Quantico Season-Finale Recap: Who Wants to Be a Terrorist?


Season 2 Episode 22
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Giovanni Rufino/ABC

Even the most mundane problems have a dramatic arc. Something as simple as your partner forgetting to replace the trash bag can erupt into a conversation about neglectfulness before quieting down to a resolution. But no problem is every truly solved. A resolved conflict ripples into the future, creating havoc somewhere deep inside of you. On television, theoretically solved but actually dormant problems not only build characters into fully formed people, they imbue minor plot lines with emotional resonance and unspoken drama. It’s a crucial aspect of any good show, as it develops stories necessary to move the larger plot.

By comparison, Quantico’s greatest weakness this season has been its dependence on tidy wrap-ups. On the show, few story lines extend beyond their immediate announcement, and because of that, there’s not only a lack of emotional depth to the stories, but a lack of resolution. In the season finale, “Resistance,” the biggest plot of the series comes to a head, and our hero Alex Parrish is forced to betray her country. But the show’s insistence on treating every mystery as a solvable case — not unlike a CSI murder investigation — robs the episode of any cathartic feeling.

Last week’s episode promised us, yet again, that Alex Parrish was about to make a move to the dark side. After the president decided to disband the FBI and combine it with the CIA — a plot that feels almost unbelievably relevant in light of the President Trump’s firing of James Comey — Alex and her team decide they must stop a constitutional convention they think will ruin America. “Who wants to be a terrorist?” Alex asks.

But first, the episode opens with a rapid flash forward. Alex and her team are interviewing current operatives to decide who will play the part of good little pets to this new, evil regime. It takes ten minutes before the show reveals that the team is, of course, working undercover to try and ruin the convention from the back of a bar. It’s unclear why they wouldn’t just continue using their very secure bunker, and that oversight comes back to bite them.

From their bar turned workspace, they lay out the plan: They’ll turn four senators against the convention vote by using their personal lives against them. The show pretends that this is some kind of moral quandary for trained FBI and CIA operatives, as if they wouldn’t have required this kind of emotional manipulation on any mission before. As I’ve said through this season, maintaining Alex’s morality as a pristine intelligence saint turns the focus of the story away from what’s interesting and onto her heroism. They flip the four votes, but of course, they’ve been heard and shut down by the Collaborators, who used smart TVs to listen in on them. This reveal isn’t surprising, and because we saw no buildup for their work on this case, it isn’t even upsetting.

Instead, the Collaborators find a new method that wouldn’t be their enemy’s first idea after Clayton meets with his former friend Felix. “Stop trying to be smarter than them,” Felix says. “Surprise them.” So they do. “Tell them we’re going to betray our country,” Alex says. But again, it is unclear how protecting the constitution of the United States is a betrayal.

What follows is a plot involving the Russian intelligence community to incriminate the president and publicly humiliate him. In rapid succession, Will gets himself into collaborator Peter Theo’s home, finds a secret computer behind an oil painting, and shares all of Theo’s knowledge on Rourke with a drive. Alex then hands that drive over to the Russians, after getting them to promise to collaborate with the president on a word change that can be used as evidence of his corruption.

This all goes off without a hitch, and suddenly we’re off to the constitutional convention. The stakes of the drama, though, are lessened by a renewed focus on love lives. During the 100-day period we zoomed past to start the episode, Alex and Ryan have become mushy-gushy again. Shelby, who has thus far been set on coupling up with her third Haas man, Clayton, finds out that he lied to her and calls it off.

On the mission, Clay meets with President Roark who promises that “America wants to return to that uncomplicated ideal: to trust their representatives to work for them.” And so Clay undermines that trust, leaving a camera in the room. Video from that feed is then coupled with audio from the president’s call with the Russians, and we see Alex Parrish giving a speech about the corruption of the presidency and the convention.

“The truth is all we can trust. Resist, fight back, that’s what I did and will always do for my country,” Parrish says. There is a gunshot, and she falls to the ground, blood coming from a wound in her chest. Killing Alex Parrish — or even leaving her survival a question until later — would have been an effective emotional cliffhanger. But instead, she immediately wakes in an ambulance, wrapping up this bloody conflict into yet another neat and tidy bow.

The back half of the episode is devoted entirely to tidying up. Roark shoots himself in his study instead of facing the press. “This time I disappear,” Parrish says, and she prepares to leave the country, not saying good-bye to Ryan. Then we have yet another flash forward. Gathered in the bunker is our team, ready to tell us how everything has panned out. Nimah is out of prison. Clayton is back together with Maxine, already married after an elopement. They are all drinking Champagne in the bunker. Owen Hall is director of the CIA. Shelby is now running Quantico, training new recruits. “I miss her,” Shelby says.

As if on cue, we jump back in time. Here is Alex fleeing the country, drinking whiskey on a fancy airline that’s completely empty … except, of course, for Ryan. He has surprised her by following. She cries, and they parody their first conversation on the plane from the pilot episode. “Wherever you run,” he says. “That’s where I want to be if you’ll have me.”

And with a swell of music, and Alex’s hand reaching across the aisle to grab Ryan’s shoulder, the season wraps up. Everything has come full circle. There are no plots left dangling, no stories waiting to be told, nothing unresolved to get audiences hankering for a next season. It’s an odd choice for a season finale, made even odder by the news that ABC renewed Quantico for a third season. Based on this nice, neat conclusion, it certainly feels like the end.

Quantico Recap: Who Wants to Be a Terrorist?