Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 1 Ep 7 (TV Show Review)

Given the news that Marvel released last week (read here), it seems that Agents of SHIELD isn’t the only show that the comics powerhouse and its owner Disney are developing on the road to creating a live-action connected universe that can rival their cinematic universe and even work alongside it. In light of that, I suppose it makes sense that one or two characters in the show that I thought would turn into regulars and become characters I recognise didn’t turn out that way. So that takes some of the sting out of my disappointment with the show. But that disappointment remains nonetheless.

This week’s episode did some interesting things, changing the status quo on a micro level for the team and giving us some interesting new pairings between the various characters, but as it turns out, they made quite a few questionable missteps and where I’d thought that last week’s FitzSimmons centric episode marked a new phase for the show, this week’s outing pretty much disabuses me of the notion, and I’m starting to think that the show is going to be stuck where it is right now in terms of the narrative and its approach to its characters.

Agents of SHIELD Logo 0001Where the previous episode had toned down on all the action and instead given us one with a lot of great character drama, the new episode focuses more on the action and does only surface-level character drama that didn’t quite click with me. We have Fitz and Ward go on a mission behind enemy lines while Skye and Simmons team-up to find out what all the secrecy behind that mission is. And in the midst of it all, we get some more hints about whether Coulson is really himself or something else, even as May gets dragged into the mysteries of the reason that Skye joined Coulson’s team in the first place.

So there’s a lot going on. Its just that there’s no heart to any of it. Everything is far too mechanical and automatic without any kind of energy behind it all.

The whole subplot involving Ward and Fitz going on a mission together was interesting, and I liked it. It served to add some colour to Ward, who has been lacking in that department for most of the show’s run thus far. And after last week’s episode, I was definitely ready for more Fitz, seeing who he really is as a character, how he’d do in the field, being a part of an op on the ground and in the thick of it. Both of them together make for an interesting team since Fitz has at least had some SHIELD training and he knows the rules, unlike Skye who doesn’t live by any rules but her own and is always looking to break any she comes across. As another character remarks, Fitz is untrained for field operations and this mission is a test of his mettle, whether he can handle the stress or not.

On the flipside we have the buddy-buddy team of Skye and Simmons. Given that the mission for Fitz and Ward has a level 8 rating, and Skye isn’t even cleared for level 1, she has no idea what is involved and what everything is all about. Being a nosy hacker who hates secrets, she ropes in Simmons to help her since the latter has some clearance as a trained (non-field) agent and can get in places that Skye can’t, physically. It promised to be an interesting angle, except for the fact of course that Skye’s motivations for all of this boiled down to “I just wanna”, so I was looking to see how it would all pan out. All it involved though was some really stupid stupidity on the part of both the ladies. Simmons was an excellent character in last week’s episode, and in this one she seems to have devolved to her episode one levels, barely interesting and just there to spout techno-babble.

What was the point really? Skye gets Simmons to break a hell of a lot of rules, and rules mean something within SHIELD since the organisation plays a geopolitics game on a whole different level, something far above any other spy organisation or government, and thus there are some strict regulations in play. But we see no repercussions on either character because plot armour. No sanctions, no telling off. That… pay-off just ruined any of the fun that had existed, if barely.

And as I said above, in the midst of all this is Coulson searching for answers to what happened to him while he was in Tahiti, apparently recuperating from the near-death he suffered at the hands of Loki in Avengers. It played a small part in the episode, but it was a very promising subplot since for the first time, Coulson avoided saying “Its a magical place” in full whenever Tahiti came up. Before, he almost parroted that phrase, but this time, he stopped himself. Perhaps he realised that very fact, and its what set off alarm bells in his mind. This is more important than it seems in the previous episode we saw that he was worried about not being up to his usual levels of fitness and abilities as he remembered. A physical didn’t turn up anything and that has him all the curiouser. And the episode ends on a really startling note. Whatever it is that he went through in Tahiti, it is a secret even from him, despite the fact that he has the highest clearance possible within SHIELD, with only Nick Fury himself and Maria Hill being any higher.

Finally, there is the whole subplot with Coulson involving May into the secret reason for why Skye joined up with the team. It is something that came as a surprise a while back when it was revealed, and that I think adds to Skye’s character. There are some revelations involved of course, and they are just as sudden and twist-y as anything else in the show so far, so at least the episode generally ended on a positive note. There is a deeper mystery behind all of it and I’m actually looking forward to seeing how it is developed by the writers.

If there is one thing that bugged me about the whole episode is that despite being named “The Hub” we see very little of the place. The Hub is apparently SHIELD’s headquarters, with all the imagery that conjures up. But we see so very little of the whole place. Any scenes that take place at the Hub could just as easily have taken place aboard the Bus, or any random SHIELD facility. There’s nothing about the episode that actually says “this is THE HUB“. Nothing.

Agents of SHIELD Cast 0002

And as usual, the show continued to drop names, etc without really giving a clear idea of just what the whole season-long story is. They mentioned Triskelion IIRC, which in the comics is the headquarters of the Ultimates (the Ultimate alternate reality version of the Avengers). We get references to both Agents Barton (Hawkeye) and Romanoff (Black Widow). And so on like this. Its as if the show, which so far has been fairly generic, is trying to make itself stand-out by sprinkling in such mentions. There’s no real commitment to the fact that the show is part of a setting that is as… fantastical as the Marvel Universe. Next week’s episode is supposed to somewhat rectify that, since it appears to tie-in to the recently-released Thor: The Dark World and involves the team cleaning up after the mess that Thor and Malekith make in London, AND is directed by Jonathan Frakes, who is an actor/director with his most recognisable credit being Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

At this point, there is very little in the show that excites me. I keep watching because I love the setting, but that’s really it. The show gives me reasons to like it in each episode of course, but it gives me an equal amount of reasons to not like it as well. And the show’s ratings are continuing to fall each week. That is certainly indicative that the show is very problematic. Sure, there is going to be bleed-off as the casual viewers who only have a passing interest in the show thanks to the movies, leave off each week, leaving only those really interested in, the people who love the setting and the characters (in general). And this happens with a lot of genre shows. But each week there are fewer reasons to tune in.

I want the show to be more than this, I want it to be bold and acknowledge the wider Marvel Universe. But I don’t see that happening any time soon unfortunately. So we’ll see what happens next week.

Previous episodes – S1E01, S1E02, S1E03, S1E04, S1E05, S1E06.

Posted on November 15, 2013, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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