Anghus Houvouras reviews the tenth episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…
I’m giving the first half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a B-Minus. It’s a good, solid series that is still getting by on the potential of what it could be. The show is an awful lot like “Lola”, Coulson’s flying car. It’s a great idea borrowed from the comics but it never gets used. We hardly ever get to see the flying car fly. Instead, it sits in the plane looking cool and we all wait for the moment when the cool thing actually gets some screen time… As for this week’s episode:
It’s exactly what a show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needs. A mysterious undercurrent, recurring characters, deeper plots that need investigating over a series of story arcs. So far the series has been single episodes of plots wrapped up tidily and not exactly leading anywhere of interest.
The 10th episode, ‘The Bridge’ brings a deeper mythology into the series, and other aspects it has been sorely lacking: mainly conflict and cliffhangers. So many episodes have been hinting at a vast conspiracy, and we’ve been given breadcrumbs, but up until now they haven’t led anywhere. The tenth episode finally helps remedy that.
This episode finds Coulson and company lead an investigation into the Centipede organization who seems hell bent on creating their own army of super soldiers with decidely mixed results. Their ‘toy soldiers’ have a remarkably short shelf life and the key to determining how to stabilize their super solder serum may lie in the DNA of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newest team member.
It’s good to see the show start to harvest some of the seeds planted throughout the first half of the season. ‘The Bridge’ feels like the first real payoff in a season that has been a little slow on building momentum. There’s a lot of payoff in the episode bringing together elements from earlier episodes showing that a groundwork has very quietly been laid out. Centipede hasn’t just been dabbling in genetic engineering, but planting nasty little kill switches into people’s brains.
Now, at the halfway point, we have a clear idea who the enemy is, even if we don’t have a full understanding of who is pulling the strings. We get the answer to one mystery, but we’re still left with a few more. Like the identity of ‘The Clairvoyant’ who seems to instill both fear and awe into his followers. No doubt the second season will delve deeper into these mysteries. The episode ends with a great mid-season cliffhanger. Turns out Centipede believes the key their super soldier serum lies in the resuscitated Agent Coulson. TWIST!
The one nagging complaint that continues to linger with me is the show’s narrow scope. It still feels annoyingly small at times. Adding a super powered Agent to the mix brought an interesting dynamic to the show, much like Peter MacNicol’s Asgardian Ex-Patriate. The cast needs a little more diversity. ‘The Bridge’ showed the potential of adding some powers to the mix, though incredibly short lived. The promise of learning just how Coulson managed to survive being impaled by Loki remains the most intriguing of the show’s many mysteries.
‘The Bridge’ gave me what I want to see more of in the show: a deeper mythology and some real conflict. This episode showcased the best and worst about the show. It’s still a fun confection. People who want more than empty calories are going to be disappointed. It’s a show that exists on the precipice of potential, each week feeling like their dabbling their toes ever deeper into the creative waters. The show started out good, but shaky. Eventually it found a solid rhythm, but it’s still struggling to find greatness. I can’t expect every episodic TV series to be a home run every time out. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like a show that could be great, but it needs to buck the formula and get a little grittier. I don’t expect it to be Breaking Bad, but it could be a little less Once Upon a Time (i.e. painfully corny).
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.