“Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”
The title of this episode of Quantico is taken from a Latin legal phrase, which Wikipedia says ”signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.”
Dig a little deeper into the meaning, and you learn about “Piso’s justice.” Again quoting Wikipedia, it’s “a term that characterizes sentences that are carried out or passed from retaliation—whose intentions are technically correct, but morally wrong.”
This background helps a bit to understand an episode that didn’t hang together very well, despite giving a fantastic spotlight to Marlee Matlin and the history of her character, Jocelyn.
The Caper Of The Week
The team is going after the criminal who, three years ago, cost Jocelyn her hearing through a bomb blast during an undercover job. The writers set it up by resurrecting a tool that had been overused in Quantico’s first two seasons: The flashback. It’s used to good effect here, though. We see pre-blast Jocelyn trying to set a trap for drug dealer/weapons dealer/all-around bad guy Dante. Her handler/boyfriend Frank doesn’t like her plan, and he turns out to be right. Instead of setting a trap, Jocelyn gets caught in one, escaping with her life but not her hearing. Frank goes off the rails and eventually disappears while trying to get back at Dante – who gets off scot-free.
Fast forward to the present, and one of Dante’s sidekicks has gone to the FBI with a way to take down the crime kingpin and get Frank back. It involves most of the team dressing up and going undercover at Dante’s secret illegal casino. Only Jocelyn, Shelby and Deep are held back. They track down Frank’s intel on Dante while the rest of the team gets their James Bond on. (Well, Alex, Mike and Celine do; Ryan and Harry look more business casual while Owen goes just a bit Rastafarian!)
I’m not going to get too much farther into the plot, except to say some parts of it get a little hand-wavey. While we see Jocelyn getting kidnapped by Dante, it’s not really clear how he also managed to capture a known badass like Alex or a newbie badass like Celine. These things just happen, somehow, to set up the event that had been promoted heavily for this episode.
An Agent Falls
A couple of reviews back, I wondered whether we needed so many agents. I really wasn’t sure what purpose Deep and Celine were supposed to serve. We started to see a little of that purpose in 3×05. After getting to save Harry’s bacon then, Celine insists on being allowed to step up instead of just being the hacker in the background.
That insistence winds up costing her life.
Celine, Jocelyn and Alex were kidnapped for Dante’s secret fight club. His M.O. was to drug people, cover their heads with burlap bags and then send them into the ring armed with knives. Two go in, but only one comes out alive.
We learn about this from Jocelyn’s point of view, as she struggles against and eventually kills an opponent. It is only after the fight that she learns the opponent was Celine.
The discovery is devastating for Jocelyn on several levels. Not only did she kill an innocent person, it was someone she’d personally recruited from Quantico, who died in a fight club run by a man who’d escaped justice because of a mistake Jocelyn had made three years before.
We feel for Jocelyn in this, but we don’t really feel as much for Celine. We never got to know her. How did she become a hacker? Or join Cirque du Soleil? Or wind up in the FBI? We never learned any of this about her. You want to have some empathy for the person who died, but it’s hard to do when that person is really a stranger.
It’s a stark contrast to the Season 1 loss of Simon Asher, who’d sacrificed himself to protect others from a bomb blast. We’d gotten to know Simon over the course of that much longer season, and we felt the team’s pain as he said his goodbyes while driving to his death.
The pointlessness of Celine’s death affected me more than the loss of the character, who was never really given the chance to shine. But the effect wasn’t sadness. Instead, I was pissed off. Celine was only created as a tool to give Jocelyn some pain and then set up a moral dilemma.
There is a reason I mentioned the concept of Piso’s justice at the beginning of this review. Once Jocelyn gets over her own guilt, horror and self-pity over Celine, and Dante is surrounded and subdued, she has a choice: What to do with him?
Legally, she’s supposed to cuff him, and Dante knows this. He smirks as he holds out his hands for the cuffs, taunting her with the phrase, “Rules are rules.”
Those rules are why Dante got away the last time Jocelyn dealt with him. But not this time. Jocelyn gets a gun from Alex and shoots Dante dead.
Justice is served.
Is it Piso’s justice? Dante was admittedly a slimeball who’d left a literal houseful of bodies of other victims of his fight club. Killing him certainly satisfies the too-human need for vengeance. But the FBI is not supposed to be about vengeance or vigilante justice. The agency’s core values, from its own website:
- Rigorous obedience to the Constitution of the United States;
- Respect for the dignity of all those we protect;
- Uncompromising personal integrity and institutional integrity;
Even slimeballs are supposed to get a fair trial in these United States. So I do wonder whether, in the seven remaining episodes of this series, Jocelyn will be called to account on another of the FBI’s core values: “Accountability by accepting responsibility for our actions and decisions and the consequences of our actions and decisions.”
In Praise Of Marlee Matlin
While I’m critical of the storytelling in this episode, I was amazed by Matlin, as I have been all season. Jocelyn was a fascinating character to me from the first moment she appeared on screen, not because she is hearing impaired but because she is smart, tactical and a woman in her 50s who is able to kick butt with the youngsters. That’s a killer combination to this 50-something fangirl. In “The Heavens Fall,” I felt her grief over losing a young protege, and I understood her shooting Dante. Matlin has been an amazing addition to this final season of Quantico, and I look forward to seeing more of her teaching tradecraft and sharing stories with Owen. I just hope the writers don’t have to resort to more redshirt tropes to give her emotional moments.
- For a moment during the planning of the casino visit, I wasn’t sure whether I was watching Quantico or Leverage. Is the Triangle an operation or a con?
- Speaking of triangles, it seems like we’ve left the Alex/Ryan/Shelby triangle way in the past.
- Alex and Mike kiss as part of their cover. Uh, no. Doesn’t work. Sorry.
- Interesting that Dante only kidnapped the women. The other bodies from the fight club were a mix of men and women. Perhaps none of the guys looked that interesting as potential combatants?
- Kind of liked the confrontation with Dante in the barber shop. And when I think about it, that scene was quite a contrast: In the shop, known rulebreaker Harry holds a razor to Dante’s throat yet toes the line in not killing him. A short time later, instructor Jocelyn (who teaches the rules to recruits) winds up being the one to throw out the rule book.
- Hair check – Alex’s is always amazing, even when she’s behind bars in a fight club holding cell. But Owen’s dreadlocks? Uh… hmm. Nah.
Quantico airs Friday nights at 8/7 Central on ABC.