“I can’t think of a single time when anything alien in human hands ended well.”
So here we are… the first direct tie-in to a Marvel movie currently in release on “Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD.” I’ve been curious to see how they would handle this since the moment they announced the series, and considering how many dangling threads there are at at the end of “Thor: The Dark World,” it seems like this is a perfect test case.
Here’s where we start to see what happens after the events of one of the big Marvel films, as characters move in to clean up, categorize, and study the aftermath of something like, oh, let’s say giant Elven spaceships opening interdimensional rifts centered in the middle of England while Asgardian superbeings beat the ever-lovin’ crap out of evil creatures.
Skye (Chloe Bennet) gives voice to the average citizen here, reminding Coulson (Clark Gregg) that not everyone knows all of the backstory already. It’s funny hearing her talk about Thor and remembering that her character hasn’t been front and center for any of the truly cosmic stuff yet. She’s taking it all on faith at this point.
Because Marvel announced this cross-over before “Thor” came out, people have been trying to guess what the thing would be that tied the episode to the film, and I like that Marvel didn’t make it any of the obvious choices. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that part of a magical staff would be embedded in the middle of a tree, or that it would give humans super-strength.
Here’s one of the things that surprised me this week: Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is still dealing with the fall-out from her near-death experience. That seems unusual to me in television terms. Isn’t TV supposed to hit the reset button at the end of every episode? She’s not only dealing with some newly-formed fears of falling, but she’s also keenly aware of what that Chitauri virus did to her, and she seems justifiably unwilling to tangle with the same thing twice. Instead of making it grand and melodramatic, though, it’s just an underlying character thread that shows that these episodes are not taking place in isolation.
Jakob Nystrom (Michael Graziadei) and Petra Larsen (Erin Way) are the couple behind the “WE ARE GODS” flaming graffiti, the ones at the center of this week’s chaos in Oslo, and it makes perfect sense that Norse paganism would suddenly grow in the wake of Thor’s re-appearance. The Berserker staff, as it’s identified by Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol), is obviously dangerous because of what it can do in the hands of people who want to do harm with it, but as we see when Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) accidentally comes into contact with it, it can also create a dangerous rage in someone even if they aren’t trying to harness its power.
By the way, did no one seen “Ghostbusters II”? You never trust Peter MacNicol with magical artifacts.
Based on the way Ward’s acting, the Berserker staff evidently makes you into a giant dickhead, not just super-strong. But Ward is aware of it, and that’s another one of those choices that convinces me they’re actually starting to try to dig into these characters further and make them more than the archetypes they were in the first few episodes. The “bad guys” this week are driven by a motivation that is almost understandable. They are afraid of the gods that have started to show up, and they want to arm themselves against it. Sure, they immediately begin to abuse the power, but at least the underlying motive is something beyond money or just power for the sake of power.
Visually, this is the most dynamic episode so far. It’s amazing what spending a little money on effects work and actually thinking about the camera will do for the look of a show. Jonathan Frakes did an equally good job with the cast this week, and in particular, he had the difficult task of trying to open up Agent Ward. Brett Dalton hasn’t had much to do beyond the action stuff so far, and this week finally started the task of pushing past the stoic exterior.
Biggest surprise of the week? The acceptance of the open hotel room door. I wouldn’t have called that.
And in case we were still confused about the importance of the line “Tahiti is a magical place,” this week’s final sting would suggest we’re getting very close to Coulson having to deal with those memories and what they’re really hiding.
I understand if people have dropped the show already. I don’t blame them. It got off to a slow start. But if you’re still watching and you don’t think the last three episodes have represented a shift in tone and quality, then I’m baffled. Little by little, they’re starting to get it right, and each step closer to the show I was hoping this would be excites me. They’re earning my ongoing attention, and when the show works, it justifies my patience so far.
“Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” airs Tuesday nights at 8:00 on ABC.