[Review] - Agents Of SHIELD, Season 2 Episode 13, "One of Us"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios
Last week, I was hard on Agents of SHIELD for being really not very good. I regret nothing. What this week reminds us is, it is a show with very good ideas. The show is operating in the right place, just at the wrong level. If it found a way to bring these ideas to life in a better, more engaging way, it would be a better, more engaging show. This season, it has largely been saved by Kyle MacLachlan's performance, where he has consistently managed to turn turd into gemstone by over acting to such an extent that the performance loops back around. It really is somewhat marvelous. Problem is, no one else in the cast is putting anywhere near the energy into their performances. So, on top of a systemic issue with writing quality and plotting issues, the show also feels underwhelming. Which really can't be healthy for anyone involved.

Hit the jump for the review, which includes spoilers that sound bat guano crazy.

The role of Andrew Garner, the guest appearance by Blair Underwood, and the chemistry between him and Ming-Na all seemed like they belonged on another show. They were good.they were really good, enjoyable even. Engaging, and felt honest and real. they stood out like sore thumbs. Garner's sessions with Skye felt more up to the rest of the show's quality, which is to say that they were clearly wanting to get certain ideas across, but never quite managed to get there. A lot of that came down to Skye, and despite her being a willing participant, still couldn't allow the character to show any significant growth. But the scenes where Garner and May were able to simply be together were altogether different sorts of scenes. They had great chemistry, and were a showcase of talented actors being able to make the most of material given to them.

That being said, I felt somewhat taken aback that they introduced an entirely new character, when the MCU already had a psychiatrist established in the canon: Dr. Samuel Sterns. Hell, he was even played by a star of the show's own network, Ty Burrell. Not that Underwood wasn't a welcome addition to the bizarrely talented guests that SHIELD seems able to pull, but could they not get Burrell for a week? I suspect it is a symptom of Marvel's continued desire to de-cannonize the Incredible Hulk film, though they still cannot refrain from calling back to it time and time again. I mean, Dr. Garner works at Culver University, for land's sake.

Elsewhere, Cal assembled a team of index members wronged by SHIELD in the past; fellow science-made freak like himself (as was revealed in this episode, his anger abilities came from a "fluke of chemistry," rather than any inhuman nature). The idea of an anti-SHIELD, like the closest the MCU will get to a Dark Avengers, is a great one. In fact, it's an idea that deserved better than one episode and a roster filled with Z-listers. And they certainly weren't rewarded with any special attention from production. The razor blade finger nails looked horrible fake; cosplayers are able to pull off better looking effects. Cal's rag-tag group of PTSD-affected malcontents descended on Coulson's home town, to lure SHIELD into an ambush so they could... well, it's not exactly clear.

Maybe kill them, maybe torture them, maybe expose SHIELD for the criminals that they are (though, didn't that happen in Winter Solider?). It's as transparent an effect of the plot directing the course of things. the writers obviously wanted Cal to end up in the hands of the Inhumans, who are upset about how much noise he's making, and wanted it to happen in front of SHIELD, so they would know there is a larger threat out there. So they cobbled together a half felt plot that would produce that result, regardless of the fact that nothing really hung together. The underpinning of Agents of SHIELD is not an iron skeleton, it's a series of loosely tide ropes, supporting far too much weight.

The episode ended with the reveal that Bobbi and Mac have been working for the real SHIELD this whole time, and we'll have to wait until next week to see what that means exactly. It is a great idea, and a nice reveal, though not that much of a surprise, because since they've been whispering about it, I assumed that they were working for Maria Hill, or Tony Stark, something that might give the series a tie-in to Age of Ultron. I was expecting Avengers, we got the budget version of that. It's a far better direction then the show certainly could have gone one, but again, the series seems content with just dropping this stuff on us without any consideration for seeding things ahead of time. Coulson's team exists in a vacuum.

We know nothing of the politics of this world, of the real world and larger effects that Hydra has had on the populous. Other agencies blooming in the corpse of SHIELD makes perfect sense, and is likely something that should have come up before now. If everyone is working on the same mission protocols, has the same endgame in mind, then why hasn't there been more overlap between what Coulson and co. have been investigating and what these other folks have been up to? The show wants the credit for the cool ideas, the neat-o things to end episodes on, but they don't put any of the extra work into it. They might honestly be thinking of these things well ahead of time, or they might be playing by the seat of their pants. episode to episode, I certainly know which it feels like they are doing.
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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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