Review: ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ – ‘FZZT’

A review of last night’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” coming up just as soon as I menacingly offer you a cookie…

Drew McWeeny remains HitFix’s regular “SHIELD” reviewer, and his take on “FZZT” went up last night. But since I wrote about the general problems with “SHIELD” last week, and since the show’s producers were on Twitter yesterday expressing an extra level of pride in “FZZT,” I figured I would see whether actual improvements were being made.

And there were some very clear tweaks happening. First, the scientists busting out their impressions of Ward – and, later, Ward imitating them imitating him – suggests everyone recognizes what a boring action figure he’s been to this point. I don’t know that giving Ward a sense of humor (and/or self-awareness) is a cure-all, nor if Brett Dalton can consistently play that, but Ward was less bothersome last night. Also, if you’re going to have a guy on the team who’s essentially a superhero but without super powers, it helps to up the degree of difficulty of his big action beats; the special effects on his mid-air dive to catch Simmons were middling,(*) but the idea was cool enough to work.

(*) And if the show had a bigger budget, would it have made more sense for Ward or Fitz to just use Coulson’s flying car for the rescue?

Of course, Ward was also less bothersome because “FZZT” put the focus onto Fitz, Simmons and Coulson. For the most part, the Coulson stuff continued to perpetuate the idea that what is he is more important to the writers than who he is, but the scene with the doomed fireman was the first to generate any actual emotion out of the idea that Coulson knows what it’s like to have died. It’s a puzzle the show wants to solve, but it’s also something that has understandably messed up our fearless leader.

As for FitzSimmons, this was a start, at least. “FZZT” left us with a slightly better sense of their history, how they relate to each other beyond bickering and how they feel about their place on the team, but even after an episode where Simmons tried to sacrifice herself for the greater good, both she and Fitz still need more depth and shading than they have now. Had Ward failed to save her, Simmons’ death would have mattered in the sense of raising the stakes for the team and the series, but her loss even after her increased screentime in this hour wouldn’t have registered all that much.

But again, at least there was effort here, and an awareness that repeating the same rudimentary character dynamics in every episode couldn’t cut it. There’s much too much technobabble, and though I love the sound of Bear McCreary’s score, it feels like it’s better-suited to a grander, more ambitious show than this one, but there was progress. “FZZT” was no “Man on the Street” – the “Dollhouse” episode that finally presented a coherent and interesting vision for that show, and worked as a kick-ass episode besides – but it was the first installment of “SHIELD” to suggest the creative team was aware of what’s not working, even if they couldn’t solve every problem in a single installment.

I’ll leave things to Drew on a regular basis, and check back in if the show makes a significant leap forward. But as to “FZZT,” what did everybody else think?