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[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.]
I’ve mentioned this before as a problem, and it persists — and now, for the first time, I understand why the show continues to wrestle with it. You want Coulson to be the lead of this show. Clark Gregg is the best actor on the stage, week in and week out. He is, as I’ve said before, the character that fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and we are legion — have the most allegiance to. But if he is the main character, then it’s tough to have him also be the disapproving father. And, boy, is he great at that. The finger, you guys. You don’t address the Son of Coul’s finger. Here are four takeaways from this week’s episode.
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Scorch is a rather horrible superhero name. It is also a horrible supervillain name. It looks way better on the page — and Scorch is a character from the Marvel comics, sorta — than it sounds out loud. It just sounds too … fibrous. But, hey, it was enough to tip poor Chan Ho Yin (Louis Changchien) into a life of crime. But it was good to have our first encounter with someone who straight up had superpowers. (Note how careful the show was to not call him anything that sounded remotely like “mutant,” that he used to live near a nuclear power plant that leaked fire-juice into the water or something.) This is absolutely a tack the show should take — more weird, and more interesting weird. I just wish that Chan was more of a character, that his apparently decorative power had informed his life in a real way that made Raina (Ruth Negga, absolutely nailing the whole deviously sultry thing) and her offer something he couldn’t refuse. Clearly, Chan had to know something was amiss, when a beautiful woman he’d never met before offers to make him someone the world would never forget. Letters to Penthouse Forum start with more believability. This episode took for granted that this guy wants to be famous — not just famous, but Captain America. And, I suppose, in modern America, where every teenager thinks that they deserve their 15 minutes, it’s not too far off. But I would’ve liked this episode to bring me inside this guy’s life a little more so that I understood why he made the choices he did, so that everything became inexorable.
Grounded Skye. And everything was going so well. Skye (Chloe Bennet) figured out how to place nicey-nice with the other kids at Camp SHIELD. She was showing the FitzSimmons twins awesome new hacky things. She was beating the hot older camper at board games. She even came up with a nickname for the owner of the Bus. And then her past at stinky old Rising Tide came up and bit her on the ass. See, one of her old hacktivist compatriots — I’m just gonna call him Beardy McHackenstein — cracked a SHIELD database and released Chan’s info into the wild. (That he did it for money is a whole other thing.) When SHIELD was closing in on him, she tipped him off. Not that the tip-off excuses the fact that Ward (Brett Dalton) can’t execute a basic tail on a crowded street without getting made. Some expert field agent he is. He was made because he looked directly at his target, like a starlet who can’t stop looking at the camera. But I digress. And then she ended up in bed with him, which brought down the fury of both Melinda May (Ming-na Wen) and Coulson, who looked at her like parents who caught their kid screwing some punk in the master bedroom. All of this was well and good — it’s about time someone finally called Skye on her oh-so-obvious secrecy. But it just raised the question: Why didn’t Skye just tell Coulson about the redacted SHIELD file on her parents when she first met him? Because the producers wanted to play out the mystery for a while. Which is a crappy reason if it doesn’t jive with the show itself.
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SHIELD is Fuzzy. I like that they’re continuing to underline the idea that SHIELD is a scary, scary thing. That they watch everyone. That they have eyes everywhere. That they might not be the good guys. The question remains, is SHIELD above the very idea of good or bad? Does morality even come into play when dealing with a government branch like this? More gray in the show, please. Less Battleship.
With the real Madame Hydra please stand up? Because that’s totally who I think Raina is. And this Project Centipede is totally HYDRA. Don’t wuss out on me, Agents of SHIELD. Just bring it.
Listen, this episode wasn’t as good as “Eye Spy” — by the time we got to the last two segments, I really didn’t care what happened to “Scorch,” even though I appreciated the reversal of Raina killing Dr. Debbie and revealing her place in the scheme of nefarious things — but it was still better than the first three. It was all just so very … perfunctory.
Still, the thing to remember about Joss Whedon shows is that every season starts incredibly slowly, but ends phenomenally well. He’s always been a closer. Let’s just hope Agents of SHIELD isn’t the sole exception.
Line of the week: “If you want, I could lay out the mats downstairs, we could go a few rounds. Like the old days.” Melinda, you nasty.
Tune in later for the brave and the bold Jim Steranko‘s take.
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