Cheer up, it’s not like you’re contracted a crazy alien virus or something. Oh…
Episode 1.06 Writer: Paul Zbyszewski Director: Vincent Misiano
THE ONE WHERE The SHIELD team come up against a deadly alien virus. Simmons contracts it and must race against the clock to find a cure.
VERDICT Brace yourselves, it’s the inevitable Fitz and Simmons episode. But, where previous weeks have given them little to do except spout off reams of technobabble, F.Z.Z.T. makes a case for them being more interesting and likeable than the show’s two action leads, Ward and Skye (who spend most of the episode in a pissy sulk with each other because Skye betrayed them and sexual tension and blah blah blah).
Elizabeth Henstridge puts in a decent performance here as Simmons, all giggly, nerdy enthusiasm when she’s investigating the virus, and numb horror when she’s infected. Giving her a human dilemma instead of just gadgets to play with finally brings her character to life. By the episode’s end, you understand why she’s a part of this team – something I’m still not 100% clear on with Skye. The same can be said for Fitz as he prickles at being thought of as Simmons other half and crushes on Skye, while still remaining focused on solving the problem at hand.
Tonally, the drama was a shade darker than we’re used to from SHIELD. It’s here that Joss Whedon’s reputation for killing off characters works in the show’s favour. There’s a genuine sense that Simmons might not make it, and when she does survive, it’s actually something of a relief.
Strike a pose.
The plot itself (a recovered Chitauri helmet is carrying a virus) was pure Torchwood. And the comparisons don’t end there, either. The cheerily glib Agent Coulson of the early Iron Man movies is long gone, replaced with a darker, sadder character, in the same way that big, camp Captain Jack became all dour and tortured in the Doctor Who spinoff. The difference here is that the changes to Coulson are actually welcome. Clark Gregg is superb this week, grabbing the best scene of the show so far – as Phil comforts a dying fireman – and is clearly relishing the chance to rise above being just the glib comeback guy. He’s excellent.
It’s still a show cobbled together from The Big Book of Action Clichés. The virus plot must surely come somewhere around number six on the list of formulaic network TV plots (just after the clone episode, but before the possession one). There’s a scene where Coulson does the “Bzzzt! Sorry sir, you’re breaking up! Bzzt!” thing. And Melinda May’s role is still fly the plane, kick the door, DON’T EMOTE. It still hasn’t reached the giddy heights of being four star telly. But by fleshing out the characters, it does feel like Agents of SHIELD is now more than just a flashy brand extension.
Just an average day at SHIELD.
TRAVELOGUE The pre-credits sequence takes place in Wrigley, Pennsylvania. Most of the rest of the episode is set on the SHIELD jet. The Sandbox is a mysterious facility in the middle of an unknown desert.
MARVEL UNIVERSE The whole episode revolves around a recovered Chitauri helmet left over from the invasion in The Avengers. “This guy makes Captain America look like The Dude.” Skye drops in a Big Lebowski reference which no one appears to get. “A little heavy on the iron, but don’t worry, you don’t have to start calling me Iron Man.” Coulson does a funny. Badly.