Airtime: Tuesday at 9PM on ABC
Episode: Season 3, Episode 17 (S03E17)
Tweetable Takeaway: #AgentsofSHIELD rights the ship by turning itself on its head
I went on a gripe before this episode about how AGENTS OF SHIELD was dead. They had lost the entire point of the series and destroyed everything that made it interesting. “Villains need to be personal” I said about six times in different ways. If the danger on this show isn’t directly affecting the agents themselves then it’s totally pointless. If the whole world is in peril nothing is actually going to happen. Foregone conclusion. Good guys win. Whatever. I’m doing some giddy squirming over here because this episode laser focused on everything that was sucking the life from the series and blasted it to bits. Yay, yay, yay!
I’m just gonna go ahead and give DJ Doyle the title of my favorite writer for this show. He was already on my short list (and two others on my short list are slated for the next two episodes) but, man, he gets it. He gets how it works when it works well. He gets the characters. He gets the dynamic. He gets the way the action, the suspense, and the twists need to function. He just saved this series from the scrapheap of my heart for at least another week. Because it’s not just the plot elements that have to work, it’s how they get put together. Appropriately, this episode was called “The Team”—an overt reference to Skye’s Secret Warriors but, to my mind, underscoring the more important non-powered team getting it together. The great strength of this show is in the chemistry that all of the characters have. It’s in their interactions as a team. This is the first time this entire season where the characters have discussed things not just in siloed pairs but as if they actually all live in the same secret base and emotionally experience these events. It’s like all the different chemicals have been in separate pipes and finally get to mix and create that Agents of SHIELD alchemy again.
I’ll talk about the Inhumans because I’ve mostly been pouring my ire on them for a few weeks. I love Joey and Elena. I love them both. They’re sweet, and fun, and they’re goodness comes from a place of authenticity rather than self-righteousness. I loved the conflict in this episode not just of powered v. non-powered, but between the four Inhumans. Powers are the problem instead of the fun feature. Yay! Lincoln is a totally squandered opportunity. Hints at his damage made him seem interesting in the first half of this season but now he’s just bland. Since 3×15 left me with the impression he’d been taken hostage by Ward and co. I was pleased when he was the one “infected” because 3×15 is a total waste and something relevant coming from it would be nice. But! That it was actually Skye is ten-thousand times better. That’s the twist-y SHIELD I know and love! Because for the past two episodes at least I’ve literally hated her and the fact that she’s been suborned because of her powers is ideal. IDEAL. Her behavior and entitlement has been insufferable and she’s justified all of it because of her powers. I’m completely alienated from the character at this point but I’m rubbing my hands in delight like a comic book supervillain right now. Borg-Collective Skye was the thing my fanfic-formulating lizard brain wanted to fix this mess. Because Skye under Hive’s sway fulfills that old promise of Raina’s line from the first season finale when she told Ward that maybe he and Skye “could be monsters together.” And in that one line: I shipped it. Hard. Here I have my monsters. Hive!Ward even called her Skye as he should because Ward wouldn’t have known she’d changed her name. Such good, coherent continuity! Everything’s been so sloppy lately that I missed that sort of detail!
Logistically, the plot was also wonderful and executed very well. Each act ended on a crazy moment of suspense and danger, and all that peril was spread equally across the entire cast. Coulson was actually relevant, coordinating and leading everyone during the Inhuman scare. Fitz and Simmons’ science was absolutely necessary to move the plot forward and they had low-key personal conversations while they were doing it. Seriously nailed it. That’s how those two work: they are the show’s Black Box but at the same time they have an interpersonal thing that happens on the side. Thank you for returning them to me. I’ve missed them for a slam solid year. It was a bad year. May was stoic Team Mom who refused to stay in her hospital bed because she’s a boss. For the first time in a long time, I believed her dogged determination and anger. Mack was his lovely pragmatic self but has an interesting crush on Elena. I’m not sure I’m down with that since Mack read to me as gay for the entirety of season 2, but whatever. They even get Malick to do a Heel-Face Turn and then promptly dispatch him in another round of Villain Roulette. I like that because he just wasn’t that compelling. Best of all, the dire peril of the crashed plane was resolved in about five minutes which had me ugly laughing. That was such an over-dramatic setup that if the last episode had been a person I’d have pushed it off a cliff.
If you regularly follow these reviews you already know this: I have a thing for FitzSimmons like no other. Like none. If you want the abridged 11,300 word version of my love affair with them (actual word count, god help us) then here, have some fun. But I love them so particularly that they were very easy to ruin and apparently too difficult to fix. Like, you know they’ve jacked it up when your babes kiss for the first time and you’re just sort of like “???” about it. This episode fixed it. That was proper kissing. Proper snugs. Proper everything. A+++ on the FitzSimmons front. DJ Doyle, more than anyone gets them (or at least writes them to my persnickety standards.) It was sweet, and soft, and in the middle of a science-ing session which was ideal. They never said weird things and bickered about the weird things they’d said in the past. They didn’t even say anything goopy; they skirted around it all with jokes. In fact they said everything that they say in my fevered, desperate daydreams. It was perfectly them. And they haven’t been themselves in many months. I am notoriously difficult to get on board with romance, but these two have been my complete downfall for years. The fact that they finally gave me a good strong dose of warm fuzzies again—especially considering I’d cast this show to the wind not five hours before—is deeply satisfying. Can I get an “amen” for people not cramming their faces together in forced moments because the puppet master demands it?
Also regarding this show’s increasingly desperate episode previews: come on. We know something happens to Elena at the very least. I’m gonna need to talk to the ABC marketing department for real though. Every single commercial for every single show for the past two months has claimed such-and-such is the most epic, shocking, game-changing episode ever on television. ABC… ABC, I think you’re sick. I think you need help.
Technically, I give this one a high A-, rounded up to an A. It nails my ideal Agents of SHIELD formula, but the fact that it’s cleaning up a huge mess tarnishes it a bit. It’s the FitzSimmons bonus points that push it to an A+. Yes, I give bonus points. Way to mood swing from episode to episode, SHIELD. I still don’t trust it like I used to, but I love it again. Tentatively.
#MonstersTogether now please.
Dana Leigh Brand | Contributor