TV Review: Agents of SHIELD, “Repairs” (S1/EP9) – Here Comes the Dimly Lit Calvary

Shield Repairs May

To read our other Agents of SHIELD episode reviews please go here.

Shield Repairs May

  • Airdate: 11/26/2013
  • Director: Billy Gierhart (The Walking Dead, Torchwood, Sons of Anarchy)
  • Writer(s): Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon (SHIELD’s co-creators and co-show-runners)

The first handful of SHIELD episodes seemed designed to establish the universe of the show, its tone, and a general idea of who these characters and how they’ll interact with one another.  A big weakness of those episodes was their dependence upon the character of Skye to be an audience surrogate figure who quite often felt superfluous to the plot and was just generally annoying, like a modern Wesley Crusher to the rest of the team’s crew of the Enterprise.  However, ever since the fifth episode they’ve designed stories meant to tell us a little more about one individual character at a time.  In quick succession now we’ve had showcases for Skye (“Girl in the Flower Dress”), Simmons (“FZZT”), Fitz (“The Hub”), and Grant (“The Well”).  With “Repairs,” it was finally Melinda May’s turn, i.e., the most unknowable character on the show to this point.  The result was perhaps heavier on other characters simply talking about May than expected, but the mostly stand alone “Repairs” indicated SHIELD might be at their best in episodic form as opposed to serialized.  In the long term, that’s not good.

THE MAIN PLOT

Once, there was this girl who…seems to have telekinetic superpowers after an accident at her job as safety inspector at a particle accelerator facility killed four people.  Her apparent powers fire up whenever she is threatened, causing an explosion at a gas tank and propelling a police car at an angry crowd gathered outside her house.  Various members of our SHIELD team bicker over whether or not the girl truly has telekinetic powers, but either way they seek her out in her ill-defined Midwestern town and bring her in, just in the nick of time too from the looks of the angry crowd threatening her.  They tell her, “Look, you clearly picked up an ability from that accident with the particle accelerator,” she says, “I know, God abandoned me, and now I am being haunted by demons.  You shouldn’t have taken me – now the demon will get to you, too” to which our agents reply, “Whoa.  Didn’t see that coming.  Hold on.  We’re going to the other room now to talk about how crazy you are.”

That about takes us up to the episode’s halfway point, which is almost always where SHIELD drops its big plot twist.   This week, the big twist is that the girl does not have telekinetic abilities at all.  Instead, Simmons discovers the particle accelerator accident created a tear in space, trapping one of the victims between our universe and another one.  He only sometimes becomes visible in our universe, meaning to the poor girl it sure must have seemed like a haunting.  The “ghost” proceeds to cut power the plane and hunt down each member of the team, seemingly because they have the girl locked away in a compartment of the plane he can’t get into.

Shield Repairs Prison

So homey.

It comes down to him and Melinda with everyone else locked away, but yet again our geniuses had it wrong.  The ghost isn’t trying to hurt the girl; he’s protecting her.  He, in fact, loves her.  The accident only happened in the first place because he continually unloosened some stray screws just so the girl as part of her job would arrive to fix it, which he describes as having been the best part of his day.  After the accident, he attempted to atone for his sins by protecting her, but inadvertently hurt more people in the process.  Melinda convinces him the sins will live with him for the rest of his days, and that he needs to let the poor girl go.  In the end, ’twas love that felled the beast.

Oh, and Fitz and Simmons tried to prank Skye because…ah, who cares.  Melinda and Grant’s relationship is more than just a one-time thing, but it appears to be physical-only and they are good at keeping it secret.  And Skye thinks Melinda’s just a big old meanie head until she hears the story of how she got the nickname “calvary” at which point Skye wants to watch her fly the plane and be pals.

WHAT I LIKED

Shield Repairs Crazy

–The notion of the team encountering a seemingly super-powered individual who had concocted their own religious explanation for their affliction was well-conceived.  Plus, the “well, I didn’t expect that” expressions on Melinda and Coulson’s faces after they heard the girl claiming to be haunted by demons was priceless while staying true to character.  However, this could have been better developed.  In other word, they ignored a lot of story potential here in the wake of the religious fundamentalist movement in the United States.  This could be your classic Star Trek-esque science vs. faith story line, centered on how exactly an agency such as SHIELD responds to that type of situation.  However, the episode seemed to want nothing to do with such highfalutin philosophizing, instead upholding both science and religion in presenting a plot twist that indicated the girl was right but it was still scientifically explainable.  There was more they could have done with it, but what they did do was entertaining.

–They went straight-up Nightcrawler from X2 on us, giving us a quasi-villain who could essentially teleport.  This resulted in remarkably well-done, both choreography and special effects, fight scenes in which “the ghost” would repeatedly take a punch only to simply teleport behind his attacker.  It seemed clear that with such an advantage every single member of that crew could arguably have been killed in the course of the episode had “the ghost” been truly evil. 

Shield Repairs May

–It has become abundantly clear that SHIELD’s strategy for utilizing its elevated budget from ABC is to go relatively all-out every other week and then compensate with smaller-scale, practical bottle episodes filmed mostly on existing sets.  “Repairs” falls into the latter category, and it made effective use of the show’s primary set, i.e., “The Bus.”  The second half featuring “the ghost” pursuing the crew like a supernatural stalker film villain was appropriately creepy and claustrophobic, with an inventive usage of lighting during his failed assault on Melinda.

–I don’t know that the backstory we finally received from Coulson about Melinda’s identity as “the calvary” was as compelling as it could have been.  It seemed pretty obvious that bad things went down, Melinda acted as a one-woman calvary and saved the day, and now she’s become the Terminator as a defense mechanism.  So, the details provided by Coulson could have been more captivating, but, honestly, they’re kind of irrelevent.  However, the way Clark Gregg sold the emotion of the moment and his protective affection for Melinda sold the scene.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

–For whatever reason, SHIELD is an incredibly dimly lit show, especially the scenes on the plane.  Whereas some shows might look at shadows and ask, “Can I get a little more light over there, please?” SHIELD appears to mostly ask, “Is there any way we could get even more shadows?”  As a result, they clearly rejoiced at making the plane and nighttime outdoor scenes look as dark as possible.  You could argue this made it all the more effective whenever the “ghost” would appear out of nowhere.  However, it would have been better for the composition of the shot to be better defined with us having a slightly clearer look at our surroundings before a black cloud seemed to appear out of nowhere.  In other word…on occasion it was kind of hard to see what was going on, regardless of the quality of your HDTV.

–Is it just me or in the span of only two episodes has Simmons just completely out of nowhere been turned into a skeptical scientist figure (aka the Scully), raising token objections as a member of the scientific community to the rest of the team so willy nilly accepting notions like telekinesis or magic metal staffs that make people go crazy?  Has she always had that and I just didn’t notice?  This to me seems like the gradual fleshing out of a character you get from a show as it progresses.  I neither like nor dislike it really; it just seems to have come out of nowhere.

–Fitz and Simmons trying to prank/haze Skye as they would if she were a newbie at their old University?  Not a terrible idea.  The execution?  Not very funny.  It did lead to a lovely albeit overly juvenile payoff with Melinda May.

Shield Repairs May Cold

–For what was supposed to be Melinda May’s showcase episode, most of it was still told us through Skye’s point of view, as the show still uses her as our surrogate figure.  Skye’s primary benefit to the team is apparently the heart she brings to their bureaucracy and science, a similar scenario to how the SyFy show Haven positions the central character of Audrey as possessing the necessary level of empathy to solve all the problems.  SHIELD showcased Skye’s newfound empathy in her attempts to console Grant last week, and gave her an emotional speech with the victim this week.  I appreciate and like it intellectually; however, Skye is still crazy easy to dislike.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Unburdened by advancing mystery or tieing into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of SHIELD was allowed to relax and give us a creepy episode in which a ghost-like figure hunted down our cast members in various sections of the plane.  There were some problems and it certainly seems as if SHIELD can’t quite figure out what kind of show it wants to be (as argued in the AV Club review of “Repairs”), which will hurt it in the long term.  In the short term, “Repairs” was an entertaining diversion.  However, now that we’ve had showcases for each individual character over the past five episodes do we actually like and genuinely care about the well being of these characters yet?  I’m warming to Simmons, am indifferent about Melinda, go back and forth on Grant, and would be totally fine if they killed off Fitz.  Coulson, of course, still carries plenty of hold-over affection from his Marvel Phase 1 films.

THE NOTES

1. Agent Coulson Hint(s) of the Week

Unless I missed it, there was no big or minor Coulson hint this week.

2. Have You Looked at the Ratings Lately? – An Update

SHIELD has been renewed for a full season.  However, its ratings have been incredibly alarming.  Prior to last week’s Thor: The Dark World tie-in episode, every episode of SHIELD had received fewer viewers than the episode that preceded it.  In other words, viewership has been going one direction: straight down.  It would have been incredibly alarming if this had continued with “The Hub” considering how much ABC hyped the episode’s tenuous connection to The Dark World.  Thankfully, the ratings did receive a bump, marking somewhat sadly Agents of SHIELD‘s first ever week-to-week gain in total overnight viewers.  The bump, however, was relatively minor, rising from 6.67 million total overnight viewers the week prior to 6.89 million total overnight viewers.  Still, instead of down the ratings finally went up.  We’ll take it.  The early word is that the ratings for “Repairs” also showed a week-to-week gain in overnight viewers.

What did you think?  Like it?  Hate it?  Let us know in the comments section.

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3 comments

  • Pingback: ‘Agents of SHIELD’ ratings stabilize and … improve? | THE EXTREMIS REVIEW

  • I really enjoy reading your reviews. It’s nice to hear other people’s perspectives. Repairs is a fairly entertaining episode. However, I still think there is a lot of room for improvement. As for Simmons, I only recently noticed her skepticism but it may have been hinted at in early episodes. I also didn’t think the pranks were funny but I did like May’s because it says something about her character. After all the character centric episodes, I feel May has the most potential right now. I was indifferent to her at first but I’ve gradually warmed up to her. Nice to see the ratings haven’t dropped lower. Thanks again for the link. Cheers!

    • Thanks for reading the reviews. I noticed that others were far harsher in their reviews of Repairs than I. However, in a mere two sentences you pretty much summed it up: it was a fairly entertaining episode, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I think that DVDs and Netflix and various other methods to binge-watch TV shows have made us collectively more impatient with shows than was the case in the past. As such, SHIELD is taking it on the chin right now for being such a high profile show that is so clearly taking a while now to figure things out. Joss Whedon’s first 2 shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, particularly Angel, both also struggled to get going. I kept watching, granted via DVD in both cases, because I liked the characters. For example, if an early Angel episode was a bit wobbly I at least knew that Charisma Carpenter was going to be incredibly funny throughout. I don’t quite have that with SHIELD yet. For one thing, humor is not their forte. What the Fitz/Simmons storyline in Repairs taught us is that those characters can be kind of sweet when they are together but they’re not funny. The way you make those characters funny is to separate them, as they have as of late (e.g., Simmons with Skye, Fitz with Grant). Beyond all that, I agree that May certainly poses great potential, and the practical jokes story line was terrible but saved for its connection to May in the end.

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