A review of tonight's “Agents of SHIELD” coming up just as soon as I bring you a Sky Mall catalog…
Last week, I felt frustrated that the show seemed to again be putting its own stories on hold to set up things in the movies – though I think that had as much to do with the creative lull the show has been in since the hiatus as anything else. The tie-in with “Winter Soldier” had enormously helped “Agents of SHIELD,” but the show seemed to be backsliding in quality the deeper it got into this season and the more it was serving movie agendas with the Inhumans and Theta Protocol. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (which I reviewed here) reveals – sort of – that Coulson arranged for Nick Fury to get a helicarrier, and the opening scene of “Scars” clarifies it.
The problem is, Joss Whedon (and perhaps some Marvel movie execs) decided that Coulson needed to stay “dead” as far as the movies were concerned, so Fury can't come out and say “Our old pal Phil Coulson got me this,” which means the TV show gets no reciprocal benefit from the moment. “SHIELD” ratings aren't likely to spike at this point, but there was at least the chance of that happening if the latest blockbuster film tried pointing its audience back to the show. And by making Coulson's secret operation(*) – the one driving a wedge between him and May, and between him and Real SHIELD – into something that wouldn't happen on the show itself, but only appear in news footage from the events of the movie, it sucked a lot of the tension out of the whole arrangement. The fallout from “Winter Soldier” introduced tons of new plotlines and character arcs for the TV show to play with, while “Age of Ultron” mainly served as an excuse to swiftly wrap up the SHIELD vs. Real SHIELD feud without major emotional consequences for anyone. (Though we'll see if Mack actually quits or gets sucked back in due to Bobbi being in danger.) Not great, Bob.
(*) One of them, anyway. It's still not clear whether the stuff with the bunk beds and Coulson's collaboration with May's ex-husband also ties in to what we see at the end of “Age of Ultron” (which again couldn't be clarified because no one in the movies is allowed to refer to Phil by name), or if that's something that will be introduced on the show.
All that being said, “Scars” did some things very well. The fight between Bobbi and Agent 33 wasn't quite as impressive as Skye's killing spree last week, but was still a reminder that “SHIELD” can do good action when it sets a mind to it. And the double-movie with Raina and Jiaying was satisfying. I was worried that they were setting up Raina to be the kind of unchecked schemer character that some shows use just to generate plot and make other characters do stupid things, which is exactly what the show wanted me to think so I wouldn't suspect that she was telling the truth about the danger Jiaying was going to bring to them. I liked that Gonzales died while playing things mostly straight with the Inhumans; there were times during Edward James Olmos' tenure here where Gonzales came across as a strawman rival to Coulson, but his final scene gave a sense of the kind of agent who would inspire so much trust, and who would have provided real value to the operation now that the two SHIELDs had united.
Can the show plausibly stage a war between SHIELD and the Inhumans? Obviously, we can't expect anything on the scale of “Age of Ultron,” but after all the talk of the vast and varied threat of the Inhumans' powers, I fear it may feel like a letdown if the scale of things winds up being too small. Remember when there was all the build-up about the team discovering an underground alien city, only it turned out to be a bunch of unremarkable-looking stone tunnels? We'll have to wait and see how much they attempt this time, and how much they can genuinely pull off.
Some other thoughts:
* So Simmons feels guilty over letting Ward go, but not in the slightest about accidentally murdering Bakshi? That would be interesting if the idea was that she was becoming much harder-edged – that, unlike Fitz's comment, she was no longer clearly better than the people they were fighting – but that FitzSimmons scene seemed to be shrugging that off entirely and presenting her as the same old Jemma.
* So the Doctor's super-strength is not only the result of a chemical he ingests, but one he needs to frequently take. Wondering if we'll see May or someone else on the team drink from one of those vials during a particularly hairy clash with the Inhumans.
* I missed those nutty Koenig brothers, or whatever they are. (And the music playing over Sam's morning routine was either a very strong hint or the show messing with people.)
* May feels sad about the Bus's destruction, but Coulson makes a good and funny point: “But if you think about it, mostly terrible stuff happened on that thing.”
What did everybody else think?