My first thought after viewing this week’s Agents of SHIELD was that I’ve really got to stop watching the “coming next week” trailers for this show. What the trailer promised and what the episode actually was were two very different things.
But even beyond the disappointment that the episode wasn’t necessarily what was advertised, I still came away from the latest installment feeling an overall feeling of disappointment.
For those of you who missed the trailer, it made this episode appear to be our crew facing a truly scary, horrifying threat that would test the team to their limits. And going in with that kind of bias and the way the early portions of the episode were playing out, I found myself expected something along the lines of “The Naked Time” from classic Star Trek or “Ice” from The X-Files. Namely that you’ve got some kind of catalyst (virus, alien parasite, etc) that makes our regular characters act in ways they normally can’t or won’t but yet reveal something about the character that we may or may not have known previously. And I have to admit I was really looking forward to seeing that and hoping it might lead to some interesting insights about who these characters are and why we should have a greater investment in them — even after just six episodes.
I also have to admit part of me was intrigued by the notion that SHIELD would kill off a main character in the sixth episode and for the potential that decision could have on the series going forward. Certainly, there is precedence for a Joss Whedon show killing off a regular in the first half of the first season (Angel). And while I didn’t necessarily want to see Simmons be the one who had to be sacrificed, for a commercial break I was pondering just how the show could and would explore her death and its impact on everyone on the team.
Then, a magic cure is found and Ward is able to save the day in the span of two minutes and I come away feeling like this one was a missed opportunity.
Again, part of that could be my own bias and expectations. And I think part of it is that SHIELD is maybe a bit too willing to play it safe.
I found myself casting my mind back to Iron Man 3 and the chances it was willing to take with Tony Stark and the Marvel movie universe. It would have been easy to find a reset button that kept Tony in the suit, but instead the movie took a different turn with Stark deciding to walk away and leaving me wondering what was next for the universe and the character. So far, SHIELD has offered some hints about this, but it’s always pulled back a bit and left me curious, but not hungering for more in the same way that Iron Man 3 or The Avengers did.
The biggest culprit in this is Coulson. I may need to dust off the Blu-Rays of the first set of Marvel movies and watch the Coulson scenes again because, right now, I’m not really feeling how the character is significantly different than the one we saw in the movies. I find myself getting frustrated at various characters telling us that Coulson has changed but we’re not being shown how he’s changed. I really feel like a flashback episode of Coulson leading a team or being an agent pre-Avengers might help at this point. Or maybe if we had some kind of indication of where the writing staff may be going with how he’s come back after dying in The Avengers. We’ve had a lot of vague hints, but nothing really concrete.
I will say that I do like the fact that Coulson feels something is up and is beginning to look into things himself. The idea that he “feels” different but can’t put his finger on why or how is a good starting point. If and when the explanation arrives, hopefully we’ll look back and see seeds being sewn in this episode. I still have faith in Whedon to put things out there that don’t seem important on first glance but which pay dividends down the line. (Best example is the way in which “When She Was Bad” foreshadows every single dramatic beat of season two of Buffy…if you’ve seen season two and know what to watch for).
I also like the fact that Ward realizes he’s the butt of a lot of joke and that he’s willing to go along with it. The impressions of Ward by Fitz and Simmons were great as was Ward’s own impression of himself. I still feel like this character has a long way to go, but they’re making some positive steps in the right direction.
What I’m also unsure about is the depth of the relationship between Fitz and Simmons and between Coulson and Mae. And, I’m not necessarily referring to something romantic (though some scenes this week did hint at sexual tension between each “couple”). Again, this is something the series can and should explore….maybe a flashback episode would be in order.
So while this wasn’t my favorite episode of SHIELD, it certainly wasn’t the strongest. I feel like it was a bit of a stumble as the series attempts to find its stride. I hope it gets back on track next week.
I can’t say what it’s about though…because I’ve decided to try and avoid the previews. (Odds are, the preview will find its way to me though since the Tennessee football game is on ESPN Saturday…)