By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)
How many of you have read Going Clear, journalist Lawrence Wright’s bestselling book about the Church of Scientology? I ask because I find myself constantly thinking of scenes from that book each week while watching Quantico. The CIA as it is portrayed on this show seems like a horrible, cult-like place determined to undermine the confidence and sense of self in its employees, all for the sake of enforcing the fact that it is the only source of truth.
While that may sound extreme, it was hard not to think that both Alex and Ryan were being subjected to a Scientology-style auditing process by those around them. As we learned last week, Shelby and Nimah have been enlisted as handlers for Quantico’s leading couple as they go through training. While last week’s scenes were cute and friendly, Miranda tells them this week that they have to get meaner and go deeper.
“A good handler pushes, gets in their heads, manipulates,” Miranda tells both Nimah and Shelby. Shelby immediately takes these instructions to heart and begins to push Alex on every detail. Because Alex instantly recognizes the change in Shelby, she lashes out immediately.
“Where is this coming from?” Alex asks angrily. “Most of the big decisions I’ve made, you’ve stood right by me.”
Shelby isn’t naturally a mean girl, so she isn’t quite sure how to react. It will be interesting to see how long the tension between the once and future frenemies.
Here’s what else stood out this episode.
I’m worried about how they are portraying Sebastian’s character. I want to say right off the bat that there is nothing wrong with being religious or choosing not to be sexually active. However, I have to shake my head at the fact that this show’s writers’ room decided to make the only inhibited character in the history of Quantico a young Asian American male.
This week we finally got to really meet Sebastian Chen (who is portrayed by David Lim.) During one of the CIA’s audit-like sessions, David is forced to sit in a chair before his fellow recruits and answer a series of personal questions. The first one addressed to him was ‘When did you last have sex?’ Before Sebastian gets the chance to answer, he’s interrupted by Russell Tovey’s character Harry Doyle.
“I think you are asking the wrong person,” he tells Sebastian’s interrogator. Sigh. First off, was this scene at all necessary? Secondly, Harry’s quote doesn’t even make sense. How can a question during an interrogation be asked to the wrong person?
Despite the fact that Quantico clearly had no idea what to do with Li Jun Li last year, I was still hoping they’d make Sebastian into a well-rounded, interesting character. Instead, viewers saw him gratuitously dismissed and interrupted by a white male character known for his obnoxiousness. Let’s all cross our fingers that the show does better by Sebastian next week.
I think there are too many characters this season. One of my favorite parts of this week’s episode was when we saw Alex and Ryan analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each of their CIA co-workers. It was an interesting and fun way to introduce viewers to the host of new characters on the show this season. Unfortunately, because there are so many new faces it was hard to keep track of everyone as they flashed by. We did meet a new character who was a wedding planner-turned-CIA agent (that’s an interesting career path) and she turned out to be totally awful and evil. Hmm.
I wish that we got to see more of everyone. It’s great that Quantico has such a diverse cast, but if they aren’t even the lines and screen time to shine the show will continue to feel cluttered and confusing.
Alex Parrish has a goofy sense of humor. I’ve long been on record that geeky Alex is the best Alex. The fact that she nicknamed the rouge evil CIA faction the AIC because “it’s CIA backwards!” was really adorable. I wish we got to see more of witty, goofy Alex than the emotionally and physically tortured Alex we see too often on this show.
Apparently someone thought this show needed more daddy issues. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I noted that Lydia and Owen’s father-daughter relationship seemed sweet and healthy? It turns out I was totally wrong! Lydia is angry at her father for supposedly manipulating the top brass at Langley into altering her career path and having her work directly with her father. Nasty things are said and Lydia implies that Owen did something terrible in the past that prevents the CIA from ever trusting him to lead an operation again. (He sounds a lot like Liam, and we all know what happened there.)
But wait, what about the present day timeline? Just like last season, I find myself completely uninterested in the terrorist attack at the center of this show. (I am also thoroughly confused by it.) I did enjoy seeing Shelby slowly come into her own during the investigation and I hope that she’ll be at the center of solving the mystery in the coming weeks.
What about you, dear viewers? Are you having a hard time keeping track of all of the new characters? Were you as annoyed about how Sebastian was treated this episode as I was? And are you interested in the terrorism plot?
Lakshmi Gandhi is a journalist and pop culture writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Metro New York, NBC Asian America and NPR’s Code Switch blog, among other sites. She likes it when readers tweet her @LakshmiGandhi with their thoughts on Asian American issues and romance novels.
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