Thursday, March 12, 2015

Still Talking Agents of SHIELD

It's as if they put this week's episode together specifically to address my concerns from last week.  As you may recall, I was annoyed by Agent Simmons's instant heel-turn against all things alien, including--it was strongly hinted--her now Inhuman friend Skye.  But they addressed this issue head-on in this week's episode, along with a lot of other issues.

*Warning: Spoilers Below*

But where's Ward?
1.  Actress Ming Na continues to be the best thing on Agents of SHIELD.  Why do I say that?  Preparation.  Na plays Agent Melinda May, the team's resident bad ass.  Oh by the way, she is about my age.  But she looks ripped.  Seriously, they showed her several times in a spaghetti strap workout shirt, and the woman is jacked like nobody's business.

By contrast, Chloe Bennett's Skye has spent the past two weeks in formless grey sweatshirts.  What's up with that?  I'm guessing that vacation went a little too well.  Hell, even Jaime Alexander's Sif looked waifish next to Ming Na, and Alexander has Na by probably four inches.

I love that Ming Na has a role as a TV bad ass, and that she's serious enough about it to spend God knows how many hours in the gym in order to look the part.  I think maybe I'm the only person in America who noticed, but I think it makes a huge difference.

2.  They put Sif in civies.  This was a good choice.  I've never cared for Marvel's approach to Sif.  In classic Norse mythology, Sif is the epically blond wife of Thor, but that's obviously not the way they went with it.  Okay, but her armor is by far the worst part of her costuming, at least on TV.

3.  They didn't drag out the "mystery" of Skye's powers.  Thank God.  Granted, we still haven't seen her do much, but it's better this way than spending four or five weeks wondering when the rest of the team was going to find out.  Now the team's split and paranoid, and since we all saw that coming anyway, it's good that they jumped straight to it.

4.  The fight scene between Adrianne Palicki's Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird) and that Kree guy.  I've not always thought fight choreography was a strength of this show, but they did several fight scenes in this episode, and I thought that all of them worked.  This one was exceptional.

5.  Iain De Caestecker's Fitz has not always been my favorite character, but he's been great this season, and he's been--easily--the best male member of the cast since the series' return.  I've been enjoying his work quite a lot.  The new Fitz/Skye relationship is the best part of the show's central plotline.

6.  CGI.  This was always going to be a series with a lot of CGI.  There was a lot of it this week, too, but it all looked really good.  In particular, the shot of the team's "bus" coming in for a landing in its VTOL hanger was terrific.  That actually looked like it belonged in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Not bad on a TV budget.

1.  The Kree bleed liquid helium?  Or was it hydrogen?  Or was it nitrogen?  Frankly, I don't remember, nor do I remember how they closed out this--rather important--piece of this episode's story arc.  That's bad, especially after they made this bit such an important part of the mystery's resolution.

2.  They laid the show out like it was gonna be an X-Files-style slow-reveal, but then the "mystery" resolved before the halfway mark, and from there it was a straight-up action story.  I think maybe they had two episodes worth of material here, that they could have played it out a little more effectively given a little more time.  It's TV, so time is something they should have in abundance.

3.  Where the Hell is Agent Ward?  Or Deathlok, for that matter?

4.  I don't love Jaime Alexander, and I particularly don't love her as a Special Guest Star on Agents of SHIELD.  This is a show that already sports two bad ass female warriors, Agents May and Morse, and when you add Asgardian Sif on top of that, it's overkill.  We used to have at least some balance with Agents Ward and Tripp, but now Tripp's dead, and Ward is evil.  The show barely has any strong male cast members left.  We have Fitz, and yeah, he's great, but he's also brain damaged.  We have Mack, but although he's an enormous human being, he's also a professional mechanic.  That's interesting, but he's not a bad ass field agent.  We have Lance Hunter, and okay he counts, but half of what he does is act as the decided second-fiddle to Bobbi Morse.  Finally, there's Agent Phil Coulson, but he's the boss, and he was dead, and he was crazy, too...  Not exactly a strong male role model.

All I'm saying is, this show is almost into Star Trek: The Next Generation territory in its search for a strong male lead.  Adding Sif in a Special Guest role amplifies the problem unnecessarily.  What they really need is a Klingon Worf to play against Coulson's Jean Luc Picard, but right now the closest they get is Melinda May, and she's in love with her boss.  It doesn't play right, especially when we get another Slayer bad ass female agent in from off-planet.

1.  I liked this episode, but I didn't love it, and it took me a while to figure out why.  The problem is Skye.  Not the character and not the actress, but the way she's used.  We're supposed to be worried that she's a danger to herself and to others--this is the show's primary plot point--but I'm not buying it.  Okay, she took down an underground city, but that happened off-panel, and she spends a lot of time breaking glass, but... so what?  They always shoot those shots from a Worm's Eye View, 3/4 (hero) shot, in slow-mo no less, and it comes off as anything but scary.  She looks like she's just a half-episode away from a full-on superhero turn, and that's fine from a story planning perspective, but it hasn't built tension.  In contrast, the thing with Mack and Bobbi Morse is tense as Hell because...  we have no idea how that's going to play out.  Mack choked out his own teammate this week!  I like that they're moving that plot point forward, but this thing with Skye still doesn't have much legs, at least not as it's built right now.

2.  The show's music and lighting don't help.  The music is irresistibly heroic and upbeat, and everything is always clean and well-lit.  That's a bad mistake, especially when you have a walking earthquake in your headquarters.  We need to see literal cracks running through the show's foundation.  That would reflect the team's dynamic, which is coming apart nicely.

Next week: genuine super-villains!  Hallelujah!

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