[Warning: This contains spoilers from Tuesday night's episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.]
We've spent three episodes with Coulson's ragtag band of go-getters, waiting for them to go and get a show worth Season Pass-ing. And, finally...
The best Joss Whedon shows are about family. (Yes, you could say all Joss Whedon shows are about family, but no matter how many times Adele would refer to her “house,” nothing about the Dollhouse cast felt familial.) But every family has its share of friction, of static. There is always going to be the goofy brother (Xander) or the uncle no one likes but keeps inviting to dinner (Jayne) or the vampire that got his soul back and really likes punching puppets (Spike). But families — especially when everyone is grown — never get along all of the time.
And one of the problems of the first three episodes of Agents of SHIELD was that the ad hoc family that Joss and Jed of the House of Whedon, and Maurissa Tancheroen (who married into the House of Whedon), created had no tension. Everyone liked each other, well enough. Skye and Ward were so thin as characters, that what differences they had didn’t register. And no one challenged Coulson’s leadership – save Nick Fury (Samuel J. Jackson), in a cameo.
But with this episode (written by Jeffrey Bell; and the first not written by someone related to Joss), this show feels the way it should. There was real conflict within the team, specifically between Melinda May (Ming-na Wen) and Coulson. The “monster of the week” was new and different and personal and horrific – the girl with the X-ray eyes, Akela Amadour (Pascale Armand). The plotting was fast, smart and surprising. Skye (Chloe Bennet) had an actual reason to be involved in the drama (even if her, “Hey, A.C. … here’s where I’m gonna come into your office, drop some unrequested character backstory and then leave,” was kind of ridiculous). There was a hint of a real Big Bad, aside from the always-ludicrous Rising Tide, which Agents of SHIELD has been sorely lacking.
And Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson was at the center of the action, where he should be, and the episode revolved around him as he revisited past sins in ways that forced May to call him on his bullshit.
If I had to pick nits, here are a mere couple:
I would’ve found the “Ward has to seduce a burly Russian” far more interesting if he actually had to seduce the burly Russian. Why isn’t that a legitimate thing that spies would have to deal with? And why couldn’t Ward have done it in a fashion that doesn’t scream of gay panic? Don’t play it for humor, don’t play the “Ewww, I had to kiss a guy!” — and it would've sold Ward as the professional operator he keeps claiming to be.
I know it’s something they’re saving, but I really wanted someone with X-ray vision to take a good look at Coulson. They intimate as much when Akela asks, “He’s different. What did they do to him?” The secret of Coulson isn’t one that can last forever. And, given that the Nerds on the Bus now have X-ray specs, too, it’ll come out eventually. But I was hoping that it’d really start coming out here.
Line of the week comes from Skye: “Did you never learn that boy parts and girl parts are different? And our parts aren’t penises?”
Tune in later to see what the Sage and Fastidious Jim Steranko (@iamsteranko) thought.
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