Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 6 review
For those of you who followed my reviews of The Newsroom's previous season, you will be familiar with the following theme.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has officially tripped up in its quality. When this show was announced, you would expect it to respect its universe and play off of it. Have some super powered menaces and so on. While the show has had several references to The Avengers and its characters, and a couple of super powered conflicts, the majority of this season has been a by the numbers spy show. Like a cheap version of the amazing show, 24.
This week, Coulson is given an assignment that is classified to the rest of his team. This infuriates Skye and her whole "no secrets, the world must know" garbage, so she starts handing Coulson a mouthful of worthlessness over the matter. Coulson must fly to "The Hub", a S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker that acts like a base, most likely the replacement for the base Loki destroyed. Here, Coulson learns of his objective from Victoria Hand, a notable character from the comics. Hand informs Coulson he needs to deploy 2 agents, 1 to kick butt and 1 who can hack the magnet weapon they must destroy. So Fitz and Ward are given the assignment. Unfortunately, there are more secrets behind this mission and many other things that even Coulson is classified from.
I'll start with what works this week, and again, it is mostly Coulson. We see the Coulson who must follow protocol for S.H.I.E.L.D., we see the Coulson who cares for his team, we see the defiant Coulson who kicks bull as much as he does butt and we see the emotional Coulson who can deliver the best of this series. His scenes with Hand were interesting, it was a mix of respecting the authority of a higher up and standing his ground on his morals. Clark Gregg is constantly the best part of this show. I almost wish it were just Coulson as the focus, with a supporting cast that aides him. That would be better because the rest of Coulson's team is losing their luster.
The other part that worked this week was the fact that we got more of an in depth look at the S.H.I.E.L.D. infrastructure, of sorts. We saw more of the ranking system, classifications, secret keeping and more. While this doesn't exactly create a story, it adds depth to the world the show operates in. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a mystery since Nick Fury appeared in Iron Man in 2008. Seeing more of its inner-workings and community. Like I said, no plot devices come from it, except for a plot twist at the end of the episode about Coulson. But in all honesty, it's something you would expect considering the situation. If anything, it was a sign that maybe this show will move the plot along.
And that is one of the big problems with the show, the pacing and focus. Now I know they can't reveal Coulson's rebirth origin, Tahiti or Skye's parents' identities yet because the show is classified as a drama, and for dramas to work, you need to have some secrets to keep the viewers guessing. However, in order to have good drama, you need to progressively and extensively build up that drama. Good examples include the Who Shot J.R.? storyline from the original Dallas or who the rat was inside the mob in The Sopranos. While these secrets were dragged out for long periods of time, you could feel the effects these secrets had on the remainder of the story and its characters. With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., these drama points are more like "Oh by the way.." moments that come up every now and again, while the stories of each episode take top importance. Yes, the examples I mentioned are different in category and channel from Agents, but that doesn't disrupt the argument of quality. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to successfully capitalize on its interesting drama points, it needs to devote to them. I'm sure as the season nears its ends, we will get something, but I highly doubt we will get answers. If that is the case, I will be disappointed.
Instead of the drama focus, the show focuses on getting are increasingly weak characters through quick problem after quick problem. I know the plot has to change each week because it is cable, but it is losing its luster. With shows like The Walking Dead on TV, it is kind of hard to just see quick hashed plots each week with hardly any continuing plot threads given enough focus. Even shows like How I Met Your Mother can manage to carry 1 or 2 plots throughout most a season and succeed, and that's a sitcom, so there is little excuse. Joss Whedon is an accomplished writer, his work on Buffy alone is proof of this, so why it isn't showing in this show with such a rich universe is astonishing (see that reference X-men fans?).
The problem also stems from our cast decreasing in quality. Ward, May and Skye aren't horrible by any stretch, they just are kind of in the middle. They have their quirky moments, they have their serious moments and they have their awesome moments, but they aren't breakout characters yet. They could blossom into better characters, that is still possible for them.
Unfortunately, I can't say that for Fitz and Simmons. Ever since episode 1, they came off as a little annoying, but they were the stereotypical science nerds, so it passed. Now, the script is trying to make them serious characters with a romance subplot. But it is so by the numbers and frustrating, it is hard to care or enjoy it. Both characters are annoying and contribute hardly anything to this show other than "they know science." Fitz tries to one-up Ward the entire episode and it makes him look like a jerk, and Simmons awkwardly dances around her feelings about Fitz with Skye. It is so awkward and so unsatisfying, it drags the show down. Which is a real shame because its a rough counterbalance to the awesomeness that is Agent Coulson. And it Victoria Hand becomes an ongoing, and if Whedon sticks to the Hand from the comics, it could turn the tide of the cast on this show.
Overall, this show needs a big rebound. It was comfortably sitting in the ok to decent category before this week. And my complaints this week are more of a reflection of the show as a whole as apposed to the episode as a stand alone episode, so that can't all fall on the quality of this episode. Though, the Fitz/Simmons problems and continuing problems that continue through the series shows and hinders quality. Fortunately Coulson continues to be the high point and can still carry this show on his shoulders. I just hope it doesn't crumble on him.
I give Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 6 a secretive 2.5 out of 5