Confessions of a TV Addict #4 : How TURN-ON (1969) Got Turned-Off


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TURN-ON made its debut February 5, 1969 on the ABC network. It was promptly cancelled a day later. Quicker at the ABC affiliate in Cleveland: after the first eleven minutes! Why? Was it that bad? What was all the hubbub about?

The brisk half-hour was produced by Ed Friendly and George Schlatter, the duo behind NBC’s highly successful ROWAN AND MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN, a subversive comedy-variety series that spoofed just about anything in its path. It was hoped TURN-ON, even more outrageous than its predecessor,  would be a hit with the same hip audience. But the world wasn’t quite ready for this non-stop assault on the senses, which used quick blackout sketches, animation, stop-motion, early computer graphics, a synthesized score, and worse of all- NO LAUGH TRACK!!

The premise of TURN-ON was that it was made by a computer, a novelty back before the days when everyone had a PC or laptop. Yes…

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Music Video of the Day: The Look Of Love by ABC (1982, dir. Brian Grant)


First things first, this is directed by Brian Grant, and not Julien Temple. The other version of this that is listed on mvdbase is from the ABC film Mantrap (1983).

Mantrap (1983, dir. Julien Temple)

If you enjoy ABC, then I recommend the film. It’s basically an extended music video for the album The Lexicon Of Love that comes complete with Martin Fry fighting his doppelgänger.

From the book I Want My MTV:

Martin Fry: The record companies weren’t pressuring anyone to look a certain way. That came later. For “The Look of Love” we wanted to cross the visual style of Benny Hill, a really crude slapstick comedian, with An American In Paris. I don’t think Kurt Cobain would have ever put on a striped blazer and sung to a wooden crocodile. There’s a parrot on my shoulder at one point. We were pushing it to the limit, seeing how embarrassed we could get. Art is what you get away with.

I wouldn’t have put it past him. Also, you weren’t so much singing to the crocodile as you were trying to beat it to death.

Brian Grant: Martin Fry and I both loved old Hollywood movies. There was no Look at us, we’re a serious rock band. They just wanted to have fun.

I picked up on that from the end of Mantrap.

Mantrap (1983, dir. Julien Temple)

Mantrap (1983, dir. Julien Temple)

There’s one more quote following the one from Grant, and then we get one from Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Sir Mix-A-Lot, artist: Devo, Gary Numan, the Fixx–I liked all the new wave bands. But I didn’t like any of ’em so much that I tried to style my hair like the guy from A Flock Of Seagulls. And I never tried to hold one key on a synthesizer for as long as he did in “I Ran.”

I’ll never look at Baby Got Back the same way again.

Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot (1992)

There are the obvious parts like what I assume is a reference to the beginning of 8½ (1963).

The flying nun.

The skater who falls off the bridge.

However, each time I watch this video, I seem to spot something else going on.

This guy looks like he should be in the background of a Jacques Tati film as he does his routine from A Day’s Pleasure (1919).

A Day’s Pleasure (1919, dir. Charlie Chaplin)

Is that his kid back there?

There’s a lower level on the set way back there. Why?

Why does this guy have a giant playing card in addition to everything else?

Who is this man in black that crosses the bridge behind Fry?

I guess we needed at least one eighties person in this video.

Tarzan Boy?

A fire-thrower wearing a leopard print skirt. Sure.

Charlie Chaplin dating a clown. Of course that’s in here.

I don’t know what this guy wearing Martin Fry’s costume from Poison Arrow is doing here or what exactly he’s even doing.

Director Brian Grant has done around 180 music videos.

I love this video. Enjoy! And remember to watch out for plugs in spaghetti.

30 Days Of Surrealism:

  1. Street Of Dreams by Rainbow (1983, dir. Storm Thorgerson)
  2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Children by Dio (1985, dir. Daniel Kleinman)
  3. The Thin Wall by Ultravox (1981, dir. Russell Mulcahy)
  4. Take Me Away by Blue Öyster Cult (1983, dir. Richard Casey)
  5. Here She Comes by Bonnie Tyler (1984, dir. ???)
  6. Do It Again by Wall Of Voodoo (1987, dir. ???)
  7. Heaven by Bryan Adams (1985, dir. Steve Barron)

Music Video of the Day: Poison Arrow by ABC (1982, dir. Julien Temple)


I normally don’t talk about the thumbnail used on a video. However, It would be perfectly natural for someone to look at that thumbnail and think they are about to watch a music video remake of Casablanca (1942) with Martin Fry playing Bogart. It’s not too far off. I would add that it also seems to take place in a lost Rainer Werner Fassbinder film.

When I watch this music video I get the distinct feeling that I am missing previous chapters in this story of three different guys that become enraptured with the same woman. This also isn’t too far off. I haven’t listened to the whole album, called The Lexicon of Love, but I know enough to say that I am kind of missing other installments in this tale. Wikipedia tells me that while it is not a concept album, it does have repeated themes that revolve around heartache. This also makes sense seeing as several of the songs off of the album have names like The Look of Love, All of My Heart, and Valentine’s Day. A longform music video was even made called Mantrap. Still, you don’t have to have heard the whole album, or have seen the other music videos that were made for songs on the album in order to enjoy this one.

I mentioned before that there are three different characters who try to get the same woman, but I have to admit that I thought they were the same person till I read the Wikipedia article on the song. It comes across as a guy spotting a woman that he knew while watching a play, disguising himself as a singing telegram to confront her backstage, and then she comes to his nightclub where he confronts her again, only to be literally reduced to a little nothing in her life. I have no doubt that these are supposed to be three different people. I also believe that they had Martin Fry play all of them for a reason. It seems to me that the music video visually hints to the audience that the three different characters come from the same place while the song itself has all three men singing the same song that asks her to shoot the “poison arrow” to their heart. The combination of the two binds them visually and audibly. I’m not sure about the beginning and the end. I could guess, but I’ll just leave that to you. I could be completely wrong about the whole thing.

In the end, it doesn’t matter that much. It is one of the best music videos of the era whether you get exactly what they were going for or not. Director Julien Temple did an excellent job here. It’s no wonder he has done more than a hundred of them. It’s also not a surprise that when ABC decided to make a return recently, they brought Julien Temple back to direct their new music video.

As is often the case, I come to the end of one of these posts, and just as I am ready to leave, I decide to do one more Google search only to find something else worth mentioning. Since I am stubborn, I often stick it at the end where/when I found out about it anyways. Does the woman look familiar? She didn’t to me, but it’s Lisa Vanderpump who would be in several other music videos–including one for Lady Gaga–and the TV Show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Enjoy!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Mega-Recap


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I have failed you, dear readers. I have failed you in my solemn commitment to share the odyssey of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I have failed in my grim responsibility to recap them without snark or sarcasm each week. And I have failed you utterly with regards to knowing when the show is going to air, and on what Tuesdays. There is no one to blame but me for my having fallen behind. One mis-step begat another, and another, until now… finally, we arrive here. To borrow a term and use it in an amusing way, here, at the Magical Place.

But do not fear!

For this MEGA-RECAP will connect the dots of this complex and sophisticated story the innermost twists and turns of which need to be absorbed over repeated viewings and recorded for your reference in this space… Here, I will connect for you the lines between S1E12 “Seeds”… all the way up to 4/1/2014 (oh God)… M.A.O.S. Probably too many acronyms floating around here, but that’s just a thought. Together, let us voyage through the complex storylines, elaborate characterizations, and non-ridicu… well. At any rate. I’ll provide a brief recap of what you might have missed… or not.

For your convenience, I have organized this Mega-Recap in this fashion, so you can bounce around if you wish:
S01E13 will take you to the first episode of the recap, T.R.A.C.K.S.
S01E14 summons forth T.A.H.I.T.I.
S01E15 will show you Yes Men

Mega this recap might be, but I have steeled myself to show more discipline and condense each episode somewhat. Apologies in advance, dear readers, because I know that this may necessitate leaving out some of the grand complexity of each of these totally unique and not-at-all formulaic episodes. In the future, I shall endeavour to do better for you. Well.

That elaborate housekeeping having been taken care of… enjoy? Enjoy!

S01E13

T.R.A.C.K.S.

Yes, it’s Ian Quinn (David Conrad) again. One of the few things that I feel this series has actually done pretty well so far is in providing us with some comic book style ‘mastermind’ villains. We have the still-enigmatic Clairvoyant, and Ian Quinn, Corporate Asshole. Having guys blow their money on evil is a grand comic tradition, and one that is certainly welcome here. Quinn is so off-putting that I enjoy him as a villain, and I’m looking forward to Agent Wooden and Agent Handsome delivering a series of punches and kicks to his face and torso. But that’s for another time, alas…

This time, the dastardly Ian Quinn has purchased something from a company called CyberTek for the low, low price of $10 million. I assume all figures are in U.S. dollars, so maybe it’s not actually that much. It’s being transported on a train through the Italian countryside, under the watchful supervision of Ian Quinn’s number one security guy. Coulson successfully negotiated (read: waved S.H.I.E.L.D.’s carte blanche around) to get the Italian police off the investigation, and Level 7 onto it. In lieu of letting the proper authorities handle things, Coulson’s team is going to infiltrate the train undercover in three different groups. Group 1 consists of agents May and Ward. She’s playing a cold, sneering aristocrat type, who says little, but radiates contempt with her eyes while he carries the luggage. Oh, and they’re married. This is such a departure from their normal characters, that I… ah, nevermind.

Team two is Simmons and Coulson as a father daughter pair. This pairing is engaging. Simmons thinks very poorly on her feet, so in preparation for being undercover, she’s given her character a ten page backstory about an absentee father and a strained relationship. Stan Lee makes his totally inevitable cameo here, berating Coulson for his failures as a father. Team three is Fitz and Skye as young lovers. Skye is charming and beautiful, Fitz is awkward. Giving these two more screen time seems like a way to try and find some male character that Skye actually has some chemistry with. Fitz and Skye aren’t bad together… it’s certainly better than some of the cringe-worthy scenes between Skye and Ward earlier in the season.

Oh, and May tells Ward that she told Coulson about them having clinically precise sex. Ward is alarmed, but we already know Coulson is cool. Guy’s not gonna make waves. I mean, he didn’t even make waves over the forty thousand different ways that S.H.I.E.L.D. screwed him on the whole ‘involuntary resurrection’ thing and the whole ‘without his consent’ affair. That Nick Fury. What a goof!

Things go pretty much how you’d expect. In his conductor disguise, Ward quickly dispatches two assassins in a quick sequence even James Bond would have been proud of. Realizing they’re made, he sends Simmons to meet up with Fitz and Skye. Coulson and Ward get made and bail out of the train, and Quinn’s agents turn the train invisible… wait what? Commercials! By the way, I want to give some credit to the storyboarding on this one… aside from a bunch of quick cuts to set up our premise, we barely had any jarring scene changes at all. Good work, guys!

So dudes in black SUVs are already after Coulson and Ward. Seems like someone probably gave them up. I WONDER WHO IT COULD HAVE BEEN? On the ActionPlane Coulson contacts his boy with the Italian polizia, Russo (Carlo Rota). Russo’s guys got jumped too, it seems, and they’re dead. Coulson explains that the train became invisible, and Russo seems weirdly unimpressed. Well, I’m sure that happens all the time in Italy. Coulson and Ward try and figure out what to do next, but between them they can’t even figure out how to work the computer. They talk about the whole Ward/May wooden lovemaking situation. Coulson berates Ward, then makes fun of him. It is enjoyable. Then suddenly Russo shows up at the landing ramp to the ActionPlane. Before he can do much more than say hello, he gets the old ‘lethal axe in the spine’ from a beaten, bloody Agent May. With a subtle hint of anger (reaaaaaaaaaaaaal subtle), May says “Wheels up in five.” Boom.

It turns out that May also fell off the train. Got captured by Russo. He was going to torture and presumably kill her, but May is kind of a badass. She escaped, facilitated the escape of Ward and Coulson. Now we know why she killed Russo. Good times!

On the train, Skye and Fitz debate the nature of the object being transported. Skye wonders if it could be an ‘084’, an ‘object of unknown origin’. Fitz says no, definitely an item supplied by Cybertek. Some light exposition. Then the jamming hits. Everything’s offline. What? We’ve been made? Security guys burst into the train car. Fitz downs one with a blindfire (good shot, Fitz!) and then Skye does more than enough to disable a comic mook, but since she’s a girl, he’s unaffected and knocks her down. Then, because Fitz is a geek and can’t fight, he goes sprawling as well. It’s at this time that Simmons arrives, and Skye comes back to her feet armed and dangerous. Unfortunately, because Skye and Simmons are both girls, Skye doesn’t shoot, and Simmons then grapples vainly with the mook until his grenade goes off… uhh.. “disabling”… them both. Seriously, is there any doubt that a male agent would have handled these two mooks? It doesn’t even have to be James Bond. But poor Skye gets manhandled even after ambushing the dude, clubbing him, and basically working his shit. He’s just a mook! Luckily the grenade was more of the ‘stun’ variety – using the same technobabble (biobabble? it’s a toxin, they claim) that makes the S.H.I.E.L.D. magic sleep gun (or night-night gun, as the parlance goes) work. Oh, then Fitz shoots the mook. Good on you, Fitz.

The train stops. Outside, a bunch of suits make the exchange. Skye demands that they follow the mysterious Cybertek item, so they do. Arriving at a magnificently-appointed Tuscan villa. Apparently these are just ubiquitous when dealing with Ian Quinn. You have to admire the man’s style. Fitz goes to disable enemy vehicles, while Skye goes into infiltration mode. Again! This is so exciting! Skye sneaks her way into the basement. Something tells me it’s just about time for the big reveal. OH SHIT IT’S MIKE PETERSON (J. August Richards)! He’s in, like, a healing tube or something. Then Ian Quinn shows up. He’s feeling smug. Quinn pops the tube. Not only is Peterson alive, but he’s kind of well. His face is badly mutilated. And the expensive technology from CyberTek proves to be a cybernetic leg to replace the one he lost in the explosion during the events of S1E10 “The Bridge”. Savvier folks than I point this out as the rise of “Deathlok”, a comic character. Good on Deathlok!

Peterson is thoroughly under enemy control. Quinn exults in his power, saying that Peterson can’t hurt him, and that he won’t stop Quinn from shooting him. Skye tries to negotiate with Mike’s better nature. Quinn tries to convince Mike to attack Skye, but he refuses. Instead, Quinn simply shoots her. Then, he shoots her again. Then, he bounces. Boom. My heart is ready to explode. Skye!? Nooooo! She was so charming! Taken before her time! Aaaargggh!

Anyway, in the finale… Peterson kills off all the Cybertek suits. No surprise there, Quinn doesn’t want to pay for the hardware. ActionTeam arrives though, before Skye expires. Peterson has orders not to engage S.H.I.E.L.D., Ward does one of my favourite cinema tricks where a guy with two guns can shoot as many normal mooks as he wants until he runs out of ammo before they can react, and the ActionTeam actually captures Ian Quinn! Coulson demands Skye’s whereabouts. When Quinn is glib, Coulson pistol whips that motherfucker! Yeah, Coulson! They find her, of course, but she’s in bad, bad shape. They put her in the healing tube at Simmons’ urgent instructions, and kind of… hope for the best. May sounds… strained. Upset. As she demands if it’s working. Coulson is a little more emphatic. It’s… a stunningly emotional moment for this show. Back on the ActionPlane, Simmons’ diagnosis is grim… but not definitive. The reaction shots are just as grim. Level 7 Vendetta, yo. May and Ward share a moment that could actually be called… emotional? Coulson remains in vigil beside the magic healing tube. Simmons sobs in Fitz’s arms. Ouch.

In the coda, Peterson falls back on his need to reconnect with his son. The Clairvoyant isn’t going for it. Someone pointed out (it may even have been the ABC synopsis?) that his prosthesis has ‘Project Deathlok’ inscribed on it. Well then!

Guys, this episode is WELL above average. I hope you didn’t abandon the show before seeing this one. It’s a good action piece, with plenty of stuff going on, some great Skye moments, and a lot more… emotion… than I’m used to seeing from this show. If every episode was as well conceived as this one, I probably wouldn’t have nearly so easy a time making fun of it. So I guess that would make the show poorer for me, but better for mankind. I will make this trade, showrunners. Jed Whedon, it is not too late!

S01E14

T.A.H.I.T.I.
(Seriously guys, what’s with the acronyms? Is it supposed to be funny?)

Cold Open: Once again, Ron Glass regrets the whole ‘without consent’ and ‘cruel reanimation’ parts of Coulson’s past. If you forgot since the previous recap… which was… ten lines above… Skye is in critical condition. At best. Let’s roll!

We’re in the S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital. Presumably, there is no better care that Skye could receive than this. Coulson is attempting to call Nick Fury. I assume because Sam Jackson wasn’t available, he’s on hold. Fitz blames himself, but Simmons laughs: “Like you could stop her from doing something she wanted to”. Good point, Simmons. Ward is her “SO” (what does that even mean? I know he’s not the CO. I guess he’s not the XO. Supervising officer? The hierarchy of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t that clear). He’s mad too. May blames Ian Quinn. Logical!

At the hospital, the doctors are telling Coulson that it’s time to decide whether to keep Skye on life support, and that her family should be contacted. Coulson breathes… is distressed… “We’re her family”… it’s kind of a tough scene. SCENE CHANGE! (It’s back!)

May kicks the shit out of Ian Quinn. “Wait, you can’t…” “Why, because you’re defenseless? Like she was?” Anger suits the character of Agent May. She seems comfortable in its embrace. Then she seems… emotional, after Coulson stops her. Coulson reminds May that the doctors at S.H.I.E.L.D. literally re-animated his corpse. Surely they can save Skye. Meanwhile, May needs to pilot the ActionPlane. Also, ActionTeam isn’t giving up custody of Quinn. Also, Coulson finally explains the truth of his return to life to the rest of the ActionTeam. It was at the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in Bethesda, Maryland, where it was done. So, they’re bringing Skye to the same facility. Coulson delivers the full medical report on what was done to him to Fitz-Simmons, explaining that since Shepard Book managed to repair his heart after it was literally torn in half, if they can understand how that process worked… surely they can heal Skye’s injuries as well.

Ward and May, neither of them, would have flown halfway around the world in a desperate and probably ridiculous attempt to save Skye’s life. May points out that she and Ward need people like Coulson. Come to think, that’s probably why Phil’s in charge of this outfit, seniority aside. Oh, and they violated some S.H.I.E.L.D. bylaws or something, so they’re being ordered to stand by and prepare to be boarded. I’ve been waiting for one of these episodes, when the inevitable “bad decision makers” or bureaucracy inherent in S.H.I.E.L.D. complicates things. Coulson elucidates the situation nicely: “Really? All the war and chaos in the world, and S.H.I.E.L.D. sends a plane after us?” Guys, I saw The Avengers. Nick Fury doesn’t think like this, except when he does.

The ActionPlane is boarded by Agent John Garrett (a welcome appearance by Bill Paxton). He seems like a jerk. With him is Agent Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt) who seems like a cool customer. Garrett threatens Coulson because reasons. Oh, for once they’re going to explain this now! Garrett has been pursuing Quinn for some time. He makes a funny, describing the hilariously unsuccessful train job and subsequent Tuscan villa adventure as “your little Italian job”… and also explains that it set his investigation back. How it set him back is really unclear, since Quinn was taken into custody. This part is not addressed, but I’ll live. Anyway, Garrett is surprised to learn that Quinn actually had the guts to shoot someone himself, and explains that he, too, has lost agents in the pursuit, but seems to soften somewhat when Coulson explains about Skye. Trip and Ward know each other. They talk about nonsense downstairs, then things escalate into a totally pointless fistfight (this show is supposed to have action, damnit!) but Coulson breaks it up. He and Garrett came to an agreement. Garrett will interrogate Quinn on board the ActionPlane… and saving Skye is top priority. If only because she might know something essential.

Fitz-Simmons are trying to save her right this very second, of course.

Meanwhile, in the interrogation room / refuge for tormented young women / Mike Peterson chamber / hexagon walled room… Garrett shows up. Quinn is flippant. Garrett literally grabs Quinn’s tongue (yes! Seriously! It’s kind of awesome!) He explains that Quinn has no rights, no lawyer, and the only reason they don’t just throw him out the back of the plane is that Skye is still alive downstairs. Quinn appears to get the message. They talk a little about the Clairvoyant. Garrett calls it mumbo-jumbo, but Quinn cites a number of incidents in which the far-seeing eyes of the Clairvoyant led to disaster for S.H.I.E.L.D. The only thing the Clairvoyant can’t see is how they saved Coulson after his death or near-death or whatever at Loki’s hands. The gist of the plan is, either ActionTeam figures the whole thing out, in which case it’s in the open for the Clairvoyant to see… or they let Skye die. And Coulson obviously isn’t going to let Skye die. That would be ridiculous. She’s charming!

So it turns out that even the facility that Coulson was treated at doesn’t exist, and certainly wasn’t at Bethesda. Simmons admits that even she and Fitz only understand “70%” of what’s in Coulson’s medical records. May’s concerned that they may give the Clairvoyant exactly what he wants, even if they do save Skye. Coulson doesn’t give a shit. Yeah, Coulson, keep it real. Fitz-Simmons start trying to track Ron Glass’ whereabouts from the date that Coulson was stabbed. With some uh… “clever sleuthing”… Fitz-Simmons locates the site at which Coulson’s “treatment” “occurred” and they “head” “that direction”. May stays on the ActionPlane, but Garrett bolsters the away team as Coulson leads a group to investigate “The Guest House”. They don’t know the countersign, so they force entry. I’m sure this will go well.

What? A gun battle? You’re kidding. Coulson throws a flashbang, and it’s pretty much over. Garrett is growing on me. I hope Bill Paxton isn’t too busy to make a couple more appearances on the show.

With the guards down, there’s a countdown timer running to destroy the facility or something. Coulson assigns Garrett to figure out how to get them back out of the secure facility, while the ActionTeam goes in search of drug GH-325. Apparently this was the substance administered to Coulson. Meanwhile, on the ActionPlane, Triplette is being pretty cool. I wouldn’t mind him coming back either. Things are worsening on the ‘Skye’ front though, as she starts to seize. Hope we find that GH-325 Maguffin!

Shockingly, a search of the facility bears fruit. Fitz locates some GH-325 and absconds. Coulson would be right with him… except that he’s spotted a door marked T.A.H.I.T.I. Can that acronym possibly stand for anything? I’m not kidding here. This is getting a little absurd.

ActionTeam escapes the facility. Kind of. Coulson and Garrett are still inside, but whatever. Actually, Garrett goes back for Coulson, who is almost in a trance. He seems alarmed by the idea that Skye might be given GH-325. He’s even more alarmed when he and Garrett board the ActionPlane. Simmons already gave Skye the GH-325. It’s too late. But then … she stabilizes. Thank God. This show really can’t survive without her, unless we get a lot more Bill Paxton. Everyone’s happy except Coulson, who seems even more alarmed. This would be a great time for the show to explain things to us.

Garrett and Triplette take possession of Quinn. It’s kind of epic. Garrett and Coulson talk things out. As Garrett absconds, I pray for more Bill Paxton in our future. Please, Jed Whedon, deliver unto us more entertaining guest characters. Now that Ian Quinn is presumably gone (until his miraculous escape, or whatever), we need more entertaining guest characters.

Behind the T.A.H.I.T.I. door… Coulson is a little traumatized to discover half of a blue man hooked up to machines. Or something. The meaning of this isn’t real clear. Coulson’s explanation of his panic to May is that he didn’t want Skye to suffer, but that she didn’t, so he’s cool now. Dude isn’t gonna make waves.

Coda: Meet Lorelei (Elena Satine). For those who don’t know, “Lorelei” is the name of both an Asgardian in Marvel comics… and, probably more importantly, a Germanic myth similar to the Greek ‘Siren’ myth. Oh, and the Asgardian in Marvel? Based on that same German myth. I’ll let you guess what that probably means.

S01E15

“Yes Men”

Previously On: Blah blah blah. I just recapped two episodes. Surely you didn’t miss anything important?

Cold Open: Lorelei (Elena Satine) and her boy toy (Robert Belushi) show up at a truck stop. She sirens up a biker leader named Rooster (Dylan Bruno). Then she murders the crap out of the newlywed she siren’d up at the end of T.A.H.I.T.I. Asgard!

Act I: Skye is alive! And … ambulatory! Thank God. I missed her. Simmons is determined to keep poor Skye in bed. There’s a little banter, but what it boils down to is that Skye is alive, and she’s the most gratefulest. It’s not a real word, but I bet you know what it means! There’s some awkward conversation between Skye and Ward. I’m not sure what the point of all this is. I mean, Ward is her “SO” and all… but this conversation is kind of dumb. It has some exposition in it, though. Skye wants to do some more training. She wants to become a badass. I am glad. They also remind us about the whole Mike Peterson subplot. So that’s still going on.

Coulson is trying to locate Nick Fury. He has an incredibly low-profile conversation between incredibly low-profile S.H.I.E.L.D. ActionMobiles. Shockingly, Nick Fury is missing? Has disppeared? Doesn’t want people to know where he is? I’m sure this will be going on. Also, Fitz-Simmons have detected Asgardian Magic. An Asgardian is about. “Asgardians are allies!” “Loki wasn’t”. Thanks, guys. Shortly thereafter, a half dozen totally inconspicuous S.H.I.E.L.D. ActionMobiles driving down the road stop when there’s a burst of incredible energy, and in a flash of awesomeness… the Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander, reprising her film character) appears! In a crater! In the highway! She doesn’t waste much time announcing that Earth is in great danger.

Commercials!

May’s worried about Coulson, but the thing is, Sif’s worried about Earth. Speaking of Sif, she’s shocked to see Agent Coulson still alive. She’d heard him slain at Loki’s hands. More importantly, Sif is hunting Lorelei. You know, that whole Siren bit. Lorelei is strong like any Asgardian, but also plus Siren. She escaped during the events of Thor: The Dark World when the dark elves screwed everything up, and a bunch of prisoners escaped. But Sif has brought a choker, which will solve the issue. Good times.

Rooster’s wife shows up at the biker bar. She causes a commotion, except everyone else is under Lorelei’s spell. So much for Rooster’s wife. Fitz has designed some higher caliber weapons for the ActionTeam. Shall I start the betting pool now on how effective small arms will continue to prove against metahumans, let alone Asgardians? The whole Lorelei thing isn’t great. It’s not great when the ActionTeam arrives at Rooster’s bar either, despite their inconspicuous arrival in a half dozen black SUVS. The local police open fire on them. Oops. Probably should have thought that one through, Phil son of Coul. Sif makes some fast cover for the S.H.I.E.L.D. boys by moving an RV with her meaty leg, then enters the bar to battle Lorelei. Lorelei comments that she does not fear Sif, and has beaten her before. This is hard to believe when she orders her bikers to attack, because the bikers are mooks. They cannot possibly hurt Sif. It’s kind of like when the villains in the “Superman” TV series fired all their bullets at Superman, then decided to throw their guns, like this would somehow be more effective. Just ridiculous.

Obviously, while Sif dispatches the mooks, Lorelei is out the back. She ensares Ward in her evil spell, and bounces. Why did Phil bring Ward with him, over May, again? Oh, right, because this show has to run forty two and a half minutes. Nevermind. Forget I even asked.

So the Lorelei collar is busted. Coulson assigns Fitz-Simmons to fix that shit. After Skye rants for a bit, he also assigns my personal favourite L7-type to aid in hunting Agent Ward down… electronically. Apparently Ward really is like a James Bond or Jason Bourne type… with lockers full of weapons, money, credentials… all over the world. Frankly, Ward never struck me as important enough for that before. I guess my bad? I shouldn’t have underestimated him.

At the New York New York, Ward scores with Lorelei! It is not clinical. It is not wooden. One wonders if he will ever be able to go back. … Of course, this is all in exchange for him providing Lorelei with an army, presumably to conquer Earth. Oops. Afterward, Lorelei reflects on her captivity. And on how she kind of thought Earth sucked. Ward talks about slaying Sif, but Lorelei points out that it’s a stupid idea. The other ActionTeam members, on the other hand…

Fitz claims that Ward and Lorelei don’t appear on any camera anywhere in Las Vegas. This is factually incorrect, because we saw them wandering around a casino floor. I don’t care how careful Ward allegedly is… he and Lorelei wandered around on a casino floor. Somebody saw them. Of course, Fitz then immediately locks Sif inside the ActionPlane’s holding cell. Apparently he’s somehow become hypnotized by Lorelei’s spells as well. Oops. Sif starts banging on her cell wall. Simmons decides to go investigate the source of all the banging, but discovers that she and Skye are locked in as well. Soon after, Coulson encounters Fitz, immediately deduces what has happened, and talks his way past him. Meanwhile, Lorelei is on the plane, and she dismissively crushes Agent May with one blow. Ouch. Meanwhile: The ActionBrig is opened, launching Sif… INTO OPEN SKY! It happened to Thor, you see. It’s comedy jokes, achieved through repetition!

After the commercial break, there’s a weird sexy showdown. May, Ward, Lorelei… Lorelei tells us that the unbelievably awkward and chemistry-less scenes between Skye and Agent Ward aren’t over. Great. Hoorah. Woot.

Meanwhile, Coulson reconvenes with Simmons and Skye. Simmons tries to brain him with a fire extinguisher, but you know, doesn’t. Since he’s still a clear-thinking individual. For some reason he seems to think that Sif is probably not dead and stuff. And sure enough, when the plane opens again, Sif gets back in to confront a Lorelei now armed with Sif’s own blade. Well… for now. Actually, I think it’s time for the big action piece. Sif and Lorelei begin swordfighting! Fitz was going to interfere and stuff, until he spotted Simmons. Who knows what’s going on there? But also, Ward and May are going to fight. From what I’ve seen so far, the outcome of that brawl is laughable and not in doubt, but I’m sure Ward will put up a fight of some kind.

Whoops! Looks like Coulson sucker punched Fitz right away. Good times. Oh, but Ward is putting up a fight. I hate to get my dander up again, but this is kind of absurd. Heralding back to my review of “T.R.A.C.K.S.”, despite the fact that the show has characterized May as being both faster and more skillful than Ward, she’s also a girl, so when she kicks Ward in the head, he’s fine, and he starts throwing her around. Dramatic tension, I get, but I’m not wild about how we’re getting it this week. Sorry, showrunners, you are doing a shitty job. I know this because even after May tackles Ward through a glass wall, he somehow is the one that comes up with the gun. Isn’t the whole point that she’s faster, with better reflexes? You know, to counteract his better upper body strength. Good thing the gun is empty.

And good thing Sif saves the day by collaring Lorelei.

Anyway, things wrap up tidily. Ward (bleeeeeeeeeeegh) desires another woman than May. Boy, I wonder who. Please, keep forcing that, showrunners! I really enjoy the terrible scenes between Skye and Ward! We need more of them! They are delightful! Kinda feels like May and Ward are dunzo. Coulson visits Skye to talk about how the GH-325 is of alien origin. Skye kinda doesn’t give a shit, since she’s still alive and all… but I really feel like we need to see Nick Fury on this show sometime soon. These convenient excuses for why he’s not around have already worn thin. It’s a bummer. My personal concern? This stuff is heavy plot stuff… we’re in… what, mid season 1? How is this show possibly going to survive multiple season on network TV? I feel like this series always needed to be a 13 episode cable affair. But that’s just me.

Coda: Agent May was listening in. She’s reporting to another master. I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

This episode kind of annoyed me. It had some really good stuff going, though, so I won’t be too hard on it. The film tie-in was a welcome one. I feel like this show is going to need occasional guest appearances to keep it going. The next one practically has to be Sam Jackson giving at least a cameo turn as Director Nick Fury… but we shall see.

TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Episode #12: “Seeds”


AgentsofSHIELD Sometimes it seems that all hope is lost. That a show with recognizable potential has past the point of redemption. That it’s game over. But that time is not this week! No! For indeed, peeking between the clouds of wooden acting and stilted dialogue, comes a new episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…. and spoiler alert, people of Earth… it’s a pretty good one.

You heard me.

Now Apparently A Permanent Fixture Previously On: As random plots get tied together from earlier in the season, we always need these recaps, I guess. Basically, this time, we need to remember that Skye is looking for her parents.

Cold Open: S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy! Do they have a Sorting Hat at future Hogwarts? Oops, no time to worry. The students are at the pool, only, it’s uh… freezing. For no apparent reason. One student is nearly trapped in the ice when it rapidly freezes over his leg, but another busts the ice open with the hilt of a pool skimmer. Yikes!

Act I: After the briefest of cold opens, Fitz-Simmons are talking about how they designed a device that can freeze pools! Well, it wasn’t designed to be used in that way, but someone has apparently weaponized it. For that reason, Fitz-Simmons have been recalled to the Academy. Well, the SciTech Academy. Apparently there are three … Communications, Operations, and SciTech. I think that answers my incredibly important question about how they’re sorted into Houses. I guess you just apply for the division you’re suited for! There’s a rivalry between Sciences and Operations. Skye makes a funny about this to a passing Agent May, who confesses that Ward, Skye, and Fitz-Simmons are going to the Academy… she and Coulson are bound elsewhere. Skye is a little worried about Coulson, actually. Remember, how he had it kind of crappy last week? Ward re-assures her. There’s something about Ward this week that seems less wooden. Maybe I’m imagining things. I hope not though.

At the Academy, the Shield ActionTeam is met by the lovely Agent Weaver (Christine Adams), apparently some kind of administrator. Weird that they don’t make that clear. It also seems like Agent Ward outranks her. I wish I knew a little more about how S.H.I.E.L.D. is organized (and by a little more, I mean a LITTLE, not a lot. Please no one inundate me). Does being Level 7 give Ward clout automatically, as well as determine his secrecy rating? Is Level 7 a rank? Has this already been explained and I just blacked out? Anyway, Agent Weaver is worried they might have a bad seed at the academy. Ward tries to explain the meaning of this term to Skye who helpfully informs him that it is also a phrase that normal people know of! It was a very Joss Whedon moment. I assume that Jed must have had some hand in this scene. It’s fun to try and guess.

While Fitz-Simmons prepare for their lecture on how you should be careful of the potential of dorm room science projects to be weaponized into something dreadful… Ward and Skye visit the Wall of Valor, a memorial to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who have fallen in the line of duty. Skye wishes that she’d come up through S.H.I.E.L.D. the right way, but Ward talks her down. It’s a stunningly human moment from Ward. Did I drink a lot before this episode? I’d like to believe that, instead, Ward is finally a character instead of a caricature.

On the ActionPlane, Coulson and May rehash the whole ‘Coulson was dead and got brought back by mad science’ thing. More importantly, May has a line on one Richard Lumley (Boyd Kistner), former Agent, who vanished 23 years before. I have deep suspicions that he’s connected to Skye’s mysterious past! Sounds like fun.

At the Academy, Fitz-Simmons begin their lecture. Apparently they’re held in some reverence at the Academy. Meanwhile, Ward is interrogating the near-victim of the pool freeze, a young man named Seth (David Zovatto), one of the top students at SciTech. Seth admits that the academy is competitive, but that they don’t typically attempt to kill one another to gain pole position. He also claims not to know a student named Donnie Gill (Dylan Minnette)…

…Who at the same time is freezing over solid during Fitz-Simmons’ lecture! Fortunately, Fitz-Simmons are seasoned field operatives, and Skye and Ward arrive just in time to identify the freeze device responsible and smash it. Their combined efforts save young Donnie before he suffers much in the way of undue effects.

Oops, there’s the scene changes I’ve been missing. In a tinted limo, we’re re-united with hilariously evil CEO Ian Quinn (David Conrad) who you might remember from the Gravitonium debacle. He’s just here to tell us he’s involved in this somehow, before we’re back to the Academy.

Eh, it’s just some filler dialogue. Donnie has a 190 IQ, no friends, no enemies, has trouble relating, blah blah blah. The faculty is worried about him. Wards wants Fitz-Simmons to take the group to the students’ refuge, The Boiler Room. There’s another scene change in here, but I don’t even want to talk about it. I spent more words explaining that than the time we spent scene-changed. Ugh. Anyway, Ward ACTUALLY wants Fitz to go make friends with Donnie Gill. Simmons and Skye make fun of him, because he’s abruptly acting like a human being, and this is new for all of us. Humour helps break the tension. The rest of them will check out the Boiler Room. I capitalize it, because apparently the SciTech students turned the literal boiler room of the campus into a nightclub. No, I am not kidding. There appears to be no cover, and while Ward is twice the age of any student on campus, apparently real S.H.I.E.L.D. agents drop by from time to time.

Over at Donnie’s place, Fitz and he compare notes on being the biggest nerd on campus. Fitz is impressed by the cool gadgets that Donnie’s been working on. In his own time, he also invented weird things. You know, like technology that could be weaponized into a FREEEEEEZE gun.

In Mexico City, May and Coulson being unobtrusive in their bright red ActionCorvette. They are talking about Skye. Actually, May is doing almost all of the talking. This is a day for breakthroughs for everyone! Skye has finally completely won May over, we discover. This is actually nice to hear. I was tired of May being unbearably frigid toward poor Skye. Or maybe I was just bored after we had to deal with it from Ward as well? Hmm. Coulson’s got concerns about the whole ‘re-worked his brain and implanted false memories’ thing. May does not. I like that Coulson is dealing with some stuff to make him more interesting. He’s not so smarmy here, and he doesn’t feel like he knows everything anymore. He even says he’s ‘tired of secrets’. We all know that’s not true, right? He’s a man of secrets. Fortunately, about this time, they spot Lumley and go into pursuit mode.

It’s a hilarious kung-fu mismatch between Agent May and Lumley. He literally hits her with a pallett, which slows her down for a second, while Lumley attempts to flee. But then we discover that the unobtrusive and very stealthy bright red Corvette can fly. Well, then! Coulson identifies himself, and Lumley sags in relief. Or despair. Or something. “Oh good. This is about the baby girl, isn’t it?” Time to learn cool things!

Lumley tried to take a cyanide capsule. Coulson is horrified. What did he think they were going to do with him? Well, there’s a story! 24 years ago (this is the number associated with Skye’s infancy, in case you forgot) Agents Lumley and Avery were in China. A whole S.H.I.E.L.D. team had apparently been wiped out trying to recover an 0-8-4 (this is the code given to an object of unknown origin. Previous examples include the Peruvian artifact we saw earlier this season, or perhaps even the Tesseract itself (this is the dumb, generic name given to the Cosmic Cube in films such as ‘The Avengers’). It turns out that the 0-8-4 these agents were retrieving was a baby girl, who exhibited no special powers that they ever observed. One by one, everyone who knew about the kid was hunted down and destroyed, including Agent Avery. Lumley is the only other survivor. Before her death, Agent Avery faked a Level 8 (!! who the eff is level 8 if Phil Coulson is only level 7? Just Nick Fury? It all seems kind of arbitrary though, let’s not think too hard) clearance. Avery assigned the S.H.I.E.L.D. foster system to move Skye around every few months not because she wasn’t wanted… but to keep her safe. Wow. Let’s take a breather after that.

Back at the Academy, Skye has blended in. Because she’s very smooth, as we’ve seen, she apparently flirted with the bartender and convinced him that she’s a Level 7 operative at the Sandbox (a S.H.I.E.L.D. pure research facility). After she expressed curiousity over top candidates who might be interested in assignment there, she was pointed toward one of the lovely young ladies from the cold open. Ward decides to check it out. Meanwhile, up in Donnie’s dorm, Fitz tries to befriend the troubled young man. He also helps him solve a problem with power generation for some dorm room science project Donnie’s been working on. I’m sure that was a good idea.

Ward is not good at flirting with young S.H.I.E.L.D. cadets. The dialogue here isn’t that good, and neither is he. It’s kind of a bummer. He’s made great strides during this episode, but right here, I either want to punch him in the face, or do the Picard-style facepalm til the scene is over. Right up until young miss… whatever… drops a bombshell. Donnie and Seth are friends. They’ve been bantering for weeks about how they would get to meet the great Agent Fitz. Ward immediately spots the problem. They just now arrived… and didn’t know they were coming… and oh. Right.

Fitz decides to play hero after he realizes that he’s been had, and that helping Donnie with his science project probably actually means that he just taught Donnie how to power a full scale version of the FREEEEEEEEEEEEZE machine. Unluckily for Fitz, Seth is also present, and shoots him in the head. Probably non-lethally. But still. It all comes together now; Seth and Donnie have been in touch with comically evil CEO Ian Quinn (But he really just loves free enterprise, guys! Emphasis on the comically evil.), who seems to do nothing in life except fly around in his private jet and facilitate supervillains and weapons of mass destruction (though, to be fair, he may just not have had time to rebuild his magnificently appointed villa since we last saw him). Skye even confirms with Coulson that this is Quinn’s modus operandi.

Oh, right, we’re back on the ActionPlane now. Coulson is acting kind of weird toward Skye. I WONDER WHY. Fitz thinks that Donnie is still not a bad guy. Also, he abruptly realizes that the device he saw used exotic and rare materials that could never be obtained on the open market by cadets. They’ve got a financial backer.

In a parking lot somewhere, Seth is on the phone with amusingly sinister CEO Ian Quinn.

On the ActionPlane, we now learn that Seth’s father works for Quinn WorldWide. Remember how, to the rest of the world, Quinn isn’t full of cackleworthy menace? Hmm. Even Seth and Donnie probably don’t know that he’s hysterically foul. Quinn tells Seth he wants a full-scale demonstration to prove that the device is worth his time now that the ActionTeam is on the case. Then he hangs up the phone and immediately orders his pilot to turn around. Remember what I keep saying about him? It’s ha-ha funny! It’s heinous!

Donnie is having second thoughts about just randomly firing up their untested ice machine at full scale. Seth convinces him otherwise, and they push the big red button. Only, instead of doing whatever idiotic thing they thought they would do… well, even Donnie doesn’t know what dumb thing they just did.

On the ActionPlane, Coulson squares with Skye. He tells her the whole truth. The music rises as he does so. The music tells us how we should feel about each of these scenes! I’m still in shock over the fact that Coulson decided to square with Skye. Is this show getting like… a lot better? Please, dear reader, you tell me. Skye says that the truth about her past cannot be worse than what she imagined. Coulson assures her: “It is.” Rise, emotions! Obey that musical cue! The music is so ascendant, it can carry us through to other scenes…!

Agents Ward and Weaver witness the instanteous formation of a huge, dangerous storm system.

Skye is in tears.

Donnie and Seth are at the eye of the same storm. Seth is triumphant; Donnie is deeply concerned. While the device worked… they could be in terrible danger.

After the break… Donnie is yet more concerned. They seeded the clouds, only they did a REALLY good job. Ice is coming. Like, a capriciously lethal amount. He begs for Seth’s help to try and reverse the process. Coulson orders Ward to see if he can extract Donnie and Seth, but Ward takes one look outside and says: “Not so much”. The only remaining recourse is to land the ActionPlane in the eye of the storm and get the two young men out manually. Luckily, Agent May is a good pilot and stuff. I’m sure they’ll make it. Uhh… not before Seth is hit by a bolt of lightning though. An unfortunate consequence of holding on tight to a metal object that rises up above its surroundings. Donnie is knocked back as well, and the machine is totally fried. The ActionPlane descends, the ActionTeam is here to save the day… but Seth is already too far gone, despite Fitz-Simmons’ best efforts. Donnie is devastated.

In the aftermath, Donnie is being shipped out to the Sandbox, where S.H.I.E.L.D. can keep an eye on him. May wants to revisit the whole ‘she and Ward are making love with machine-like precision and wooden facial expressions’ thing but Coulson’s not concerned. She also seems genuinely upset, like a real human being, at how badly it must have hurt Skye that Coulson told her the truth. Coulson, though, is positively glowing, as he talks about Skye’s reaction… guys, it turns out that Skye is a hero, she’s an ‘up’ person, and she gives her all for the team. Now, I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, BUT ALL THE VIEWERS KNEW THAT ALREADY COULSON, GOOD GRIEF. We got over ‘conflicted allegiances Skye’ like ten episodes ago. As part of the exeunt, we see Donnie making ice with his finger. Hey, it’s the influence of farcically vicious CEO Ian Quinn! Makin’ dem Supervillains!

In a final segment, Coulson calls amusingly malicious CEO Ian Quinn to threaten to blow him out of the sky if he ever comes near a S.H.I.E.L.D. aligned nation again. Quinn’s unruffled, and tells Coulson that … ‘The Clairvoyant told me to say “Hello”‘. Because we can’t have two groups of bad guys. God forbid. They’re all one group of interconnected evildoers, responsible for all of the evil! The musical cue tells me dread, but I felt ‘yawn’. Tsk tsk. The music wasn’t powerful enough.

Guys, this episode was great! The best one so far, by a clear margin! I know that people have already fled this show, and believe me, I get it. No one watches it more times than I do, despite the pain and suffering it causes. But if every week was like this one, we’d have an above-average TV show. Isn’t that all we can ask for from the broadcast networks anymore? Anyway, I’ll join you all again next week, for another journey into the unknown. Meanwhile, I’m going to see how a guy gets entrance into the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy… seemed like a pretty happening place.

TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode #11: “The Magical Place”


AgentsofSHIELDNobody was more excited for the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. than me. I mean that literally. I think no one, anywhere on earth… was more excited for the return of this boring, silly show. There’s no way the cast members were more excited. I’ll maybe be willing to give Jed Whedon and Maurissa Truncheon the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were equally as excited. I mean, the show’s success kind of determines their viability, right? How do you screw up a big budget TV show that’s within Marvel’s universe, when the Marvel universe is gangbusters?

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t share my excitement for the return of this TV show. Maybe you just want to read recaps about it? Who can say? But I won’t bore you with my personal commentary any longer. Let’s recap the show!

The triumphant return of Previously On…

We get to see one line of dialogue from Ron Glass! I am much too excited about this! Remember, guys, how Loki stabbed Coulson in the chest? Oh, and remember the half-season cliffhanger episode where Mike Peterson fought some super powered dudes and May remained completely stoic and in control as she dodged a series of kicks and punches? Remember how Mike Peterson probably exploded? (Poor Mike Peterson). Well if you didn’t remember before, you definitely do now. I am beginning to suspect that this episode will have something to do with the mystery of Coulson’s death! Perhaps we will learn a tiny bit of information that will raise further questions! Let’s find out together!

Cold open: A pretty young woman and an Australian man (Aiden Turner) are discussing business. The business of Chitauri metal (this would be, if you’ve forgotten, remnants from the Chitauri invasion during “The Avengers”). Why? We don’t know! Then a disc which is (hilariously? obnoxiously? insanely?) branded with the logo of S.H.I.E.L.D. skitters across the floor. “Is that a roomba?” wonders the pretty young woman. Foolish young lady, it is not any variety of iRobot! It is a flashbang device, which cues May and Ward to surge into the room with wooden, workmanlike precision. They then proceed to very professionally work over the muscle in the room. Is it a precise but emotionally distant dance, much like when they make love? You speculate, dear reader, for I will not. The Chitauri metal dealer flees. Ward isn’t fast and dodgy like May, so he is on the ground as she pursues the dealer. Do her movements remind me of the scene in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” when the T1000 pursues John Connor, overtaking even a moving car? Am I trying too hard to make machine parallels?

Metal dealer escapes Agent May, only to be confronted by UAVs piloted by Fitz-Simmons, which are equipped with tactical lights and being scary, for the metal dealer fires some panicked shots then flees into an elevator! How will we stop him now? Do not fear! Skye has control of the elevator! She sends it upward, at full speed! On the roof is an entire team of S.H.I.E.L.D. mooks, a pretty young red-haired woman, and a helicopter. I’m almost positive that this is Agent Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), returning for a second appearance. Presumably, she is here to lead the effort to rescue Agent Coulson from the sinister clutches of Centipede.

In Act I, the credits and some dialogue quickly confirms my suspicions. This is, indeed, the return of Agent Victoria Hand. She’s an actual comic book character, look her up! Comedian Rob Huebel appears prominently in the guest stars, which gives me hope for the future. There are a bunch of mooks on the plane now, reinforced by Agent Hand’s briefing, which includes seriously like a million people. Most of them mooks. I finally am able to make out clearly that the Australian Chitauri Metal Dealer’s name is Vanchat. Hand seems quite certain that Vanchat will talk. Of course, I have no idea what he might know that would help, but I might have missed something.

Agent Hand decides that we need to return to the well of Skye not always having been a straight-laced suit-wearing mantra-citing AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D., by summarily dismissing Skye from the team, and kicking her off the plane. Ward leaps to Skye’s defense, but May disagrees (stoically). Skye’s pretty sure she can find Coulson using her elite hacking skills, and Ward continues to agree. Wait, they’re agreeing? We need Skye off the plane bad. How will this show survive if we can’t have a secondary source of conflict involving poor, beleaguered, beautiful, Chloe Bennett?

Whoops, scene change! It’s been far too long already. Coulson is in his Tahiti fantasy. Then he’s awake… facing down Poe (Cullen Douglas), our old nemesis from Project Centipede. He’s trying to forcibly extract information from Coulson. Coulson points out that he’ll let himself die before he gives up anything. Then they argue about the death of Mike Peterson. Which was still very Hollywood-y. I hope Mike Peterson’s not dead. More mentions of “The Clairvoyant”, the supposedly telepathic third member of the Centipede triumvirate (the other being Raina, the ‘recruiter’, [Ruth Negga]) whom we have yet to meet on-screen. The Clairvoyant apparently saw Coulson’s death, but could not see the aftermath, when he was brought back to life by S.H.I.E.L.D. Mysteriouser and mysteriouser! Coulson’s not in a questions answering mood. Guess it’s time for more torture.

Act II! Skye is in her civvies, in what looks like an internet cafe (are these real anymore?) using a computer. She’s trying to hack stuff, you know? Unfortunately, S.H.I.E.L.D., in a disturbingly Orwellian fashion, shuts down both her access and that of everyone else in the cafe. Big Brother is watching, guys. Skye bails, buys a magazine, identifies some random CEO (Lloyd Rathman, played by the aforementioned Rob Huebel. His role is so minor that all that previously accumulated hope is fading away), then decides she needs to buy a new wardrobe, then steals a car. That’s really how this sequence went. Uh. Moving on!

Scene change! Fitz-Simmons are developing non-lethal countermeasures to the Centipede guys. At least, Simmons wants them to be non-lethal measures. Fitz is less sure. He says any methods necessary is fine, as long as Coulson is brought back safely. Also, the interrogation of Vanchak is going nowhere.

Scene change! Skye is doing stuff. Specifically, she is crashing her stolen Escalade into water barrels, to scam OnStar or whatever into towing her back to the luckless Lloyd Rathman’s house.

Scene change! Ward is taking over the interrogation of our favourite Australian man. Actually, he might be British. I’m not really sure. His accent is kind of mild. Ward, in what is probably a really ethical interrogation method, opens the cell chamber to the air outside the plane.

Scene change! Coulson is attempting an escape. Or is he? Oh, there’s Poe. Not surprised to see Coulson up and about. Apparently they’re in a Nuketown. The super soldiers are there too!

I’m glad we’re back to normal for the show. Skye is here again! She’s “at home” with her stolen Escalade. She calls up Rathman’s offices, and claims that she’s with the LAPD, has recovered a stolen vehicle, and some officers need to take his statement. He rushes home. Yay! More Rob Huebel! When he gets there, Skye confronts him, dressed in aviators and black leather, and says she’s Agent Melinda May. It’s probably the single best tension-breaking moment ever produced in this show. Seriously. I cracked a partial smile, and thought to myself: “I’m really going to enjoy writing about this one brief moment in this episode!”. It may or may not all be downhill from here.

Apparently, Lloyd Rathman is a legitimate businessman! Except for the whole ‘not asking questions about mysterious funds he’s helping shady characters launder’ thing. Skye takes over this scene in a way that we haven’t seen since the infamous Gravitonium Caper. This show is better when they take the manacles off of Chloe Bennett and let her do things beside type on the computer and give reaction shots, or have dumb conversations with Agent Ward that are supposed to contribute emotional depth. It’s obvious Skye has real ability as a face/con type, and Chloe Bennett is much more magnetic when she’s unchained. Free Skye! Free Skye! Anyway, she offers Lloyd immunity from Big Brother’s persecution, or something, if he chooses not to involve his lawyers. Unfortunately, she doesn’t notice when he taps the silent alarm. Oops.

Back aboard the ActionJet, Agent Hand is giving yet another briefing. She’s not happy with Ward, because Skye vanished, and Vanchat was nearly shot out of the plane. Luckily, Vanchat rolled under pressure of going skydiving sans parachute. Agent Hand wants to know why powerful people like Nick Fury give a shit what happens to Coulson. No agent is that important. “Coulson is,” Ward replies. He looks slightly less wooden than usual here. Apparently we need more of Victoria Hand on this show. She seems to inspire other people to demonstrate feelings and act like human beings.

Back with the Coulson torture experience. Raina shows up. The Clairvoyant doesn’t seem concerned about the pursuit of S.H.I.E.L.D. Boy it sure would be nice if we knew more about this Clairvoyant fellow. Now we’re going to argue about the effectiveness of torture. Also, now the Clairvoyant wants to talk to Raina the Recruiter. Tensions are high among Centipede personnel. Then the Clairvoyant kills? Poe. It didn’t look good, at any rate. I’m worried about his long-term health!

Ward isn’t Victoria Hand’s biggest fan. He and May banter a little. Ward wants to know why May acted like a total bitch and let Skye get kicked off the plane. Well, it’s because Skye works better when she can improvise and work outside the system. All of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s rules mostly get in her way. Yes, we’ve known that since the pilot. But I’m glad everyone’s on the same page now. We’ve made real progress with the character of poor Skye: everyone now admits she’s pretty useful. Then we learn that the ActionPlane can apparently flip a bitch. Nice! Back with Rob Huebel and Skye… she’s in total control. How cool is Skye when she gets to do stuff? I know this isn’t a great episode of TV or anything, but, it’s not terrible. This subplot, at the very least, I’m very much enjoying. Private security shows up, but Skye improbably bests them. Take that, Rob Huebel! Now he will do illegal things on Skye’s behalf! I’m sure this will pan out later. Or not. We’ll see.

Raina is not so sad that Poe is dead. He was a murderer, or whatever. The Clairvoyant gives guidance to Centipede. Except, they don’t know how to make people come back to life. Which is apparently what happened to Coulson (we already knew this, right? We can all agree this isn’t news, right?). Raina really wants to know what happened to Coulson after he died. She’s betting that… so does he. This method seems a lot more likely to work than torture, but it does sort of make the whole last episode seem pointless. I mean, we’re already done with Poe? All that work to break him out of prison, bring him in as a strategist, etc…. and he’s gone? Did Cullen Douglas have a big movie deal or something? This show does a really bad job of giving me reasons to care about secondary characters. They overdid it with Mike Peterson, and underdid it with everyone else.

Skye discovers that Rob Huebel is bad with computers. She enlists one of the security mooks she’s imprisoned to do the work while she spits out instructions. Not only does she have a good plan for backtracking Raina’s movements, but she’s still in total control of this episode. Free Chloe Bennett! Skye has what she needs, but she’s also going to borrow the luckless Rob Huebel’s Lamborghini. Is that the Gallardo convertible? We’re all envious of Skye as she zooms off. Back with Raina and Coulson, Raina finally convinces Coulson that ‘The Clairvoyant’ might actually have some telepathic ability by identifying his previous relationship. You know, the cellist. The cellist was heartbroken to learn that Coulson died… except, you know… he’s still alive. So what did happen in Tahiti? Oh, please, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tell us! You have tantalized us with this storyline all half-season! Surely there must be some payoff!

Back on the ActionJet, Fitz-Simmons have developed a non-lethal countermeasure for the super-soldiers! All you have to do is attach a wrist-watch to them, and it will uh… shut off their superpowers. I mean, it totally sounds reasonable. Right? Anybody? Simmons gets a call from Skye. Simmons awkwardly bandies about code words and tries to act casual. Then May, who always knows what’s up, orders the random mooks out of the room and seizes the phone. Of course it’s Skye! Agent Hand is not at all amused that Ward and May want to take their team and investigate Skye’s lead. Presumably, Hand is supposed to be in charge. Blah blah blah. Unfortunately, rather than being coyly amused with her brilliance, May is a brick wall. You know, just like every other time. An unusually expressive Ward declares that they’re going after Coulson, with or without Hand’s backing. Sounds good, Ward! We all know that problems can only be solved by the main cast!

Meanwhile… Raina is being nice to Coulson. She’s got him in the memory machine, but she’s not zapping him or being a dick. This seems roughly 7,000,000,000,000x more likely to actually get memories out of Coulson’s brain. Sure enough, almost right away he’s remembering Ron Glass, and references to Nick Fury. Since we’re about to go to commercial, I can already tell this is going to be some dumb cliffhanger about Coulson’s fate. Seriously, if this is the only mystery you guys have for us, you shouldn’t have started teasing it in S1E1. Anyway, cliffhanger. No question now. But, dear readers, don’t fear! I will return next week with a more timely recap that will follow the same pattern of tough love that I have adhered to thus far.

Act IV! Skye and her Gallardo arrive at Nuketown! She seems disquieted by the mannequins. I think I would be too. The whole idea of a nuketown seems… weird to me. A Super Soldier rushes to apprehend Skye, but he’s run over by the ActionMobile. Coulson is looking inward, toward Ron Glass. Raina is now frantic, trying to divine Coulson’s secret. Meanwhile, the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. actionteam is assembled. And now even Fitz-Simmons are wearing cool black leather uniforms (actually, they have been all episode, but this is the payoff). Ward and the wristwatch are going to take on Random Super Soldier #1. Everyone else is going to fan out and look for Coulson. May deals with some regular mooks with a little crane style, Ward battles Generic Super Soldier. It’s actually a very nice action sequence. Many film directors have no idea what to do when directing action so they either pull us in way too tight or make the camera super shaky so we can’t really see what’s going on. Here, the direction is smooth and confident. Ward and May are allowed to look like badasses. I really appreciate this touch. Ward jams his supersoldier countermeasure into his guy’s mouth. It works perfectly. Score yet another one for Fitz-Simmons.

Coulson is still trying to remember. Then, abruptly, he does. We’re back in time. Ron Glass is morally outraged. Coulson is begging the S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors to let him die, as some robots work on his brain or something. It would be disturbing, but it’s all so static-free and clean. This scene could have used some more visceral reality. Modern-day Agent Coulson is freaking out. Skye shows up and punches Raina right in her freaking face. Seriously, is anyone as cool as Skye? Maybe not anyone ever. She shows real emotions on her real face at the state she finds Coulson in. Meanwhile, May makes a wooden comment about Skye’s new leather jacket.

Back at the ActionJet, Raina is now a prisoner. She and Coulson have an eye-contact-moment. Hand reports that Centipede has gone down in flames. Nick Fury is pleased with their progress. Hand and her goons are escorting Raina back to headquarters for interrogation. Hand admits that the ActionJet and its ActionTeam and (presumably) its ActionSkye aren’t really her style. Then she’s out. Coulson thanks the team. It was pretty much all Skye, but hey, don’t forget the others. Now after like the 2908308423084th time Skye has been useful, Coulson decides to remove her house arrest bracelet. It’s kind of a fun moment, but tempered by the whole ‘let’s revisit Coulson chanting over and over again “please let me die”‘ thing.

Scene change! Coulson does the creepy Hollywood thing where he’s in the back seat of Ron Glass’ car. You know what I’m talking about. Ron Glass is not proud in the least of the whole ‘bringing Coulson back from the dead’ operation. In case anyone hadn’t picked up on it, the “Tahiti trip” was a hallucination implanted in Coulson’s brain. Ron Glass and the other doctors tried to restore Coulson’s will to live after they put him through unendurable agony. I’m stunned that we’re getting this much detail. My respect for the show has hit an all-time high. It’s still not that high. But it’s higher.

Coda! Few shows do the coda as relentlessly as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. This one is actually really good. Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) awakes. He’s alive, albeit missing the lower half of his right leg. Oh… and he’s got the eye thing. Well, shit.

This was a clearly above-average episode of Agents. For whatever that’s worth. I hope you either enjoyed the episode, or turned to this recap for solace and enjoyed it instead. Our odyssey will continue next week. Until then, do not fear the super/mutant power revolution. Because Big Brother is watching.

TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode #10, “The Bridge”


AgentsofSHIELDSoon, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes a short break, gone for the holiday season, and into January. Will we miss it? Perhaps this week’s “mid-season cliffhanger” will determine that answer! Now, without further preamble, let’s discuss it.

But what’s this? We are greeted by a hitherto unused pre-episode “Previously on…” segment! Ah, I see what they did there, they’re reminding us that there are some ongoing plots in this show! I remember some of them! Something tells me that this episode could be connected to such disparate elements as “Project Centipede” and its beautiful evil lady doctors, Coulson’s fate during “The Avengers”, and also Skye is a character we see occasionally!

Cold open? Yes, please!

A middle aged man (Cullen Douglas) is eating a meal in the corner of the prison cafeteria. It is peaceful. But not for long! Danger men explode through the roof, dropping on lines! Also they have super powers, and easily overcome the guards! During the action, we note that one of them has the characteristic implant that both grants super powers and has traditionally turned people into living explosives. Also, it is vaguely reminiscent of a centipede! Our middle aged man continues to eat his meal during the action sequence, then is approached by one of these dangermen! “Time to go, sir,” is quipped. Ruh-roh. Soon, the whole party evacuates via helicopter, and our episode can truly begin.

Act One!

Aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane, Skye is trying to research the identities of her parents. It seems like she has a lot of data to sift through. She asks Coulson to remove her tracking bracelet and give her access to some more restricted files, but he refuses. Instead, he has asked Agent May to look into some top secret stuff on Skye’s behalf. Meanwhile, May and Ward are brawling. May wins, then Ward awkwardly references their sexual escapades, which annoys May. I can tell because she looked slightly more disapproving than usual, and said something abrupt. Okay, so it’s not that compelling. Still, I think she was annoyed!

In the mission briefing, the team is super unexcited to learn that Project Centipede’s guys now number at least three super soldiers, and that no matter how many Centipede labs they blow up, the group keeps re-emerging. The middle aged man they broke out of prison is named Poe. He’s ex-military, a total psychopath, but also an expert on strategy and tactics. This is also a problem, in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s estimation. Luckily, Coulson says, they have backup! It is not a team, it is one guy! It is someone we’ve met before! …. It is Mike Peterson (J. August Richards)! Some will remember him from the pilot episode of the series, when he gained super powers and went amok with them. He’s reformed, since then, and has been training with S.H.I.E.L.D. to become an agent. Does everyone want to join these days? Skye had kind of a moment where she realized that working for S.H.I.E.L.D. was exactly what she had wanted to do with her life somehow (of course, because her characterization is so inconsistent, we have no idea if this was ever true, or just a heat of the moment thing) and Mike Peterson really sees the light now! He wants to do better things and be a better man and… Agent May is not thrilled to see him when he boards the plane. Coulson explains that it’s probably because Peterson threw her into a wall during their last meeting. Peterson seems bummed by that recollection, but also seems open to confronting what happened. So that’s good, I guess. Well-adjusted people are always welcome. Coulson says that everyone deserves a second chance, but that Peterson will not get a third!

Upstairs, Ward, Fitz-Simmons, and Skye are discussing the Mike Peterson situation. Ward is elucidating his concerns about Mike Peterson when Peterson and Coulson arrive. Remember how Mike tried to kill the whole team off in the pilot? If you didn’t know before, you know now! It’s nice that all of the story you need is rehashed here in this episode, so even if you didn’t see the pilot, you won’t be confused! Hooray television! Skye liked Mike all along. She thinks he’s a good guy, and asks about his son. Mike admits that he has left his son in the care of his sister while he does his thing. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this later. No luck locating Poe yet, but Simmons has a possible lead on one of the Centipede soldiers, who has a living relative, a sister at the University of Ohio. Coulson and Ward decide to go talk to her.

In the lab, Simmons is taking Peterson’s measurements, and openly admiring his lean physique. Fitz is jealous, and acting like a weirdo. Peterson explains that it was the weapon developed by Fitz-Simmons which pacified the Extremis virus (I do not remember what this is! It feels like an important plot point!) in his Centipede implant and prevented him from literally becoming a human bomb. So I guess he’s not going to explode on the plane. This is also probably good news for everyone involved.

Coulson and Ward are driving to the University of Ohio in… a red convertible! Good job on avoiding the “inconspicuous” black Actionmobile, guys! Coulson tells the story of his lady friend, the cellist (who he referenced in, at least, The Avengers, if not other films) from the Portland symphony. It’s yet another thing that Coulson lost when he died, and was forced to maintain the charade of his death for months afterwards. It’s kind of a downer moment.

Aboard the plane, May and Skye meet. Skye thanks May for helping with the whole “identity of her parents” thing. May is impatient, they’re on a mission, blah blah. Skye has something related to that, too. She went through Poe’s prison record and found that he only had one visitor, a pretty girl. The girl never looks at the camera, but using S.H.I.E.L.D.’s handy-dandy lip reading program, Skye was able to reconstruct one sentence from Poe: “The clairvoyant does not like to be touched”. Whatever that means. Anyway, Skye doesn’t know who the girl is, but the timely arrival of Mike Peterson soon straightens that out: The girl’s name is Raina. She was the eponymous Girl in the Flower Dress from episode 5, and she came to Mike too, offering to change his life. That’s how he got involved in Project Centipede to begin with! Ah-hah! The game’s afoot! The pieces are falling into place!

Meanwhile, at the abandoned warehouse headquarters of Project Centipede, our man Poe is enjoying a meal. Raina shows up, they walk, they talk. The Clairvoyant cannot help them find the man Raina needs, a man who ostensibly has the key to ‘stage 3’. You know, whatever that is. She does imply that they’ve managed to stabilize the Centipede serum on their own, which is good I guess. You know, for everyone involved. Using the serum has unbelievably draining effects on their super soldiers, though, who are drinking “Gatorade” and looking completely miserable in what amounts to a full hospital setup. Raina says that they require regular injections of the serum, and that everything is made more difficult when they have to constantly run from S.H.I.E.L.D.. Poe’s solution? Let’s stop running. Also, apparently their new super soldiers have a bunch of Centipede devices, unlike the single one on Mike’s arm. This revelation is accompanied by ominous music! Let us not underestimate its meaning!

At OU, Ward approaches the sister claiming to be from the Ohio State Gaming commission, and pitches a ridiculous lottery story. Coulson explains that this is because they don’t care about the sister per se, they just want her to call her brother. She obligingly does, and gives them a location in Oakland, California. Back to the plane!

On the plane, Skye checks in on Mike, to talk about his son. They’re really playing up this ‘son’ thing. I wonder if that means it’s going to come up later in the episode? Hmm… Coulson arrives, says the time for Mike to get his second shot has now arrived! Mike suits up, in the supersuit that Fitz-Simmons sized him out for. Coulson has a plan. It involves going in quietly, two agents from either side of the facility. This time, they don’t want to just roll in and blow the place up…this time, Coulson wants answers. Of course, when the team arrives, the place is deserted. Or is it? No, it’s an ambush of course, of course! Three super soldiers against Mike Peterson, and agents Coulson, May, and Ward. Coulson manages to pop one of them with the weapon they used to take Peterson down in the pilot, but it has a minimal effect. Ward and May are outmatched by their opponent’s physical strength, though not necessarily his technique. Peterson gets a side full of metal rod, but manages to rally and downs one of the three enemy combatants, the famous (infamous? no-no-no-notorious?) Brian Hayward. With Ward and May still in fighting shape and Mike still on his feet, the other two super soldiers flee. The famous (and now, also, luckless) Hayward is executed by his masters at Project Centipede.

Speaking of Centipede, they’re looking out what was apparently a camera in Hayward’s eye. They get a blurry image of Coulson and Peterson. Poe says that the man they’re looking at is the key to the mysterious ‘stage 3’.

Aboard the plane, the gang is talking things over. Peterson is intrigued, but horrified, at the idea that the super soldiers are being controlled by Project Centipede through their ocular implants. Coulson clarifies that they were getting orders, which is why they fell back when they did. They’ve seen this eye technology before, in a former Agent named Akela Amadour (the subject of Episode 4). So the eye implant isn’t mind control, per se, just a remote execution device. Great. Coulson wants to track the eyeball tech, but Skye says that it has been refined, and the signal is now untraceable. Of course it is!

Poe and Raina are in the car. Raina wants to know more about the Clairvoyant, and Poe makes a bunch of generic threats. It adds to the running time.

Aboard the plane, Ward and May argue. She’s mad because she thinks Ward deliberately took a punch for her. He admits that while that’s true, he did it because she is faster than him, and given the physical strength of the enemy combatants, that means she needs to be up and on her feet more than he does. She reluctantly accedes to this explanation. Ward is flippant, then bounces! Skye arrives. May doesn’t feel like talking about her parents, and feels like Skye shouldn’t waste time thinking about them either. Also, she admits that Coulson doesn’t want Skye to learn ‘the truth’. Don’t worry, there’s no chance that plot is getting resolved in this episode! Skye is still upset after the encounter. Probably because May was a total bitch to her. Coulson was going to drop by for a chat, but thinks better of it when he hears sobs.

Instead, Coulson is talking to Mike Peterson, who is wounded, and says he’s going to be out of the action for a while. Coulson is concerned that Mike won’t take time out of his training even to see his son. Mike obviously is still working through some stuff from the whole ‘homicidal rampage’ incident. He wants to be able to look his son in the eye and not feel ashamed, etc. Wow, we sure are talking a lot about Mike’s son, aren’t we? Mike suggests his boy might be better off without him. Coulson disagrees. He explains that he, and others, have made the hard choice, to be part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and never have a normal life… but for Mike, it’s different. He already has a son. Man, still about the son! That’s weird.

Mike calls home to talk to his son. Raina is there!? Ominous music! How unexpected! I didn’t see this coming at all!

The bad guys have set up a meet. The trade is for Mike, in exchange for his son. They’re going to murder the boy if the team makes even one misstep, which includes armed backup, hostage rescue teams, or electronic surveillance. Fitz has a non-electronic pheromone thing or something that will let them track Mike without giving themselves away. They’re going to make the exchange as planned, and hope Mike can hang on until they come to save him.

At the meet, May wants to escort Peterson to the rendezvous. Coulson says that Mike asked him to do it, and he’s agreed. May doesn’t like it. Coulson and his desire to be on the front lines of things! Ward’s on overwatch with a high powered sniper rifle. Everyone else is in kind of a holding pattern.

At the meet, Raina tries to make small talk. For some reason, nobody likes her. Also, it turns out the arrangement was actually to trade Mike’s son Ace for Coulson. Mike decides to make a new deal. He’s got Raina by the throat, but she explains that her employer doesn’t care about her any more than about Ace. If she dies, the son dies, and they’ll have gained nothing. Coulson advises Mike not to kill her, and that he’ll go along with the trade. Mike is raw with emotions. He doesn’t know how he can look his son in the eye, etc. etc. He apologies to Coulson. The baddies stun Coulson and begin dragging him off. It’s about this time that the rest of the team starts to think something weird might be going on. May orders Ward not to take the shot, in case they simply execute Coulson in retaliation. Once Ace is safely back with the team, Mike decides to go back for Coulson. Unfortunately, as soon as he starts running back, the bridge explodes, apparently killing Mike. Well, that’s… that’s not good.

The bad guys make an exit by helicopter, firing a few shots at Agent Ward just for good measure. It’s pretty much like The Empire Strikes Back, guys.

Coda: Raina and her masters want to talk to Coulson about the day after he died. Whoa, crazy, crazy! I promise, show writers, you don’t need to be so obvious with all of your foreshadowing! Members of the audience can put things together sometimes! Many of us would not be offended!

Anyway, that’s a wrap for the first ever half-season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! It has been finger-breaking work to constantly type out that acronym. I tried using some copy/paste shenanigans, but it proved to be less of a time-saver than I hoped. However, I have truly enjoyed recapping this season for you, esteemed reader. Obviously, this series is on hiatus until the show returns. Hopefully you will consent to join me on an odyssey of discovery, as we gobble up tiny bits of information about what really happened to Agent Coulson after Loki stabbed him, about the parentage of our beloved Agent Skye, and about the lifeless but technically precise sex being enjoyed by Agents May and Ward! Also Fitz-Simmons will probably be involved! Til then, Happy Holidays, esteemed readers.

TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode #9, “Repairs”


AgentsofSHIELD

I apologize for the delay in this recap. I blame the holidays, then catastrophic personal problems, then myself. Maybe in inverse order. Don’t worry about it. The fact remains, this column is here, and it means just what you think! Yes, my friends, it’s that time again! It’s time for we here at Through the Shattered Lens to deliver all of the information you could ever want to have about the latest episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. You know, short of actually watching the episode. If you’re inclined to do so, I can’t promise there are no spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk. If, on the other hand, you feel like you’d rather bail out to watch the latest episode of “Paint Drying” or “Grass Growing”… well. Go on ahead. I promise. I won’t judge you. If you’re looking to find out whether this episode might interest you by reading a recap, or if you’re in some kind of nether-state where you feel compelled to read snarky recounts of television shows, however? This column might just be for you. Let’s get started.

Cold open!

A lovely young woman (Laura Seay) is in a convenience store. She is buying a few things. Essentials. The proprietor confronts her. “Jack Benson was a friend of mine,” he says. You are not alone! He was a friend to all of us, shopkeep! Our young woman confirms this, saying Jack was her friend too. But she was in charge, says the shopkeeper! It’s about then that he begins being bombarded with stuff. Cans. Entire gondolas of merchandise. He’s suddenly recoiling from the young woman, who, despite assertions that it wasn’t her fault, appears to have calamity following in her wake. As the camera pulls back, a newspaper front page cleverly reveals to us that a laboratory explosion killed four people. I’m sure that won’t come up later though, right?

Act One?

Repairs takes up exactly where the previous episode left off. Agents May and Ward had an alcohol-fueled night of what we must assume was surgically precise but strangely wooden lovemaking. Ward is talking about discretion, but Ming-Na has no interest in being part of that discussion, because, frankly, she doesn’t talk. Aboard the Shieldplane, Coulson and Skye discuss the cold open. A particle accelerator exploded! Coulson reveals his understanding of the physics involved in conversation with Fitz-Simmons, and speculates that not only could our young woman (her name, I’m told, is Hannah) have developed a kind of telekinetic power, but she might also lack the ability to control it. They’ll be on the ground in five, and Skye wonders about her role in the mission. Coulson tells her to stay behind, because the situation is delicate. For some reason, Skye is concerned that delicate situations are not always best handled by Clark Gregg’s smug “I’m smarter than you” face and the aggressively wooden natures of Agent May and Agent Ward. I share some of these concerns, Skye! Let us form a S.H.I.E.L.D. Level 7 team together.

The upside of the situation is that we once again get to seat ourselves in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Actionmobile (the official term for the totally inconspicuous black SUV with dark tinted windows that is the official land transport of our heroes). A mob has gathered around Hannah’s house, and while the police are there, ostensibly to diffuse the situation, they don’t really appear to be doing much more than hanging out and enjoying the clean air. Coulson steps forward and attempts to diffuse the situation himself. Then someone throws an egg at Hannah. While Ward is yelling at the local authorities to get the mob under control, a police car spontaneously starts moving at speed. Coulson tackles a local out of the way just in time, and the car crashes into the fence. Even as Coulson is trying to talk Hannah down, worried that her emotional stability may be, you know, causing objects to crash into fences, Agent Ming-Na shoots her in the back. With a taser. She’ll be fine. Probably.

Meanwhile, Fitz and Simmons had a conversation about pranking. They decide to prank Skye, because she is a newbie! Also, world-building detail: there is a S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy. I think the idea of some kind of S.H.I.E.L.D. academic studies was broached before, but not quite this directly. As far as I recall. Skye describes it like a S.H.I.E.L.D. Hogwarts, and I am delighted! Which House was Fitz sorted into? I imagine that one of the Houses must be known for producing wooden secret agents, because we have two and a half of them on the Shieldplane already. Back on the Plane, incidentally, Fitz and Simmons tell Skye a fairly improbable story about Agent May gunning down mooks from horseback. It sounds like a lot of action for her character. She seems to hoard both words and deeds the way that I might hoard bottled water and canned foodstuffs against the impending apocalypse.

In the ‘Cage’, the metahuman containment chamber of the Shieldplane, Coulson and May talk things out (believe it or not, it’s not only Coulson talking) with young Hannah. Coulson says that he believes that she’s developed some kind of telekinetic ability. Hannah says no, she hasn’t done anything. She would actually rather that she had some control over these events. Instead, Hannah believes that she is being punished by God for her role in the laboratory explosion. She is being haunted, by demons, she says. God is no longer in her corner.

Fitz says that Hannah must be hallucinating. Ward and Skye are concerned about her mental state. Coulson is concerned about all of that, except also her probable uncontrolled telekinetic powers. So, you know, safety first.

Skye wants to go be Hannah’s friend. She thinks she can do some PR work after Hannah’s harrowing adventure with objects going berserk around her, then being shot in the back, abducted aboard S.H.I.E.L.D.’s plane, then interrogated by the team. Coulson and May are adamant in their refusal to let Skye contact the prisoner/patient. For some reason, Skye goes to Ward as her emotional sounding board. He suggests that being confrontational with Agent May will accomplish nothing. He also tells Skye a revised version of the crazy yarn that Fitz-Simmons spun for her about May, and her nickname, ‘The Cavalry’.

I’d poke fun at how many scene changes there have already been, but why bother? It’s like using dynamite to fish. In a barrel. Uhh. A dynamite-proof barrel.

Fitz-Simmons are working late in the lab, workshopping prank ideas, and trying to recreate what possibly might have gone down in the laboratory explosion. Also, it’s late, and the lights are low. Skye is looking through the dossiers of those killed in the explosion, and comes up with a Tobias Ford. Hannah thought Tobias was her friend, but it seems that he lodged several safety complaints that she would have been obliged to respond to. You know, before being killed in an explosion. Doesn’t sound good.

Simmons (see? scene changes!) is retrieving a mop. He has what is undoubtedly a very clever and original prank in mind to use it with. As he’s groping around a supply closet, we see the ominous figure of a man (Robert Baker) materialize behind him. When Simmons turns to leave, there’s nothing. Back in the lab, Fitz is looking at the holographic image of a strange, alien landscape. She describes what she’s seeing “as if a hole was torn to…” then our mystery man appears behind her. “To Hell!” he roars. It is dramatic. Then he de-materializes into purple smoke. That’s probably not good. Shortly thereafter, he is seen in the avionics section of the plane, ripping out handfuls of cable! This seems like a very unfortunate thing to do while the plane is traveling at speed through the air! Now the plane is crashing!

Not to worry though, the plane can still achieve flight, so Agent May brings it down for a landing.

Coulson rallies the crew. Hannah is not telekinetic. There’s just a weird re-and-de-materializing around her, tormenting her, doing bad things. Like driving cop cars through fences. And throwing cans at shopkeepers! Now, the agents will defend the “Cage” from attack, to keep Hannah safe from aforementioned blue smoke guy. Skye is concerned that Hannah may be a little upset by the whole situation, and she might be slightly more empathic than, say, Agent Ward. Agent Ward says something blunt to drive the point home for us. Also, Fitz is missing. Well, mostly, he’s been locked in a closet. He is half convinced that he’s being pranked, and begins wandering the darkened plane with a small knife for personal defense, and a small flashlight. In a twist that no one could ever have seen coming, he blunders into Fitz and Ward. Everyone is startled! May orders Fitz-Simmons to avionics to fix the plane, while she is going to personally defend the “cage” from attack.

Meanwhile, Coulson is calling for help. Our purple smoke man has a very large plumber’s wrench, however, and knocks the transceiver right off the surface of the plane. So much for that plan!

Skye comes to deliver some of that empathy to the luckless Hannah. Skye tells Hannah that she must stay in the cage for her own safety, and that something is pursuing her. Hannah believes that it is demons, come to torment her. She believes strongly in God, obviously, and believes that not only is God punishing her, but that she absolutely deserves his wrath. Skye shares a story about her upbringing, with nuns about, and that one thing that stuck with her is the idea that “God is love”. Simple! Sappy! Hopeful. May arrives and orders Skye to help Coulson. You know, with that whole communications issue.

Coulson sets Skye straight on what actually happened to Agent May. What started as a weird story that seemed like it had been concocted by Fitz-Simmons, apparently had a kernel of truth. It seems that some cultist-like folks had taken hostages. S.H.I.E.L.D. was pinned down. May said she would fix the problem. She did. Apparently, while May has always been quiet, she used to be warm. Still fearless, but not empty. It’s about this time that our disappearing friend appears. He demands that they either allow him into Hannah’s cage, or allow her to come out. Coulson says that it’s not up to him.

May is not happy with the ‘wait and hope this guy goes away’ approach, so she takes Hannah out of the plane and into the woods, saying that she will ‘fix the problem’. It’s weirdly ineffective, despite being well set up to be a kind of poignant moment.

Some padding occurs. It’s kind of a blur, really. Lines are exchanged. Ward is back awake after having taken a wrench to the back of the head. May hauls Hannah into a barn. There’s a lot of barns in this show. Coulson and Skye escape the room they’re apparently trapped in, then free Fitz-Simmons-Ward from their own jammed closet. As they wander the plane, they trigger Simmons’s prank. It’s pretty sophomoric, which gives Skye an idea about their disappearing tormentor.

Meanwhile, Agent May battles the disappearing guy. She’s fast, and she’s well-trained, but she can’t teleport around, and she does not have a wrench. It’s not going great for her.

Skye is piecing things together about the disappearing guy. In case it wasn’t obvious to everyone by now, he’s not actually trying to attack or kill Hannah, he’s trying to protect her. He set the cop car a-drivin’ through the mob, threw cans at the shopkeep who was about to freak out on Hannah. He’s behaving childishly, Skye says, trying to get the girl to notice him. He likes her! He really likes her!

Back in the barn, Hannah identifies teleportation guy as Tobias, a co-worker and friend. She tells him that May is her friend, and everything’s cool. It turns out that not everything is cool, though. Wrench guy was responsible for the explosion that started all of this nonsense in the first place. Apparently he compromised everyone’s safety in order to get Hannah, the safety inspector, down to his department. Exchanging words with her was the highlight of his day! He begs for forgiveness, as he believes that what is happening to him is dragging him into Hell itself. Hannah tells him that only God can forgive him.

“But he won’t,” May says, before delivering a weird, cold, speech. Coulson and Co. arrive shortly after, and May confirms that aforementioned weird, cold, speech was the same one she received from Coulson after the ‘Cavalry’ incident. Weird.

Back on the plane, Coulson and Skye have a conversation. Skye says Coulson knows how people tick. Coulson retorts that Skye does, too, and that it was one of the things he recognized about her right away. He thinks she someday might be the best at what she does. Skye bounces up to the cockpit to hang out with May in silence as they take off.

One last scene change?

Skye, Coulson, Fitz, and Ward are playing Scrabble. Fitz uses a word no one else knows, Skye looks it up. It’s legit… oh, and here’s Simmons, he’s been the victim of the old ‘handful of shaving cream’ prank! But who was responsible? Everyone denies involvement.

One more scene change!

May’s facial expression contorts slightly into the grim approximation of a slightly less grim than expected smile. Oh, that May! What a prankster!

Alright guys, that does it for this week’s episode. Yes, that’s seriously what it was about. No, I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed it. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. kind of plays like a YA Novel that hasn’t realized that it’s a YA novel. There are some adult themes (like the alcohol-aided affair that we followed through from last week) but they seem curiously out of place juxtaposed with the rest of the material here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the show – I certainly don’t find it offensively bad… but it is kind of bland. That having been said, I continue to enjoy recapping episodes of this TV show, so, long live the recap column! See everyone next time.

TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode #6 “FZZT”


AgentsofSHIELDBack, and with 15% more snark! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to talk about the latest offering from our friends at ABC. It’s time for Marvel’s Agents! Of! S.H.I.E.L.D.! My sunny disposition about this show from way back when has faded under a sea of kind-of-mediocre episodes, and the fact that I’m so used to seeing these comic book storylines adopted for the big screen instead… with plots that need to be condensed down to fit a two-hour window. There are things I like about this show, however. They seem to be making an effort to explore the characters a little, giving them nice moments in the show… and not just Coulson, but the ensemble cast. Actually, today, I spent a lot of time with Agent Fitz and Agent Simmons of Agents Fitz-Simmons. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Cold open: boyscouts. The troupe leader is telling a spooooooky stooooory… the ending of which he completely whiffs, doing a rather weak ‘cry’ for his crying man. Shortly thereafter, he goes off to investigate a strange noise or something, though nobody else heard anything. The kids are a little more creeped out than they want to admit, so it’s time for some s’mores. Or, it would be, except now there’s a pan floating in midair, and arcing electricity. Also some horrible screams from the forest. Maybe we better get out of here? Everyone gets in the truck, the battery of which promptly explodes out from beneath the hood and lands on the ground not far away. Uh-oh. Actually, isn’t this how a lot of these episodes start? It reminds me of a cold open for an episode of ‘Supernatural’ blended with elements of ‘CSI’.

It’s time for Act I!

Agent Coulson is on the treadmill, apparently having a physical with Agent Simmons. Not a euphemism for anything, sadly, Coulson claims that his physical therapist overreacted to a remark he made, and demanded that he get a physical. Simmons explains that he’s in great shape for a man of his age, a comment which makes Coulson bristle. Scene change!

Agent Ward is not happy. His cool futuristic gun is an once off on weight. Fitz is uncomprehending, Skye is disdainful. Ward describes an improbable long range scenario. Fitz points out that there are rifles designed for such a scenario. Ward woodenly demands that Fitz find a way to lose the extra once. Fitz does an impression of Ward, which Skye gives about 700% more laughter than is really necessary. Fitz decides this is a signal for him to flirt with her. Skye is not happy, but it has nothing to do with Fitz. She is now wearing her house arrest wristband. She has been roundly chastised for her loyalties. Fitz does not care about any of this, but rather is interested in the fact that Skye is very pretty. Somehow, the two are sending each other an endless series of the exact wrong signals, and nothing is getting through. The conversation ends with Skye commenting that Fitz and Simmons are so close, they might as well be ca… oh wait, we already call them Fitzsimmons. Huh. Simmons arrives just then and does another Ward impression. How cute! They even have matching Ward impressions! Just then Ward arrives, it’s time to gear up. Mission time. Simmons gives him back his super future pistol, claiming that the ounce was just a dummy round left in the gun, and now it’s fixed.

On the ground, there’s this electrostatic discharge thing going on. Like lightning strikes. Except there wasn’t a storm with sufficient intensity within a thousand miles last night! Skye is shadowing Ward as he goes all “CSI detective character” up on this scene’s business. Or possibly its grill. Oh, also, there’s a guy hovering in midair in a clearing. He appears to be dead. Fitzsimmons, after a false start, admit that they have no idea how this could be possible. Ward suggests that it could be a weapon (of course he does). Skye’s theory is metahuman. Ming-Na Wen is careful to avoid using any inflection in her voice was she explains that there is no such metahuman. Well, says Coulson, not that we know about. Better follow up on that. Simmons gets close to the body, gets a little jolt of juice, and the corpse falls to the ground. Well, that was weird.

Back on the plane, Skye has already google searched our dead troupe leader, and has plenty of basic biographical information for Agents Coulson and Ward. She makes a Big Lebowski joke that falls flat, crushing my hopes and dreams. Ward this guy’s – coach, troupe leader, volunteer firefighter – entire enemies list. Skye says she already facebook’d him too! He doesn’t have any enemies. People with a vague dislike of him probably don’t have the power to do something completely unprecedented in human knowledge to him. Coulson thinks something must be missing and Skye rolls her eyes out of the scene. Coulson wants to know why Ward is being so hard on Skye. I mean, he always is. But this specific time? Coulson is curious. Ward is mad because Skye lied to them. She’s going to have to earn his trust again, damnit. Coulson points out that she’s good at googling people, and cleverly segways into our next scene!

Ming-Na Wen glares across a table at the, what, assistant troupe leader? Apparently it’s a hard line interrogation, because her expression is extra stoic.

Simmons is performing a full autopsy. Fitz doesn’t like the corpse stank, so he’s outside. Coulson wants to know what’s going on, but Simmons really hasn’t discovered much yet about this event that is completely unprecedented in the human experience. Ming-Na comes in to ask a question. Stoically. Suddenly it’s time for a scene change, get the action running again… Fitz is tracking another electrostatic signal! It’s going nuts! Then it suddenly pulses… and it’s gone. Better check it out.

In their actionmobile (it’s another totally inconspicuous black SUV with heavy tint) Agents Coulson, Ward and May arrive at a barn. It’s barred from the inside, but while Coulson and Ward pointlessly argue about how to enter the structure, Ming-Na just kicks the damn thing. Well, that’s one way. Unsurprisingly, there’s a hovering dead guy in the barn. But there’s no sign of vehicles in the area, so whoever did it… couldn’t have gone far. Skye’s got the satellites moving in for surveillance. Also, she’s on Google again. This second guy was a firefighter too! And he and our first unfortunate victim were first-responders to an alien crash in New York City (remember that little thing with the Chitauri?). Anyway, it’s super weird, but with the possibility of alien involvement, now we can’t rule out the possibility of an alien weapon being used to kill… firefighters? Coulson’s got the right idea: get to the station house before anybody else turns into an electrostatic bomb and dies.

Scene change!

At the stationhouse, the actionmobile disgorges our Agents again. Meanwhile (they keep slipping in these quick cuts!) back on the plane… Simmons says something weird is going on. I don’t know how else to describe some of these scenes with pseudo-science dialogue. They feel like padding. It’s kind of annoying. At the station, one of the firefighters isn’t feeling so hot. Coulson deduces this isn’t good. Back on the ship, Simmons has real information for us: she doesn’t think they were shot with some kind of a weapon, the wounds on their bodies are actually exit wounds. They were killed from within! Well, what does that mean? Coulson confronts our sick firefighter and draws a gun when he sees a hovering pan. It all comes together now. Agent May has spotted a Chitauri helmet in the station. Tony the firefighter says they cleaned the helmet, a souvenir they took from the alien crash site. Simmons has the answer: it wasn’t dirt or rust on the helmet, it didn’t need cleaning, and by stirring up those alien particles, the firefighters exposed themselves to an alien virus. Well, shit.

Coulson orders everyone else out of the station and sits down for a heart to heart with Tony. Our firefighter is terrified, and now appears to be staring down his own inevitable doom. Coulson wants to know if Tony wants to call anyone, notify anyone. If there’s anything he can do. Trying to empathize, Coulson tells a story about that time that he was killed by Loki. He really was dead; they said it was only for 8 seconds, but Coulson felt that it was much longer. He saw something beyond, he says, something beautiful. Ming-Na almost has a facial expression at this revelation. Though I’m not really sure how she can hear him. Tony starts to arc lightning, and suggests that Coulson make himself scarce. You know, before they all die. Outside, all the S.H.I.E.L.D. guys watch grimly as there’s a flash of light… and Tony’s gone.

Fitz comes down with a medical scanner and examines everyone from the ground team to make sure the virus hasn’t spread to them. The remaining firefighters are going into quarantine. The plane is going to be used to transport the alien artifact to “The Sandbox”, a place I imagine looks like this.

Aboard the plane, May is concerned about Coulson. Why did he get a routine physical? Does he want to talk about it? He’d talk to her if something was wrong, right? By the way, it wasn’t his fault that Tony died horribly.

Scene change!

In the lab, Simmons is really excited about what she’s discovering about the Chitauri pathogen. She’s examining the remaining brain cells of the deceased. Her discovery? Apparently this is a virus that does not spread through the air, or fluid transmission…but through electrostatic shock! Such a thing doesn’t exist on earth! She didn’t think it was possible. Also…something’s floating behind her. Coulson apologies, then puts Simmons into quarantine.

Shortly after, Fitz is sitting back up against the quarantine window. FitzSimmons collectively look miserable. Coulson explains that Simmons has only two hours to live, but the plane also has nowhere to land in range in time. If Simmons explodes, it will knock the plane out of the sky. Skye obviously feels helpless, and it’s angering her. Coulson has confidence in Simmons’ ability to figure out an antiserum before her time is up. With Fitz’s help, Simmons begins working on a cure, but their information is still limited. She’s trying out her experiments on laboratory rodents, but the results so far… aren’t so good.

Upstairs, Ward is watching the lab through the video monitor. Skye pokes her head in, asks why he doesn’t just go down there. Ward shrugs it off, “They don’t need an audience.” Skye stays, angry at her helpless feeling. Ward has it even worse. In a rare emotive moment, he opens up, his frustration actually fairly tangible in the moment. Good work, Ward! Then he really brings the temperature in the room down to freezing with our scene outro, Ward’s warning to be ready “For whatever we’re called on to do.” I think we all know what that means.

…But let’s have Coulson talking to headquarters, and get his order explicitly spelled out anyway: Simmons needs to be jettisoned from the plane so she doesn’t explode and kill everyone. Coulson bails on the transmission, then has a terse (and stoic) exchange with Ming-Na.

In what is really probably the strongest bit of the episode, Fitz and Simmons are working on borrowed time. They start arguing, pretty much about nothing, trying to make it about something, and it’s by far the most genuine moment we’ve gotten out of either character so far. They both grow a lot for me right here; I suddenly wonder why they’re being underused as comic relief when the characters have some range, some background, some chemistry! Down with the Ward and Skye fighting scenes! Up with FitzSimmons! …what it all boils down to, is that human antibodies just aren’t properly developed to fight alien disease. There’s no one to make a new antiserum from. Wait, what if there are some cells in that alien helmet? Fitz is off to take some scrapings. And he’s off at a sprint. Over Coulson’s shouted objection, Fitz bursts into quarantine, and FitzSimmons resolve to work together to fix this damn thing. Yay!

Despite his earlier comments, Ward joins literally the entire team as they stand in the cargo bay and watch FitzSimmons work. They do stuff. Feels like padding. Finally, they have a new antiserum! Fitz applies it to the last lab rat, who uh… begins hovering in the air. There’s a moment of stunned silence. Simmons approaches Coulson, and asks him to notify her father, first, and let him tell her mother. Then she asks them to clear the room. Fitz is still working furiously, but Simmons has lost hope. She clubs Fitz in the back of the head with a fire extinguisher.

Upstairs, headquarters is calling again. They probably want Coulson to go ahead and put a bullet into the back of Simmons’ head and dump her body. Coulson’s not into it. But apparently SImmons has opened the cargo ramp and jumped out of the plane. Tragically, just before Fitz awakens and discovers the rat still alive… it was only knocked unconscious by the pulse, which was much weakened by the antiserum. Fitz goes for a parachute, but is shoved aside by Ward, who takes both the cure and the ‘chute and jumps. After a long fall sequence where we get many shots of the ocean drawing ominously closer, Ward, of course, catches Simmons, cures her, and deploys the ‘chute. Yay!

On the plane, Coulson yells at Simmons, though it’s obvious he’s more relieved than angry. Ward plays it cool. Simmons for some reason goes for a callback on the pistol: it’s still an ounce off. Ward knew that. Then he does an impression of Simmons’ impression of him, which she critiques. It’s kind of a weird moment. But then Skye is there too, and practically breaks Simmons with a hug. Emotional plot resolved!

Ming-Na is in Coulson’s office. She wants to know about that physical again. Coulson explains that he ordered the tests on himself because he doesn’t feel fine, even though all the tests claim otherwise. After he got killed by Loki, he’s just never felt right again. Ming-Na seems to actually be acting harder to not assume a facial expression, which I’ll count as progress, as she forces Coulson to examine his scar from Loki’s staff. It’s pretty gruesome. Ming-Na points out that he could not possibly have had that experience and come away totally unchanged. He has scars other than just the physical one. She implies something like that happened to her.

Bonus scene change!

FitzSimmons are talking. He was going to come for her. He’s obviously a little embarrassed that Ward shoved him aside and did the death-defying resdcue bit. Simmons points out that Fitz gave her hope when she had none, that he helped create the antiserum, that he’s the real hero of the piece. Then she bounces. Fitz doesn’t look entirely convinced. Sad face.

And then in our final scene, Agent Blake comes aboard to take possession of the alien artifact. He’s concerned that Coulson disobeyed a direct order, and that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to yank his team out from under him. Coulson is assertive. Blake delivers a really cheesy line I won’t reprint. Coulson’s character is having growth because this short scene showed him parroting the lessons he took from Ming-Na Wen! We’re moving forward!

Well… my takeaway from this episode is… I found it mostly to be lightly entertaining fluff, but with a nice sequence for the characters of Fitz and Simmons. When the show explores its stronger characters, it’s at its best (since we’re obviously not going to get a small-screen version of the Avengers). I still feel like something is missing. I don’t know that the show is achieving the goal of showing us what life is like for people in a world that has superheroes and aliens and blah blah blah. I hope Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finds its momentum, because while I was fairly entertained by this episode, it was in a more “this could be on in the background and I wouldn’t be mad” than a “I’m totally engaged in the story being told here”.

T.V. Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 1, Episode 4 (“Eye-Spy”)


AgentsofSHIELD

I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon shows since he first burst onto the scene with Buffy, The Vampire Slayer over on what used to be the WB Network. I’ve followed his work from one show to the next and if there’s one thing all his shows seems to have in common it’s that they take time to find their stride. In the past, shows were given time to get their bearings. See what  works and what doesn’t in a narrative sense. These first few episodes also give the writers a chance to flesh out characters for the long run. Yet, in this day and age of instant gratification Whedon and company may not have the luxury to take their time to get their footing, so to speak.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been good to so-so the first three episodes. While all the episodes have been fun there’s also a feeling that ABC and Disney were really going on the cheap side of production with these episodes. It’s almost as if the powers-that-be producing the show were hedging their bets as to whether the show will be a sure-fire hit or a dud soon to be cancelled. This is Whedon we’re talking about whose last two series haven’t really panned out despite a rabid fanbase.

I think with tonight’s episode, “Eye-Spy”, the series may finally be finding its rhythm. It’s still not a perfect show. The fun factor is still present as is the witty banter that comes with a Whedon show, but where the first three episode looked somewhat cheap this fourth entry had a much more polished look to it. Maybe Disney and ABC finally loosened the purse strings. Even the look of the episode had a subtle change to it. Gone was the overlit scenes that added to the cheapness of the production. We actually were given scenes with shadows and darkness. There wasn’t an overlit sequence to be seen.

Let’s return to the episode at hand.

Tonight’s episode sees Agent Coulson taking the team to Stockholm, Sweden to investigate an apparent diamond heist. The heist itself was a nice cold opening. With over a dozen men dressed in matching black suits and all wearing those creepy red “Stranger” masks. First reaction to this was that they must be part of some sort of secret organization that was probably actively going against S.H.I.E.L.D. Yet, the writers do a 180 and we find out they’re just an elaborate, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to keep a briefcase carrying 30million dollars in diamonds from being stolen. We’re soon introduced to the target of Coulson and his team. One Akela Amador, a rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and one-time Coulson protege, who may appear to be more than meets the eye.

This whole episode has been about getting a bit more character development for Agent Coulson and his latest protege, Rising Tide hacktivist Skye. The chemistry between the Coulson and Skye looks to be more well-developed than the love interest angle the writers have been trying to create between Skye and field agent Ward. While the latter looks like it’s still a hit-or-miss proposition the former looks to be developing quite nicely. If there’s one thing Whedon and his writers have been very adept at creating in their past shows it’s setting up the mentor/protege relationship. The best example would be Buffy and her Giles who also didn’t start off on the right footing in the early episodes of Buffy’s first season, but as time passed that relationship grew and there’s signs of something similar happening between Coulson and Skye.

The writing for tonight’s episode was crisper than the previous episode. We got less forced humorous moments. The dialogue actually flowed much more smoothly and allowed for the funny bits to come across naturally. Once again it’s Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson that provides the rock upon which the rest of the cast steady themselves. There’s an almost old-fashion earnestness to Gregg’s portrayal of Coulson which have endeared the character to legions of fans.

So, it’s only natural that the episode provide some more hints and bits of dialogue that Coulson may not be who he appears to be as well. Theories continue to abound that Coulson may be a Life-Model Decoy or being set-up to be future Avenger recruit Vision. There’s also some talk that he was revived by sorcery which means it’s a step to introducing magic and Dr. Strange to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). In the end, the mystery of how Coulson survived the mortal wound he received from Loki might just be the main mystery of the show’s first season.

“Eye-Spy” was was written by Whedon-veteran Jeffrey Bell and directed by Star Trek alumni Roxann Dawson (better known as B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek: Voyager). The two worked well together and I’ll be interested to seeing the two become more involved in moving the show through it’s first season. So far, they seem to have found the necessary balance of spy intrigue, superhero action and witty byplay that the first three seemed to lack.

time will tell if the show will be a huge success or just good enough to survive it’s first season. But seeing how much Marvel and Disney have invested in adding this show as an integral cog in their Marvel Cinematic Universe I see Whedon and his writers getting a bit more leeway than they’ve had in the past (looking at you Fox Network executives).