Man, AGENTS OF SHIELD came hard out of the gate this season but now it’s flagging on me a bit. It’s not bad (thank god,) but it’s not the greatest thing ever sobbing-in-my-soup every week either. Both last week’s episode and this week’s “Lockup” have the feel of filler where nothing much moves forward but there’s a lot of action in the meantime. I feel like “Lockup” had a bit more of an objective but still no real purpose. That’s cool. It was fun to watch.
I’ll preface this by saying I really am sick this week, guys, so I’m possibly being a bit harsh. Yes, sick enough that I watched Agents of SHIELD whilst sitting sedately on my couch. Who am I? Here are the things I enjoyed: Simmons, of course; the Director; the fact that there was an objective from the beginning; Daisy was cool like Skye; Fitz is sure getting in a lot fieldwork. What I was a bit eh on: a lot of this was a disjointed series of low-stakes occurrences; everyone passed around the Idiot Ball a bit much; we didn’t really get anywhere; needs more Radcliffe.
I did really like that the episode started off by needing to get Robbie’s uncle out of prison for a reason. He was pointless last episode and having to go back for the information that I wanted last week made me happy. Not that we got that information–we got all manner of beat downs and switcheroos instead–but it was a nice try. Having that mission objective gave it focus and a lot more structure for all the boom boom. Funny, I know last week I took this show down a peg for not hitting my formula, but I think what I want isn’t just the structure it’s the little bits of plot and exposition that should fit inside of it. Guys, I think I might be a story person, what do you think? Give me air-tight world-building rules or give me sleep because it’s not worth watching otherwise. I’m gonna need more about these ghosts and that book and the damn answer better not be “Hydra” this time, okay? I also laughed out loud when the ghost lady was like “I don’t know, maybe we should just do the science instead of looking for shortcuts” then found the book and was like “nvm.” Oh, mad science. You never change.
As for the mission itself, it felt strange to me. I should’ve been much more into it than I was, but I neither felt that anyone was actually in danger or that anything was happening. There was nothing for us to discover and no stakes. No stakes busting a dude out of prison? Mack even got touched by a ghost thing and he just shot himself up with antidote. (Convenient hand-waving, that antidote. But Fitz and Simmons exist so it’s plausibly grounded hand-waving.) What, not even any side effects? He just got touched by the thing so he’d have something to do? Those two figured out a perfectly working antidote in like a day but couldn’t do jack about Hive all last season? Ugh. I like them better as a convenient source or plot fixes but make it a challenge at least. Similarly, Coulson and May spent a lot of time telling Fitz to get them out of places and then ordering him to get them back in. That can work sometimes–you can play it either funny or tense, and this show can often manage both simultaneously–but they didn’t pull off either for me. I just felt like everyone was behaving stupidly and they should have known better. I’ve never felt that way about Agents of SHIELD before. I don’t like that feeling. I’m not sure what about this gave me that impression though? Perhaps I just expect different storytelling conventions from this show. A final note: I love that the Watchdogs are such a big part of this but if they keep just being the insurmountable, vague baddy that will get boring fast. They need something more to them than just being an endless supply of faceless bigoted antagonism. I’d love, love, love for Blake to come back and be like the fifth villain to add another wrinkle to the complexity. Oh, one addendum to my final note: the anti-Inhuman senator is interesting, but I need to know more about her. Right now she’s also just vague and menacing. (She could also do with allying herself with Mariah Dillard, yeah? Am I asking too much? I feel like a Harlem City Councilwoman has more power than a US Senator. That’s backwards.)
Here is my customary digression: I’m so pleased with Simmons this season, completely and totally. This is the first season since the first season where she’s been around from the beginning and where she gets to actually have a character arc of her own. I’m laughing a bit because it took her and Fitz actually getting together before they even paid attention to her character integrity. It’s a bit tetchy that she’s so mad at Fitz for lying to her when it’s an explicit part of her job that she can’t keep secrets and they all know that but whatevah. Given how she’s reacted in the past to being lied to, it’s still very her. I’m not docking points for that. I love everything about her in this episode: her continuing inability to lie; her giving the Director all the facts in his ear while he then spins them into something rhetorically pretty rather than dry; that she picks up on whatever he’s lying about and essentially now has a ton of power and no oversight whatsoever which is troubling but also fantastic. Girlfriend, go! Spy amongst spies. I spent every second of Simmons’ and the Director’s time on screen going “they’re so cute!” They really are. I quite enjoy Director Mace as well. Many years ago I quit all fandoms altogether because of the way certain corners I was in hated on Fitz, so for the longest time I felt like he was the one who needed my sword. He doesn’t. The show itself understands Fitz perfectly. Really it’s Simmons that needs some love, Simmons that I would defend to the death, and Simmons who they owe for years of inattentive nonsense. They’re paying us both back for that, and all it takes is giving her some business of her own. Specifically, business that’s not calculated to screw up her relationship with Fitz just to get at the audience. You can find every single incongruous moment of hers and that’s the underlying motivation. I’ve always found that bothersome. I’m seriously so tickled by the fact that she had to actually be in a relationship before they’d let her be her own person. Just what? It’s so often the other way around.
You know what though? It’s nice to watch this show and be chill about it for a few weeks in a row. Usually I either love it so much I have some kind of seizure or I get so mad when they mess up that I rage and rampage for like a week. Calm is new and different. I definitely don’t want to be this calm about it every week because that would signal decline into mediocrity but I can deal with it every now and then. If it goes on too long, though, I might fall out of love with this show. That’s the last thing any of us want. Me freaking out every week is too entertaining. Also I have emotional problems that this show fills right up. Not even trying to hide it anymore. Even a calm dose of SHIELD is good enough for me today.
Season 4, Episode 5 (S04E05)
Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays at 10PM on ABC
Dana is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaLeighBrand
Keep up with all of Dana’s reviews here.
Dana Leigh Brand | Contributor