I think Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D needs to realize that it can’t coast by on action alone. This week’s episode had a couple of very nicely-staged set pieces and, especially for broadcast TV, some excellent special effects. Fire is hard to pull off, even in a blockbuster movie, but this episode revolved around a character called Scorch who can generate and manipulate fire, and everything he did looked pretty cool. Especially when he torched that poor doctor-lady alive. Man, I was so excited to see Shannon Luccio (who had a major arc on season two of The O.C.) in the opening credits, but she was very much one-and-done .
So, the action is fine. A lot of it takes place in office buildings, which is not the most exciting locale, and Ming-Na’s stunt work doesn’t come off quite as badass as I think it’s supposed to, but whatever, it’s largely enjoyable. The scripting and character work, however, remain much more plodding. A breezy episode like last week’s “Eye Spy” covers up that flaw, but “The Girl In The Flower Dress” was a much more serious hour, and suffered as a result.
On the one hand, I’m glad that the whole “is Skye a double-agent?” business has been largely cleared up. Yes, she’s done stuff with Rising Tide, and yes, she’s hacked into secret S.H.I.E.L.D. files, but because she’s on some quest to discover the secret of her family, which has been redacted from existence, largely by S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. It’s very nebulous and doesn’t give us a ton to hang on to for the future, but it’s something, at least. Am I reading this correctly, by the way? Because Skye’s double-agent status has been played so casually, largely to give episodes an exciting third-act twist, and I’m trying to remember if every loose end has been tied up.
The discovery that Skye has been poking around S.H.I.E.L.D. files makes for a lot of scenes of recrimination among Phil and his staff, with Phil largely self-flagellating over trusting her. Approximately one of these scenes is interesting: the one with Melinda where Phil speculates that his recent reckless behavior is to do with his resurrection from death. Looking forward to the show exploring that more. It’d be cheap for Whedon to just bring back Coulson to give his show a recognizable face, and especially since he’s a writer who values consequence to all of his big plots, I’m sure there’s a lot more to learn here.
The stuff with Scorch wasn’t that much better. If there is a Marvel character called Scorch, he must be very minor, because a cursory internet search/rummage through my memories didn’t recall anything. His power-set is generic and his character arc is bland—he succumbs to Caterpillar’s promises of fame and glory, and lashes out at Phil and co. for trying to hold him back. It seemed like a drastic turnaround from the friendly fellow we saw at the top of the episode, but there really wasn’t enough depth to him either way to cry foul.
The ongoing saga of Caterpillar was given a little more fuel with the tag of the episode, which saw the flower-dress girl cryptically talking to a boss-man in prison and recommending he talk to the precognitive. Again, it’s all very nebulous, but good on this show for embracing the whole world of superpowers thing. I was worried everything would get tied into Asgard and Extremis and gamma radation and things that have already been established in the cinematic universe. But no, S.H.I.E.L.D. is willing to expand its sandbox, and will do all the better for it.
Still, it’s not going to retain viewers/build up a really culty fanbase with episodes like this. I’ve defended this show against complaints that it’s terminally bland, but formulaic material like this really does expose its flaws. It’s definitely not an unwatchably bad show—there are little visual flourishes and jokes that sustain interest, and Clark Gregg is doing the best he can to hold everything together. But we need more plotting, more craziness, less monster-of-the-week stuff that advances the season arcs very slowly. In short: don’t be shy, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Show us what you can do.
- By far the best line was Shannon Luccio and Phil both bemoaning that “they gave him a name.” Damn supervillains!
- Skye’s extended underwear dialogue with the blandly hot hacker guy stretched my patience as a TV critic, although I guess I enjoyed it as a casual viewer.
- I like any hint at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s overarching creepiness re: surveillance and stuff. The show never gets close to calling them outright villains, though.
- Miles runs a nasty mob of Zombie Pigmen in Minecraft. The nerds are disturbed. Nerds watching at home (including me) let out a cheer.