulpy it may be but, the show loses something every time they do it. In fact, the flashback scenes work much better than present-day which is ironic, because the latter is what is supposed to be the main hook of the show.
There is silly, and then there is simply stupid. For a show about FBI agents and recruits, the characters, even the most experienced ones, are mostly dumb. It doesn’t help that most of the twists in this 40-minute episode (And yes, there are a few), are mostly absurd. (Twins posing as one agent right under the FBI. Is that even logical, let alone possible?). Also, what was with the lame car chase cum escape towards the end? I have seen Noida cab drivers drive better than that.
As I said before, the cast is generic. We have some pretty looking recruits, one with daddy issues, a gay recruit and of course, a Muslim recruit too (Because, this is a post-9/11 show. And, Islamophobia is on the rise. Unless of course, she is behind it. In which case, there is no stopping it).
VERDICT: First impression notwithstanding, Quantico looks like a reasonably serviceable soap opera, set in the post-9/11 world. It’s certainly not the best show this year (No, that’ll be Mr. Robot and perhaps, Daredevil). It has issues, a lot of them but it may just be pulpy and fun enough, to garner a fan following of its own. Watch it if you must but, do so with an open head, without many hopes or expectations to keep you floating. As for me, I’ll remain curious for the next few episodes, at least. Guilty pleasures for everyone.
I’ll give it a 2/5.