Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: The Well

Agents of SHIELD logoIn 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.

PETER MACNICOL

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.

detail

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.

I feel dumber and happier just looking at this.

I feel dumber and happier just looking at this.

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.

Agent May, you're my only hope.

Agent May, I’m counting on you!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: F.Z.Z.T

Agents of SHIELD logoThe 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.

Do we care about the fate of this camping trip?  No.  not at all.

Do we care about the fate of this camping trip? No. not at all.

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.

Yeah, I care about this guy, and now I have something in my eye, damn it.

Yeah, I care about this guy, and now I have something in my eye, damn it.

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”.

Smug little bastard...

Smug little bastard…

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.

Like I said, all the feels.

Like I said, 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:

  • We finally got to see an episode that revolved around characters other than Skye.  I may be the only person on the Internet who actually likes Skye, but I’ve been dying to see some other people, and Fitz and Simmons, and to a lesser extent May and Coulson, were fun and touching.  Untrained, terrified Fitz grabbing a parachute may be the most heroic thing I’ve ever seen.
  • Sometimes Coulson can be a little bit too, dare I say, robotic (maybe literally!  who knows!) but in this episode we got all the Coulsons:  the cocky, confident Coulson, the scared, vulnerable Coulson, the compassionate Coulson, and the Dad.
  • There was real suspense in this episode, some of which stems from the fact that the Whedonverse is famous for killing off regulars, often quite early.  I give you the episode “Hero”, from Angel, Season One.
  • The show has promised to ask what the world would be like for people after the discovery of superheroes and demo-gods and aliens.  Up until know, the show has mostly dealt with that by throwing around new exciting technology for our team to capture.  This episode showed how helpless and outmatched humans can be in this new world that they are profoundly ignorant about and unprepared to battle.  It wasn’t nihilistic, but it was real.
  • Above all, I finally feel like I care about the characters.  I care about Ward, who wishes the danger to Simmons was a person so he could punch it.  I care about Skye, who cuts through a lot of crap by hugging.  I care about Coulson and May, whose scars remind them to move forward.  And boy howdy do I care about Fitz and Simmons, who up until now were background noise.

See you next week, team.  Try not to die on me in the meantime, OK?