‘Quantico’ 3×02 Review: ‘Fear and Flesh’

The new recipe for Quantico appears to be one part Tom Clancy, one part current headlines, one part Ian Fleming, a dollop of character development, and a dash of backstory, seasoned well with a mélange of characters new and old.

And it works.

Two episodes into the new season, and there’s nothing deep so far. No shadow CIA, no overarching big bad. It’s a case of the week format, much like the original Mission: Impossible that I loved so much when I was growing up. The case is solved by a bunch of cool characters with an interesting skill set.

At 10 o’clock on a Thursday night, that works for me. I don’t need my TV to always be deep and thought provoking. Sometimes I just want to sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and be entertained. So far, Quantico is doing that for me.

The Case Of The Week

“Fear and Flesh” wastes no time on exposition. From the first minutes, you know the baddie of the week is going to be white supremacy, thanks to the opening sequence of a white man sitting somewhat uncomfortably in an upstate New York restaurant otherwise filled with African-Americans. The only question in those opening minutes is how long it will be before he starts shooting.

He doesn’t. Instead, he leaves a jar of a mysterious white powder on the floor, next to a vent that sucks it up and blows it out over everyone in the restaurant. Everyone but the bad guy, who’s already left.

By the next morning, dozens of people are sick or dead of a weaponized version of tuberculosis.  Alex and the team (who really need a cool name but I haven’t heard one yet) are called in to try to solve the case. Along the way, they have to find and protect a young girl who is the only survivor, and whose blood could hold the cure, as well as infiltrate the white supremacist group and keep them from leaving more jars of TB in minority areas.

Of course, we know they’re going to succeed. What I enjoy is how they get there.

The Newbies

Three new characters are introduced in this episode. First, Celine and Jagdeep, two newly-minted FBI agents. Celine is described as a one time Cirque du Soleil performer and anarchist – a rather odd combination. We don’t get to see any of her acrobatic skills, but we do see she learned a thing or two about radical groups and hacking as she helps Shelby and Jocelyn decipher the bad guys’ plans. She also helps them link a biotech exec to the group and the TB.

Jagdeep, AKA Deep, is a young – very young – new doctor whose medical skills are put to the test immediately. So are his skills with a gun, and his skills at breaking and entering. He gets a one out of three – but the “one” is the one that counts. He’s a good doctor. I suspect he will reluctantly become good at the rest of the spy stuff as the season goes on.

Our third new player is a deep-cover agent. Mike McQuigg has been embedded in the white supremacist group for two years. He brings Ryan in so they can find evidence of the group’s connection to the TB plot, and any additional virus.

I’m hoping with that, our team of regulars is set.  It’s nine characters, four of them new, and that large a cast can be very difficult to balance and use well, especially in a 13-episode season. Sticking with a case-of-the-week formula can help with that kind of development; the writers don’t have to spend a lot of time building a huge tangled conspiracy but can instead give us some plausible cases and spend their time on character moments.

“Quantico” Episode 3×02 “Fear and Flesh.” Source: Twitter/@QuanticoTV

The Character Development

Let me be honest: Ryan Booth was never that interesting to me in the first two seasons. Initially I just didn’t trust him. Later – eh. Just not my cup of tea, I guess. But I felt for him in this episode, when he was ordered to prove himself to the head white power guy by beating up on a black man emerging from a convenience store. That black man turned out to be Owen, the team leader, who quietly told Ryan not to hold back and then took a vicious beatdown.

Ryan has had to do a lot of distasteful things in service to his country, but this one made him weep – tears that he had to shake off before the bad guy spotted them. I really felt for him in that moment.

And then he had to go and spoil it all by doing something stupid – trying to kiss a seemingly unconscious Alex. She wakes in time to stop him, and moments later he’s got his arm around Shelby.

Shelby is your wife, Ryan. Remember that.

Priyanka Chopra has said in interviews that Alex will be dealing with three men this season. We already know Ryan, and in this episode we learn a little bit more about her Italian boyfriend, Andrea, who is a chef. Alex tells Harry the romance was “unexpected” and her time in Italy was “peaceful.”

I really enjoyed this quiet moment of connection. Harry acts as a sympathetic sounding board, but reminds Alex that “peaceful lives are for other people.”

I’m pretty certain Harry saw Ryan’s attempted kiss. The question now is whether Harry will try to use that information to his advantage (Season 2 Harry would have done just that), or whether he will try to help his friends sort out this tangle.

So now the question is: Who is the third man Priyanka was teasing? I think it’s Mike, who’s out of deep cover and now on the Black Ops Team That Really Needs A Cool Name.

Other notes

  • First thing I thought of when seeing that powder getting sucked into the vents was Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders.
  • Sorry, Alex, but Harry’s accent is every bit as charming as he thinks it is – and more. And so’s the rest of him.
  • Shelby flunked the FBI’s ASL immersion course! She’s not absolutely perfect after all! I love her more for that!
  • Celine’s talents apparently include picking pockets. It would be something to pair her and Harry on a mission.
  • Deep, being the team’s nerd is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • I really enjoyed the sequence of decoding the white power group’s propaganda; I just like this kind of stuff.
  • Mike McQuigg, you’ve just spent two years undercover with a group of really scummy white supremacists? What are you going to do now? “I’ve been dying to see Hamilton.”
  • But a shave first – you look so much better!
  • Speaking of looks – Alex’s hair even looks good when she’s in the hospital recovering from weaponized tuberculosis. I think the FBI or CIA must have some kind of super-secret treatment that ensures its agents always look red-carpet ready!
  • And this black ops team REALLY needs a cool name!

Quantico airs Thursday nights at 10/9 Central on ABC.

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