It should come as no surprise that I’ve been watching Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since its pilot episode aired. In fact, I’ve been diligent in keeping my Tuesday nights clear to watch the initial broadcast; I then watch again online so Severus can catch up. Having seen every episode twice now, I feel justified in asserting the program is, overall, mediocre. There are flashes of brilliance (or at least definite coolness) but it repeatedly fails to fully satisfy.
The most recent episode, FZZT, is largely hailed as the best yet, and I don’t disagree. Rather than another humdrum reiteration of The Skye & Ward Show, we were treated to a storyline that almost…almost…glossed over them altogether. And that shifted focus is exactly what this show needs.
FZZT was compelling because it served up ample doses of the Coulson mystery. I like that we don’t know exactly what happened to Coulson after The Battle of New York; even more, I like that he doesn’t know either! In tinkering with that overarching plot, we were treated to a teeny little glimpse at Melinda May’s backstory—something that needs to be further explored sooner rather than later.
More importantly, FZZT relied almost exclusively on Fitz-Simmons. Did you know Simmons has a first name? Because I sure didn’t. (It’s Gemma, by the way.)
Unfortunately, neither Fitz nor Simmons is a strong enough character yet to carry more than the occasional episode. I’m hoping the showrunners will give them the chance they deserve and allow them to step away from the science nerd tropes more frequently. Otherwise, the focus will inevitably shift back to SkyeWard.
After the first 20 minutes or so of ho-hum setup scenes, we hit on serious drama for the first time. Not for the first time in this episode but for the first time in this series. Not only was Simmons in legitimate danger with the infection, but so was everyone else because her demise would take down “the bus.” Instead of watching the team fret over their perilous situation, though, focus remained on Simmons.
Previous attempts at turmoil were fraught with one-off characters and plots that were neatly wrapped up in the hour (save for the Graviton tease). Even the Skye saga built up to a big reveal a couple of weeks ago that fell absolutely flat—her entire motivation for becoming a “hacktivist” and infiltrating SHIELD was to learn about her parents? Purely saccharine. And P.S., if we hear her say “hacktivist” one more time, I’ll probably puke a little; you have my solemn vow that I’ll never utter it again on this site.
I digress. My delight with the episode was tempered by a pretty big complaint: nobody died. Did I want
Gemma Simmons to die? No, she’s easily my favorite character behind Coulson. Let us not forget, though, that this is ultimately a Whedon endeavor. I was fully prepared to yell at my TV and sniff a little over killing her off so soon.
Nevertheless, an untimely death needed to happen for three reasons.
1) The way Ward saved Simmons was altogether trite and ridiculously unrealistic—because so much of the rest of this is totally realistic 😉 Heroic though it might have been, our attention was forced back to Ward. Perhaps the intent was to demonstrate that Ward’s more of a team player now. I just went away from it with a heavy-handed feeling that we’re not really supposed to care what happens unless SkyeWard is somehow involved.
2) Writing off Simmons—or anyone other than Coulson, because they can’t do that to me!—would have created a serious story arc that could have played into every single episode going forward. I hate when writers kill off characters as an excuse to examine the residual reactions (Downton Abbey, anybody?), but it could have been really effective with this show.
3) Ward/Simmons’ safe return set the stage for what has fast become one of the most annoying elements of SHIELD, the cheesy ending. The first or second time we saw it happen, as the gang sat on the tailgate and watched the rocket liftoff, it was a stirring indication that our rag-tag group of misfits had bonded. After just a few episodes, though, it’s become a formulaic cringe-fest. This time we even had to watch Skye give hugs while Ward performed a ridiculously bad impression of himself. If we must have this type of ending, could somebody at least start dubbing over them with He-Man morality tales?!
I intend to keep watching SHIELD, as I think it has potential. I do have a slightly different definition for the acronym, though… Should Have Immediately Eliminated Latest Draftee