Review: ‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’ – ‘A Hen in the Wolf House’

Senior Television Writer
10.21.14 39 Comments

ABC

A review of tonight's “Marvel's Agents of SHIELD” coming up just as soon as I maintain my cover as Ron Burgundy…

Operation: Improve “Agents of SHIELD” has been working in two fronts this season. The main, and most important one, has been creating more interesting contexts for the pre-existing characters like Coulson, Fitz and Ward. At the same time, the show is introducing a lot of new characters on both the SHIELD and Hydra side of things. Some are still fairly minor in the scheme of things – Mac's primary function this week is to let Fitz subconsciously ogle his superhuman physique – but on the whole, the show has nicely balanced new and old, so that the show feels densely populated, but not too busy.

It helps when you have some excellent actors like Kyle MacLachlan and Adrianne Palicki involved. Palicki's long been a superheroine-in-waiting – one of the worst things about the awful David E. Kelley “Wonder Woman” pilot is that it forever ruined her chance to play the role with a good script – and she fits in very nicely as Bobbi Morse(*), who, as many predicted, turns out to be Hunter's oft-discussed ex. She's convincingly badass with Mockingbird's trademark battle staves, and the addition of yet another master fighter to the team will hopefully temper any desire the creative team has to use Ward as anything but the monster in the basement. 

(*) I understand why shows like this make a big deal out of casting announcements for characters lifted from the comics, as it provides an extra round of publicity and gets the comics fans (or “Friday Night Lights” fans) excited. But when you make it so public that Palicki will be playing a SHIELD agent and sometime-superheroine from the comics, you then erase all suspense from all the scenes where Simmons is supposed to be afraid of this tall, imposing Hydra security expert. Going forward, I think the writers have to assume that any pre-existing hero or villain they add will have been heavily publicized before they appear on the show, and not treat their identity as a secret for half their introductory episode.

As Skye's erratic, superhumanly homicidal father – any theories on what, if any, Marvel character he's supposed to be, kids? – MacLachlan was terrific this week. The mystery of Skye's parentage interests me a lot less than the show wants it to – especially since the thought of meeting her father briefly sends Skye off the reservation, when she arguably needs a much longer period of acting like a genuine SHIELD agent after a lot of last year's brattiness and other shenanigans – but if it happens to function as a delivery system for one of our great eccentric actors to play a weird role note quite any he's done, I'm on board with that.

Lifting Simmons out of Hydra only five episodes into the season – and in only the second episode where we get an extended look at her undercover role – seems a bit of a waste of an interesting situation. (I liked the idea that she would sacrifice her supervisor's life to save her own – though the guy's comment in an earlier scene about how cool it would be to kill millions or billions was no doubt there so Simmons and the audience wouldn't feel so bad about that.) On the other hand, bringing her back into the fold helps streamline a show that now has a lot of pieces, and if there was more mileage in SImmons as a double agent, the show had probably run out of road for Ghost Simmons.

There was nothing tonight as cool as last week's May vs. May smackdown, but “A Hen in the Wolf House” maintained the strong forward momentum this season has had.

What did everybody else think? Is Coulson's operation getting overpopulated, or is it the more, the merrier?

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