“Go” was going to be a pivotal episode of Quantico for me because of something I noticed while rewatching last week’s “God.” I circled back and watched again because I couldn’t stop thinking about the irritating subplot with Miranda and her adult delinquent son Charlie, who did or didn’t but probably did try to shoot up a school. I was trying to get a fundamental understanding of what was being communicated about that situation, and I watched the scene with Liam talking to Charlie in Charlie’s bedroom when I noticed this:

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Just to the right of Liam’s head is a poster that says “Heavy Metal Rules.” I’m really confused about that. Like, really confused. I don’t feel like Charlie is into metal, if only because I want to live in a world where the troubled metal kid who shoots up the high school is a cliche too radioactive for even Quantico to touch. Alas, the poster says otherwise, despite the fact that no one, including ardent metal fans, has used the phrase “Heavy metal rules” in an earnest manner in a solid two decades. Though to be fair, the poster looks like it was designed in and for that era. I could be convinced it was recycled for the bedroom set for Bayside High’s briefly appearing bad girl Tori Scott on Saved By The Bell. The point is that this poster is ridiculous, makes no sense in the scene, is really easy to fix, and suggests a lacking attention to detail in a show that requires the care and maintenance of roughly 17,000 details. I thought I might be out for good.

What a perfect moment to pull it together. “Go” is the first episode of Quantico since the pilot that got me excited about this show again and made me feel like this might be the goofy guilty pleasure I hoped it was when news about it first began to trickle out. Quantico is not a great show, and it still has more than its share of flaws, but “Go” demonstrates that there’s some life in it yet, despite what looked more and more like a death spiral. It’s briskly paced, and reasonably tense, even when it’s at its most ridiculous.

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Unsurprisingly, “Go” works better than the episodes preceding it because it puts more of its weight on the present-day investigation and pursuit of Alex. Alex and Simon are in pursuit of Nimah and/or Raina, based on a sighting of one of them at Grand Central two days before the attack. I still wish Alex wouldn’t voice every one of her hunches and conclusions so forcefully, because it sounds like every idea that comes to her is the best idea she’s ever come up with, when the dialogue only serves to point the audience at the red herring du jour. But her flaky instincts lead her to locate the twins, who are currently in the trenches as part of Miranda’s “double your pleasure, double your surveillance capacity” operation.

Ryan, Alex, Shelby, and Simon work together to extricate the sisters from a terrorist hideout before either of them is discovered and likely killed as a result. The plot focused on the twins enough to draw more distinctions between their characters following last week’s soft cliffhanger in which Simon found out about them even though it was obvious that couldn’t possibly lead anywhere. Nimah has cozied up to Hamza, the leader of the terror cell, and has started sleeping with him to gain his trust. She didn’t come out of the hideout at their scheduled interval because she didn’t want to put the virginal Raina in the position of having Hamza force himself on her. It’s a weird story, like most of Quantico is weird, but it makes emotional sense, and it aligns with the present day story in a cool way as Miranda reveals the twins to the NAT class and Raina introduces herself to Simon for the first time.

The Quantico training story was focused and didn’t jumble up the narrative, which made it an enjoyable little detour. Brandon, the guy I’ve been eyeing as the possible culprit because he’s too prominent and backgrounded at the same time, gets antsy after one of Miranda’s tests leaves the class questioning which one of them didn’t get a blank sheet of paper. Brandon panics when the surveillance footage reveals him, then storms out in a huff, and the room locks down seconds later. Brandon’s phone is found left behind with a countdown clock on it, which corresponds to a bomb inside the lectern that may or may not be the real thing.

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Quantico has sounded and occasionally looked like Grey’s Anatomy in its brief time on the air, but it’s never really felt like Grey’s Anatomy until “Go.” Quantico will never be able to do what Grey’s did in its early years because its characters were embroiled in life-and-death medical emergencies in which the stakes were very clear. There usually aren’t any stakes in the flashback story because we’ve already been tipped off to how the story progresses for the most part so it never feels important whether or not people pass the test or wind up getting booted from the program. Even Caleb was demoted from NAT to analyst and then promoted back up after spunky Shelby corners Caleb’s snooty, ‘80s-dance-movie father and delivers a passionate speech. Nobody puts Shelby in a corner. Quantico will never have the urgency of a show set in an emergency room.

But, for a show that portrays FBI training as a battery of mostly meaningless psychological stress tests, Quantico managed to hit the right note with this one. The story was conceived in a way that allowed it to unfold with the urgency of a Grey’s episode about a tragic rollercoaster accident. The bomb wasn’t real. The audience knew it, and most of the characters knew it, considering how many of their drills end with Miranda saying “A ha! That was a test! Always pay attention or something!” But the sliver of a chance that Brandon actually snapped and planted a bomb was enough to give the NATs an opportunity to come together in a stressful moment. They have a good laugh as the countdown clock stops with no consequence. Life goes on. Heavy metal continues to rule.

Stray observations:

  • Nathalie continues to be the worst. Not only does she rat out Ryan and the gang to Liam, she gets pissed about Brandon’s ruse even as she continues applying a fake scar behind her ear.
  • So in case anyone cared, Shelby’s relationship with Caleb’s dad did not come as a result of ignorance on Caleb’s dad’s part. He knew the deal between them.
  • Caleb made a reference to his mom, who will apparently be played by Marcia Cross. Well played, Quantico!

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