How 'Quantico' completely wasted Li Jun Li

Guest Post by Lakshmi Gandhi

(Photo Credit: Philippe Bosse/ABC)

When ABC's Quantico returns for its second season on September 25, one familiar face won't be seen among everyone's favorite group of new FBI agents.

Li Jun Li confirmed late last month on Twitter that she'd be joining the cast of NBC's Chicago PD, which means Quantico fans will likely never see her character Iris Chang ever again.

To be perfectly honest, it's unlikely fans will even notice Iris' absence, which is a shame. While originally billed as "a flirtatious, beautiful Queen Bee type" who "founded six startups while at USC," the Iris who showed up on our screens each week was bratty, combative, and ultimately forgettable. It continually seemed as if the writers' room had no idea what to do with her, and I have to wonder why that was so.

After all, with Alex Parrish we had a strong, Indian-American woman who fully embraced her sexuality and actively worked to shatter existing stereotypes about South Asian women. Quantico also brought us the twins Nimah and Raina Amin who (while occasionally problematic) also provided us with the most well-rounded Muslim female characters American television has ever seen.

By creating a character that was born in Shanghai and was a brilliant entrepreneur, Quantico had an opportunity to create a character that utilized her bilingualism and tech savvy to crack the cases her fellow agents couldn't. And because Quantico's storylines often seemed eerily timely, it would have also been nice to see how a Chinese American character would react to, say, a politician's histrionic rhetoric about the country and its potential threat to our national security.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Wenk/ABC)

Instead, Iris always seemed to be a throwaway character who was mainly there to help other characters move closer to their own goals (remember when Shelby finally figured out what was going on with her family? Or when Caleb was figuring out how to escape the cult?) rather than someone with an interesting and well-developed story line. Sadly, in the end, even an actress as talented as Li Jun Li couldn't save her.

As Quantico's writers continue to write season two of the show, let's cross our fingers that they'll introduce more East Asian FBI agents this time around. (Hopefully the news that the show will soon begin airing in China bodes well for future characters.)

Let's also hope the show googles potential character names before they make the air. The real Iris Chang deserved better.

Lakshmi Gandhi is a journalist and pop culture writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Metro New York, NBC Asian America and NPR’s Code Switch blog, among other sites. You can read her recaps of season one of 'Quantico' here and follow her on Twitter at @LakshmiGandhi.

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