Quantico is remaking itself … again. For weeks, the show has been on hiatus while ABC instead aired its hit reality franchise The Bachelor. And for weeks, ABC has piled up the Quantico previews, promising a new, illegal mission and a hell of a lot of drama. But even if you enjoyed Quantico’s past highs, this second season has been spinning its wheels since episode one, desperate to find solid ground. It was hard to believe that anything would change for the better.
But after “LNWILT,” it looks like Quantico has finally found a groove. The hiatus left us at a natural-ish end point: The team of CIA/FBI agents wrapped up a giant terror attack at the G20 summit, and everyone was about to return to their separate lives as secret agents. But before that episode ended and the show went on a month-long break, we got a new setup: President Claire Haas calls a group of special agents before her, creating a brand new (and very illegal) joint task force. The goal? To take down people who think they’re untouchable. This force is made up of Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra), Ryan Booth (Jake McLaughlin), Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Brady), Dayana Mampasi (Pearl Thusi), and Nimah Amin (Yasmine Al Massri).
Now, Quantico welcomes us back with a good old-fashioned chase scene. Alex and Shelby pursue a criminal on foot, get beat up a little, and provide a narrative runway for the rest of the episode. We are told that Alex has gotten her FBI badge back, and that neither of them are thrilled with working on a team with their ex-boyfriends. From there, “LNWILT” really starts to hum when the Haas task force receives a text that calls them to a meeting on The Farm.
This episode spends the first 15 minutes doing straight setup, but it’s setup that works. By paring down the cast to five characters, Quantico creates some real tension that doesn’t feel spread thin. Alex and Ryan are still ex-lovers. Nimah and Shelby are fighting over the G20 conference. Dayana is the new girl. And Shelby — instead of having to cope with facing her ex-boyfriend Caleb Haas everyday — has to deal suddenly with his brother Clayton, who harbors a (fair) grudge against her for sleeping with his father.
All of this personal drama is enough to make me feel more invested in Quantico than I have been since the very first episodes of the series. And on top of that, it looks like the group’s efforts will actually be a running plot line that might really make sense! The goal of the covert task force is to find the players at work behind terrorist attacks. Because the government lost some secure data in the G20 attacks, they are able to trace the source when it is accessed — a claim that seems dubious to me — which can then be connected to other events of the task force’s radar.
Tonight’s mission focuses on trying to trace the identities of people who benefited from a felled cargo plane. But the task force is behaving like children, fighting around the table over every petty little thing. It’s a lot of poorly acted spats, and none of it feels like in-fighting as much as actors pretending to fight.
Amid all these squabbles, Owen Hall (Blair Underwood) is recalled from jail and quickly jumps to work. “Follow the money,” he says. “Use human intelligence.” Immediately, Owen shows them a potential insider trading occurrence. This, of course, is incredibly obvious, and something a team of operatives with CIA and FBI training should have figured out in about 40 seconds, no matter how much they hated each other. Nimah presumably also had this theory, but nevertheless, Owen’s reappearance serves little purpose other than to create more personal drama for Alex, which frankly Quantico doesn’t need.
Their mission takes place at a black tie gala for investors, where they must find out who benefited most from this event, which Shelby describes as “[a party] full of people who think they’re the good guys when in actuality they’re destroying America for their own gain.” Normally, the missions on Quantico run a little slowly, not requiring that much attention. It’s pretty common for them to drag a bit. Not tonight, though. I was hooked as Alex and Owen made their way into the company office and broke into files while the rest of the team ran the party. I was so focused, I barely even took any notes.
“LNWILT” pulls off a couple successful twists in this scene. It sets a “Life & Arts” reporter on Ryan Booth’s trail, then it surprisingly brings back Harry Doyle (Russell Tovey). (Let’s hope this gives him a window back into the script.) Meanwhile, the mission winds up catching criminal acts, but not the right ones. They find “the next Bernie Madoff,” but can’t connect those financial crimes to terrorism.
The task force is almost shut down until our heroine Alex teams up with Harry to find the missing piece: another company that benefited from the plane crash after it happened. The culprit is Christian Kelly, who made a $200 million windfall off the crash. “This is just the first inning in a long game,” Owen says, returning from a dark tunnel where he seems to always be waiting. And so the task force lives another day. One pillar of the eight that make up a terrorism attack solved.
This being Quantico, the episode naturally ends with another twist. Now that the show has given up on its multiple timeline structure, it tosses a new wrinkle in the narrative by bringing back Léon Valez (Aarón Díaz), who claim that “someone’s trying to kill us. All of us.” Alex and Dayana meet with Léon, but he seems paranoid and insane, and instead of taking him seriously, they suggest he see a therapist.
As he heads to his car, two men jump him in the dark, stab him in the neck, and push him into a trunk.
All in all, for the first time since its first season, Quantico actually seems to know where it is headed. It’s quite a welcome development, and the newfound confidence an episode like “LNWILT” carries makes Quantico a much more enjoyable show to watch.