We've only seen one episode of Quantico, which premiered last night on ABC, but this FBI Academy-set thriller has already succeeded in recruiting me.
The pilot runs on two timelines: it's partly a sexy workplace dramedy, but flash-forwards reveal that, four months into the future, trainee Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) finds herself the primary suspect for a devastating terrorist attack on New York City. It's a compelling setup, if not a particularly innovative one. Quantico is Homeland cross-pollinated with Silence of the Lambs and the extended Shonda Rimes universe (though the show was not produced by Rimes)—which is to say that, while the territory may be familiar, it's also entertaining as hell.
It's hard to take your eyes off Chopra (whose Disney princess hair itself deserves an Emmy), the A-list Bollywood star who hopes to make Quantico her American breakthrough. As Alex, she's smart, observant, and unabashedly confident, to a degree that's usually reserved for the men we see on television. When Alex encounters the guy she sat next to on her flight—and subsequently hooked up with—at the FBI Academy, he acts like they've never met, but she blows off his attempt at playing it cool. “We had sex in your car six hours ago,” she announces, unembarrassed, in front of their classmates.
Since Mindy Kaling's The Mindy Project moved from Fox to Hulu, Chopra has become the only South Asian actress to lead a network TV show. Overall, Quantico has built a diverse ensemble driven by strong, interesting female characters, including Johanna Braddy (who you might recognize as Anna from UnREAL) as a Georgia debutante turned sharpshooter, Aunjanue Ellis as the Academy's assistant director, and Yasmine Al Massri as a hijab-wearing recruit with a secret so ridiculous that it might actually achieve a kind of surreal David Lynch genius. (Or maybe not, but still.)
Ridiculous secrets are a theme here: everyone is hiding something, and possibly two somethings, and maybe even three. By the end of its first episode, Quantico becomes a precariously tottering Jenga tower of twist stacked on twist stacked on twist. It's a little much.
But this a pilot, and all pilots are flawed: I'd always pick a scrappy series, which tries too hard too soon to establish a rich, complex world, than a lazy one. I can't wait to see what the rest of the season has in store.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.