Back in January, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered what was easily one of the worst episodes of the season. It had to do a lot to win us back last night, and it was almost there. Considering some of the twists we’ll discuss, there will be major spoilers below.
This episode, T.R.A.C.K.S., which is an odd title since they never bother to explain what it means, is already an improvement over this show’s usual formula not least because it manages to show both the group working as a team, and what they’re like individually. Coulson’s team is tracking an item, being shipped by train, that will delivered to Ian Quinn, the arms dealer who’s been a thorn in the show’s side for a while. But the mission goes sour, and for various reasons, the team is broken up; as they get back together we see what actually happened through flashbacks.
It’s a good structure because it gives everybody in the cast something to do, for once, and it also gives the show a little suspense and variety. And it also has the virtue of having an ending we didn’t see coming, but that’s hampered somewhat by who that ending happens to.
Yeah, Ian Quinn shooting Skye is a real surprise. Similarly, the episode ends without her popping up all better; she’s frozen in a hyperbaric chamber and the team is racing to get her medical care. Whether or not Coulson will decide to send her to Tahiti seems all but inevitable.
But the problem is we just don’t give that much of a crap about Skye. The writing staff has this odd belief that somehow we really care about her, and sure, some viewers probably do, but it’s not like they’ve spent a lot of time on her character or given her much to do within the confines of the show. I felt a lot worse for Simmons jumping out of a plane than I did for Skye taking two to the gut. Worse, the panicked ending, with everybody working together to get Skye at least stable, didn’t feel like the elaborate payoff the show was building to. Yeah, they bagged Quinn, but Skye being stuffed into a tube in a basement just isn’t a rousing denouement.
That said, it was a much better episode and it gives us hope for the back half of the season. Bring on Sif and the Captain America crossover!
Some more thoughts:
- Does May go around with a drag-racing parachute as standard equipment?
- The running gag with Simmons being a terrible actress is something we’re torn about, since it’s simultaneously rather cute and like watching a pretentious acting teacher turn his lecture about “process” into a standup routine at the same time.
- Similarly, the holotable gag went on a bit long, and the Stan Lee cameo was pretty painful. This show can do funny, but it needs to do funny in smaller doses.
- Man, one really hopes that dendrotoxin has no long-term side effects because the entire team has probably done way too much of the stuff.
- Ward being all sulky high-school boyfriend about May and Coulson was probably not something they were looking to get a laugh with.
- Speaking of Ward, were we imagining things, or is touching Peter MacNicol’s giant steel Viking stick coming back on him?
Any thoughts yourself? Let us know in the comments.