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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: FZZT

"I don't sweat, I glisten."

This show has just been getting stronger and stronger lately.

This week the spotlight was on probably the series' most divisive characters – Fitz and Simmons. I like them, but can understand why others find them irritating. This was the first episode where we got to see them as actual three dimensional characters instead of occasionally adorable exposition machines. It was Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge's chance to shine and shine they did, Henstridge especially. She knocked it out of the park this week.

The case of the week involved a string of floating bodies (there goes that Fringe deja vu again). This wasn't the work of some crazed serial killer of a crazed scientist or a crazed serial killing scientist, but three normal guys who just had the bad luck to pick the wrong time to do some spring cleaning. Let this be a lesson to us all: next time aliens invade and get defeated by superheroes, don't keep any mementos.

The scene between Coulson and the final fire-fighter was great. Coulson could've just quarantined the place and left him all alone to die. That's what mean old by the book Agent Blake would've done. But he's an evil island smoke demon in human form so that's to be expected. Coulson, though, stayed to give this dying man what little comfort he could offer, even at the risks of being infected himself.

Once it was revealed that an alien virus was responsible, the great big book of storytelling clearly dictates that one or more of the team will become infected. And sure enough, random items started to float around poor Jemma Simmons. One of the problems with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that it can come across as too safe. We've seen the team in many dangerous situations, but there's never been any sense that they were ever in any real jeopardy. This was the first time they had to deal with the real possibility that one of them may die.

Having Joss Whedon's name above the door is a benefit in cases like this as I honestly started to think that Simmons would die. If anyone else's name was in the credits I would've known right away that a cure would be found in the nick of time and everything would be okay. Everything did turn out okay, but there were times I seriously felt like it wouldn't, such as when Simmons actually jumped out of the freaking plane. I thought she was a goner then for sure.

It's nice that we're getting more interaction between Coulson and May. Of the trio of double-acts the series has given us, this one is by far my favourite. I've been focused on May or someone else figuring out something is wrong with the Coulson; I never thought that Coulson might start to think the same thing himself. I am starting to worry that they're going to drag this storyline out for the whole season. While some of the other storylines have shown some progression, this one has continued to move at the pace of a extremely lazy snail. Is he a Life Decoy Model? Was he resurrected via black voodoo magic? Is he a clone created using alien technology? Tell us something. You can't keep posing the question and then leave us with nothing.

Intel and Assets

--This first time ever we have seen Phil Coulson out of his suit.

--On a semi-related note, Clark Gregg was nice enough to retweet one Sunbunny's tweets on our official Twitter feed:

--Everyone's impressions of Ward were rubbish, especially Ward's.

--Titus Welliver's Agent Blake first appeared in the Marvel One-Shot 'Item 47', which appeared on The Avengers Blu-ray.

Coulson: "Little heavy on the iron. But don't worry, you don't have to start calling me Iron Man."
--Don't give up your day job, Phil.

Skye: "This guy makes Captain America look like the Dude."

Three out of four evil island smoke demons in human form who shop at Josie's Trader Joe's (whatever the hell a Trader Joe's is).


  1. It is a small grocery store.

    Is this a signal flare? :-)

  2. I hope they will get the soundtrack available eventually. The music is simply excellent.

  3. "whatever the hell a Trader Joe's is"

    That is the saddest thing I've ever seen.

    I think this was my favorite so far. Like you, I was half convinced Simmons was done for. It certainly wouldn't be the first character Joss killed off early just to prove he can.

    Did anyone else think Fitz's attempts at flirting with Skye were weird?

    Coulson tells corny dad jokes. That's so freaking adorable. I'm glad he's suspicious of his miraculous recovery. It would be weird if he weren't.

    Great review! I'm really not into superhero stuff at all so it helps to have the insights of someone who knows that "Titus Welliver's Agent Blake first appeared in the Marvel One-Shot 'Item 47'" (but sadly, not what a Trader Joe's is).

  4. Well, like you, I was no way near certainty that Simmons would survive. Unlike you, I didn't give a damn. I think it's better to make a character three-dimensional BEFORE you put xer in a mortal danger, not the other way around. Fitz, accordingly, did show some improvement, but not Simmons.

    Clark Gregg is a superb actor. Him giving Simmons a hard time, but deliberately NOT convincing anyone was incredible.

    Unfortunately, the whole virus thing is so cliche — well, it won't be if Simmons actually died — that it's uncomfortable to watch.

  5. I didn’t like “Girl in The Flower Dress”, but this one was more like it.

    Fitz and Simmons have been adorable from the start, so having the focus on them was a plus. Elizabeth Henstridge was great through the whole thing, and I got all emotional when she asked Coulson to contact her father. I also noticed some romantic sparks between Simmons and Ward. They would make an interesting couple.

    I’m not into the show yet, though. I tried to watch this episode keeping in mind what AoS is: a procedural with nice characters based on The Avengers ‘verse. It’s a nice show, but not meaty enough.

  6. BY FAR the strongest episode of the series up to this point, especially from a character perspective. I think all of the cast gave their strongest performances to date in this episode, not to mention a very moving if brief performance by the actor playing that last firefighter.

    I think Skye was done just right this week, especially considering the episode wasn't focused on her. It's totally in character for her to be a little resistant about the monitoring bracelet, but deep down she knows how badly she screwed up, so she's not going to put up too much of a fight.

    Like Skye, this wasn't really Ward's episode, since as he said, it wasn't a person who was responsible. Someone he could hit. They've touched on that theme with Ward a couple of times so far. An agent trained to handle difficult situations on his own, now finding himself in situations beyond his skillset, learning to depend on the skills of others. I think that may be part of why he holds more animosity towards Skye for what she did. It took more for him to extend her his trust.

    Ming-Na Wen proved that she deserves the People's Choice Award nomination she recently received. There is such a quiet power to her performance of Melinda May, and her scenes with Clark Gregg were amazing this week. And of course, you had to chuckle when Ward & Coulson were discussing how to get in the bard and she just kicks the door open. And seriously, can you believe Ming-Na is about to turn 50 later this month? So not fair.

    Speaking of Coulson, Clark Gregg was incredible this week. Besides his work with Ming-Na Wen, his scene with the fireman was lovely. The writing and the performances were superb, rivaling the best emotional scenes from previous Mutant Enemy shows.

    And finally, FitzSimmons. The two of them were definitely at their best this week. I know some people have found these two annoying, I've found them charming for the most part. Of the six people on the plane, these two obviously have the tightest bond. I'm not sure if I'd ever want it to become something romantic, I think I like the idea of them being more like best friends/family/two halves of a whole.

    I know some people were genuinely wondering if Simmons was going to survive, this being a Joss Whedon show & all, and I get that. I was 99% certain however, since Elizabeth Henstridge was live-tweeting the episode with Ming-Na & Iain from Iain's trailer. Actually, on any given week you'll usually find some if not most of the cast live-tweeting the episode during either the East or West coast airing, it's pretty cool. The Grimm cast is also particularly active(and amusing) on Twitter.

  7. I loved Ward diving out of the plane after Simmons.

    This series is slowly improving every week. And Ming-Na is awesome.

    And so are you, Mark. Loved the review.

  8. I definitely liked this one better than last week's. Clearly, I prefer the show in Alias mode over superhero mode. And overall the character dynamics were much stronger this week, so I found it fairly engaging. My favorite moments were (1) Fitz and Simmons sitting back to back on opposite sides of the glass, silently trying to process and cope with her situation; and (2) Simmons accepting the situation and asking Coulson to tell her dad the news first. The way she bravely accepted that time was up and set about doing what was necessary was a wonderful demonstration of how the pasty lab rats can be just as strong as super tough Agents May and Ward.

    I also thought Coulson's scene with the firefighter and his later scene with May were fantastic. BUT ... I'm having a bit of trouble fully investing in those scenes and his character because we don't know what the deal is with his resurrection. I want to invest in Coulson, and his emotional turmoil following his death, but if this guy isn't the guy that died --- or even a guy at all --- than it is harder for me to invest in the "character journey." So, basically, I agree with Mark that they need to tell us something about what the deal is with Coulson. Sooner rather than later.

  9. More and more I'm thinking Coulson's death is exactly what it's been presented as: he suffered a mortal wound from Loki, SHIELD healed him with some advanced science but he was technically dead for a while. No mystery, just emotions and fears to be unpacked. To that end I'm loving May and Coulson: I like how she kicks doors in and can get to the heart of complicated emotions. Plus she gives the most intimidating plate of biscuits.

    I really thought Simmons was going to die. She was wonderful and it was a beautiful bit of acting by Elizabeth Henstridge. Her fear and her courage were palpable and I was genuinely on the edge of my seat which doesn't happen with TV these days. I'm very much in the loving Fitz/Simmons camp: I've just said to a mate that it's like having Willow and Xander back and that's glorious.

    More like this please.

  10. I'd agree. Best episode so far. It reminded me of Belonging in that it relied heavily on the supporting casts because main heroine Skye and our main hero Ward just aren't that compelling of characters yet. Frankly, I didn't think that Simmons or Fitz were either until this episode. I didn't even think that the series was worth my time until this episode. Now, I will continue to watch.

    And of course I liked the scene's between Coulson and May. Maybe that's it. You can feel a connection between Coulson and May and one between Fitz and Simmons but there's nothing between Ward and Skye. Chemistry 101.

  11. I love FitzSimmons! I love a good blue character (see http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily/mr84). But Joss Whedon would never kill off a lovable scientist with a virus... oh wait... that's exactly what he did in Angel.

  12. I'm finally catching up with this show. I spent the first half of Simmon's illness wondering when they were going to find the cure. I then remembered who is in charge of this show and I started to cry. I have adored this character from the beginning and I was sure she was gone -- especially after that jump from the plane.

    Great acting and writing throughout this episode. The first one that I invested in completely.

  13. The title of this episode just struck me. "FZZT" sounds a lot like Fitz who was, indeed, the true hero this episode.

  14. Chris, I'm also just now getting around to this show. After watching the pilot on Hulu right after it was broadcast, I wasn't particularly charmed. It had some Whedonesque qualities but seemed like run-of-the-mill TV (something I just don't care to make time for). Now I've been catching up and I'm finding that it's really growing on me.

    I was sure that Simmons was toast - and I almost wish that had happened. Don't get me wrong, I like Fitz-Simmons; they are more interesting to me than our rather bland leads (Skye and Ward). But her death would've been a brave storytelling choice, and instead we got the cliched miraculous nick-of-time antiserum and everything's suddenly reset to "TV Land normal."

    I was glad to not lose the character, but it seemed to reinforce that this show isn't going to present any real peril, and when the stakes are low . . . it'll be hard to maintain interest. Hopefully it gets better.

  15. Scott - It *so* does. It takes a while, but stick in there. I promise it's worth it.


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