Season 1, Episode 4
Date of airing: October 15, 2013 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 7.848 million viewers, 4.7/7 in Households, 2.80/8 with Adults 18-49
It seems like the writers were not particularly interested in concluding their episodes at this early stage of the series. And I sort of don’t mind, because the open endings are actually part of building an even bigger universe. Even though I hate open mysteries in TV shows (because the writers are able to excuse themselves very easily through lazy writing), it kind of works here, because I already know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is growing within the realm of television, and as long as you bring a ton of forces into the universe, it can only get better for future projects and episodes for this show. I mean, Graviton’s origins in the previous episode and now an unseen enemy with unseen and unheard-of technology in this episode certainly promise trouble for the later stages of the show — Graviton less than the mystery man behind the eye technology, but it’s still a story that has been written for continuation in mind. If this doesn’t tell you that the writers are building a universe on top of another universe, then I really don’t know. Unfortunately, it is the only good thing going for AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. at the moment, because most of the time the show is just a little bit boring.
Compared to the first three episodes, this hour was another solid one. First of all, I liked the fact that the show was shot on-location. Suddenly television feels more real when you realize that the scenes in Stockholm were in fact shot in Stockholm, and not in a studio back loft somewhere in Los Angeles (ALIAS, anyone?). You suddenly notice that the production was executed with lots of effort and work, and I praise that. In addition to that, the Stockholm metro station just looked fantastic. It almost seemed like a tourist attraction, something I should maybe visit myself someday, if I ever get to Sweden. Anyway, the Marvel-mystery of the week did not do it for me, since there was not much Marvel Comics in it. Instead it just felt like a tech-heavy episode, and the characters (and the viewers) now know that there are things out there that might have nothing to do with anything the MCU has depicted so far. The story involving Akela Amador reminded me of bad plots in James Bond movies or a future episode of an evil Bionic Woman, if the rebooted show that was cancelled thank to the 2007 writers strike had ever gone ballistic in the Nielsen ratings — it’s nothing I have not seen so far, and everything that you can also find in different spy movies, TV shows, novels, and even comics. But at least the emotional component worked. The way Coulson was trying to give Amador a second chance, while the rest of his team went down the hill of clichés and wrote her off from the beginning was nice, and it gave Coulson some nice character treats. Not that I can do anything with it, but it showed that Coulson is a human being. Although the question is if he really is a human being.
The mystery behind Amador was also solid, though it still did not pick up my interest. I liked that she was more of a slave to her handler (the fact that the producers chose a black actress for the character seems intriguing and almost well thought through, as if the slavery pun needed to be hammered into the viewers’ brains), and I liked that she was not the evil and genius weapon both Ward and May wanted to see her as. But I was severely disappointed by the fact that Ward and May were not involved in the story any longer, after Amador was brought in, and she suddenly became the good gal. I really would have liked to see how May saw her little “mistake,” and how she was accepting Coulson’s choice of giving Amador a second choice, and I also would have liked to hear something from Ward, instead of just seeing him take over for Amador on the next mission. At the end of the day, May was quite silent about the whole ordeal and was essentially just a plot device to being Amador in, and Ward was the Action Jackson with white muscles, instead of a team member who still could have eyed Amador as the villain of the story, as a plant to screw up Coulson and his team.
So far, I am also not interested in the mysterious party behind this episode’s events. Obviously someone big was executing the robberies, and obviously it is going to be the big enemy for the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the second stage of the season (or with a little bit of luck, this half of the season), but I just hate it when the first episodes starring the phantom menace end with unanswered questions. I always wonder why writers have to keep their secrets a secret, and I will never understand why writers take so long to come out with the answers. Everyone has seen how it hurt LOST in the aftermath, and everyone can read the fans’ opinions on the interwebs, after the show has finally delivered answers — just for everyone to see that those answers are not consistent with earlier episodes any longer. Writing-by-numbers, and “making stuff up as we go along” might still work these days, but in the long run it just does not make any sense. It is only the fourth episode of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., but I can already expect to feel my disappointment, when I see that the secret was not worth speculating over for half a season.
A few more words about both May and Skye. May seems to be the only serious character in the bunch, which I like, but this episode also gave me the answer why she has not gotten any screentime yet. With AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. still being light in number of episodes, there is no place for a dark and serious character. And then there is Skye. I think I fell in love with Chloe Bennet here. Her little eye games in the van, when she talked to Coulson at the end… OMG, cuteness overload! Skye was totally playing with AC, and I loved every tenth of a second of it. Also, the death of the Englishman made me laugh, because the only thing I saw was SAW. And then I saw every season of 24 in that scene.