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by Thom Yee

All Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Images courtesy of Disney-ABC Domestic Television

Images courtesy of Disney-ABC Domestic Television

1×04:  “Eye-Spy”

Towards the beginning of “Eye-Spy”, Skye, our intrepid viewpoint character poses a question more meaningful than I think the writers originally intended:

“There are people in the world with superpowers, right?  What if this woman had esp or something?”

That’s the essential problem that our heroes should be facing every week.  They live in a world where the rules have not only changed, but many of them don’t exist anymore.  Super science, sci-fi tech, gods, and powers are all now potentially par for the course.  That makes it really hard to pin down exactly what’s going on, and it’ll make it even harder to shore up a set of working theories on whatever the case of the week is.  But what happens when all the rules are breaking around our heroes?  What happens when they run across their first truly unstoppable superhuman force?

So far, we’ve got an experienced leader, a hacker, a spy, two lab techs, and a pilot with a mysterious past on the team.  What’s missing are superhuman specialists:  a mad genius and a heavy.  Now the latter I can excuse somewhat.  People with superpowers are hard to come by, and in this young Marvel universe, even harder to intentionally and successfully create.  But the former… the mad genius… that’s what Fitz and Simmons are supposed to be.  And up until now, they really haven’t been given enough to do.

This episode represents a reclamation project as the agents find the perpetrator of this week’s freak-of-the-week case is also Coulson’s former protégé.  Lost during a previous mission, our agents must discover why she’s turned (or has she?).  And of course the answer is manipulation.  It’s an alright story this week, with enough depth and horror in the details to make you actually empathize with this week’s guest star, former agent Akela Amador.  That stuff’s all good enough.  What’s importantly established this episode is Fitz and Simmons playing an important and active role in “Eye-Spy” (an episode title so literal it makes you cringe when you think back on it).  In the absence of character development, the two at least contributed.  Now all the producers need to do is figure out how to make viewers like them.

Akela Amador — best guest-star ever or just lucky recipient of a not-total-crap script?

Akela Amador — best guest-star ever or just lucky recipient of a not-total-crap script?

By far the best part of the episode is Amador’s questioning of what’s happened to Coulson.  Not just since the battle of New York, but what an unidentified “they” did to him since some unidentified point in time.  Amador’s known Coulson since before his cinematic debut, and though the moment was a little overacted, it’s a revelation that could potentially throw into question everything we know about the character up to this point.  Combined with the messy, inconclusive ending where the bad guys aren’t caught, and we’ve got some intrigue that might be worth pursuing.

Right now, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s biggest weakness is that it’s hard to deeply care about any of our heroes.  Coulson is Coulson — the affable unflappable, the even-tempered leader with experience and our link to the wider universe; he gets a pass.  Skye’s genuinely growing as a character, though slowly.  She also passes, just barely.  Melinda May is a character you deliberately handle slowly, so she’s okay… for now.  But Ward, Fitz, and Simmons… they’re not there yet.  At this rate, I don’t know if they ever will be.  And the sad thing is, if you break the stories down, the show could follow the exact same plots and just give these three more life in their scripts, more spontaneity, just more excitement, and we could be in a drastically different place right now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Eye-Spy” final score:  7

Items of Note:

-Skye actually coming off as a little smart this episode!

-“Seduce him”.  That was actually kind of funny, and not just Joss-Whedon-cute-awkward funny.

-Agent Ward pulled a Clark Kent this week with his non-descript suit and glasses.  The actor might make a decent TV Superman (though probably not a movie Superman).

-For how dangerous and legendary Melinda May is supposed to be, I find it hard to believe she’s basically taken out of a fight just because somebody turned off the lights.

-Hopefully by now people know that there’s a bumper (a la Marvel movies’ post-credits sequences) in every episode.  This week’s was really lame, but try to stay tuned in until the end.

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