by Thom Yee
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the determination to do what’s right despite our fears.”
“It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to fail. But to not even try? That’s unacceptable.”
“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”
Ruminations, resolutions, essential truths or platitudes, these are the things we tell ourselves as we face that which we may not be able to, the types of thoughts we hope can give our lives meaning in what may be our last moments. That’s what I was thinking as I watched Coulson talk down Diaz — the final firefighter who would die at the hands of the virus that was the subject of this episode — in what was the strongest moment of “FZZT” It was grounded, emotional and natural in a way that so much of the rest of the show isn’t and hasn’t been since the pilot, and it was a strong moment for Agent Coulson, the hero, and Clark Gregg, the actor.
Then there’s the rest of the episode.
“FZZT” directly deals with a left-over remnant from The Avengers movie, as the team finds a virus originating from the Chitauri invasion that passes from person to person through electrostatics (that’s that thing that happens when you rub your feet on the carpet and then touch someone else for those of you who don’t remember your science). I’ll give the episode credit for its creepy-campfire-story-ending-in-real-death opening that felt real enough for me to not question it, but pretty quickly we’re into a Skye, Fitz, and Simmons roundtable moment where each apes Agent Ward’s worst tendencies to varying levels of non-hilarity. I’ve said multiple times before that I don’t laugh because I don’t know how to relate to people, but I still know what’s funny, and this scene just wasn’t funny. The characters laugh, but we’re not there with them, both because none of them have anything that incisive or witty to add and because we still really don’t know Agent Ward.
In incorporating another element of the established Marvel movie-verse, “FZZT.” manages to recapture a little of the magic of the overarching universe if only because the image of a Chitauri helmet brings us back to the most spectacular moment of the whole franchise — the battle of New York. The show has not gotten far in establishing its own mythology, and at this point we really need more reminders of what brought us here in the first place. As much as Fitz and Simmons’ struggles with the virus formed the crux of the episode, we’re still not getting enough from the characters to latch on to, connect with, or feel something about because there’s just nothing all that interesting about them.
Because of its connections to The Avengers, because of the performance of Clark Gregg, and because it was funny seeing Simmons throw herself out of an airplane, I can say I liked this episode and that it’s among the series’ best so far. But though it may not seem like much, and as much as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has overall risen in my scoring from week-to-week, the move from a 7.5 score to an 8 is seeming more and more like an insurmountable height for this show to scale. But for the promise and comparatively strong execution of the pilot, I can’t say any episode thus far has been essential viewing, and I just don’t know if this show has the talent behind it to get there any time soon. I know I’ll keep watching, but like the worst comic series I continue to collect, I’ll continue to ask myself whether or not I stay with the series because I’m enjoying it or if it’s just because I can’t quit now that I’ve come this far.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “FZZT” final score: 7.5
Items of Note:
-Hey ABC! I know there’s probably some people somewhere that want to know what’s going on in the Boston mayoral race, but that’s no excuse for plastering voting results all over the bottom of the screen, distorting the image, and sucking all the drama out of the scene, you non-miraculous dicks!