[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 2 Episodes 14 And 15, "Love in the Time of Hydra" And "One Door Closes"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
Oh, Agents of SHIELD. Oh my golly gee. I have to applaud the length you have seen fit to go, to reach new levels of terrible. Because that's what Love in the Time of Hydra was. From the baseboards up, that was an hour of laughable, unrelenting bottom gravy. I literally broke into hysterical laughter about half way through, my mind was so incapable of comprehending what it was seeing, and knew of no other way to react. then, I had an epiphany. I feel bad for everyone involved. Well, less so the writers, because they're responsible for this. And the producers, who apparently think this stuff passes muster. But I feel bad for the actors, in the same way that people feel bad for circus bears. They are better than this, and in the wild, they'd be noble and free and majestic. Caged up on this show, they are pitiful and a shadow of themselves. And that is no way to go on living, if it's even living at all.

A show where Admiral Adama is head of SHIELD? Hell yeah, I'd watch that. But not like this. Never like this...

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that had an ax. Now I've got it.

So, yeah... bad. Like, the worst. Maybe it's Ward. Maybe that character is cursed. Though, it's clearly not, because even when he's (thankfully) not around, the show is terrible. But Ward seems to highlight just how bad this show can be. And brother, Love in the Time of Hydra was as bad as its ever been. It was woeful. It was embarrassing. Past comments from the creators suggest that they have no self awareness of how bad this show is from episode to episode, but I would hope that someone, somewhere, took notice of the calamity that was episode 14.

Every aspect of the episode stunk. Coulson moving Skye to a cheap reproduction of the Evil Dead cabin was idiotic and contrived. Hunter's being brought up to speed on the second SHIELD was dull and repetitive. And worst of all was Ward and Agent 33's reintroduction, which was bone-chillingly humiliating for all involved. Like, I feel that we should all send edible arrangements to Brett Dalton, Ming-Na, and Chloe Bennett for having been put through that. But no fruit flowers for Adrian Pasdar; he deserves nothing.

One Door Closes wasn't much better. It at least avoided this show's greatest and most repeated sin, the telling rather than showing principle. That's not to say there weren't frustratingly obtuse bouts of expositional dialogue. But flashbacks returned us to the events of the Winter Solider, showing how Bobbi and Mac came to be associated with the "true" SHIELD in the wake of Hydra's attack. And in the process, the show both tripped over the MCU's own continuity and highlighted it's own stubborn tendency to manufacture easily avoidable drama for the sake of soap opera hysterics, rather than develop a story good enough to move forward on it's own merits.

But episode 14. Yeah, that was bad. Whomever on the editorial staff decided that Agent 33 would be best served by being turned into a bleating, insufferable child rather than the highly trained SHIELD agent that she was (and Hydra agent that she is) deserves to be put down a man hole head first. A case could be made for psychological trauma and PTSD. But this was so much more than that. Her dependency on Ward was taken to uncomfortable levels, and she blindly grasped for something in the world to give her meaning. Which leads me to ask: why not return to SHIELD? they know she was brain washed. They know what she was horribly scarred. They should, presumably, be able to help her, both mentally and physically, and return her to the fold where she had previously been comfortable.

The reason that didn't happen is that Agent 33 isn't really a character. If she were, the writers would have been excited to use her to illicit dramatic scenarios from her involvement with the team. Issues of trust, of identity, of purpose, all themes that the show is meant to be exploring this season (but isn't, really, because these writers are operating at a ninth grade level of subtly and focus). Instead, Agent 33 is a prop, a literally nameless prop that has a molding film on the outside of her that serves as a character identity. She's just there as an excuse to get some more punching and shooting scenes in. Because really, all this show has become, is a series of poorly written and contrived scenes of faux drama used to link together impeccably choreographed fight sequences.

But let us focus on the horribleness of those scenes between her and Ward. Perhaps the reasoning behind having Ming-Na play the duel role was the impression that she had Dalton had chemistry (they do not). Those scenes were a chore, not made better by Ward's bizarre zen-serial killer outlook on life. But things took a sharp turn into didn't-know-this-could-get-any-worse-but-surprise-they-can territory when 33 took on the form of Skye, who has even less chemistry with Ward, and was overdubbed by Ming-Na. How something that resoundingly shitty ended up on our televisions in 2015 is beyond me. It was basement level quality. A basement with a faulty sump pump. Of course, neither character ended up dead by the episode's end, which likely means the writers intend to bring them back at some point, and gods help us all when that happens.

The rest of the plot of episode 14 blends nicely into the entire plot of episode 15, which is the reveal that there is another SHIELD operating out there in the world. And by another SHIELD, I mean one boat of former agents who have spent the last year sputtering to themselves that Fury went off and died and didn't leave them any toys. And by operating, I mean sitting on a ship (that apparently doesn't need to refuel or have a GPS locator) sputtering about how much they don't like the guy who got the promotion over them. They bemoan the secrets and lies (and display that same alien racism that Mac and Simmons have embraced) of the Fury regime, carried over into the Coulson era, but they are no less guilty then those they rail against. More so, considering that they've kept themselves cloaked in mystery for the last year. And as much gravitas as Edward James Olmos might lend to the role, he seems embarrassed to be spouting the lines he's been given, and I'm embarrassed for him.

The point is attempted to be made that they don't trust Coulson, because he's got alien blood in his veins (apparently Couslon's resurrection is just common knowledge now?), and because he plays things too close to the vest. And it seems to me that, if they had presented themselves as fellow agents, former friends and colleagues, and valuable assets, they wouldn't have needed months of subterfuge and gas masks to make their point. A competing, philosophically divergent, but morally complimentary SHIELD is another of those concepts that could have added depth to the series, and induced all manner of dramatic situations, as they struggle to coexist. Except, the show isn't really interested in that. That is long form stuff, stuff that builds slowly, organically, and inspires interest. This is a show about instantaneous gratification. It's about a shit ton of stuff happening off screen and between episodes that implies that things are moving forward and along, without feeling the need to explain the hows and whys.

This show isn't interested in developing anything, it is interested in saying "this is the way this are, because we said so" and brushing it off like it's a great twist. Like the stuff with Skye. I had hoped that the preceding episode, where she had a psychological exam, would suggest that they would be exploring the mental effects of having powers, something the movies are unable to do because of the constricted timeframe of a film. But no, they seem to think it as much a valid to move by leaps and bounds. Skye isn't fit to be an agent, so rather than give her the help and support she needs, we'll put her in a cabin with some magic hobo gloves and hope she works things out on her own (and, as an aside - the House That Banner Built? When, exactly, did he build this cabin in the woods? Before the Avengers, when he wasn't associated with SHIELD? Or after, when he has a handle on the Hulk and wouldn't need a rural retreat?) Why put her in a cabin to fend for herself, providing no real incentive to master her new found skills? Because in the next episode, it gives them somewhere else to go, and something else to do, and another set piece to burn away four minutes of screen time. Which means, it's essentially meaningless. It's garland on a christmas tree. And the tree is on fire. And the fire smells like cabbage.
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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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