‘Quantico’ 3×08 Review: Deep Cover

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There’s a TV critic “wisdom” that a shorter season makes for better individual episodes. But this episode of Quantico is an example of why “wisdom” sometimes isn’t so wise.

I had to watch “Deep Cover” twice in order to review it. It just didn’t do a good job of holding my attention during the live broadcast, and was only slightly better the second time around. I feel like I should have liked it better; it had spycraft and a villain you love to hate, along with some good moments between the different team members. But it was also just a bit too predictable.

Once upon a time, Quantico was able to give us great unexpected twists. We got a few in “Deep Cover,” but not many.

The Caper Of The Week

On paper, this week’s mission seems pretty twisty. Alex is in AA for spies. Yep, an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter specifically for people with high level clearance. In the opening minutes, we’re meant to think that she’s really having second thoughts about being in the FBI because she’s finally used that pregnancy test — and it was positive.

Now, I might have bought the “doubting Alex” story, if she hadn’t mentioned making $65K a year. As a field agent in New York City? Not buying it! And I was right not to. Alex joining AA is all part of an elaborate plan to try to get to a former defense contractor who’s now believed to be working for America’s enemies. It involves getting the trust of a middleman in the AA group, and putting Mike and Ryan in Sing Sing – Mike as Alex’s inmate boyfriend and Ryan as a guard.

That little plot point gives the writers an excuse to have Alex and Mike kiss in the prison visiting room. But this episode pretty much kills the idea of Alex being torn between three different men in this final season. If Alex/Mike was a “no” before, it’s an even bigger “no” now – not just because Alex is pregnant with her Italian boyfriend’s child, but because there really was no sense of chemistry and no reason to be attracted to Mike McQuigg beyond a pair of pretty blue eyes. (I will give him that.) And as for Ryan – besides the fact that he’s married to Shelby, he’s gone all “big brother” toward Alex during that staged kiss.

But the act is good enough for the mark to order an attack on Mike, as a way of getting leverage over Alex. Which is exactly what the team (that STILL lacks a cool name) wanted.They need to catch him in the act of ordering a crime. But this guy Garrett King is smart. He never gives the orders; he lets his AA middleman do the dirty work. In this case, it’s an order for Alex to assassinate a North Korean defector who has loads of good intel for the U.S.

And the only way to get the mark is to make sure the assassination happens.

Now, you know the team-without-a-cool-name is never going to just assassinate a valuable asset. Their plan to protect him does provide a couple of clever moments: Jocelyn and Harry seeking a (dead) body double for the defector at the morgue, Harry using said dead body as his plus one for the HOV lane on a busy street, and the substitution of the dead body for the living asset in broad daylight.

That part, and the capture of a dirty prison guard, are the things that go right for this mission. But the mark gets away – after coming very close to drowning Alex.

But in the end, all these plot details aren’t that satisfying, because the episode needed more focus on the characters.

The Characters Are Why We Watch

That’s a refrain you will often see here on Fangirlish; we watch for the characters. A cool concept will only take you so far. We want to spend time with the people behind the masks and the gadgets, to understand their conflicts. There could have been an opportunity to do that with Alex because of her pregnancy, but she is a cipher. While Shelby knows about it, Alex refuses to talk except in very vague terms – until it is too late and she has lost the baby after the near-drowning. At that point, she tells Shelby, “I’ve been wishing all this time that I wasn’t pregnant… and now…”

We know Alex had been conflicted by the idea of a baby from things she’d said the previous week. But the pregnancy felt like it was an afterthought for Alex. Maybe I should take that as the evidence she really didn’t want to be pregnant, but it just didn’t feel right.

While Alex felt completely off-kilter, I was pleased to see Shelby back in full-on best friend mode. These two really are good together and good for each other, and it’s always good to see strong women in the workplace who have each other’s backs.

Speaking of people who are good together and good for each other – I’m starting to warm to the idea of Owen/Jocelyn. These two senior agents have a lot similar experiences and understand each other very well. I’d enjoy this to develop as a deep friendship, but the idea of something more starts to become more intriguing to me than it was a few episodes ago.

I also liked Mike & Ryan working together, as I did in Mike’s first appearance back in 3×02. There’s just the right amount of snark and camaraderie there.

And finally, I was pleased to see a bit more Harry Doyle than we have for the past few weeks, even if most of it was in the company of corpses!

Five episodes left of the series.

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

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