Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 1, Episode 4: “Eye-Spy”
Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Airs Mondays at 8pm ET on ABC
The most consistently frustrating thing about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is its absolute refusal to be anything other than a vanilla, middle-of-the-road piece of disposable entertainment. It’s not a show that’s necessarily terrible enough to hate (although some will try) and it’s not anywhere near good enough to love. The most common response to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is most likely a shrug of the shoulders, viewers moving on quickly and forgetting most of what they’ve just seen. There’s nothing particularly memorable about anything that the show has given itself to work with. Here’s a question for the ages: if it didn’t have an association with Marvel universe, would people even be tuning in to watch S.H.I.E.L.D.?
That having been said, “Eye-Spy” is at least attempting to be something other than a totally vanilla procedural. It largely fails, but the effort is appreciated. It’s far better for the show to reach for something higher and not be successful than for it not to try anything at all. “Eye-Spy” has Coulson (Clark Gregg) and co. going after Akela Amador (Pascale Armand), a former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative that was presumed dead (by everyone except Coulson) and who has now turned up, murdering a security team and stealing their cargo of valuable diamonds.
An interesting but largely subtextual element to the episode is an examination of Coulson’s behavior post-New York. Coulson works extremely hard to come to the aid of a former agent that, for all he knows, may have turned. The big undecided question here is would Coulson have acted this way pre-Avengers. Maybe whatever mysterious thing that brought Coulson back from the dead, which was strongly hinted at in the pilot, has messed with his very soul in a way that even the man himself isn’t aware of. One might argue that the very act of dying would make anyone a softer person in general, but it seems likely that he was changed by whatever brought him back. What could that be, though, and does the answer to that mystery even matter? Comic book aficionados may have a better idea than most, but the Vegas money says the reveal won’t be that interesting.
The show really needs to work on balancing Skye (Chloe Bennett) and Ward (Brett Dalton)’s dynamic. Skye is cutesy to the point of nauseation and Ward is insufferably serious, that is until he tries to make a joke, which usually falls flat like a ton of bricks. His comedic lines tend to be either bad Whedonisms or blatant mimicry of Whedonisms. Either way, the writers should just tone it down. On a similar note, can someone explain Fitz-Simmons and just what their deal is? Why don’t they have their own names? Are they friend-zoned or is there something there that we’re just not getting? Honestly, who are those two? Because that doesn’t seem to have been spelled out.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a classic case of a skilled creator with a distinct style, in this case Joss Whedon, slowly starting to drift away from a show, causing the creator’s imprint to start fading away, episode by episode. Common Whedon characteristics, from dialogue to relationships, are still to be found, that’s for sure, but they’re more sporadic than in the previous three episodes. Jeffrey Bell and Roxann Dawson are both more than competent, but they’re just not Whedon and that’s what audiences are expecting. If he is becoming less involved with the show, that leaves the other writers to try to capture (or copy) Whedon’s style, and that’s something to be worried about. It’s impossibly hard to mimic a style that is so distinctly someone else’s. It’s a terrible idea to even try. For the record: there’s no official word that Whedon is becoming less involved with the show, it’s just something to expect from someone as busy as he is.
The direction is acceptable and works well in the conversational scenes, but Dawson’s eye for action, in this episode at least, is severely lacking. There’s no scope or sense of staging in the action scenes; it’s mainly just chaos let run amok. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. going to have such terribly written dialogue and poorly developed characters week in and week out, the least the show can do is provide decent action, especially if it wants to keep its head above water. Hopefully this is something that will be remedied in the weeks to come.
Where should the show go from here? What is the organization that controlled Amador? What do you think is the mystery behind Coulson’s return? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.