After a week’s hiatus, we’re back. And I couldn’t be happier with the results.
The latest episode of Agents takes a much-needed step back from Skye’s story to develop its two tagalong scientists, Fitz-Simmons. Skye is relegated to the background, whining about her new Big Brother Bling to anyone who will listen. Perhaps it’s been a few weeks since her betrayal of the team, but for viewers, it’s only been one episode, so sympathy for her plight isn’t exactly forthcoming. Instead, we get a mystery that only Fitz-Simmons can solve, and it gives us some time alone with our favorite bio scientist. The great moments of the episode are the ones that push Simmons into quarantine, where she’s racing the clock to create an antiserum (not vaccine) to an alien virus that leaves its victims floating, static-charged biohazards.
The plot harkens to the cancer fallout of many 9/11 first responders. While the Agents first believe these static-charged deaths to be the acts of a “gifted,” they soon find that the culprit is a virus clinging to a Chitauri helmet they took as a souvenir. This is the first episode where there’s no real villain, only a tragedy that the Agents have to clean up, and I certainly hope it isn’t the last; while the first third of the episode moved a little slow, it quickly picked up once they made the connection between the volunteer firefighters, and it proved that the show can carry itself without a mustache-twirling villain waiting in the wings. The Invasion of New York has changed the world in a thousand little ways, creating problems that can’t always be punched or shot. If the episode had been paced better, I would say it had been the best episode yet. Hopefully growing pains like a slow first half will fade as the show progresses.
Elizabeth Henstridge gets to stretch herself for the first time in the series as her bubbly, effervescent demeanor crumbles in the face of her imminent demise. Her quiet despair, and the way she barely holds herself together when asking Coulson to contact her father first, were beautifully managed. Likewise Iain De Caestecker rose to the occasion in Fitz’s unwavering faith and loyalty. Previously, these two have served as comical fonts of exposition, but here they feel like real characters with a close, complex relationship. I love it, and I’m looking forward to watching them move forward.
Ward’s small moment in the conference room reminded me of why I like his character so much. On any other show, he might be played as the dumb muscle, but here he’s a razor-edged specialist who genuinely cares for his team. He can discern the weight of his pistol to within an ounce, but he’s helpless against the more cerebral problems, and it frustrates him.
But Coulson? Coulson gets a beautiful moment wherein he stays with one of the dying firefighters, opening up to him about his death in New York. He’s ordering physical exams for himself because he still feels different. We know there’s something not right (HE’S EVIL-COULSON FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION!), but May tells him that there’s nothing wrong with him. Coulson died—and the way May talks, he might not be the only one who has—so of course he’s changed. His trademark unflappability is slipping, and he’s holding on to the people around him like a drowning man would a life preserver. So far May is the only other teammate he can open up to, but as time goes on, those barriers have to come down. When they do, we’ll finally get to know the man behind that wry smirk.
- Crying Man: lamest campfire story ever.
- I guess you could say those campers got a “shock.” Wakka-wakka!
- “I’m Agent Grant Ward. I could shoot the legs off a flea from five hundred yards, as long as it’s not windy.”
- “I’m Agent Grant Ward, and I could rupture your spleen with my pinky. Blindfolded.”
- Floating corpse: a new one for S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Ward and Coulson: not Big Lebowski fans.
- Coulson and Ward want to drive a truck through a barn to open it. May just kicks in the door. Melinda May ≥ truck.
- The classic bad connection play: used by loose cannons for as long as there’s been radios.
- “And when did you become so sun-kissed?” That’s the pot calling the kettle white.
- “I’m Agent Grant Ward. I just jumped out of a plane without a parachute on, saved your life.”
- “Take off your shirt.” Woo! Coulson and May, taking it to a whole new level!
- “You keep pulling stunts like that, someone might decide to take this little dream team away from you.” “I’d like to see them try.” Papa Wolf Coulson don’t take no guff from pencil-pushers in the Sandbox.