Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ye Who Enter Here

Posted on December 03, 2014

MAOSYWEH

Clark Gregg, Henry Simmons, and Adrianna Palicki in ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

 

Boy, there sure are a lot of balls in the air at the moment. Hidden cities and invisible plane highjackings and giant, muscular team mates going berserker while Skye heads to a showdown with her father and Ward tries to head into Skye’s pants and Simmons tells Fitz he ain’t ever getting in hers while Bobbi and Lance are plotting something that no one else knows about – and that’s all in 42 minutes and not counting the HYDRA stuff. You can’t claim the show’s spinning its wheels this season. And while we found it all (or most of it) fun and exciting, we are struggling a bit to remember everything that happened. That seems to be a good way to sum up season 2 of MAOS as a whole: a lot of stuff keeps happening but very little of it is making an impression.

We suppose part of the problem is the vagueness of the team’s goals. When it was strictly about rebuilding a shattered SHIELD while facing off against both Hydra and a world who thinks they’re a terrorist organization it was easy to keep track of. But now that it’s all about the obelisk, a hidden city, and what exactly Skye is, we’re not sure it’s compelling.

Part of the reason these past few episodes have felt underwhelming despite the high energy and fast pace was that the show essentially stopped treating each episode as a discrete chapter in an ongoing story. Every episode seems to start in media res and end abruptly. We don’t necessarily need to see a case-of-the-week format for the show. We’re perfectly fine with a season-long battle against a Big Bad, in pure Whedon style. It’s just that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of underlying themes or attempts to give the writing any depth. Things just keep happening, week in and week out, all building toward a conclusion and a goal we don’t really grasp as audience members. It’s like there’s always a lot on the line every week, except we can’t exactly say why.

This doesn’t mean it’s not a much-improved show over last season or that we’re not enjoying ourselves week in and week out. It’s a fun hour, no doubt about that. It’s just that it doesn’t really register past that hour. It’s a huge reason why we only post intermittent reviews of the show. We can always work up a happy reaction to The Flash or a critical reaction to Sleepy Hollow, but MAOS doesn’t give us much to work with other than it’s fun and fast-paced. And the cast has really managed to gel, even if it is a bit large and unwieldy. We’re finally at a point where every member feels somewhat essential to the team.

The status of Fitz and Simmons’ relationship is one of the better, more surprising and mature aspects of this season. Any viewer would have every reason in the world to expect Simmons to declare her love for Fitz after he did so for her and then risked his own life to save her, just because that’s how these stories tend to play out. And maybe this was disappointing for FitzSimmons shippers, but this is much more interesting and believable – and it makes Simmons all the more well-rounded and interesting. Most stories tell us that once a man makes a grand gesture, then a woman is all but obligated to reciprocate with love and even sex. It’s a good thing to see a woman character have feelings of her own, independent of any man’s and won’t succumb to any pressure to give him what he wants, even as she expresses her deep affection and caring for him.

The whole question what, exactly Skye is seems likely to lead to some interesting places (literally), but even as we’re enjoying the storyline, we still can’t work up more than a passing interest in her as a character. It’s not necessarily Chloe Bennet’s fault, since she’s improved quite a bit in the role. It’s just that no matter what they do to her, she always sounds like Buffy Lite to us. Similarly, no matter how much Hannibal Lecter they try to spackle over Ward, he’s just not all that great a character to spend so much time on. Since Skye looks to be essential to the show for the time being, we’d happily watch Ward go up in flames.

As we said, though; we’re enjoying the show, for the most part. While we’re watching it, that is. But it’s never felt like appointment television in that “I can’t wait to see what happens next” way; usually because from week to week, we can’t quite remember the last thing that happened.

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