God, the superhero references tonight were so cheesy, but this one was just… Bad. Luckily for us, the show was as good as that reference was stupid.
This week, Coulson and the crew have got what looks like some sort of telekinetic, electrostatic asshole, who likes to levitate people in the air whilst sending a shock through their forehead and frying their brains. However, when the crew realizes that not only did the two victims know each other, but that they were first responders during the catastrophes of The Battle of New York, the gang assumes that we’re looking at a murderer, who may in fact be using an alien weapon left behind by the Chitari invasion.
Well, after a bit of digging and doing whatever S.H.I.E.L.D. does, they come to realize that it wasn’t the abuse of Chitari weaponry that caused the deaths at all; it was a Chitari virus. Being that they are aliens, and have different immunities from us humans, the group of firefighters brought the unknowingly brought the contaminated relic back to their station as a souvenir. After the last firefighter to come into contact with the helmet suffers a similar fate, the team thinks that the only thing left is to research the virus, but the crisis is only beginning.
This, as we knew from the teasers for this episode, would be a Coulson centric episode. As we’ve been seeing in the past few episodes, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) hasn’t quite been the same since taking a scepter to the heart from that bastard, Loki. He’s been questioning what really happened, and how he could have died, only to come back. Well, a conversation he has with the infected firefighter shines a whole lot of light on what really happened, and even more on how much he really knows about his “death,” which is still basically a whole lot of nothing. He claims to have seen presumably heaven, but I found myself wondering if that was really his own account, or was that Coulson’s soft side, comforting a man faced with inevitable death? Either way, Coulson doesn’t feel “normal” since everything that went down in The Avengers, and we still aren’t really sure why, but it’s fun hearing Phil talk about it. We better be blown away when the full story is finally revealed… that’s all I’m going to say. Aside from that, he came through and felt like a true leader, which is something I felt was missing from previous episodes. If they can maintain this balance, then I can only hope that we’ll be getting the proper dose of Coulson every week.
Easily, tonight’s biggest success was the characters, who seemed to have jumped to a whole new level, at least for me. Maybe it was the break, but there just seems to be more substance, more charm, and more chemistry between each and every member of the cast than there has been in any of the previous episodes. I’ve been itching for a scene between Skye (Chloe Bennet), Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), and Agent Ward (Brett Dalton), and tonight, we got it. They did a fantastic job of playing up on the potential love triangle here, and I’m curious to see where they take it. It’s the classic “nerd vs. jock” type scenario, and they’re both playing for the pretty girl (who’s got terrible posture, by the way). Interestingly enough, neither Fitz nor Ward seem to be having much luck with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s newest whatever-she-is. In fact, Fitz exhibits the same uncomfortable reaction as Agent Ward did last week when confronted with the subject of Skye’s “boyfriend,” even going as far as to point out that he’s her ex-boyfriend. I’m happy that we’re getting a chance to see Fitz trying (and failing) to win Skye’s heart from the friend-zone, and I can only hope for more of that. I think that this relationship, with these 3 characters, could become a central plot moving forward with this show; I’m just fine with that. It’s a more serious side of Fitz than we’ve gotten, and he’s in a competitive situation with a guy who seemingly outmatches him in every way, but Skye’s geekiness of her own lets us think that he might actually have a shot at her affections. How does one out-charm the ultimate badass in Grant Ward? Regardless of that, and of my man-crush on Brett Dalton, your heart wants Fitz to win Skye over.
Even though I’ve just spent the last paragraph building Agent Ward up as an unstoppable being of perfection, we get to delve even deeper into his more human side, when one of the gang comes into contact with the Chitari virus. As I’ve said in past reviews of the show, when this super agent comes down to our level, it delivers some of the best scenes, and that’s the point. He’s the superhero on the team without superheroes, but what happens when he has to face something he can’t overcome? He is ordinary, after all. We see that, if Ward does have one fear, it’s that helplessness that comes with being mortal. This would explain his love of combat, and fieldwork, but every so often, there comes a problem he can’t punch in the face, and we get to see that he’s human again.
Jemma Simmon’s (Elizabeth Henstridge) character takes a sharp turn into serious territory, completely out of nowhere. Her character has probably been with the least amount of development thus far, and it was exciting to see a whole different side to her, when life and death hung in the balance and she was the only one who could stop it, instead of the comedic relief we’ve gotten up to this point. Not only does her character grow exponentially, her relationship with Fitz takes on new life as well, and honestly, made me not regret watching tonight’s episode. Sure, their back-and-forth was entertaining enough, but never do you see how important they are to one another until now. That isn’t to say, however, that they don’t sneak in a little of what we’re used to. Fitz and Simmons impressions of Ward were good fun, and it made you feel like they were a real team. Fitz disgust over having dead bodies in the lab is also one of the best parts of the episode, and leaves us with a bunch of great one-liners, as well as a subtle way of working in tonight’s plot.
The emotional depth of this episode is nothing like we’ve ever seen from this show. My heart sank to a point that, I was actually sort of shocked when I’d realized how emotionally invested I was in these characters. In all truth, I was dreading watching tonight’s episode, and, overall, there are better shows on the air right now, but this story highlighted the tremendous potential that this show has, and that the characters at the center of the story are worth your time and emotional investment. These characters have reinvigorated my interest in this show, and the chemistry was in full view tonight. This episode did what they’ve been trying to do in every episode up to this point, and that’s to make these people feel like a combustible, but relatable, team. Even Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), as boring as I’ve found her up to this point, was showing off some witty and genuinely amusing banter with Coulson. There weren’t a ton of special effects, cameo appearances, or even Avengers references; the show simply relied on its cast, which is a comforting notion considering that this easily the best episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet.