“FZZT” opens with a ghost story, and in a way, it ends with one too. The plot comes back around to New York and the invasion in The Avengers thanks to the episode’s threat, a virus carried to Earth by the Chitauri. This type of Marvel Universe connectivity is something many viewers have been hoping for since the beginning of the season. Rather than vaguely referencing the events of The Avengers, writer Paul Zbyszewski brings the action around to New York in an unexpected way, grappling with something that the Marvel movies so far have missed. New York was a victory for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, but it was a victory with casualties. There are obvious parallels to the volunteers who worked tirelessly in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center only to be rewarded with cancer and respiratory illnesses years later. The episode’s three firefighters demonstrate that the world is still reeling from the attacks, and their sudden deaths represent the unforeseen damage still lurking under the surface.
“FZZT” also takes time to develop Jemma and Leo, two characters that need more to do. Both of them have a place functionally, filling the team role of brainy character/problem solver, but they lack further development. In any given episode, Coulson will send back Jemma and Leo to the lab to find the antidote, perform surgery, or build a new weapon for Grant. The show’s problem is getting the audience to care about these characters beyond their utility. Coulson is almost universally loved. May has the right balance of mystery and no-nonsense attitude. Last week, Skye revealed her true motivation for setting her sights on S.H.I.E.L.D. Even super agent Grant has shown some moments of vulnerability. Up until “FZZT”, most of Leo’s dialogue was exasperated science-speak and Jemma swung between being afraid of injecting anesthetic into an eyeball to casually dissecting a human body and joking about leaving a cat liver next to Leo’s lunch.
This episode does not fix the problem, but it takes some giant steps forward, especially with Jemma. Instead of her running off to the lab, the lab becomes the center of attention, with Jemma and Leo as the heroes and Grant as the helpless bystander. Jemma’s brush with death also comes back around to Coulson’s brush with death, and the episode ends appropriately with him discussing his death with May. Their conversation hints that S.H.I.E.L.D. is not being honest with Coulson about what happened to him, something the show has toyed with since the pilot. His dialogue in this scene are the words of a ghost brought back to life, and the question lingers- how did they bring him back and should they have? It is an intriguing set up for what promises to be an exciting last half of the season.