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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Bridge

"Where's Coulson?"

It's time for the mid-season finale, which is kinda like a season finale only not as epic or emotional. It's a diet finale, basically. That's not to say that mid-season finales are bad. Some are brilliant in fact, more brilliant than a season finale even. This episode, however, was not brilliant.

Even though ‘The Bridge’ was one of the series' strongest episodes yet, I still feel like it could’ve been better. While the characters continue to improve, the show continues to be plagued by horribly predictable plotting. The minute the bad guys called Mike I knew they were going to ask for Coulson. I can already see how the next episode will probably play out. The bad guys will torture Phil for information (possibly by placing him in an Italian style little village located in Wales). S.H.I.E.L.D. bosses will do nothing to save him. The entire team will say “fuck that” and go rogue to rescue him without any of them facing any serious consequences or losing their jobs. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really wants to hold onto my interest it is going to have to up its game. I'm still waiting for an episode that makes me want to grab my iPad and excitedly tweet "THAT WAS FUCKING AMAZING!" rather than "Well, that was alright, nowt special".

A finale of any kind means there's no more time for so-so case of the week malarkey. It's all story arcs and cliffhangers now. The organisation currently known as Caterpillar (until we can come up with a much better name for them) was back in a big way, sending its now explosion-proof super-soldiers to break out that guy from prison. Why was he even in prison in the first place? Sounds like he just got himself arrested on purpose. Do super-villains think of maximum security prisons the same way regular people think of spas?

The return of Caterpillar also lead to the return of Super Gunn, who was looking suspiciously like Lawyer Gunn in his standard issue SHIELD suit (are Wolfram & Heart the secret overlords of S.H.I.E.L.D.? That would be a twist). There isn't anything about Mike that wasn't a great big cliche, but it was difficult not to like the guy thanks to Richards' likeability. So of course he was brutally killed off in the final moments of the episode.

I'm holding out some small hope that his superpowers somehow saved him, but it doesn't look good. He's a genuinely nice person on a Joss Whedon show. Genuinely nice people get slaughtered on Joss Whedon shows. Honestly, why did he have to die? It should’ve been Ward, that way Mike could've joined the team full time as his replacement. He may not be a full trained specialist, but he's more likeable and looks much better in a suit.

While we still know virtually nothing about this Caterpillar group or what their ultimate goal is, right now we do know that they want the same thing all of us want and that is to know what happened to Coulson. See, writers, if you'd just told us already they could've easily just looked it up on Tumblr and all of this would've been avoided and Super Gunn would still be alive.

I don't know why they're looking so smug, though. Sure, their plan worked perfectly, but now Melinda May is making this face:

Guys, you're all going to die.

Intel and Assets

--I like that the implants were taking it out on the soldiers, draining them, forcing them to consume more food than normal. It is nice when superpowers have logical side effects.

--Despite his assurances to May that he can keep church and state separate (I'm assuming 'state' is the job and 'church' is where they have sex behind closed doors, although it could easily work the other way around), Ward's chat with Coulson in Lola about work and relationships seems to indicate otherwise.

--We now know that Caterpillar (seriously, we need a better name for these guys) were the ones who were controlling Akela in 'Eye Spy'. So what did they want with whatever the hell was written on that wall?

--Are we ever going to meet this mysterious cellist? You don't just have your hero wax lyrically about a lost love and leave it at that. It would be great if she was played by Jennifer Grey. Or Chris Evans in a dress.

Ward: "Having powers is cheating. But the suit's pretty cool."

Simmons: "When did you stop talking?"
Fitz: "About three embarrassing sentences ago."

Three out of four Lawyer Gunns.


  1. My guesses are two:
    A: Caterpillar is actually AIM and the "Clairvoyant" is a less grotesquely malformed MODOK, or perhaps MODOK before his transformation.

    B: It's HYDRA reborn.

  2. They actually seem more like AIM than HYDRA, what with all the mad scientist action going on.

    LOVE the joke about May's "you're all going to die" face, that had me busting out laughing :)

  3. I liked this one more than you, but Agents of SHIELD still hasn't really engaged me. It reminds me a lot of Dollhouse season one, which was overtaken by wayyyy too many vapid case of the week episodes and only got really good at the very end. In Dollhouse's case, the issue was studio meddling. I don't know if that's the problem here or if it's Joss's more hands off approach. Nothing will get me to stop watching the show, but at this point it's still out of blind loyalty to the Whedon clan and not because I'm really enjoying it.

  4. Totally agree, Mark. There are aspects of SHIELD I really like but I'm getting increasingly frustrated with the pedestrian plotting and predictable twists. Also, please never have someone talk about someone and then say "He's right behind me, isn't he?" Way overdone...

    So much potential being squandered is hard to watch. Come on SHIELD! You can do it!

  5. I'm actually gonna defend Fox on the Dollhouse stuff a little bit. I watched the original version of the pilot, and I didn't think it was all that great. Then again I thought Dollhouse as a whole was flawed. It had some really cool ideas, but I don't think there was a strong enough narrative frame to hold them together. It was all just a little too weird to expect the kind of ratings a broadcast network was looking for. It would have been better off on SyFy. Firefly probably would have done much better there too.

    Agents Of SHIELD actually does lend itself to case-of-the-week stories, in much the same way Star Trek: The Next Generation did. A team of heroes going from place to place, saving the day. And I think staying light on the mythology arc at first was the right thing to do, to give people a chance to find the show without feeling lost. I just wish the episodes had been stronger. Honestly, I think the biggest problem with the show was that they name-dropped Joss Whedon too much in the promotion for it, thus giving Whedonites(and Avengers fans) certain expectations. Taken on its own merits, I'm enjoying it quite a bit, and the teaser for the episodes when they come back definitely looks promising.

  6. After watching the previous episode, I started wondering what kind of the show the producers are trying to give us. It’s such a feel-good show. There’s something old school about the way these heroes save the day. They’re always doing The Right Thing, whether it’s saving the guy that’s about to explode instead of killing him (pilot), jumping from the plane to keep your buddies out of harm’s way (that good episode centered on Simmons), or telling the ghost to play nice and let the girl go (the previous episode). Also, there’s Coulson constantly saying how good his team is, and his faith in people. The characters, even though have troubled pasts, are the always stalwart good guys that Giles lied about to Buffy, and even Skye, who could be more shades of gray, is a nice little girl who wants to find her parents.

    That’s very different from other Whedon shows (or Whedon clan shows, because, let’s face it, there’s not a lot of Joss on Agents of SHIELD). On Buffy the vampire slayer, you had the title character struggling to accept her calling, and by episode seven you had Angel, a demon on his road of redemption. On Angel, you had the aforementioned Angel struggling with his inner demon. On Dollhouse you had pretty much the entire cast involved in a criminal organization that trafficked humans. Agents of SHIELD has nothing like that. It’s not about growing up and learning from your mistakes, it’s not about finding redemption, it’s not about questioning your real identity as a person. Maybe those themes can pop up, but I think the show the writers are trying to give us is a show where the good folks do the good thing and save the day. Like I said, old school. And ever since I came to that conclusion, I’ve got a new appreciation for the show. Because if that’s the story the writers are trying to tell, they’re actually doing a pretty good job.

    The downside of telling such a simple morality tale, though, is that your characters are not meaty enough. So far Agents of SHIELD characters are barely two dimensional and my appreciation of them varies a lot. Skye was likeable on this one, in spite of her very silly breakdown, Ward telling Melinda not to flatter herself was great, but Melinda almost spilling the beans to Skye pissed me off because that was information Coulson trusted her. That moment showed, however, that Melinda is not as in control of her emotions as she thinks she is (come to think of it, she’s so the Vulcan of this show, isn’t she?). Simmons having a crush on Mike was cute, and Fitz was adorable as always, but they haven’t been given much to do outside of science lately. They’re all fine characters, but so far there’s no reason to love them. Curiously, this was the first episode that I actually got interested on Coulson, and that’s mostly due to Clark Gregg’s acting. He really nocked it out of the park.

    No, the show is not great (yet, I hope), this episode was not perfect, but it did move things on the right direction. I thought the kid being kidnapped was a very predictable twist (in fact, it’s ridiculous that Coulson and co. wouldn’t have thought of it before it happened), but I did not see the Mike/Coulson twist coming in the end, and, wow, did I love it. I’m actually looking forward to see the next episode, and that’s a first with this show.

  7. "Diet finale". Love that, Mark. I'm stealing it. :)

    I liked this episode and I'm enjoying the show, and I'm trying these days not to expect too much. As I've probably mentioned before, I have an itty bitty crush on J. August Richards and really don't want this to be the end of Mike. I would love it if they could bring him in full time because as has already been said, I'd far rather watch him than Ward. Hey, we didn't see Mike's body and that's Josie's Law -- if you don't see the body, don't believe anyone is dead. Plus he's a superhero. Double whammy.

    The little references to Coulson's non-death they've been doing all season have done the job because I'm intrigued now. Here's hoping that when we find out what happened to him, we're wowed instead of underwhelmed.

  8. "...I'm trying these days not to expect too much."

    That's the problem with the series.
    If we were only comparing with other new shows, it would be enough. But if I have a choice of watching new-but-bland, or going back to DVD and re-watching a series that knocked my socks off, or taking a chance on another series that I haven't seen yet which might be exciting, then the first option is the last choice.

  9. > Mike could've joined the team full time

    The moment it happens, I'm dropping the show. Richards is annoying as hell. Always has been. He is the reason I haven't finished "Angel" yet.

  10. I just realized why I don't love this show yet!! It's the same reason it took me so long to warm up to Dollhouse. For me, one of the best things about a Joss show is family. The families he creates out of friends united by a common goal (which is, more often than not, defeating vampires). The Scoobies and Angel Investigations coalesced in the space of a few episodes and when we're introduced to the crew of Firefly, most of that 'family' is already together. SHIELD spends too much time blowing shit up and chasing after magical (sorry, alien) MacGuffins and not enough time being together. A few minutes at the beginning/end of the episode is not enough.


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