It’s a sign of the times: I have learned over the last few years to be wary of any book published by the last remaining five traditional New York publishers because the price is usually outrageous, and the story a re-hash of recent best sellers, with anything resembling originality edited out of it.
For the same reason, in the last few years I have also learned to be wary of primary TV network produced series. They’re usually formulaic, won’t take risks with character or story-telling and while they have the budgets for high-quality production, the lack of originality makes them “safe” watching…which bores me silly.
Quantico, a TV series produced and aired by the USA’s ABC network, has been around for three seasons now. I noticed it and moved on, when it debuted, for all the reasons I cited above.
I tripped over it again on Netflix recently, and paused for a second to consider it. The difference this time is that the show has now got three seasons under its belt. That means it doesn’t suck, and enough people tuned in to lift the ratings high enough to earn it some longevity (there is a lot of series that don’t make it past season 1 and more that don’t even make it to the end of season 1).
Anyway, that was all I did. Just pause, and go “Oh, three seasons…” and move on again, because of one other factor: I haven’t heard so much as a whisper of feedback anywhere about the show. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch.
While everyone is yammering about Stranger Things 2 and Game of Thrones and all the Marvel series everywhere. Every time a TV show I’m interested in has a new season airing, I inevitably hear what someone thinks about it on a blog or newsfeed somewhere. Even the grandaddy of current TV series, NCIS, usually has at least one review a season pop up.
That’s why the silence about Quantico warned me off.
Only, after we had finished Stranger Things 2 in an three-evening marathon, we sat back looking for something else to watch and I flicked through my interest list on Netflix and saw Quantico again.
And paused again.
This time, because I’m deep into research for a spy thriller, and Quantico is about the training of FBI special agents and analysts. It is right up my current research alley and if the training was featured, then I was sure to pick up some hints and material for my own books…
So we thought we’d give it a try.
We keep learning this lesson over and over:
Do Not Make Assumptions.
And yeah, I had made huge assumptions about Quantico. The only assumption I got right was the show’s production values. They’re as high as I thought they would be. Technically, it’s barely without flaw.
Everything else I assumed about the show was so, so wrong.
- No story-of-the-week formula anywhere to be seen.
- The series story line takes off from the first five seconds and doesn’t slow. There hasn’t been a single filler episode yet, and we’re more than halfway through the first season.
- The story telling is highly compelling. We have a hard time watching only one episode a night, and often fail.
- The main character, Alex Parrish, is not the standard Causasian beauty. While she is drop-dead just-kill-me beautiful, she’s of Indian descent and the show doesn’t try to pretend she’s white, either. There’s also middle Eastern women wearing Hijabs, and other races and minorities…and none of them are the token (insert stereotyped here) characters, either.
- In fact, the theme of the first season is “you don’t know who anyone really is,” and that holds true for all the characters. The “token” blonde and blue-eyed woman speaks Arabic and has secret ties to the Middle East. The blond, chisel-jawed white boy turns out to have depths, after all…and I’ve actually grown to like him a lot.
- No one is purely good or purely bad. No one does the right thing all the time. Sometimes, even the main characters make very bad decisions.
- There’s a ton of romances and couplings and good hot sex all through the episodes, which is enormous fun. As this is a primary network show, most of it is very cleverly implied. There’s no nudity, but you feel like you’ve been watching a Game of Thrones episode, anyway.
- …And the stakes are high. Just like I like my thrillers.
I’ve stopped trying to second-guess where the season will end up. There is a huge whodunnit hanging over the season—namely, who is the real terrorist among the trainees at Quantico. But the story is so full of switchbacks and surprises, that there’s no point trying to guess. Although I’m sure my brain will still continue to try to figure it out, I’m not consciously working ahead as I normally do. That’s usually a sign of great story-telling for me.
There are not too many books or TV shows or movies whose endings I can’t anticipate. When I come across one, I can relax and just be a normal viewer/reader, which is the real bonus.
If you haven’t yet, give Quantico a try. There’s also a bonus for you, if you’re a Supernatural fan: Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer) has a major role in the first season and he’s still a bad boy. 😉
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