I’ve had my share of issues with Quantico in the past – the constant soap opera drama sometimes overshadowing the plot, lots of plot threads that never went anywhere, unsatisfying conclusions to some subplots, excessive focus on certain characters and relationships at the expense of the story. But despite all of those issues, Quantico still mattered to me.
This is a story where the main character is an Indian American woman that’s a non devout Hindu, and the first season was about her being used as a scapegoat for a domestic terror attack. Because it was easy to frame the brown girl. Alex Parrish is an incredibly important character. She’s smart, she’s tough, she’s beautiful. People are attracted to her throughout the series, but her ethnicity is never fetishized or even brought up in that aspect of the show. She’s a beautiful brown woman. But people aren’t attracted to her because she’s brown or despite it.
I stopped being excited about the season three renewal when I learned that Nimah and Raina won’t be in it, because aside from Alex, the Amin sisters were the other main reason why the show mattered to me. These were two Lebanese immigrants from a Muslim family. They were twins. And as Simon put it, they may look alike, but they were very different people.
This show mattered because their minority characters were never tokens. Nimah and Raina were allowed to be vastly different. Nimah was the more outwardly rebellious one, but Raina was just impulsive and would do whatever she thought was right without wasting time arguing about it with anyone. Raina was religious, Nimah wasn’t. In the first season, Nimah spent most of her time with Alex, Shelby, and Natalie, while Raina was closer to Simon and the other male trainees.
Quantico mattered because despite how often the white characters – Shelby, Caleb, Clay, even Harry, a little – got excessive focus and irrelevant sideplots, the women of colour still got to be characters and not stereotypes or racist caricatures. This was a show about terrorism where the terrorists weren’t the Muslim characters or the brown characters. Where Raina was probably the most moral character on the show while still allowed to be flawed and human and real.
Simon and Raina’s relationship was one of the most poignant ones written in recent shows, and certainly the most important in Quantico itself, despite how little screentime it got as compared to Shelby and Caleb, or Alex and Ryan, or even Alex and Drew. These were two people from different backgrounds, different races, different faiths. But their story never tried to be an “accepting others” Aesop. It was just a story about two people that loved each other, and as such, it was a step towards normalizing interracial relationships in fiction, to getting a romantic relationship featuring a person of colour that’s more than just the token minority couple. There wasn’t drama for the sake of drama. They got to be characters, not cheap storytelling props. They were the characters through which both sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict were criticized, but their relationship was never about that.
The representation in the first two seasons was far from flawless. But it was a product of people that tried. It was a result of people wanting to make a show about people, not stereotypes. It clearly came from people that cared about not being racist or subscribing to hurtful cliches. It was unapologetically liberal, and it pointed out clearly, and often through actions and not words, that the statistically most dangerous demographic in the United States is the white male. The writers and the showrunner proved themselves to me in the first season, proved that they were doing their best and that I should be forgiving of missteps because they were trying. It let me be much less wary while watching season two.
I am nervous about season three. Two of the main characters are going to be gone. There’ll be a new showrunner. I have no way of knowing whether or not the season while remain true to the spirit of the first two seasons. I’m not asking for perfect – the first two seasons weren’t perfect, but they still good, still clearly trying. So until I see an episode and see that it’s not the show I enjoyed, the one that treated its female minority characters with as much respect as they would any white male one, I’m going to say that Quantico still matters.