[Review] - Agents Of SHIELD, Season 1 Episode 10, "The Bridge"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions.
As Agents of SHIELD says goodbye to 2013, it gave us many things. It brought together a lot of the plot threads introduced in those early, rougher episodes. It reoccurred several characters that seemed like they were meant for re-visitation. And it gave us the first truly two parter that the series has attempted, leaving us hanging off a cliff until the show returns early in the new year (Jan 7th). But did it do any of those things well?

The answer is... sort of. The episode left me unfulfilled, but it also left me wondering why I felt that way. In a lot of ways, it was a strong episode. Not their best, but a sign that the show has found it's footing and is equipped to remain at a certain level. There were some very good character moments, but the plot felt flat, especially the big show down, which smacked of incompetency on the character's part, in order to contrive the cliffhanger.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that stopped talking about three embarrassing sentences ago.

Having J. August Richards on the show is both a boon and a bane to the show. It's a boon because the character was better defined and realised in his one episode than the regular cast was by the end of the first six. Richards himself is a credit, his CV maybe not as long or impressive as Clark Gregg's or Ming-Na Wen's, but his abilities as an actor, especially in making a character immediately sympathetic, is appreciated. And because, as much as Whedon might want to keep the series full of Zeppos, Coulson really could do with a super on the team full time. And it's for all those exact same reasons that Richards is also a bane, because it shows what the series could have had, and probably should have had, right from the start. If the focus had been on Mr. Peterson's dramatic arc and physical recovery, rather than the forced and uninteresting Skye, the show might not have limped through those first half dozen quite so badly.

Not that I'm complaining that they brought him back. I'm complaining that they've apparently killed him after only two showings, his arc taking the fast train from tragedy to redemption. Now, because of the abruptness of the ending, there is no confirmation that he in fact died. He still has his centipede, so it's possible he's just very badly burned, and part of me doubts that even the House of Whedon would kill a father in front of his child. But if he is in fact gone, then it is a loss to the show, even if his role only continued to be a reoccurring one. The character is funny, engaging, and loves what he's doing. The MCU, happily, has skewed away from the Dark Knight/Spider-man tact of the reluctant hero, and embraced the concept of the willing hero. The gleeful hero. The hero that likes that they do, and in that regard, the still codenameless Peterson is a continuation of the tradition. They even gave him a costume, complete with both bells and whistles. 

Adding Peterson to the team makes a lot of sense structurally, and within the show, narratively. Coulson is big on second chances, and despite his insistence that he doesn't give thirds, he kind of does (see: Skye). His team is a front line first response group, that are encountering the worst of an emerging and dangerous world. Their run in with Norse cultists along required two of the team to temporarily take on powers in order to defeat them, and as the MCU gets ever larger, and ever stranger, that sort of reaction will be required more often. And, they've already established the television budget friendly rules that would limit his heroics to once per episode day-savings: the centipede feeds off his body, not the other way around, meaning that using his abilities leaves him tired and hungry. If one of the biggest problems the show has faced thus far is that it hasn't felt as integrated into the MCU as it probably should have been, then actually having a super hero on the team isn't a bad way of doing that.

Elsewhere, Centipede once again drew the team's attention by breaking Edison Po out of prison. And this episode really undercut the effectiveness of centipede as a threat, I thought. Mostly because, it established that this group of bio terrorist blackmailers doesn't appear to be that larger. They seem to employ a dozen or so people, in a facility they are able to move around in a couple of SUVs. As big threats go, it's not really. And as the characters point out several times, there have only been two confirmed Centipede incidents (three, now that the eye implants have been folded into Centipede's oeuvre). They kind of seem like a small, if thrashy, fish. I suspect that we'll learn early next year that Centipede is merely a small corner of the Clairvoyant's network. The Centipede stuff was the weak link in the episode's chain, it having to be soaked in so much ambiguous double talk and complete misunderstandings on SHIELD's logic so as not to reveal any actual information about the group that it showed and told without ever actually showing or telling anything.

What worked best this episode was the character stuff. Peterson aside, each member of the team got a chance to grow a little more. And finally, an episode passed with my opinion of Grant improving. His scenes with May, especially the one that followed the beat down at the storage facility, showed more rounded person-hood than the character has received to date (outside of The Well, which wasn't so much rounded as very pointy). But Coulson got to wax on the nature of the job, on his regrets in his life, and dispense a little more of his nostalgia-driven tactics. And, in case we needed reminding, it was mentioned that he died a couple times. The FitzSimmons double act continues to improve as the primary source of humour on the show, their scenes with Richards yet another reminder of how much better he would have worked with the group than Skye. And Skye got yelled at good and proper by May in probably my favourite scene of the episodes, because everyone needs to stop coddling her. I had the thought, as she ripped up her print off and locked herself in her bunk, if the character wouldn't worked slightly better if she were younger. At least then she's have an excuse for being selfish and singled minded and bratty. And this episode certainly seemed to write her about 7 years younger than she is.

We're left with Coulson being hauled off for interrogation, Centipede apparently more aware of the nature of his resurrection than he is, suggesting perhaps a trader in the heart of SHIELD. What they know, what they hope to learn, and how exactly does Coulson hold the key to stabilising the super hodge-podge serum, and allowing Centipede to transition to Phase 3, we'll have to wait. But in the mean time we can ruminate on how utterly terrible Coulson's team is at their job, based on the events of the final show down on the bridge. Grant, apparently a trained sniper, would never have picked that perch as his eye in the sky. A scout of locations would have immediately identified the massive and debilitating blind spot created by the equipment. Likewise, the whole rest of the team sits idle in a truck while they watch the deal go obviously bad, and fail to make any sort of move. May's half-hearted call for backup does not make up for the fact that she waited to act until the baddies were literally hauling Coulson away. When Coulson gets back, he should fire them all, because there is no reason he ever should have been taken, except that the episode needed to end on a cliffhanger (which, if you've been reading my reviews for any time, you know I am aggressively not a fan of), so sense and reason take a back seat to forced plotting.
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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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