Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Only Light in the Darkness

Last night's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had several interesting ideas in play, but for the most part there were flaws in the execution.

Let's start with the unfortunate waste of casting Whedon alumni Amy Acker as "the cellist." Were it not for the internet, I would have completely forgotten that Agent Coulson actually had a throwaway line in The Avengers where he mentioned the relationship. Clark Gregg being awesome the way he is in delivering every single line with meaning and soul, this apparently got fans wondering if we'd ever see this "cellist," and this alone inspired the writers to craft this story.

Although both Gregg and Acker struggle mightily to infuse their parts of the story with emotion, the relationship just doesn't get the screen time it needs to be meaningful. We're too busy with the villain of the week, and far too interested in the continuing adventures of Evil Ward. The romance is simply crowded out, and Fitz-Simmons and Triplett just don't have anything invested in their interactions with this guest character of Audrey.

As a villain, Marcus Daniels was a bit of a misfire too. You knew he had to be something from the comics when the camera lingered on his "hospital band" long enough for you to read his name. (Blackout, the internet informed me after the show.) His whole behavior in the show turned on an obsession with Audrey, yet that obsession was never really explained or given even the slightest context. It was just simplistic, King Kong-like animal behavior, the desire to grab a pretty woman and drag her up a building or something.

His death was just as "I guess that's all there is to it." After an hour watching our heroes run from his awesome powers and trying to stop him by shining flashlights at him, in the end they just shined bigger flashlights at him and poof! He turned into dust or something. In short, the "A story" of this episode just felt flat on virtually every level.

Fortunately, the story back at the Providence base was far more compelling. While there was little tension in whether Ward would beat the lie detector (THE lie detector), it was still interesting to watch the cat and mouse between him and the team. It's a shame we had to lose Patton Oswalt's character of Koenig when we were just getting to know him (he certainly seemed fun), but understandable to grease the skids of the plot.

I'm proud of Skye being clever and figuring out the truth, and I admit that seeing the story of her and Ward both trying to outwit each other is the more interesting story to tell. And yet, I think there's no logic in her suspecting Ward when she found Koenig's body. With May having just left, suspiciously, and her having already lied to the team, surely Skye would have suspected her first. (At least, until the moment Ward claimed to have just talked to Koenig when that was clearly impossible.)

As for May, she appears to be the way Cobie Smulders will be brought back soon for a guest appearance as Maria Hill. Thumbs up to that.

In the end, I'll give a bit more weight to the half of the episode that engaged me over the half that didn't. Still, I'd call this episode a B- at best. But at least it seemed to set up for better in the last few weeks to come before the end of the season.

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