Marcia Cross as Claire Haas, Johanna Braddy as Shelby Wyatt.
This week, network television’s most confusing show got a little less haphazard. With no less than three plots and a half-dozen plot twists per episode, watching Quantico has lately felt like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube: All the pieces fit together with some series of twists, but until the puzzle is actually solved, it just seems like a complete mess.
In “Epicshelter,” the puzzle finally starts to come together. For weeks now, we’ve been dealing with the same major plotlines: a terrorist attack in NYC, a hunt for a covert team, and several interpersonal dramas. This episode is no different, of course, as the divisions of narrative labor have settled into standard places. In the future, viewers get a lot of good action scenes and fast-paced drama, and in the past, we get the emotional weight Quantico needs to keep viewers connected to what’s happening with this CIA-FBI-MI6 mess. The big difference? This time, the episode actually offers plot resolution.
Normally, each episode of Quantico offers an overt moral. A lesson taught on the Farm, where Alex Parrish & Co. must learn their latest CIA skill, becomes the overarching theme. But this week, there is no major lesson on the Farm, no challenge for the young recruits to battle over. The only guidance we’re given is a very short lecture given by a random actor we’ve never seen before, who promises that “even the best have to prepare for the worst,” then asks each of them to work on their wills. This concept, that the end is right around the corner, permeates the episode as it ties up loose end after loose end.
On the Farm, things move at a breakneck pace. Last week, Owen (Blair Underwood) and Alex (Priyanka Chopra) watched a strange bunker that presumably belongs to the AIC explode and kill a man, and now that event has already come back to haunt them. Two FBI agents show up to interview recruits and find out what happened. The man who died, they tell us, is Jeremy Miller (David Call), a former recruit who also was a fairly famous novelist. Now, if you have the memory of a literal spy, you might remember that Jeremy Miller is not actually dead. One thousand years ago, when this terrorist plotline began, Alex Parrish was convinced that she saw him alive. This knowledge doesn’t really matter, though. Owen is arrested by the CIA and taken into custody.
The meat of the past story line (for the third week in a row!) comes from Harry Doyle (Russell Tovey), who is struggling to balance his mission as an undercover MI6 agent at the Farm with his own personal drama. Yet again, Tovey carries the episode’s emotional weight like it’s nothing and proves himself one of the best actors in this ensemble cast. His best scene takes place at the bar with the other recruits, where he says he “came here with good intentions and like all good intentions they went up in flames.” Sebastian Chen (David Lim), his enemy-roommate, has ratted him out to a higher-up, which means he’ll be pulled from his position. He’s not the only agent to leave the Farm this episode, either. Alex Parrish is also kicked out by Owen’s daughter, Lydia (Tracy Ifeachor).
The Alex and Lydia drama continues in the present story line, where she discovered at the end of last week’s episode that Lydia is running the operations on the terrorist attacks. Now outside the perimeter, the sense of danger Quantico tried to sustain for too many episodes does briefly fade for a few minutes. Almost immediately, though, it returns: Alex and her friends are sent back into the perimeter to track down Will (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Dayana (Pearl Thusi), who are allegedly trying to upload some very secretive “drives” that need to be kept private.
“Oh Lord, I hope this is the end and not the sequel,” Harry jokes as they enter the perimeter. His sentiment was mine as well. This terrorism subplot has been dead for weeks, and finally it seems like it’s coming to a close. The team splits up to find Will and Dayana with guns out. For the first time in weeks, there is actual tension. It’s definitely more dangerous to put these characters inside a closed perimeter with a bunch of terrorists, and during this mission, it actually feels like someone might die. The streets are dark, they are in small groups, and Will and Dayana are both good agents.
No one dies, of course. But the tension still works. Alex finds Will and Dayana only to get shot in the back (she’s wearing kevlar, whew), watch Lydia upload the drive, and get into a fist fight with her. This is the most drama Quantico has had in weeks and the fight is mesmerizing. Both leave with little more than bloody noses, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen a well-choreographed fight. It’s a breath of fresh air. Alex wins, but she’s too late; Lydia uploads the drives and their information.
“Epicshelter” races through so many plotlines that we even get what is essentially a recap near the end of the episode. While Miranda (who is in custody) explains to Shelby what happened, a second screen displays other scenes from the episode to explain to us what is really happening. The gist is that Alex was right all along, and the twist is that the First Lady is involved with the Citizen’s Liberation Front.
With all that wrapped up, the only thing left to address is Alex’s relationship with Ryan (Jake McLaughlin). To deal with this, the episode flashes forward two more weeks and shows her returning the ring, promising all the while that she’ll always love him. This episode really feels like a season (if not a series) finale. If Quantico never aired again after this week, I’d feel pretty content with where every character ends up. It would be a nice ending point, especially if the last four minutes were cut. But the show must go on, and so it sets up a new future: Alex, Ryan, Shelby (Johanna Brady), Dayana, and Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) are all recruited to become a covert task force for the president. Soon, they will begin a new assignment. Let’s hope it’s the change of pace Quantico desperately needs.