Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Which I Review Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (1x4)

What happened to Coulson? This is probably the biggest mystery on SHIELD. The Centipede agenda and "superhero of the week" can take a backseat. This show should be Coulson and nothing but Coulson. The rest of the cast merely floats rather boringly around his obvious charisma and charm. After this week's episode "Eye Spy" I am wondering if our beloved Agent Coulson (or A.C. as *ahem* precious Skye has taken to calling him) is something like season 3 of Alias's Sydney Bristow--a double agent who worked for a less than ethical organization, but who now has no memory of it. If this is true, is he still getting orders? Is SHIELD in danger from Coulson and not Rising Tide/Skye like I've been thinking? Interesting twists are interesting. However this week, these predicaments were only roughly teased out. The focus of this episode was about regret and control. 

Meet Akela Amondor. Once upon a time, she was one of SHIELD's best and brightest. She was smart, resourceful, and full of potential. Akela was also, however, not a team player. She didn't value the concept of working together and that's really the driving home message of this show: teamwork solves ALL the things. The guilt over having pushed Akela too hard to be open to teamwork has been eating at Coulson ever since. (sidenote: this is not only very Marvel universe but very Whedon. Consider his best shows. Buffy = teenagers working together to defeat evil. Angel = adults fighting together to solve crimes. Firefly  = ragtag mismatch team working together to survive. Teamwork makes the world go 'round in Whedon-ville). Akela was trained by Coulson prior to the battle of New York but after a mission went wrong, SHIELD wrote her off as dead, though Coulson himself never believed it. He suspected she was out there somewhere.  And, of course, he was right.

Our introduction to Akela finds her in less than noble circumstances. As in, we watch her stalk, disarm, and rob a red masked gentleman. All the red masked gentlemen are carrying briefcases handcuffed to their writs. In the blink of an eye, Akela manages to shut off the lights to the subway car and forcibly remove one of the cases. And she does this all with her eyes closed. We later find out that the red masked gentlemen are ploys by a wealthy bank who has experienced a string of robberies designed to draw out the thief. Only one of the briefcases held diamonds, the others empty. We now know that not only was Akela rather super in her disarming but that she has possess some sort of intuition/ESP in order to figure out which case had the diamonds. Coulson and the team set out to track her down, though there is a difference of opinion between Coulson and May about how to proceed. Coulson wants to hold off the manhunt and try to bring Akela in on his own--he deeply regrets the way he pushed her when she worked for SHIELD and he's determined to make it right. May, stoic stubborn May, thinks they need to use all of SHIELD's assets and get her back and take her down.

Meanwhile Akela has met with a buyer who takes the diamonds in exchange for an all access levels key card to a building in Belarus. There is a bit of a long tracking segment that really serves no purpose outside of some eyebrow raising bathroom humor and a bit of action but the overall point of it was that Akela managed to send a message to the agents.
Using her computer science know-how Skye is able to hack into a camera to find Akela. The catch? The camera is in Akela's eye. The SHIELD agents watch carefully as Akela demonstrates that she has been enhanced with a genius level camera in her eye that has X-ray vision and can receive messages from her handler. So while up until now we've been led to believe that Akela is a rouge agent who struck out on her own, turns out that she was being manipulated and controlled the entire time. The agents watch Akela over the night (she has to ask permission to sleep!) before May, who has issues with the way Coulson is handling this assignment decides to strike out on her own and bring in Akela herself. I find that Melinda May really bothers me. She's so one note--there is no emotion (good or bad) coming from her. She delivers her lines as if she is fully detached from her surroundings. And all this time we've been led to believe that May has extraordinary human ability and yet Akela almost manages to take her down and it's only when Coulson shows up with a tranqulizer that Akela is brought down. The writers better develop May quickly as I'm finding her more irritable than Skye.

Having been brought in, Akela gives us her story. After the mission that supposedly ended with her death, Akela was taken by an unseen group and kept as a prisoner for a very long time, going blind in one eye. Finally "they" brought her out of her underground cage and performed many surgeries on her eye, restoring her sight. But it wasn't really her eye; it was a synthetic eye that doubled as a camera. Akela could either work for this mysterious "they" or die--a kill switch attached to the camera that would cause instant death. Is there any chance this is what happened to Coulson? Was he working as a secret agent for some covert organization? Is he a sleeper agent inside of SHIELD?

Meanwhile, Akela still has a mission to complete and Coulson sends Skye and Ward to do it. After "seducing" a male guard to gain access to a backroom with some sort of mysterious board of weird, FitzSimmons work on removing Akela's eye-camera and tracking down her handler who Akela describes as 30yr old Englishman. When Coulson finally does track him down, the man is instantly killed by his own eye camera; he was a puppet to this shadow organization just like Akela. We have no more information on who these people are--but I suspect it will call come back around to Centipede, especially when Coulson speculates that the mysterious board of weird contains alien equations.

Miscellaneous Notes on Eye-Spy

--Much better episode than the two previous. The strength of this show is really in Coulson and letting Clark Gregg shine.

--"I live outside the box."

--Akela's final "what happened to him" line to May suggests that she alone recognizes that something other than his "death" at the battle of New York has happened to Coulson. She obviously knew him quite well and can tell that something is off.

--Bromance seduction scene was pretty funny.

--Skye is really starting to bother me. Not because I think she's a double agent or anything but she has this tendency to deliver the cringe worth  emotional "You believed in me now I'm going to save you" speeches. Every week.

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