In the aftermath of the 2016 election, a number of network TV shows have faced identity crises. The election of Donald Trump came as a shock, and so many shows adjusted their spring programming to address the election. On shows like Black-ish, this commentary came in monologues about identity and race. On shows like Catastrophe, the references to the election are snide jokes made in passing. But despite producing more than ten episodes since the election, Quantico still hasn’t quite figured out how it wants to handle the Trump administration.
Because the show deals with spies — and because those spies were already set up to work under the first female president of the United States — Quantico was in a prime position to comment on current affairs and politics. For a brief stretch of episodes this season, Quantico found its niche with deeply emotional reactions to overarching political policies. With a cast as diverse as this one, it is easy to make something like a Muslim travel ban feel intimate and disastrous. But as the show dove into the conspiracy theories driving those policies, it lost the emotional core that enabled it to talk about issues that otherwise come off as boring.
Last week, Quantico attempted to invigorate what seemed to be a dying plotline by sending Alex Parrish over to the dark side. This week, we see that mission up close and personal. Had the show sent Alex to work with the collaborators and left us in the dark about her intentions and plan, it could have been a revolutionary move, an “Olivia Pope donning the black hat” moment that overturned all of Alex’s relationships.
But Alex has always been good to a fault. She has almost no character flaws and is genuinely nice to everyone. In an age of antiheroines, Alex Parrish is a Disney princess with a gun. She fights for good, she loves her country, and she knows how to knock a guy out if she has to. This has enabled Alex to enter shady situations without her losing credibility, but in this new regime where she poses as a member of the evil collaborators, her undercover mission seems utterly unbelievable.
“Globalreach” is an episode so riddled with plot holes it can barely stand up. It focuses on two major plots: In the first, Clay Haas is trying to rally his now-dwindling team to stop Henry Roarke from taking over the White House. The House has signed impeachment papers and Claire Haas is on her way out the door. But in a last-ditch effort, she pleads with her son. “You’re trying too hard to save me,” Claire says. “They cannot take away our freedom or our rights. Stop protecting me and start protecting our country.”
This is a nice sentiment, but Clay cannot possibly lead this mission. After all, he is still just a pretty-boy pollster. Instead, he, Shelby, Ryan, and Reina spend the episode digging through dirt on Roarke, looking to see if he sleeps with prostitutes or has committed tax fraud, as if either of those stories would be big enough to bring down a man who has already convinced the American people that the president is bad enough at her job to get impeached.
There are several twists to Clay’s mission, but almost none of them are believable and all of them get shut down. He tries to meet with Felix, which ends up being a setup for a meeting with Roarke. He tries to plant Russian emails on Felix’s phone to accuse him of trading secrets, a plea for relevancy to the news cycle so desperate it hurts. Essentially, all Clay manages to accomplish is ruining his 15-year friendship with Felix.
Alex’s undercover mission with Owen at least feels like it has dramatic possibility. But instead, Alex spends most of the episode sitting at boardroom tables. She goes to a conference room to prove herself to the collaborators, then she goes to the CIA and threatens her friend to force his resignation, then she goes to the FBI and sits at a table.
The FBI is the site of Alex’s real mission. On her way into the building, security confiscates a water bottle. While sitting at the boardroom table explaining why she’s switched sides, she notices the water bottles on the table and fumbles. She loses her words and begins to panic. It’s moments like these that the show’s desire to make Alex into a likable hero really undermine its story. Alex Parrish is a seasoned FBI and CIA agent. She has led incredibly difficult missions. She is a national hero. But here, at a boardroom, she loses her cool and calls Owen to find out what’s going on — and she wants to abort the mission.
This is a ridiculous thing for Alex to do. No matter how “good” a person like Alex is, she must believe in some kind of utilitarian theory. An agent cannot be precious about blood on her hands when she is fighting for the future of the American people. And yet, Alex Parrish is paralyzed by moral quandaries. This doesn’t make her likable or brilliant. It just makes her a bad agent.
Ultimately, Alex realizes that it’s impossible to find the water bottle and save the FBI from an impending terrorist attack. She even knocks out Ryan Booth (who shows up almost at random) in order to return to her mission. But the hesitation nevertheless reveals a softness in Alex that’s just unbelievable given her level of training and history of work. Alex is smart enough to know better than to meddle with an undercover mission, but she has such a hero complex that she’s barely able to perform the basic duties of her job.
The episode ends with Alex hugging President Haas as she heads to the Oval Office to deliver her resignation address to the American people. After weeks of buildup, the team has finally been defeated.
Unfortunately, Quantico’s commitment to keeping Alex likable and the plot relevant to American politics rids “Globalreach” of the suspense it needs. “This is a post-truth world,” Roarke says at one point. “No one wants a boring fact, they want a story. And the better the story, the more faith they have in the person who tells it.” While this episode might be situationally relevant, it’s simply not a good story.