This week on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D … The team looks into mysterious deaths which leave the victims floating in mid-air. Coulson has a physical. And Simmons decides to sacrifice herself by jumping out of the ‘bus’.
This week’s mission
The team investigates the deaths of firefighters who are found floating in mid-air, having contracted a virus which Simmons inadvertently becomes infected with.
A game of two halves
After a week’s absence, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with an episode of two distinct halves. The opening section is a routine procedural before evolving into a much-needed character piece which focuses on Jemma Simmons.
FZZT‘s mystery is fairly perfunctory and quickly dispensed with. Three first responder firefighters from the Battle of New York have kept a Chitauri helmet as a souvenir and unknowingly catch a virus from it that transmits itself from person to person via electrical sparks. The team track down the last surviving man – too late to save him but Coulson gets a nice moment by talking to him, not to rescue him in the manner of the old talking-down-off-the-ledge trope but to soothe and prepare him for death.
In examining the first body, however, the virus is transmitted to Simmons. Coulson is forced to quarantine her in the lab on the ‘bus’, physically separating her from Fitz as the pair race against time to save her. Having given up hope after the apparent failure of their ‘anti-serum’, Simmons jumps out of the plane to save the others, only for Fitz to realise the anti-serum actually works. He tries to parachute out after her, but Ward takes over, grabs Simmons and administers the antidote mid-air.
In a small B-plot Coulson, who is feeling something different, puts himself through a physical but his tests come back normal.
Ticking some boxes
The biggest and most consistent criticisms of the series to date have been a perceived lack of character development, particularly in the case of Fitz-Simmons, and a lack of humour from Ward. And while expectations have been perhaps overly high – with six principal characters, we’re not going to get to know them all immediately – it is fair to say we have had little before this episode to both define Fitz and Simmons and differentiate one from the other.
So this week’s focus on Simmons and to a lesser extent Fitz, with the Ward-Skye and Coulson-May axes being pushed to the background, is a welcome one. Simmons is established as being the driver behind them going into the field and we get a little more depth to the pair’s relationship. We aren’t given any significant detail on their back-stories, but it’s enough to render them as something more than one-dimensional science geeks and spouters of technical exposition.
There are some nice moments revolving around Ward too. We are shown how protective he is about the whole team – although the trust issues with Skye resulting from the events of Girl in the Flower Dress still remain – and his frustration at dealing with a problem he cannot do something about physically. And he even shows a flash of self-deprecating humour when he reveals he knows about Fitz and Simmons’ (frankly awful) impersonations of him behind his back by doing one of himself.
Continuing the trend of recent episodes, the overall feel of FZZT is darker and less reliant on quips – a good move – but still continues to throw us too many gratuitous references to Marvel characters and films. Enough already. If I had a pound for every time someone references the Battle of New York …
Overall, though, the move towards a more introspective, character-focussed story was a welcome change of pace. More of the same is required, but there’s also a need to progress longer story arcs such as Centipede and (potentially) Franklin Hall/Graviton while at the same time not allowing the Coulson mystery to outstay its welcome.
Also, one final quibble. There’s a significant time gap – perhaps 15 seconds or more – between Simmons jumping out of the plane and Ward following her. Given that the plane was probably travelling at around 600 mph, at that speed, by the time Ward dives out, Simmons would be at least 2½ miles behind him, and yet Ward spots her straight away directly below him. Er, no. Bad science, people.
Both Captain America and Iron Man are name-checked during the episode. There are also allusions to the Avengers film in the form of the Chitauri helmet and mentions of the Battle of New York. Again.
Agent Blake previously appeared in a one-shot short film, Item 47, which accompanied the Avengers DVD.
So sad a man died this way. And yet so amazing!
Simmons doesn’t allow the sight of a levitated dead body to ruin her day.