Quantico postmortem: Showrunner talks writing American terrorists
Quantico finally revealed some answers, but that hasn't made things easier for Alex (Priyanka Chopra). The Citizens' Liberation Front was weeding out the members of the AIC one by one when she helped free all the hostages, but with everyone unmasked, it's impossible to tell the members of the factions apart. Below, EP Josh Safran answers burning questions and previews what's ahead.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After episodes 10 and 11, we know the two factions of rogue CIA groups are the AIC and the Citizens' Liberation Front, which is hunting the AIC. Are we heading to a point where they're going to cancel each other out?
That's the fear and that is pretty much what happens in the next episode. That's the question of the next episode.
I know that you wrote this plot long before the election, but in light of the recent rhetoric surrounding keeping our country safe from foreign extremists, how did you go about the way you would portray these terrorists? They're not associated with a certain race or religion.
Last year we dealt with domestic terrorism, and I'd say to me that's actually what Quantico is about. It's about domestic terrorists. So it's not about jihadists or extremists from other countries coming to America to do something in the name of what America has done to them. It's about Americans taking up arms. And as we know, there are a lot of those people.
So just like last year, when Liam turned out to be the terrorist on behalf of America, this year both of these factions of terrorists are American. One is a group of rogue CIA agents who do not like the oversight that the CIA has been given in the Obama years, and the other is a group of people who know about them, who are also made up of military and government agents who want to ensure that those people never get a chance to take the law into their own hands. And yet, the second you pick up a gun or anything in the name of stopping X or whatever that X is, it infects you. That's at the heart of this particular episode.
When you were writing about these factions, did it ever give you pause that these terrorists would be Americans and former agents?
No, it did not give me pause. When I pitched the show way back in June of 2014, I pitched that Liam was the terrorist, so it was always baked into the show that it was about Americans being terrorists, because — and I feel like we often talk about this — when somebody's who's not white creates a terrorist act on American soil, they're called "terrorists." When a white person creates a terrorist act on American soil, they're often called "disturbed." I wanted to say no; I wanted to call attention to the fact that that person is still a terrorist.
In that case, what has it been like in the writers' room this season, with multiple terrorists, not just terrorist groups?
Yeah, I know it's complicated for the audience — and I hear that criticism and it's about to change when we go to one timeline — it was much easier for us because we knew when we made the premiere that we had the AIC and the CLF, and we also knew where we were going, so no, it was actually pretty easy [to work with multiple threads]. There is actually a small twist that's coming in the next episode that will clarify the one remaining question, which is the Lydia group, who they are.
Oh, you said before there wouldn't be a whole other faction on top of the AIC and CLF, right?
Well, for right now, it appears that Lydia is training the AIC, and the question is, is she or is she not? That will be answered in the next episode.
RELATED: Hear more of the latest TV news from this week
<iframe src="https://art19.com/shows/ews-what-to-watch/episodes/ebdfcda9-c65b-4f86-aa1f-0a95ca1fbe4f/embed?theme=light-gray-blue" width="300" height="150" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" class="" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
It looks like this entire season hinges on Lydia, then.
You know, it does and it doesn't. When you see what happens in episode 13 and where we're going for the rest of the season, it actually hinges on an idea and not a person.
Moving on from Lydia, are you setting up a potential romance between Leon and Dayana?
No no, they've always been, in my mind, big brother and little sister, or big sister and little brother. They're constantly trying to one-up each other or take each other down in that same sibling way. But there's a very definitive end to their story in the next episode.
When he has to face the CLF, he's protecting her, right?
I think that is a very safe assumption.
Skipping forward to the end of the episode, what are the implications of everyone running outside?
The next episode is the journey to the outside [of the perimeter]. The issue right now is that the AIC and the CLF have all blended together and Alex and her group are walking out with people they can't tell apart, who are actually trying to kill each other. Imagine if any two people at war took off all of their masks and went into a room with one another and the lights went out. What would happen?
As for the present timeline, this is an episode all about Owen. He wants to die after learning that he's failed as an agent and as a father. But why did it make sense for him to drag his entire class abroad with him and put them in danger too?
We talked a lot about how he wants to die because he wants to pay for his sins, but he doesn't really want to die. It's basically Catch Me If You Can. It's like, if you can stop me before I die, then that's what's meant to happen, but if you don't, then that's what's meant to happen. That's how we talked to Blair about it. Owen's left a little bit of a failsafe for himself, because he wants to know he means something to somebody.
Good thing he snaps out of it. So what's his next step, now that he's working with Alex and Shelby and the FBI?
[In the] next episode, Alex, Shelby, and Owen set up a trap for Lydia and her group.
Quantico airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.