[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Monday's Season 2 finale of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
Alex Parrish is on the run again.
Quantico went full circle in its Season 2 finale, with Alex (Priyanka Chopra) heading off into that good night, this time after faking her death to take down Roarke (Dennis Boutsikaris) and thwart his constitutional convention.
After Alex & Co.'s secret meet-up at The Gold Leaf was exposed by collaborator Peter Theo (Todd Alan Crain) a day before the constitutional convention, Clay (Hunter Parrish) came up with a new plan to "surprise" them instead of outsmarting them. It involved Will (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Iris (Li Jun Li) seducing Theo in order to download his intel on Roarke, and Clay, Alex and Felix (Jon Kortajarena) using said intel to bribe the Russians to convince Roarke to change the language in one of his proposed amendments.
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Good thing Roarke kowtowed to the Russians, because the crew filmed the conversation and played it on a giant screen during the con-con, while Alex, finally comfortable doing bad for the greater good, exposed Roarke's evil-doing in a fiery speech that called for people to resist and fight back. She got shot by Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) and they faked her death so she could disappear. Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) was kept in the dark about the faux shooting — so she could get a genuine reaction out of him, Alex says — but after nearly losing her, he joined her on her covert flight to who-knows-where, in a callback to their meet-cute in the pilot.
As for everyone else, Roarke committed suicide, and a two-month time jump revealed that Owen (Blair Underwood) is now the deputy director of the CIA; Shelby (Johanna Braddy) is working at Quantico; Nimah and Raina (Yasmine Al Massri) are out of jail; Clay and Maxine (Krysta Rodriguez) eloped; and Miranda will be in jail "for a long time," but she's OK with it.
It's all tied up pretty neatly for a season-ender that almost had to double as a series finale. Hours before the finale aired Monday, ABC renewed the show for a 13-episode third season with creator and showrunner Joshua Safran stepping down. Before the news broke, Safran, who will remain on as a consultant, chatted with TVGuide.com about what his third season would've looked like, what was in the deleted cliffhanger scene that featured Jeremy Jordan and more.
How far in advance did you plan this ending?
Joshua Safran: We knew when we first started breaking the storyline that it would end this way. The only thing we didn't know ... was we were kind of teeing up not necessarily a romance between her and Owen but at the least the beginning of one and then leaving it open-ended. It was always going to end with Alex having to leave America and going on the run, but she wasn't necessarily going to leave with Ryan. That was a change we made when we broke this as the season and series finale.
Did you consider not including Ryan or did you want to give that to the fans?
Safran: I wanted to give it to the characters because I do believe that is where they would end up. This [ending] is a little bittersweet. If the Owen and Alex relationship had happened, I don't think that would've been the great love of her life. I think that would've been a really good romance for each of them, but I don't think they're a couple a couple that stays together for a long time. Much like Blair and Dan on Gossip Girl, they realized they realized they had a lot in common and are really good friends, but that isn't where they want to end up in their lives. ... She would always circle back to Ryan.
Nice callback on the plane to the pilot.
Safran: Yeah! And almost identical costumes but not exactly. ... That was the first scene we shot for the pilot and that was almost the last scene we shot for the finale. We shot it on the second to last day, but it still had some nice poetry to it. ... We had to be on the stages for the last day. There was never going to be a way to make it the last shot because we shot on an actual plane.
What was the extra scene with Jeremy Jordan?
Safran: It showed you the destination where Alex and Ryan got to and there was sort of a twist to the story. But it really will never exist, meaning even if the show were to continue, that storyline would never exist, so I don't want to talk about it too much because I would hate for it to be out there like that. It was truly put in because the network told me we needed a cliffhanger, so it was never organic. It was actually never in the first draft of the script that went out; it was an ask that happened after the script went out. So it wasn't organic and they knew it, and then they were the ones saying "cut it." But poor Jeremy. He did such a great job, but it's never going to see the light of day. It was a version of the end of Season 1: Are you gonna come work with me or not?
He was the new Matthew Keyes.
Safran: Exactly. Maybe a little more sinister, but yeah.
Would you bring him back for Season 3 as that character or someone else?
Safran: No, he's not available. We always knew he wasn't available. Supergirl is picked up and shoots in Vancouver, so the best hope would be to have him for the premiere, but now that we cut the scene we wouldn't have him.
It works better without it.
Safran: I agree. The only thing I don't like about it is that the plane scene was actually supposed to open the act, so the director, the DP and myself did not shoot a proper close to it. If we knew it was going to be the last scene, we would've had them kiss, but because it wasn't the last scene we didn't, so that's my only regret. She just ends with her arm on him, but they don't kiss; they should've kissed. It was meant to cut directly to The Farm, so it wasn't meant to be the end, so it was not filmed that way unfortunately.
What would Season 3 be like? Would it be a reset of sorts? Everyone's kind of off on their own.
Safran: Honestly, I kind of know, but I don't really know. It's sort of up in the air. If it was only a season finale, they went through a maturation process this year. We looked at Season 1 kind of like college and Season 2 as grad school in terms of what the characters were going through. Now they're adults and the back nine [episodes] being a little more procedural was meant to open the door to a more procedural version of the show with these people at the posts that they're at. But of course Alex is on the run and our team could never work in public again, so it's like a bit of a reset, but it's also a unique place to pick everybody up, and [see] why they would come back together. ... I have ideas, but right now, until there's a pickup, if there's a pickup, I'm really happy to leave everybody where they were left. I wish we could've gotten Russell [Tovey] back for the finale, but they were in tech [for Angels in America]. We really wanted to. Initially at one point we were gonna have him call and we were gonna film it on his iPhone in the U.K., but it was just too silly. We couldn't do it. If we get a Season 3, the plan is he'll be back.
The episode hit very close to home. How important was it to you to make a statement through the show?
Safran: I'd say that's pretty much why the show exists in my mind — to make statements. I was really glad and grateful to be able to make that statement. Alex saying "resist" was perhaps my favorite moment of the finale, just hearing it come out of the character. Unfortunately with such a corrupt government we have these days, it's important for citizens to call upon the people who work for us to investigate, research, not take things for granted. I think this was a little battle cry for that and we were all grateful to be able to tell that story. It echoes real life. Of course no one wants anyone to die, but we definitely all hope and ask for transparency with out elected officials. They're working for transparency.
I really enjoyed the line, "At least this country won't be controlled by the Russians."
Safran: Yes, that was fun to write. I think it was this episode, but somebody was like, "Maybe you don't have to say the word 'Russian' so much." And we were like, "But they're Russians! We cast Russian actors. And they're all talking about Russia." I think the fear was that we were hitting it over the head; it wasn't like, "Don't say Russia ever."
How cathartic was it to write Alex's big speech?
Safran: Yeah, again, to me, that's what the show is for. It not just mirrors but it talks about politics in the way it affects everyday lives. It's not a show about politics; these are people who are fighting for a better, stronger America. It was just nice to see how politics affects our lives. That speech was freeing to write, the scenes with all of them in The Gold Leaf was great too. The whole episode was great to write.
Was the intention always for Roarke to commit suicide at the end?
Safran: Yes, but it was a tough one. Actually, I take it back. I wanted him to be arrested, but someone was like, "No, he has to kill himself because he wouldn't deal with that scrutiny forever." And I agreed with that.
He has too much pride to face the music.
Safran: Yeah. But it's so sad because I love Dennis Boutsikaris. He was amazing.
Maybe he faked it.
Safran: Yeah, well, you see a gurney.
But he's covered; it could be anybody.
Safran: Totally true.
Did you feel like it had to be Miranda who shot Alex, especially after what happened at the G20?
Safran: Yeah, it closes the loop on her story at the top. We knew that at Episode 14 or 15. That was inevitable. We talked to Aunjanue about it and she was like, "Totally." It was very much the arc of that character. It's sad because we didn't really want to make Miranda the bad guy at the end of Episode 2, but we found out there was a week off between Episodes 2 and 3 because of the presidential debates, so we needed a big cliffhanger at the end of Episode 2. And this was early on, when we were breaking the season, and somebody pitched that and we thought it was a great idea because we knew all along she wasn't really bad. But I feel like once that decision was made in Episode 2, this was the only outcome. Miranda has to pay a price for what she's done, meaning she wants to. It's not that she has to, but she wants to. It's penance.
Would Shelby have pursued something with Clay had she not learned that he dumped Maxine?
Safran: Definitely. We cut a scene in the last episode where she said, "You have to wait 100 days until you know you're really over her." Not over her, but to make sure he really means this. So that's why nothing's happened in these 100 days. I think she might've. With everything that's happened, Caleb, Claire and Shelby all know each other in a new way now. If she had gotten together with Clay, I think people would understand that, but we always knew that they were never going to get together. Once we were building the character, it was going to be The Way We Were — she's going to see him off with the woman that's right for him. She's not going to do that selfishly or selflessly, but she's going to do that because she's grown. She had learned her lesson. Johanna was sick. Hopefully no one can tell. The scene on the steps, she had a fever, but she did a great job.
If this is the end, what do you want to say to the fans?
Safran: Really grateful that the people that stayed with us stayed with us. The show went through a bunch of iterations, but I feel like it's not an easily categorizable show, and that was one of the things that was fun for everybody to write. I don't really know what to say but thank you. Thank you for letting us do some challenging stuff. I feel like in many ways for a network television show that is poppy and soapy, we still got to do some challenging stuff.
Quantico will return next season.