“Hell’s Gate” is a title that promises a bit more than the episode delivers, but at 10 on a Thursday night, after watching new episodes of Gotham and Arrow, I don’t need anything too heavy. (I may feel differently in two weeks, when those shows are done and Quantico is still bringing new episodes.)
This week’s formula mixes police procedural with soap opera, topped off with a bit of revenge.
The case of the week is witness protection. Federal prosecutors are trying to nail a drug cartel kingpin, but their witnesses keep getting killed. Their last chance is Charlie, a CIA operative known to team leader Owen. The team is assigned to keep Charlie alive long enough to get “La Culebra” convicted.
(By the way, Quantico writers: You’re doing a fine job of giving comic-book-worthy names to the bad guys. But what do we call our team of good guys? They still need a cool name!)
The protection gig goes immediately wrong, thanks to a mole in the operation. So now the team has two jobs – protect Charlie and find the mole. The protectors hunker down in a safe house known as “Hellecat,” which means “Hell’s Gate.” Thus the episode title. Predictably, the safe house is not so safe, thanks to that damned mole, whom I identified correctly about five minutes into the show. The writers were not at all subtle here.
Unfortunately, our highly trained collection of FBI and CIA operatives fail to see what’s right under their noses. Their hunt for the mole leads them to kidnap a cop, then sends Ryan undercover into a gay bar to try to track down a cartel hitman.
I’ve been saying that this season of Quantico reminds me of the spy shows I used to watch as a youngster. This particular plotline also reminded me of them, but now I’m looking at this sort of thing through a 21st century lens and I’m not sure how to feel about Ryan masquerading as a cruising gay man in tight leather, or about the way Harry teases him throughout these scenes.
However, I do know how I feel about the next part of the formula.
The Soap Opera
Remember at the end of last week, when Ryan attempted to kiss an unconscious Alex in the hospital? A move that was wrong for more than one reason – they’re long split up, he’s married to Shelby, she was unconscious, he’s married to Shelby, she has a boyfriend, and, oh yeah, did I mention HE’S MARRIED TO SHELBY?
I’ve always had problems with Ryan as a love interest because of the way he was introduced to us way back in Season 1, and they’re magnified with his current behavior. But what upsets me even more is that the story is trying to make Alex feel guilty over it all. When Ryan apologizes to Alex for what he almost did, she tells him she won’t lie to Shelby. “Don’t make me a part of hurting her,” she tells him.
But she ends up lying to Shelby by omission, even though Shelby knows something is wrong, and even Charlie knows something is up. If I think charitably about it, Alex is just trying to protect her best friend. What I don’t want to see is Alex and Shelby in a huge argument over what RYAN did wrong. I want to see these two women having each other’s backs and giving Ryan what he deserves.
I don’t know that we’re going to get it. I think we will end up with a messy triangle, as foreshadowed in Harry’s warning to Ryan: “These things have a way of infecting a unit.”
You know you’re in trouble when Harry “Artful Dodger” Doyle is the voice of reason and morality!
The revenge part of the formula turned out to be pretty unsurprising, too. One thing that’s nice about single-episode stories is that it’s easy to make sure you don’t leave dangling plot threads anywhere. Quantico’s writers never leave Chekov’s gun unfired; pay attention to the seemingly mundane, like a medical device. It’s sure to play a part. I find I don’t mind that kind of predictability, though.
There was one character note I particularly enjoyed, as a 50-something fangirl. Midway through the episode, Owen and Jocelyn are talking about Charlie, who has aged (as we all do, and the actors playing these roles are themselves in their early 50s) and is no longer quite the legend that Owen remembers from years before. It’s a “failing” (note the quotes) that Jocelyn understands; no one treated her the same after she lost her hearing in an operation. But she notes that “legends do not go quietly into that good night.” We may not be what we were in our 20s – but whatever we may have lost over the years has (hopefully) been replaced with knowledge and understanding.
Wait a second, there I go getting deep for a show that really isn’t deep! Well, here are a couple of shallow notes to wrap things up:
- Alex’s hair is a thing of glory and this week the writers actually made note of that.
- You’re right, Harry. Your pecs are definitely better than what Deep and Celine photoshopped.
- “Don’t be a bitch, be a queen.” Harry’s sage advice on going undercover in a gay bar.
- “Do you ever struggle with how to explain this job to your parents?” Oh, Deep. If the Bureau wanted you to have a family they’d have issued you one!
- “Sometimes you bring evil to justice, sometimes you’ve gotta bring justice to evil.” Trying to decide if that’s a deep statement or something from a fortune cookie.
Quantico airs Thursday nights at 10/9 Central on ABC.