by Thom Yee
1×10: “The Bridge”
And so we come full circle. Sort of. Well, a character from the first episode is back. So half circle. Sort of. I don’t know. Whatever.
Here we are at the midseason point anyway, and I feel like I can definitively say that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not a good show. Not by a longshot. It’s not a tumbling travesty, but it’s doing little more than treading water, its producers content to make it an utterly average and typical show. The most common complaint you’re likely to hear about the show is that it fails to make the most of its Marvel universe setting, and while that’s an easy observation to make, the problems with the show run much deeper. Its characters are flat and lifeless, and its stories are boring and predictable. Worst of all, from what I can tell from having read interviews and the general vibe given off by each episode, there just seems to be no ambition on the part of the creative team — showrunners, producers, and writers — to make anything special. It’s become incredibly frustrating watching a show defined by superhuman potential realized in such a mediocre way.
In “The Bridge”, our midseason finale, we pick up on some concepts established in the series so far as our Agents pursue Edison Poe, the creepy guy from “Girl in the Flower Dress”, freshly busted out of jail the superpowered counter-agents of Centipede (thankfully nobody thought it would be a good idea to make C.E.N.T.I.P.E.D.E. an acronym for something). And to fight superpowered counter-agents, our Agents enlist the help of… Mike Peterson…! From the pilot…! The black guy with the superstrength…! I guess it doesn’t help that he’s got such an unimpressive name (that just screams “I’m a regular guy”), but it is nice to the character again, especially since his appearance naturally recalls fond memories from a time when the show still had such promise.
“The Bridge” is one of the best episode of Agents since the pilot, and I was surprised by how good it seemed. First off, while I may not need superhuman battles in every story, I was much more engaged by this episode’s use of superpowered heroes and villains, even if the eventual fight is a little underwhelming. What really makes “The Bridge” work is two things: Coulson’s humanity and how that humanity brings the episode to its cliffhanger. As we’ve seen so far, Coulson is a character who wants to bring out the best in his people, and in the case of Mike, while he’s happy to see that he’s turned a page and become a successful S.H.I.E.L.D. trainee, he’s concerned that he hasn’t seen Ace, his son, in months. His advice, that agents make the choice to cut bonds in the name of the job, but he can’t do that because he’s also responsible for his son, speaks to the type of bonds the show is trying to establish between its characters. And when Centipede agent Raina (the girl in the flower dress) kidnaps Mike’s son, Coulson’s decision to trade himself shows you how much he cares
But if you think all of that means that “The Bridge” is a good episode rather than one that just seems good, you’d be wrong. What makes any of these emotional appeals resonate, what allows the cliffhanger of “Coulson, prisoner of Centipede” to work at all is that our expectations have been set so low by now. The covert actions of Centipede are anything but intriguing, that Ace was kidnapped is such a clichéd way to move the plot forward, and the cliffhanger works because only because so much of the rest of the series has been so predictable. Even though this episode was better than most, it’s only thanks to how non-miraculous the show has been overall.
That’s why I’m dropping Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s become a chore and almost a source of dread to review every week, and with Community returning in early January, I’ve got a much, much better show to review.
So, look forward to GR Dailies: Community, starting January 3rd.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Bridge” final score: 7
Items of Note:
-“Did I beat Captain America’s time?” Of course you did, Cap’s not strong enough to push bulldozers around you jackasses!
-I like Clark Gregg as an actor as much as the next guy, but he should stop overacting when he’s pretending to drive a car — that amount of steering and he’d be all over the road. Keep the wheel steady, it’s a straight road, not an obstacle course.