‘Quantico’ 3×04 Review: ‘Spy Games’

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“Spy Games” is a title that sounds a lot more fun than the episode really is. This week’s caper is just a bit too predictable, and the resolution feels a bit too obvious. It’s nice to get a little backstory on Harry Doyle, but the attempts to start a couple of new romances within the team just don’t work. And while Ryan finally confesses to Shelby – the confession is not 100 percent honest, and just sets up a really unnecessary conflict between Alex and Shelby.

Let’s break this down.

The Caper Of The Week

The team gets a tip from an old adversary of Harry’s (more on that later) about a plan to kill a Middle Eastern king who’s visiting New York. Their job is to try to prevent the assassination. And of course, the protection gig starts at a black tie event. It gives the team a chance to get gussied up. (But could someone have handed Mike and Ryan a razor first? Scruffy black tie… meh.)

“Quantico” Episode 3×04 “Spy Games.” Jake McLaughlin as Ryan Booth, Johanna Braddy as Shelby Wyatt. Source: Facebook.com/QuanticoABC

Things fall apart very quickly, and the king is shot. A twist is added when it’s revealed that the king was already dying of cancer, and the real target was his son the prince. But it’s not much of a twist – I called the real culprit right away. The writers made a half-hearted attempt to make you suspect someone else, but it didn’t work.

That’s really all you need to know about the caper itself. Since there’s not much to surprise you there, you can look a little more deeply at the other elements of the episode. Sadly, there’s a little too much predictability there too.

It’s always the one close to you holding the knife

A few weeks ago, Ryan tried to kiss Alex while she was unconscious in her hospital bed. No Prince Charming here, even if Alex did wake up – just in time to stop him, but not before Harry caught a glimpse.

Harry has been pushing Ryan to fess up. He also nudges Alex a little on that score, but Alex says she’s staying out of it. And on the one hand, she’s right: She did not make any move on Ryan. He was the one who tried to kiss her.

Ryan finally does fess up at the end of the episode, but when he does, he tells Shelby, “I kissed Alex.”

Not, “I tried to kiss Alex while she was passed out in her hospital bed.”

Not, “I tried to kiss Alex but she stopped me and told me not to do it again.”

Just, “I kissed Alex.”

Shelby, justifiably, is upset, and the previews for next week don’t bode well for the Shalex friendship. I can’t help but be upset over this contrived conflict.

Here’s hoping the ladies compare notes and then give Ryan what’s coming to him.

Do We Really Need These Romances?

What, a Fangirlish writer talking against romance? Well, yeah, when it feels contrived.

When the season started, Priyanka Chopra said Alex would be torn between three men. One is her Italian lover Andrea, who is still in Italy and presumably has no idea what has happened to this woman whose real name he never knew.

The second is of course Ryan, who has proven over and over that he’s a weasel not to be trusted.

The third is, as suspected, Mike McQuigg, one of the new recruits to the (still-without-a-cool-name) black ops team. Harry questions Alex’s reluctance over Mike. “He’s cocky, he wears a five o’clock shadow like he was born with it, he’s Alex Parrish Type A,” Harry tells her over drinks.

Alex says she’s done dating people she works with. A wise sentiment with which Harry agrees, based on his own experiences (again, more later). But one that doesn’t seem to be shared by the two veterans on the (still-without-a-cool-name) team: Jocelyn and Owen.

While the writers have chosen to let Mike flirt overtly (not quite to the point of obnoxiousness or sexual harassment, but I’m uncomfortable with it), they’re being more subtle with Owen and Jocelyn, who’ve shared a student/teacher relationship in the past. They make a point of having Owen notice Jocelyn’s likes and dislikes, and Celine points that attention out to Jocelyn toward the end of the episode.

That line of Celine’s is like a big neon sign saying, “FUTURE ROMANCE!!!!”

But do we always have to have a romance? Why can’t male and female colleagues just have a strong friendship? Or can that only happen when one of the parties is gay, like Harry? (And I am a BIG fan of Halex in this show; I love their friendship and yes, Harry, I think you two need to make a death pact. Not for a romantic relationship but just a close friendship that transcends time and distance; each to always be a lifeline for the other.)

Do we really need this many agents?

There are still eight episodes left in the series, so maybe we’ll get a bit more of an idea of why Celine and Deep were added to the (still-without-a-cool-name) team. But at the moment, Quantico Season 3 suffers one problem in common with the previous two: Too many characters to develop. The previous seasons had their bits of attrition, as characters washed out of their academies… or got killed.

With only 13 episodes total in the season, I find myself wishing the (still-without-a-cool-name) team was a smaller core, so we could really focus on these characters we got to know so well in the first two seasons: Alex, Shelby, Ryan (after Alex and Shelby give him a good ass-kicking), Harry and Owen. And then add Jocelyn, because everything is better with Marlee Matlin. But an additional three characters feels like too many.

It may have been better to use these additions as guests only. I liked Mike in 3×02 “Flesh and Fear,” but not enough to want him as a permanent addition. What little they’ve added hasn’t been enough; certainly not enough to make him a love interest for Alex. (And again – do we need this romance too?) Like Alex, I feel like Mike’s “a bad country song.” (And yes, Mike, there is indeed a such thing!) Deep was also a good guest character in 3×02, but since then they haven’t done much with him – not that they’ve had time. Celine also hasn’t been much more than a fringe character.

A less-is-more approach might have helped a bit with this shorter season. Instead of looking for something for each of these characters to do, the writers could have focused a little more on the caper of the week and the existing relationships.

What Did Work

If you haven’t figured it out over the past few reviews, I’m utter trash for Russell Tovey’s Harry Doyle. I was delighted to see the opening scene of Harry and Alex bonding over booze. Then we got a bit of back story about Harry’s past with MI-6, and why he’s got it in for Dmitri, the man who tipped them off about the assassination plot.

But then we also got this:

“Quantico” Episode 3×04 “Spy Games.” Russell Tovey as Harry Doyle. Source: abc.go.com/shows/quantico

 

Nothing says “I trust you” like stripping down to socks and underwear in front of your adversary, I suppose!

But more seriously, we learn that while Harry lost a lover to a plot involving Dmitri, the other man lost even more – and we get to see Harry’s softer side.

I do hope that somewhere before the series finale, we do get to learn more about what happened to Harry in the three years between Seasons 2 & 3, but this little bit was wonderful to get.

Other Random Notes

  • In an episode titled “Spy Games,” I was kind of hoping for some more techie stuff to unravel the Caper of the Week. But I have to say, I did like Jocelyn’s solution for what to do when your high-tech listening device gets destroyed!
  • The man who will be king would rather be a chef. And I would love to see the recipe for the seared scallops dish he whips up for Alex and Mike.
  • I looked up the spots for Alex’s perfect night out in New York, and I think I want to do that! Dinner at Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn, a bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge and last call at the White Horse Tavern. Sounds fantastic. I want to hang out with Alex. (And maybe she can share the secrets of that fabulous hair!)
  • I won’t even try to fathom the rules of succession for this fictional emirate, where the younger child gets the throne by virtue of being male, but the uncle would be completely passed up if the prince dies.
  • Once ABC disbands this (still-without-a-cool-name) black ops team, I’d be on board for a new team of Shelby, Harry and Alex. Let ’em form a detective agency called SHHALEX (SHelby/HArry/aLEX). We can call the show “Artful Dodging.”

Quantico airs Friday nights at 8/7 Central on ABC.

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