Quickies: The Flash & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Posted on October 22, 2014

Television-Review-The-Fash-Agents-Shield-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOAdrianne Palicki in ABC TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Grant Gustin in The CW’s The Flash

 

When the real world doesn’t allow, or the shows don’t give us enough reason to write full length reviews, we’re going to be working these Quickie reviews in where we can. Because we can’t go too long without expressing opinions or we get constipated or something.

 

The Flash, “You Can’t Outrun Everything”

This episode is exactly the kind of episode we had in mind when we started batting the idea of doing short, quickie reviews occasionally. Sometimes, an episode just doesn’t give you much to discuss. That’s usually because it’s not saying anything new with the latest episode or because the show has lapsed into a routine. In most cases, that could be seen as an alarming lack of momentum on the part of the writing, but that’s not quite the case here, oddly enough.  If the cast, especially the lead, was any less engaging or the stories any less fun, the fact that the show has become formulaic so quickly could be seen as a major problem. Every week so far: Barry feels he needs to do something about a danger facing the city. Everyone tries to talk Barry out of doing something. Lots of speeches are made on the pros and cons of Barry doing something. Meanwhile, Iris really likes her boyfriend, who is not Barry. Finally, Barry does something, is heroic about it, and everyone smiles indulgently at the lessons learned this week. Then Harrison does something mysterious or eeeevil and we’re out for another week.

But the strange part is, it’s fun. Even as we can see how repetiive it’s becoming, and even as we have a very nagging feeling about a show that gets repetitive in its first month of airing, we can’t help but be charmed by the whole thing. It’s so refreshing to have a superhero show that’s entirely about being heroic while fighting really goofy, weird, out-there stuff. That’s the essence of The Flash in the comics and it’s amazing to see it translated so well to television. Even if it’s too formulaic at the moment, it’s a formula we’re very happy to see.

Besides, we have good reason to believe that it won’t stay in any rut for long. The particle accelerator explosion is the hook upon which this whole season rests, so in the first few weeks of the show, they have to establish a pattern of metahumans appearing as a result of the… something-something science. Our point is, they’re at a stage where they have to throw a metahuman villain of the week at him just to establish that hook. And we feel like they’re right on the verge of a narrative breakout. We try not to give too much away, knowing what we know about the DC comics the show is based on, but they really ramped up the easter eggs and references last night, giving us reason to believe we’re going to see a lot more weirdness very soon. Keep your eye on that supposedly dead Ronnie guy, is all we’re saying. Also, having Barry come face to blurred face with his father while in costume strikes us as a pretty huge deal with a lot of potential fallout down the line. Bottom line: we’re feeling it. All of it. Except for the West family, we have to say. Iris is still annoyingly clueless and defined solely by kissing scenes. And while we love Jesse Martin, we really don’t need to see Joe tear up emotionally every single week. For a detective, he sure is emotionally fragile.

 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Hen in the Wolf House”

BOBBI MORSE IS IN THE HOUSE. And she got the best introduction any character on this show ever got. Part of that’s on Adrianne Palicki, who knows not only how to make an entrance, but how to make the most of the material she’s given. But part of it also comes down to the marked uptick in the quality of the writing; not just in season 2, but since season 2 started. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, because this could just be a short burst of creative energy that fizzles out quickly, but this show is literally getting better each week. And the addition of Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse makes it feel a bit more like we’re really playing around in the Marvel universe now, instead of some generic “Spy vs. Spy” scenario. If nothing else, it made the nerds happy. And only the nerds would see the irony of her introduction coming only a couple weeks after Arrow killed off the Black Canary character.

The scenes in HYDRA as Bobbi first tried to intimidate Simmons and then dropped her cover and got her out, were genuinely exciting, which struck us as ironic, since the bulk of them were set in a bog-standard, flourescent-lit, corporate drone cubicle farm. We’ve long been complaining about the art direction on this show – and we will continue to do so, because a unique look could only help it – but those scenes in the office, like last week’s hotel room beatdown, show that sometimes, you just need good actors and stuntpeople diving into fun material to make it work.

It’ll be interesting how they handle yet another ass-kicking woman on the show. On the surface, she and May seem pretty similar, in terms of what they bring to team. With the ongoing (and still not quite successful) rehab of Skye’s character into something very like the standard-issue Whedon ass-kicking girl, we’re just thankful they’ve kept Simmons unique as the brainy type. And in another example of how the show’s writing has improved, the Fitz and Simmons reunion was simply the most emotional moment any two members of the cast have managed to produce. It was pitch-perfect – and it worked because they’d finally made us care about the characters enough to have an emotional reaction. The only problem was, it was dropped a little too quickly. After everything they’ve both been through, a bit more would not have been unwelcome. But how fabulous is it that we’re getting such wonderful emotional payoffs at all, right? Who could have predicted such a thing after last season’s ten miles of bad road?

And if all that wasn’t enough to keep us both entertained and optimistic, we had Kyle MacLachlan tearing into the scenery and ripping out huge chunks of it with his teeth. Another actor who knows exactly how to make the most out of material like this. One of the best things about this season is that they’ve built an actual world around these characters and then populated it with people on the periphery, like Raina or General Talbot, to use as the story sees fit. It’s a very Whedon thing to do, and it’s a huge improvement over the weekly succession of random guest characters last season. Everything feels like it’s part of a plan on the creative team and it’s all humming along nicely.

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