I genuinely enjoyed season one of Quantico. As I said in this post, for all its silly soap operatic drama, it mattered. Season two was iffier. But season three got to the point where I actually wrote a post about my relief at the show being cancelled. Now that it’s over, I can say with certainty: season three was a huge waste.
The way they handled their renewal was by essentially using the same characters in a new show with a new setting. They disregarded the events of the previous seasons. I wrote about how season three was disregarding the show’s roots earlier, which does still bother me, but I think one of the primary reasons that it didn’t work for me was simpler than that – what would work as a way of starting a new story in the middle doesn’t really work when you’re talking the third season in an existing show.
What I mean by that is this: A show about a group of FBI agents with long, complicated histories with each other, including a woman, her best friend, and her best friend’s husband that happens to be the first woman’s ex-fiancé, could have solid procedural. But season three isn’t the first season of anything. We saw that history. And having it shift just feels like a slap in the face, especially when it didn’t shift for a clear purpose. It’s not that I was ever invested in Alex/Ryan – or, for that matter, Ryan in general. But I was still kind of rooting for that happy ending. Because as irritating as Ryan was throughout the season, as much as he had the personality of wet cardboard, the bookends of the pilot and second season finale had an air of finality. It had an air of Alex and Ryan are finally going to be together. It felt to me like a moment of, ah, yes. This is how this is supposed to end.
Two years ago, I would have been devastated that Quantico got cancelled. Or maybe not – the plot had been wrapped up while also leaving a vibe of the adventure continuing. I can’t be sure. But either way, I wouldn’t have been relieved. It would have been satisfying, but sad. Now, I’m just glad. Season three? What even was that?
It was an episodic finish to something that was once a heavily serialized story, and it felt so clumsily written. No one got anything that could be defined as a character arc. There were good moments that were promptly negated by the lack of follow through. Andrea and Isabella were plot devices that it never seemed like Alex actually cared about. The finale wasn’t really anything to me. It was the show going out with a whimper, not a bang. Nothing about it felt satisfying to me, much less like an ending for a series that lasted three seasons. Nimah and Raina didn’t get so much a mention, despite being regulars in both seasons one and two. None of the other characters got brought up, even when Shelby started talking about how much had changed since they were at Quantico.
Shelby ended the show crying over Ryan (after the entire season treated their relationship as something we should just go with, rather than ever making an effort to convince us of it) and telling Alex how true love is everything. Alex had a dumb plot featuring abandoning Ryan in the middle of the night, settling down in Italy with some random other guy and his daughter, and deciding she wants children after having a miscarriage, culminating in the aforementioned random other guy dying and her raising his daughter like some kind of weird Replacement Goldfish situation. Owen, McQuigg, and Jocelyn were all somewhere there not really doing anything meaningful.
If you strip away the muss and fuss of season one and two, they actually meant something. You had Alex learning in season one what being an FBI agent means and how to deal with the fact that people were so quick to believe she would blow up Grand Central, and in season two, coming to terms with the fact that she’s just not cut out for the CIA. You had Simon’s story about bravery, about trying to find what the right thing was. Raina’s about having to live her life for herself and not her sister as well as the two of them together learning to work as a team. What can you say about season three? That Jocelyn felt guilty about her role in Celine’s death for about a minute? That Deep left the team because of his disgust at how easily they could all move on, except he showed up again with no worries two episodes later? The writing was worse and it took away pretty much everything I enjoyed about the first two seasons.
Joshua Safran, the creator and showrunner for the first two seasons, Tweeted that he had the word “Quantico” muted and would always consider the real end to be the end of season two. I completely understand that. Season three might have had the same characters, but disrespected everything the first two represented. It lacked the meaningful diversity and backtracked on the character development and established dynamics for no reason. Season two wasn’t great. But season three was just bad.