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- 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).
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.
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.
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
–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.
–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.
–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.
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.
- Agents of SHIELD – The Bridge (soipondered.wordpress.com)
- Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 10: “The Bridge” Review (sidekickreviews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Mid-Season Finale Review: “The Bridge” (screencrush.com)