Last night’s episode may have been the most dramatic, tense hour of television we’ve seen from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far, but whether the show can continue to wrap things up nicely in a tidy little package each week is a question that looms large on the horizon. As with any Whedonverse show, death is an integral part of the process. This is a dangerous, high-stakes world of international superspying mixed in with powers and abilities beyond anyone’s understanding. In short, death is part of the job. Not everyone can get the Coulson quick-fix. At some point, an important cast member is going to have to die.
This week’s episode structure was something of a sleeper in that it lulls you into a false sense of security. There’s plenty of pathos and adventure to be had in the episode’s first half, as the team investigates a mysterious electrical phenomenon that is creating spontaneous electromagnetic fields that winds up with cadavers suspended in mid-air and the brain getting fried with thousands of volts of electricity. As we discover, it’s actually an alien virus transmitted from a Chitauri helmet that several firefighters kept as a souvenir from the Battle of New York. Unfortunately, by the time we discover this, it’s too late for the firefighters that encountered it and one of our own: the organic science-obsessed half of our engineering Wonder Twins, Simmons.
Despite my deep and abiding love of all things Marvel, I have had my issues with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. One of the show’s biggest problems has been its general lack of depth, particularly in terms of the characters and making them feel like real people rather than glossy superspies with a seemingly endless wellspring of one-liners. Last night’s episode, “F.Z.Z.T.,” made significant steps towards fixing this problem, thanks to some wonderful character interactions and an exploration of Fitz/Simmons’ past, and finally gives us a reason to emotionally connect with these characters, other than our undying love of Agent Coulson.
This week was very much the Fitz/Simmons show, and it did a tremendous job of establishing who these people are as characters and people within the larger S.H.I.E.L.D. universe. Many have found the quippy duo to be quite irritating, as they essentially fulfill the same role on the team with only half the output. Still, not everyone can be a billionaire playboy scientist like Tony Stark, so it’s understandable that Coulson’s team would need an expert in biology AND an expert in electronics. In any event, it was nice to see the science team in a new light.
This episode also lays to rest the whole “Fitz has a crush on Skye” shtick that played out like a less charming version of Duckie and Andie from Pretty in Pink. Fortunately, it also gives us the sense that Fitz and Simmons may just be dear friends for now, but they care about each other deeply and may, in fact, love one another, although, in their defense, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees when you’re surrounded by night-night guns and helicarriers.
We also find Coulson on a more personal journey this week, as he continues to question the nature of his revival and a persistent feeling of otherness that he can’t quite shake. Despite his repeated usage of robot-related lingo (“feeling rusty”), the theory that he’s a Life Model Decoy is looking increasingly like a red herring. Coulson was clearly changed by the experience of whatever brought him back (magic?) and he’s spending a lot of time ruminating on his own mortality. This plot thread made Coulson’s heart-to-heart with the final firefighter all the more poignant, so kudos to the writing team for really earning the emotional moments in this episode. If they can keep this up, they’ll really have earned that full season pick-up of theirs.
Odds and Ends
– Just a reminder, next week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will feature a crossover with Thor 2. None of the cast are confirmed to make an appearance, but I have a pretty good idea of what it might be….
– I want an outtakes reel of everyone on the cast doing their best Agent Ward impressions.
– I was half-expecting this week’s episode to be the Thor 2 tie-in, given the subject matter with which it was dealing, but I liked the direct connection to The Avengers.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know in the comments below or tell me yourself on Twitter.