Agents of SHIELD TV Reviews

TV Review: Agents of SHIELD, “The Bridge” (S1/EP10) – Did Skye’s Crying Make You Happy?

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

Agents Shield Bridge Coulson Centipede
Credit: ABC/Justin Lubin
  • Airdate: 12/10/2013
  • Director: Holly Dale (Dexter, Cold Case, The Collector)
  • Writer: Shalisha Francis (4 Episodes of Castle, SHIELD debut)

This is it.  This is the last Agents of SHIELD episode until January, 1/7 /14 to be exact.  This is the moment when shows typically go all out, put the petal to the metal, turn it up to 11, and try to blow our socks off so that we’ll be absolutely aching to see what happens next during the show’s month-long absence from our screens.  SHIELD both did and did not do that.  They gave us a big cliffhanger ending meant to leave us wanting more, but it seems odd to say it but in an episode which featured a prison breakout, a fight scene in a warehouse, and a literally explosive finale this episode seemed to meander more than most.  Rather than drive full speed ahead, they stayed in the slow lane,  going fast enough to advance the plot more than usual but focusing more making sure we revisit all of the primary character dynamics at play here.  So, we spend time touching on Skye (search for parents), Grant and May (more than friends with benefits?), Fitz and Simmons (he doesn’t like her flirting with the new guy), and Coulson.  Plus, they even spend time establishing the odd relationship between our villains, going so far as to even try and make us feel slightly sympathetic for Raina (Ruth Negga).

Agents Shield Bridge Centipede
Credit: ABC/Justin Lubin

The result, at least for me, was not an episode which left me wanting more but instead an hour of television that made me question why I even watch this show.  Agents of SHIELD is not a horrible show.  It’s a work in progress, whose ups and downs in its first 10 episodes are more noticeable than most considering the intense microscope under which the show operates.  EW recently joked that SHIELD is now a show most people have abandoned, and those who still watch mostly immediately take to the internet to discuss ways to improve the show.  That probably hits a little close to home for me since I have to this point written a review for every single episode.  However, I increasingly struggle to muster up any great enthusiasm for the show, even as I note in my weekly reviews that ways the show has improved.  I am passionate about the Marvel brand, but in no way about the characters or universe of SHIELD, not even Coulson anymore.  That’s not to say that I flat out dislike these characters.  I’m just not overly invested in them.  If this eventually went the way of Misfits or the UK Being Human and at some point I looked up to see a mostly entirely different cast I’d miss some of those written out, but I’d also likely welcome the re-set.

So, why do I keep watching?  Brand loyalty?  Joss Whedon loyalty even though he’s not really that involved with this show?  Memories of how long it took a personally beloved Whedon show like Angel to pull it all together?  Memories that although Dollhouse was mostly dreadful and creepy it did pull it together for an amazing run of episodes at the end of its first season?  The joy to be had from seeing Joss Whedon actors like J. August Richards show up in supporting roles?  A sense of obligation?

Honestly, it’s all of those things.  However, there are simply so many other genre shows around right now that are more deserving of our attention than Agents of SHIELD, such as Almost Human, The Tomorrow People, Arrow, and Sleepy Hollow.  Plus, there are many more just around the corner that look promising (Helix on SyFy, Resurrection on ABC, Believe on NBC, The 100 and Star-Crossed on The CW).  Just because SHIELD stars the guy who was awesome comic relief in Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers, and we have to keep watching to see how he is even alive after Loki killed him in The Avengers is not good enough anymore. In fact, it may have never been good enough to begin with, at least the “how is he alive?” mystery.

Let’s look at the plot of the episode:

THE MAIN PLOT

The cold open? Centipede breaks their boss out of prison, although he’s such a douchebag he won’t leave until the soldier rescuing him acknowledges the chain of command and refers to him as “sir.”

The stuff on the plane? Skye is making progress on her search for her mother, but is a little put out when Coulson says he’s had Melinda looking into it.  Meanwhile, Melinda and Ward spar and banter about how great their sex has been (more or less).

The case? Guy broken out of is prison is evil since the dawn of time.  The lead soldier who rescued him was caught on a security camera, and using facial recognition software SHIELD ID him and track down his only living relative, a sister.

The new guy? Mike (Richards) from the pilot is recruited to the team to be a field agent since the case involves centipede, and he’s a bit of an expert on that subject since they gave hims his powers and everything.  Coulson thinks it’s a good move, nobody else but Skye does.  Mike shows up and is a generally good guy, although don’t ask him about his son because he will rave about him only to trail off at the end as if in deep sad thought.  Fitz/Simmons discover they actually saved Mike’s life in the pilot, as the weapon they designed is what stabilized him and prevented him from overheating.

Agents Shield Bridge Coulson Mike
Credit: ABC/Justin Lubin

The action? After a detour with the soldier’s sister, the team traces a cell phone signal to Oakland where Centipede has set a trap for them, making it appear like a standard air hanger with storage containers only to have their soldiers pop out and kick ass.  Mike saves Coulson and the rest of the team, but they basically get their asses handed to them.  Mike is wounded in the process, and, frankly, it’s not clear why Centipede had their soldiers abandon the mission because they could have clearly killed everyone and taken the wounded Mike with them.

The plot twist? Centipede discovers that their prior test subject, Mike, has somehow stabilized.  They would very much so like to use him to figure out how to stabilize their own soldiers.  So, Raina abducts his son and blackmails him.

The second plot twist? There’s supposed to be a handoff whereby Mike volunteers himself to Centipede, and they will hand over his son.  But, wait, they and Mike lied.  The real deal was that if he handed over Coulson they’d give him his son and let them both walk away no question asked.

Agents Shield Bridge Coulson Centipede
Credit: ABC/Justin Lubin

The cliffhanger? Mike rushes back to try and rescue Coulson, things go boom, Mike’s son is now likely an oprhan, Coulson is abducted by Centipede, and stupid Ward gets shot down from his vantage point as a sniper.

The pre-credits stinger? Coulson is stoic and brave on the helicopter taking him away before Raina mentions knowing about his death.  Clark Gregg then does an astonishingly underplayed “surprise face” reaction.

Oh, also, Melinda makes Skye cry at one point, Simmons does the Felicity/Oliver from Arrow thing with Mike, and there’s some nonsense about a clairvoyant and Rain..ah, who cares.

WHAT I LIKED

07734_00gunn_122_965lo_595_slogo
J. August Richards as Gunn in the fifth season of Angel

–Seeing J. August Richards in a suit reminded me of season 5 of Angel.  Actually, in general, I enjoyed his performance this episode, although I think they were working a little hard to beat home the anguished father angle.

–The opening scene with the prison breakout was a lot of fun, as the notion of Centipede just literally dropping in a maximum security prison and then breaking out toot sweet established their position as general badasses.

–Melinda’s barely restrained anger when told that Coulson said she’d help Skye with her search for her parents.   

–To this point, I don’t know that Simmons had even indicated she possessed a sex drive whatsoever, as her hints of a romance with Fitz are more sweet and romantic than lustful.  As such, it was possibly jarring but kind of fun seeing her get a new shading in her Felicity Smoak-like awkwardness around Mike.  The way Elizabeth Henstridge mouthed the line “No, thank you!” after Mike tried on his costume was hilarious.

–I’ve always heard there was more back story to the brief conversation between Pepper and Coulson about his girlfriend the cello player in The Avengers.  As in, it was a reference to a comic book I haven’t read.  As such, although it was arguably extraneous the conversation between Coulson and Ward about the women they’ve loved and left was certainly a “so, that’s what that was all about” moment for me.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

–About that conversation, I am not sure if they were really driving on an actual street, or if it was in front of a green screen.  However, it distracted me to no end that it appeared as if they were pretty much driving completely straight with no turns or lane changes and Clark Gregg kept drastically turning his almost novelty-sized wheel.  It completely pulled me out of the scene.

Agents Shield Bridge Mike Choke
Credit: ABC/Justin Lubin

–There are good ways to do twists, and there are bad ways.  The first twist involving Raina with Mike’s son was fine enough, predictable as it was.  The second twist, though, didn’t completely work for me.  The moment where Raina and her boss view the surveillance footage and observe Mike standing over Coulson is obviously meant as a misdirection.  Raina observes that Mike has somehow stabilized his powers, and thus he has given them the answer they need for Phase 3.  We are meant to think that means they want Mike.  However, instead, it is Coulson they want, and he was on the surveillance footage.  As such, it’s supposed to be surprising when it turns out Centipede’s deal with Mike was actually to get access to Coulson, but something which makes sense upon re-watch.  Whether or not this actually works in the long term will depend on where they go with this from here.  However, this episode made such a big deal about Mike’s powers having been stabilized by Fitz and Simmons, and Centipede’s progress being hindered by the need to constantly attend to their soldiers.  They made such a big deal out of it, in fact, that we should have always expected a twist.  But Centipede needing Mike makes far more sense at the moment than them wanting Coulson.

–If you seriously want us to believe Coulson is in trouble or won’t be around for a while don’t show us footage of him back working with the team in the trailer for the second half of the season.

–Raina has been an interesting villain so far.  The new guy?  Not even close.

Agents Shield Bridge May Down
Credit: ABC/Justin Lubin

–Melinda May’s lashing out at Skye felt odd after last week’s episode ended with the two of them on somewhat friendlier terms.  Her reaction was likely one of frustration as well as tied to the timing of Skye’s intrusion coming immediately after Melinda had a lover’s spat with Ward.  Plus, her point about Skye needing to focus on the task at hand is valid.  However, I didn’t completely buy that Skye’s reaction would be to have a good cry about it in her room, with Coulson deciding at the last moment not to interfere.

–Maybe there was no other vantage point for him to be located, but am I the only who watched Ward’s difficulty with finding a target with his sniper rifle due to obstruction and thought, “Wouldn’t he have already known exactly where his blind spots were and been completely prepared for them?”  It proceeded mostly as we’ve seen in countless other scenarios involving a sniper struggling to lock on, but I kept thinking that SHIELD agents are supposed to be better than that.  Then, almost as an afterthought, Ward got  shot, which happened so suddenly I honestly laughed a little bit.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Now is the time to stop and re-evaluate whether or not SHIELD deserves our continued attention when it returns in a month.  In “The Bridge,” they attempted to tie together all of their loose story threads and give us status updates on the ongoing storylines, which is understandable but let down by the fact that all of their ongoing storylines are kind of horrible.  Now, they’ve left off by removing Coulson from the main team, and promising through their advertising that we’ll finally get an answer about how Coulson is even still alive after Loki went all stabby-stabby on him.  It continues to be a show which improves one week, then takes a step back the next, seeming as if in response to criticism the producers just doubled-down and announced, “Listen, you are going to watch us drag this Coulson thing out even longer, and you will fall in love with Skye eventually!”  But if we ignore the Marvel connection and Joss Whedon pedigree, is this a show worth watching anymore?  We’ll have a month to think about it.

THE NOTES

1. Have You Looked at the Ratings Lately? 

After improving for two consecutive episodes, the overnight ratings for “The Bridge” are dreadful.  In the key 18-49 age demographic, viewership plummeted over 22% with a total of 5.93 million viewers, a series low.  It went out not with a bang but a whimper.

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

All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from ABC.GO.COM.

6 comments

  1. Thanks again for the link, much appreciated. I’m in the same boat in that I question my loyalty to the show. A part of it is the supposed connection to Joss Whedon but he’s not really involved in the show after the pilot.

    I also found it odd that Ward didn’t position himself with a better view. But then again I’m not sure who he was planning on sniping during the exchange. Maybe just providing backup fire power from afar?

    I enjoyed the addition of Mike to the team. It makes me want to see new agents permanently join the team to mix things ups. I’m surprised the ratings weren’t higher for a mid-season finale.

    Do you plan on sticking with the show or reviewing episodes in the second half of the season? .

    1. It’s kind of funny – I thought that maybe I was being too hard on the show with Ward’s incompetent sniping at the end. However, I’ve now seen several other reviews make the same exact observation, which leads me to believe that I wasn’t merely engaging in needless nitpicking.

      Mike was an interesting new wrinkle to the dynamic of the show, and although he may be gone we know they are going to introduce two new recurring agents in just a couple of episodes. Based upon the experience with Mike, I think the new characters could help things immensely, potentially joining full time if they are good enough AND if the show gets a second season.

      I was largely talking to myself in my review, as at this moment I don’t honestly know if I am going to stick with this show. I am probably too invested at this point to stop watching completely, but I don’t know if I want to keep writing reviews for every episode. For one thing, my passion for/loyalty to this show is waning. For another thing, I enjoyed checking out your reviews and you checking out mine. However, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in my reviews of the show. For example, my latest Arrow review is the most read item on the site today whereas the one for Shield has been viewed just twice. It’s sort of turning into one of those situations the AV Club sometimes encounters where they have to announce they will stop covering a specific show because the reader interest just was not there enough to justify the continued usage of time and manpower. Plus, I look at the various agencies which chart social media activity for different shows, and there are shows I watch and like (such as Sleepy Hollow) that people clearly love talking/reading about way more than they do Agents of SHIELD.

      I haven’t decided if I’ll continue covering the show or not. At the moment, I am thinking about waiting until the show is about to come back in January and doing a “Why I Have Given Up on Agents of SHIELD” or “Why I Am Sticking with Agents of SHIELD” article, depending on which of those two directions I decide to go. Lacking that, it’s also possible I could continue writing reviews but far shorter ones, quick-hitters so to speak, or maybe just a serious of stray observations to the latest episode with no plot recap whatsoever. I am, obviously, still figuring it all out. But thanks for reading.

      1. I’ll keep watching the show but I’m also having second thoughts about reviewing each episode for many of the same reasons as you. I have a very, very small but I think regular following on my AOS reviews so I’m unsure if I should stop reviewing the show – not because of getting a handful of extra views but just out of loyalty. I spend a fair amount of time reading blogs and one thing I’ve learned about myself which may be true for others is that a well written or interesting post may get my attention but it’s the connection with the blogger that gets me hooked as a loyal reader. Anyways, whatever your decision is about reviewing AOS I’ll still be checking in on your blog. Btw, thanks for taking the time to comment back and discussing blogger stuff which I normally don’t get to do with other bloggers. 🙂

      2. It’s exactly because of that loyalty to which you refer that I am so reluctant to just stop reviewing the episodes entirely. Including you, I have had a couple of other people respond to my reviews of SHIELD to indicate that they like reading my reviews. So, if I were to finally give up on the show I would certainly not do so without explaining why in the manner I hinted at (i.e., a “This is Why I’ve Given Up…” article).

        However, most guides for blogging I’ve read support your viewpoint, which is that the most consistent method to gain new readers/retain old ones is to build up loyalty by providing reliable high-quality content on a hyper-focused subject matter delivered on a reliable schedule (e.g., readers know that your review of an episode will be up the next morning/review of a movie up by the end of opening weekend).

        A month or so after I even started this website the new season of Doctor Who started, and I decided to not necessarily completely review the episodes but provide my reactions and analysis. And then after maybe the third episode I stopped because I didn’t like where the show was going, and it kind of depressed me as a fan to write anything more about it. However, that was a mistake. I am sure I lost a couple of readers who thought they could come back every week to see my take on the latest episode, as my frustration might have mirrored their own (or the opposite, of course). So, that memory has been guiding me sticking with SHIELD thus far, and will certainly influence what I decide by the time the show returns.

  2. That driving scene was ridiculous. It looked like a driver’s training video from 1983. Here they are driving down, what is supposed to be a street in Ohio, but looks remarkably like a tiny residential 25mph side street in Mar Vista or the SFV. They never stop, blow throu a stop sign, never, turn, never hit a throughway, aren’t speeding, slowing, nothing, nada. They casually have some weird conversation about understanding women in their g-man suits. Yet Caulson’s hands are driving like he’s either racing, on the bumpiest road in the world, or lost his steering column connection to drivetrain. It seemed like it had some continuity considering old car + speed, but that backround and context was soooo bad! The ADs, location managers and script supers need to pow wow. That was bad! Just lame filler that didn’t establish anything.

    1. That scene is total garbage. You’ve described why better than I did in my review. Clark Gregg’s handling of that steering wheel reminded me of the way an excited kid who knows nothing about actual driving would turn a wheel – you know, if the car was in park and the kid somehow ended up in the driver’s seat or something. Maybe the scene was butchered in editing, and his handling of the wheel originally made more sense. However, practically every review I’ve seen of this episode has commented upon the horribly distracting and amateur hour driving scene. If we all noticed it, how the heck did nobody on the show do the same?

      I am slightly more forgiving of the actual intent of the scene. The conversation they share, in my reading of it anyway, was meant to establish Ward might actually have feelings for May thus meaning in their confrontation later he lies about not letting his affections get the best of him. Plus, it provides more weight to Coulson’s continued insistence with Mike that he think long and hard about whether or not he is really willing to risk his personal life and family to be an agent. Through The Avengers, we knew that Coulson apparently had a girlfriend in Portland. Now we know that he lost the relationship as a result of his life in the agency, although more specifically because of whatever the hell SHIELD did to him to bring him back to life.

      That is all to say, though, that I understand the intent of the scene. It was our first hint as to whether there is any actual affection between May and Ward, and deepened the personal cost to Coulson of SHIELD and added weight to his conversation with Mike about family. That’s all what it was meant to do. However, I don’t know that any of that was actually necessary. If so, surely there was a better way of doing it than that horrible driving scene.

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