Damn I love this song. Here’s a tribute to women of S.H.I.E.L.D., made by TheSonicBuzz2011, set to “Salute”, by Little Mix.
Damn I love this song. Here’s a tribute to women of S.H.I.E.L.D., made by TheSonicBuzz2011, set to “Salute”, by Little Mix.
Seldom has a show made such a quick switch from meh to must see as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which returned last night. This video was clearly made before most of the events of Season 2 took place. Grant is not a superhero, y’all. He’s a superdouche. Not the same thing at all. WE HATE HIM. And hating him is a blast so no redeeming the superdouche, please!
Anyway, despite being overly kind to Grant, I love this song, I loved the way this video was edited, and I have to admit that when it cuts to Fitz on the line “He’s stronger than you know” I got a little teary because I heart Fitz in every possible way. Enjoy.
In this week’s very special episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., we learn about the lasting effects of trauma. We find out that not everyone on Asgard knows everyone else, and we discover yet again that it’s very important to watch this show all the way to the end.
First of all, I’m writing this late at night and off the cuff – please excuse any typos. Late night blogging is never my friend. Also, this is short.
Second of all, this movie had three great moments, and they are all very spoilery, so I’m not going to talk that much about this actual episode.
Here’s the great moments:
1. Inspired guest casting. This show really brings it in terms of hiring great guest actors. Every minute with the professor, played by Peter MacNicol, was delightful. I shall say no more.
2. The theme of trauma. Grant’s memories are freaking awful. Child in peril trigger warning alert. Meanwhile, Agent May takes the episode to a whole new episode with her own reaction to traumatic memory. In every episode , there’s at least one line that makes me unwilling to give up on the show. Her line, “Because I see it every day” is the line that keeps me going this week. Fantastic.
3. The last one minute and thirty seconds.
Right now the only current TV shows I’m watching are S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow, and I vastly prefer Arrow. Arrow is a ridiculous show, yet it’s deeply satisfying, because it knows exactly what it is. Arrow is so ridiculous that at in one episode Ollie swings from a rope-like object (Tarzan style) to whisk a girl out of danger not once but twice. Twice in one episode. Once, without a shirt. With every second that I watch Arrow, I feel dumber and happier.
But Arrow gets us deeply invested in its soapy characters in a way that SHIELD (I’m bored with including the periods) has yet to manage, and it moves the plot along with every episode – not in tiny increments, but in large steps. Every episode ends with a question answered (Who is Canary?) and a question asked (will Ollie reveal her identity now that he knows it?). The cinematography allows it to do a lot with a little, and the fight scenes are excellent. Arrow is a soapy, silly, fun show and it knows it and it delivers fun, soapy, superhero derring-do and surprisingly realistic character development every single week. If it’s not your cup of tea, you’ll know right away and never waste a moment of your time on it. It delivers what it promises to deliver.
SHIELD does not seem to know what it’s doing. We’re now in episode eight and the show still hasn’t kicked into gear. I enjoy watching it, but I don’t think about the show in between episodes. It’s still just “OK” and I’m getting a little pissy about it. Every episode has some interesting stuff going on but not enough to make any particularly wonderful episodes. The next episode is supposed to be May-centric, so I live in hope.
The first part of this episode is boring. The second part comes out of nowhere and is harrowing and surprising and touching. If this show could just learn to be like that for a full episode instead of half an episode, it would be phenomenal.
The first half of this episode is about the team trying to figure out how a camp counselor died. He was a firefighter, and the team discovers that there are other victims of this mysterious cause of death who are also firefighters. This part is dull.
But then, Coulson determines that a firefighter who was a first responder in New York is infected with a Chitauri virus and is about to die. And then we do care – because Coulson does, and he stays with the man as long as he can, offering to call his family and telling him that he (Coulson) was dead, and that what he saw when he died was beautiful.
Mystery solved! Episode over! No wait – it’s not, because the body of the first victim had been brought onto the plane, and Simmons was infected while examining the body. She has an estimated two hours to live, they can’t land because they are over the ocean, and her death will cause an electronic surge that will destroy the plane, which is why Jacob from Lost orders Coulson to “jettison the cargo”.
So Simmons is on one side of a quarantine door trying to make a cure for herself. Fitz is on the other side, trying to help her without being in the lab, until he basically says, “screw quarantine” and just comes in. Ward and Skye are regulated to the background (finally!) where they are frantic from feeling helpless, and Coulson, supported by May, is trying to stall his superiors and figure out what to do, and I have all the feels.
So without spoiling everything completely, here’s some of the best lines – I say some, because there were a ton of great lines this week. Coulson has several conversations with May that are vulnerable and scary and sad that I didn’t even try to sum up. Beautiful writing, beautiful acting.
Agent May, interrogating a camp leader: “Have a cookie.”
Simmons: “It’s science, Fitz! I have to dissect something!”
Coulson, eyeing a locked barn door: “We could ram it with the truck.” May kicks the door open. “Or…”
Coulson: “Do you have any idea what it’s like dealing with the Moroccan office?”
This episode was strong (once it got going) for several reasons:
See you next week, team. Try not to die on me in the meantime, OK?
Another good episode, although I still think it’s time for Skye and Ward to fill the background while Melinda May and Fitz/Simmons get something epic and character-building to do. Remember this column is more of a “highlight” feature than a recap. To find out the details of what happened, I recommend Television Without Pity, io9, or The Mary Sue, all of which have great recaps of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Speaking of Melinda May, do I have a dirty mind, or are she and Coulson ex-lovers? Who might get back together at any minute, especially if Melinda has anything to say about it? Because the way she suggested getting out the mats like in the old days was fraught with meaning. Fraught, I say! They have a torrid past, people! You heard it here first! And did anyone else notice that this conversation happened during the only time in the series so far when Melinda has been wearing casual clothes instead of what is basically body armor? Might we start seeing Melinda, the person, soon as opposed to Melinda the weapon?
And all this makes me wonder – does Phil remember the cellist? Obviously he still has long-term memory but I wonder if he lost any memories from his pre-Loki weeks. Coulson, you have a jet! You can go visit the cellist in Portland! Having lived in Portland, I guarantee you it’s packed with all kinds of things you can investigate, so you can even conduct these visits on work time. As Tony says, “Keep love alive”. Unless you and Melinda might…and I still think you and Maria Hill could…Oh, I’m sorry, were we watching something?
SO ANYWAY, this weeks’ theme is who people really are. At first the theme seems to be that everyone would really love to have sex but would sooner perish than reveal such a fact. Thus we have Melinda and the mats conversation, and Ward and Skye playing Battleship in an awfully chummy way (I prefer to think of them as brother/sister but it’s an adorable scene either way). Skye has sex with an idiot ex-boyfriend (nice underwear, Skye!) and Fitz seems to take the reveal of the boyfriend’s existence awfully personally. Meanwhile, the expendable bad guy of the week is manipulated all too easily by the Girl in the Flower Dress, Raina, who slinks about in pure evil villain fashion. You know who she reminds me of? A sexy version of Blofield from Dr. No. Get this woman a cat.
But as it turns out, all this sexy vibe stuff is just an excuse to get to the bigger theme: can you know who someone else really is? At thins point, we know very little about anyone’s back story so everyone is a mystery. But Skye’s dark secret is revealed to the group, and they are all clearly devastated that she lied to them, in a “we thought we knew who you were” sort of way. Well, yeah – you did know who she was. You knew she was a hacker with a secret hacker organization and a strong belief in basic human rights. Which she is.
And BTW, could we please have the argument that Skye and her ex have about the ethics of S.H.I.E.L.D, only could we please have it between two characters who have higher levels of intelligence than a chia pet? Because there’s an actual, valid argument to be had here and it lacks credibility when it comes from Skye and her idiot boyfriend, on account of how the two of them put together still lack the brainpower of a chia pet.
And of course this whole betrayal thing is laid out nicely in parallel with street magician guy who at first seems like a fairly decent guy who feels ignored but who ends up frying one of our two villains. and of course he is betrayed by the flower dress woman who promises him that he will have fame and fortune and ends up stealing his platelets.
Here’s some more great lines from this week:
Great deadpan, when Skye’s idiot ex-boyfriend says to May, “So, are you guys just going to destroy all my stuff?” To which she says,
Well, you asked, dumbass.
Coulson has the very best lines, of course:
“So we’re good, right?”
“They said he was kind of a tool”
“Oh crap. They gave him a name”.
And the saddest exchange is between Skye and her ex, although no one cares because she and her ex are both such horrible morons during this episode:
“You’re not who you used to be”.
“You’re not who I thought you were”.
One last thing: we now have a firmly established family dynamic on our team. Fitz/Simmons are the babies of the family – cute little kids. Skye is the bratty teenager. Grant is her big brother. Coulson and May are the parents.
Skye gets busted for having sex with her ex, who S.H..I.E.L.D. is looking for. Specifically, she is busted while she is trying to find her shirt, by none other than a very angry Melinda May. The only thing that could make Melinda May seem more like a very, very angry mom at that moment is that she never says the word “grounded”. Seriously, it’s just so pianful. And OMG, Coulson is so dissapointed, and so angry – it’s a great moment for Couson (“You’re lying NOW!”) because we get to see his facade crack a little. He is furious. When Loki stabbed him during The Avengers, Coulson looked a little annoyed, as though he was buying groceries and realized that he had left his wallet at home. Now he is PISSED.
So, despite the entire existence of idiot ex-boyfriend, I thought this was a great episode. There were smallish stakes (individual people might die or get hurt, Grant’s Battleship might get sunk). There were personal stakes. The thing with Skye’s ex was dumb but the shame and humiliation she experiences, and the sense of betrayal and disappointment that the team experiences – that was powerful and real. There were global stakes – an international group is trying to create super-villains, so that’s not good.
No highlights next week because no show next week – we’ll be back with this feature in November!
This episode set a different tone than the previous episodes. with a creepy opening sequence in which a young black woman encounters a group of strange men with suits, briefcases, and red masks at a street fair. They end up on the same train, the lights go out, and when they come back on train is full of dead red-faced guys while she is at the station unloading a box of diamonds into her hand. It’s part horror, part heist.
We can thank three things for this week’s success – decent writing that was unafraid to show a story that doesn’t revolve around Our Heroes emotional tics, excellent direction (the opening montage was visually fantastic), and a sublime performance from guest star Pascale Armand, as Akela Amadour. Here she is, folks:
It’s a tribute to the power of tropes that I saw the opening scene as a woman being stalked by creepy guys, when in fact the plot suggests that she stalked them. And there are lots of other nifty reversal and twists in this episode. Above all, Armand is such a subtle actress that she single-handedly brings a high level of gravitas to the show, which the actors around her do a great job of keeping it from becoming oppressive. Akela projects vulnerability, so I felt empathy and worry for her. She’s tough (physically and mentally – holy shit, that eyeball thing was badass!) and smart, so I respected her. And her presence allows for more conflict among the team – May is genuinely put out with Coulson, the ever-infallible Coulson seems to have made a huge mistake in the past with Akela, and everyone has to do things they aren’t comfortable doing. So, I laughed plenty during this episode, and had fun, and got to take a much-needed weekly break from Thinking Deep Thoughts, but I also got very invested in what was going on. Congrats, show!
I’m fond of the fact that this show keeps addressing, and subverting, the idea that the role of an agent is to seduce people. In the pilot, Skye only uses her womanly wiles to gain an advantage over Ward after he specifically tells her that that will work. In the next episode, Coulson’s ex tries to seduce him but that just makes him realize that she’s up to something. In the following episode, Skye attempts wiles again but is informed by the bad guy that he is only interested in her brains. And in this one, Ward has to seduce a man. Now, I’m annoyed that Ward would balk at the idea of seducing a man. He’s been an agent for ages and I find it hard to believe that he hasn’t had to do it before. But, I find it hilarious that the problem isn’t really that he has to seduce a man, it’s that he has to seduce a man who is probably straight, and that the answer to this conundrum is to try to make friends. Yes, Ward, friends. It’s in the dictionary. Look it up.
I still don’t understand why Fitz and Simmons are doing eye surgery. They don’t understand it either. Is it actually possible that no one on the planet but me, Fitz, and Simmons understands the difference between being able to build a bomb and being able to cut someone’s eye out without doing unintentional damage? I mean, anyone can cut out an eyeball, but putting it back, or even leaving it out and not having your patient bleed to death through their eye socket – that’s tricky. I’m sorry to have to dwell on such a disgusting subject, but oh, my God, the eye horror was through the roof this week, with the needle, and the – OK, see, now I have to go lie down.
The best line this week comes from the unexpected difficulties of stakeouts, when Fitz, Simmons, and Skye ask Ward where they are supposed to pee (“It was really a long drive! and some of us are nervous”) and he suggests an empty water bottle, prompting Skye to say, “Did you ever learn the part where boy parts and girl parts are different, and our parts aren’t PENISES?”
For other standouts, I give you the following:
Fitz/Simmons giving Ward experimental weaponry: “In case you miss! Or…have…multiple..assilants”.
Coulson: “Next time I get to decide what we call ourselves, OK?”
When Skye mentions being attacked during the stakeout, Coulson says, “That should never have happened”. and when she brushes it off saying it wasn’t as scary as listening to her parents fight, he says, “That should never have happened either”. Now I have, like, ALL the emotions. Excuse me while I just stick my heart back into my chest.
Couple bits of trivia – this episode was directed by…wait for it…Roxann Dawson! Who played B’Elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager! Personally, I’m not a fan of Voyager, but I was a fan of that character, so – Hi! And on a purely personal note, whenever I’m looking for images for these posts I keep finding images of Loki instead. Oh, Loki. Ours is a forbidden love.
So this week on Agents of SHIELD (which I refuse to type with little period marks because it’s annoying), Skye gets to be all badass and the show continues to be entertaining but not emotionally powerful at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need every show to have the emotional punch of, say, “Breaking Bad”. But by the third episodes of Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, and certainly Firefly, I cared deeply about the characters. Some of those first three episodes weren’t even very good, but if the shows had been cancelled, I would have said, “WHAT? What about Willow? No more Willow? How COULD you?” If they cancel SHIELD, which is unlikely, I’d say, “Bummer. It was a fun show” and that would be it. So Whedon family, step it up a bit here with the emotional engagement, OK? I can only stare at Inca temples for so long.
Also, this week, I have no special standout lines, not because there weren’t great lines, but because they were all only good in context (something I rather enjoy). My favorite line of the night was “Nope”. Clearly, you had to be there. Although there weren’t individual stand out lines, there were some great stand out moments, and here they are.
Skye tries to use jargon and is promptly called out on it, hee, hee.
Skye gets an evite to the party using hacker skills as everyone is telling her she’s useless. So, that was cool. And then she is called out on it by the bad guy. So, that was hilarious.
Skye is badass with a gun! Skye is realistic about her willingness to use it! I think I love her!
Yes, this was a very Skye-centric episode. In fact, so far, this is a very Skye-centric series. The only character who is developing, who is going through some sort of process, is Skye. All the characters are showing various signs of development, but very much in the background. Unlike much of the Internet, I think Skye is a great character, but it’s time to let some other characters into the foreground. They clearly have all kinds of back stories and plots and it’s time to let them shine. At this point if any of them were to perish my reaction would be one of mild disappointment that I never got to see them do stuff – and that’s a bad sign for my investment in a series.
Here’s some high points that didn’t involve Skye:
Oh you guys. I am so sorry I could not find a picture of Fitz eating popcorn to share with you. It was the highlight of my week. Also, I do not support keeping exotic animals as pets, but could someone please get Fitz a pet monkey? Apparently he really, really wants one and now I kinda want to see what he does with it, and whether Simmon will dress it up in little outfits, and whether they will give it a spy name, and…oh, just get the man a monkey, for Pete’s sake!
It’s great to have Coulson showing some self-doubt. He’s so polished as team leader that the humanity of “Phil” can get lost. Moments like last week’s midlife crisis conversation and this week’s muscle memory problems don’t just make us wonder what’s up with him – they make him more than this one-dimensional, chipper, matter-of fact guy.
This guy and Coulson end up having the fakest-sounding argument of all time. Bad script, bad acting, horrible, horrible lines, just – awful.
Also, Skye has a brief nervous breakdown that is totally in character for me but entirely out of character for her.
And finally, this isn’t the show’s fault, but for God’s sake, Hulu Plus, stop trying to sell me prescription acne medication. You are making me feel feminist rage combined with plummeting self-esteem. I don’t need acne medication and if I did I wouldn’t buy any that states “skin may turn orange” as a side effect. Get over yourself.
See you all next week. Will The Calvary kick butt? Will Fitz get an illegal, exotic pet? Will we discover what’s so magical about Tahiti? WHO KNOWS!
Photography by Linden Tarr
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