[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episode 9, "Repairs"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
I think we've established that SHIELD's greatest contribution to the larger MCU will be: a testing ground. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, when they introduced Scorch, it seemed like a backdoor way to introduce the concept of mutants into the MCU, without ever actually using that word. Likewise, this week, they played with the notion of ghosts, the afterlife and other physical plains, material that will no doubt be relevant once Doctor Strange comes up on the production schedule.

And that's one of SHIELD's reasons for being. Because it's week to week, they can play with all these different ideas. Something doesn't work, move on and never mention it again. Meanwhile, Kevin Fiege can take note of what makes sense, what the fans respond to, and craft the films to match those results. And then, across the board, everything works together in a cohesive MCU.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have never screamed like a little girl at their own prank. They scream like a manly-man.

The effects of Thor's battle in Greenwich are still being felt, as this week's ultimate reveal tied directly into the alignment at the climax of the Dark World. The appearance of the Nine Realms has apparently spurred research on Earth into methods of breaking through into these worlds, and for one poor maintenance worker, it worked (and the more you think about it, the more you realise that he was basically a grittier version of Super Mario). He thinks he's trapped in Hell, and the brief glimpse we got certainly makes whatever heim he ended up in to be a less than pleasant place. And it should be noted that by the end, he's not dead, he's just trapped in an alternative universe. They didn't even try to find a way to get him out, which seems like a pretty big ball-drop on SHIELD 616's part (which, that's a nice reference, that).

But before we got to any of that, we got a lot more. The mystery of Coulson's present took a week off to fill in some of the gaps in May's past, and it was about time. Obviously, it was tragic, but more importantly it let us glimpse at the sort of person she used to be, which it must be said wasn't all the different from the modern Coulson. Believing that rules can be broken, doing what needs to get done, and having a subversive undercurrent of dark humour. It's obvious now why she was able to tell that something in Coulson has changed, but this adds a layer of perhaps jealousy. Her trauma turned her into a cold machine, while his turned him into what she once was.

The direction in this episode, by Billy Gierhart, really sold the atmospheric moments. Once the plane crashed, and the haunting began in earnest, his camera angles and lighting choices were nice variations on horror traditions. My favourite sequence this week was the ghost approaching May, only for her to start ghosting him. It was a nice bit of subversion from Tancharoen & Whedon's script, their first since episode three. The script was... uneven, but was generally solid. The episode really only found it's footing ironically after the plane crash, and was at it's best when focusing on the spook, or on FitzSimmons childishness (which is becoming increasingly apparent because they had no childhoods themselves).

The weakest link in the episode was probably the religious stuff, mostly because it never felt organic. Joss, his atheism well established, has never really approached religion in his works. Buffy, for all the heavens and hells out there, never really dealt with hard religious concepts like God. And while Mal's loss of faith was one of his defining character traits in Firefly, it was only ever in the background. The most explicit Mutant Enemy has ever gotten with religion has been the concept of belief in Serenity, and Captain America's pro-God comment in Avengers. So, when this episode had Hannah praying (or rather, whining) to God, and Skye telling nun stories, it all felt a bit heavy-handed.

We've finally gotten to a point where Coulson is the high point of each episode, as it should have been from the start, and his role as leader of the team and lead of show is now pretty firm. And his role in this episode was Coulson at his best. From the firm but cautious initial approach, to the soothing way he interrogated Hannah once she was on the Bus, to the resigned acceptance at sacrificing one of his toys for the greater good (best line of the night was his "they only made twenty, I think"). More importantly than that though, for the second week in a row, the team actually felt like a team. They worked together, had clear roles, and used each other as support rather than as obstacles. The test is how much screen time had the majority of them together, without it ever feeling cluttered.

What we should take away from this is, after a slow start, SHIELD feels like it's found it's even keel. And, it had it's largest audience since the premiere, which means that word of mouth might be turning people back into the show's favour. Unfortunately, there isn't a new episode next week, meaning we have to wait until the 10th to visit The Bridge.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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