Viewers who tuned in to Sunday’s premiere of ‘Quantico,’ the new ABC drama that stars Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, would be forgiven if they came away from it thinking they were watching an FBI version of either ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or ‘Scandal.’ While ShondaRhimesisn’t directly involved with the new show, her influence and style are apparent throughout (indeed, the New York Times notes that the two shows share at least two executive producers.)
The most obvious ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ parallel is that (like ‘Grey’s’) “Quantico” is an ensemble drama filled with ridiculously attractive and ridiculously earnest characters who are just starting their high powered careers. In the case of Priyanka Chopra’s Alex Parrish and her co-workers, the group is a high educated and savvy group of FBI recruits that come from all walks of life and meets for the first time in training.
Here are four things we learned from Sunday’s premiere:
Things started with a bang:Or an explosion, to be perfectly accurate. Viewers first get a glimpse of Alex while she’s surrounded by the rubble of what used to be Grand Central Terminal (the New Yorkers among us would be forgiven for briefly flinching at the idea of another NYC terrorist attack – even one that’s fictional.) We are then immediately taken back to a more innocent time nine months earlier, when Alex leaves her family home in San Francisco to head to the airport, and (we are lead to believe) her new life.
A bit later on, as Alex comes to, she is almost immediately accused of being the mastermind behind the Grand Central attack. She’s then placed in the impossible position of being forced to simultaneously investigate the crime and work to clear her name. All of the sudden, both the viewer and Alex are forced to doubt everything and everyone. Is the innocent Southern girl really so innocent? What is the devout Mormon hiding? and etc, etc.
There’s no such thing as a one night stand in ‘Quantico’-land: In one of the most Grey’s-eque moments, Alex has what she thought would be a wildly inappropriate, one-time fling with a mysterious stranger she meets on her plane ride East. She tells him she’s with Doctors Without Borders. He tells her he’s an ex-military man in the Philippines. (Surprise! They are both lying!)
As she climbs off his lap post-coitus, she calmly explains to her new friend? paramour? we aren’t sure what word to use here, why things between them will never work out. While doing so she proves that she has quite a few investigative skills already.
It is possible for Hollywood to create diverse, multi-faceted characters: While Chopra is clearly Quantico’s standout star and best performance, we have to admit that we were also immediately intrigued by the character of Nimah, a hijab-wearing Muslim recruit. We first see her when she enters a gas station off the side of a highway as she asks the owner if she can use the bathroom. He immediately denies her request, saying that there is no bathroom on the premises (a lie that is quickly revealed as one.) He then insists that the bathrooms are only available to paying customers only.
Nimah lashes out in the most perfect way possible, throwing a couple of dollars onto the counter and purchasing a cheap, probably Made In China American flag key chain and then dashing off. Like all of the others, Nimah has lots of secrets, one of which is that she has a secret twin (??) who drapes her hijab on the left to Nimah’s right. As a side note: We really want to know what kind of background checks this fictional FBI is using. (More on the Bureau’s faulty system a bit later.)
Everyone is hiding something: One of the most clever plot devices in the premiere episode was having all of the FBI recruits be forced to pair off and discover one another’s darkest secrets. It was also the moment that lead to the episode’s second biggest tragedy, when recruit Eric Packer shoots one FBI staffer and almost kills a to prevent his secret from being revealed. That secret? That Packer impregnated a 14 year old girl in Malawi while he was on a Mormon mission and that the child later died during an illegal abortion. While that is a startling, horrific secret, we can’t help but wish the screenwriters had called it what it really was — the rape of a minor that should have resulted in imprisonment.
It’s Alex Parrish against the world: Despite the fact that all of the recruits have secrets and are not who they seem, it’s Alex who is arrested for the Grand Central attack and it’s Alex who has to take the long, solo van ride by herself as a prisoner. But our heroine turns out to have one ally on Earth: the van’s driver assures her that she believes in her innocence and provides her a means of escape.
And so ends our first, jam-packed hour of ‘Quantico’! What was your verdict as a viewer? Were you having as hard a time keeping track of everyone’s backstories as we were? And, most importantly of all, will you be watching next week?
Lakshmi Gandhi is Metro’s social media manager. Follow her on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.