We’ve now hit more-or-less a regular schedule for keeping up with Marvel & ABC’s new series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., after a decent yet still ho-hum pilot episode, a truly execrable second episode, and a third that finally lived up to the show’s promise. Coming into this week’s episode, “Eye-Spy”, I frankly had no idea where this show was headed in terms of quality.
Right off the bat, the fourth episode made a good impression visually, opening in Stockholm with a bizarre flashmob-esque scene culminating in a very unexpected crime. I don’t want to spoil the first few minutes, so I will just say that the parade of red-masked, identically attired men marching two-by-two looked great. It reminded me of the defunct Fox show Fringe, which I happened to love. In fact, much of the “Eye-Spy” carries the feeling of the first few seasons of Fringe, with the team using traditional investigative techniques (and day-after-tomorrow tech) to run down a decidedly non-traditional threat. Though if I were to follow through on this comparison, Skye is playing the Peter Bishop role here, and I like Peter way too much to make that comparison.
Fortunately, while Skye is still a prominent part of the show, I somehow found her less grating this time around. It may be that the character is beginning to understand that she’s in over her head, or maybe just, overall, starting to act like a human being.
For those who haven’t caught up yet, I don’t want to spoil the twists and turns in “Eye-Spy”, of which there are quite a few. I will say, however, that we’ve got super-science and cybernetics, as well as commentary on the fact that we’re always being watched, whether it’s Instagram, closed circuit, or government monitoring. The shift from a procedural to spy-fi romp is an unexpectedly graceful one, peppered with witty one-liners and bringing to mind Cold War-era espionage flicks.
The episode leaves me more inclined to think that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may well have a chance at becoming a good, if not great, show. I am still concerned about the constant use of international locales, though. While it’s true to the show’s comic book roots, I have to wonder if this episode’s portrayal of Belarus is any more accurate than the portrayal of Peru in episode 2. If the writers continue to set every episode in some far-flung locale, it’s inevitable that at some point they’re going to get the details offensively wrong again. That’s not really a critique so much as a cautionary statement, something to watch for.
On the plus side, the guest star/Problem-of-The-Week is a woman of color in a multifaceted role. Stage and TV actress Pascale Armand is super-powered criminal Akela Amador, and she’s given the opportunity to move from badass to vulnerable and back in a way that makes perfect sense within the story, without compromising her character’s core.
“Eye-Spy” didn’t grab my attention the way that “The Asset” did, nor did it feel like part of the MCU as much as the pilot episode (even though it does seem to give us an inkling of a HYDRA/AIM type super-science Big Bad). Where this episode succeeds is in giving us a fascinating, slow-build story with plenty of twists and turns, some really clever visuals, and nice character moments. Overall, it’s actually the best episode so far. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can deliver next week, with the episode “Girl in the Flower Dress” (sounds like the title of a Bones episode), then they’ll have made a believer out of me. For now, let’s say I’m cautiously optimistic.