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It's Dusty In Here! What We Learned From Last Night's Surprisingly Emotional 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'

By Joanna Robinson | TV | November 6, 2013 |

By Joanna Robinson | TV | November 6, 2013 |

Yes, Tell Us More About How Agent Coulson Sweats: I know I objected strenuously when they dunked Skye in a pool and had her do the classically damp Baywatch sprint. So it might sound contradictory to say I’m not opposed to a little light objectification. But I’m not, if it’s earned. No one could argue that Coulson’s sole purpose is to stand there and look pretty, but boy does he. I liked this little B plot that ran through the episode of Coulson secretly ordering tests on himself. What did he say? Something about feeling “rusty?” LIKE A ROBOT, COULSON? I even liked the pay-off conversation between Coulson and May. The concepts weren’t new or revelatory, but Gregg and Wen played the scene so beautifully with just the tiniest frisson of sexual tension. So if Coulson wants to glisten and May wants to fondle his, ah, scar? I’m for it.

Agent May Should Always Be In Charge Of Interrogations: Beats Agents Ward sort of squint-pouting at a suspect. This little junior troop leader, by the way, has got to be one of the worst. Strip him of every merit badge. The adult goes missing under mysterious circumstances and there are scary sounds in the woods? “Come on, guys. Let’s go look for him!” Christ, at least strip him of his Horror Movie merit badge.

Fine, Agent May Should Be In Charge Of Everything: If they don’t let Ming-Na Wen kick something every episode, they’re doing it wrong.

Oh Hey, It’s The Man Of Blue Steel: There’s been some debate over what the true purpose of this show is. Some folks have complained that you can’t have a Marvel property without a superhero. Others like the idea of everyday (albeit extraordinarily equipped) people trying to take on the supernatural. (Aliens, mad scientists, mutants, oh my!) Well we got sort of an awkward middle ground in this episode when Agent Blue Steel hurled himself out of the cargo bay to go after a suicidal Simmons. Ward scanning the clouds for her while in free fall was textbook Superman stuff. Once again, the show suffered by trying for effects they just can’t afford. Grant looked okay, but Gemma in free fall looked ridiculous. The bad CG sapped most of the earned emotion out of the scene. Also, one couldn’t help but compare it to the much better-looking scene from Iron Man 3. So what do we think of this superhero role for Ward?

At the very least, the show’s in on the joke.

Our Favorite Man In Black: If you missed the Marvel One Shot Item 47 then Titus Welliver as Agent Blake will have been a complete surprise. How fun! Shouldn’t Welliver pop up on every show to menace and sneer? He practically does.

And This Is Where I Cried: Despite its flaws, this episode gave me so much hope for this show. The thing those of us who are trying to love the show have been complaining about the most is our inability to care about the characters not named Coulson and May. Thankfully, the problematic Skye was sidelined in this episode and we spent the better part of the hour with Fitz and Simmons, in all their accented glory. And it worked. I cared. If the show can get us on board with every member of that crew, then, oh, watch how it soars. I’ve bounced around in my assessment of FitzSimmons. Sometimes the technobabble can grate and the dorky helplessness in the field can wear. But this episode worked through and through and, after this, they’ll have to work awfully hard to make me stop caring about these two. Was it manipulative? Maybe. But this is what supernatural shows do best. Take an external threat and make it internal. We learned a lot about what makes these two tick and I’m not talking about Fitz’s fondness for animals and snacks or Simmons’ snappy wardrobe. Those are quirks. In this episode we learned about their depths. I was very impressed.

The Moroccan Office Is The Worst: All in all, a great effort, thanks in large part to the time we didn’t spend with Skye. I couldn’t even get on board with the hug she shared with Gemma at the end. Even Gemma seemed skeptical. I liked the integration of the Chitauri and the temporary resolution of Coulson’s problem. He and May might believe her explanation, but the rest of us aren’t fooled. Finally, they might be jamming three different ships down our throats (with the added triangular complication of Fitz fancying Skye), but for now I’ll take this little moment of sweetness. They earned it.

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