TV REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - FZZT

Agents of SHIELD returns after a weeklong break and brings with it yet another episode which improves on what has gone before.

FZZT was exactly the kind of episode we needed at this point in the season, one which stripped away the fantastical and the action and focused in on the team's dynamics and how they work together to defeat a problem. Placing one of the team member's in jeopardy is a tried and tested method of doing this and SHIELD takes the concept and comes up with one emotional moment after another as Simmons is exposed to a Chitauri virus with little hope of discovering a vaccine. Sorry, I mean anti-serum.

It's fitting that Titus Welliver's Agent Blake returned for this episode as it bore a couple of similarities to the Marvel One-Shot, Item 47, in which his character first appeared. In that, a couple find a piece of Chitauri weaponry and go off on a bit of a spree whilst in this, a group of volunteer firefighters are exposed to an alien virus when they take a helmet as a souvenir from the Battle of New York. Blake's presence was another neat way of tying SHIELD into the wider Marvel universe without it becoming a bell-ringing moment. 

SHIELD seems to have found the balance now between carving a new identity whilst remaining part of the same universe as The Avengers. The inclusion of the helmet as MacGuffin didn't feel clunky though it does raise the question of whether we'll be seeing the virus again as I'm sure other people at the Battle would be affected. Likewise, the New York connection wasn't used to labour the point about the changes wrought by the battle, but was abandoned once the central plot regarding the virus took over. This bodes well for the recent announcement that a new episode would follow on from the events of Thor: The Dark World.

However, the clumsiest aspect still remains the mystery behind what happened to Coulson. It's through no fault of Clark Gregg's though who gives a brilliant performance throughout. We got one excellent scene in which he talks to the fireman about to die and reassures him that it's not bad at all, but we've still had no development other than the confirmation of a scar and Coulson recognising that something is wrong. This should feel like a bigger revelation, but it doesn't after weeks of hearing 'there's something different about Coulson...'

This episode was not confined to just developing Coulson though. I've loved the FitzSimmons duo from the start, but they've not warmed themselves to a fair section of SHIELD's audience so far. This episode sought to explore the pair's relationship by first splitting them up and then getting them back together as Simmons' life is put in danger. Throughout the show so far, they've done little more than bicker and spout technical jargon with abandon, which both Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge do with aplomb. This episode, however, is their first real test as characters rather than comic relief.

Both actors rise to the challenge and produce the best scene the season has had to date as the pair argue in their trademark way before they realise that they are inextricably linked and share a unique history and connection that they're not ready to sever just yet. Henstridge's stiff upper lip approach worked well and we got a good hint as to how far she is willing to go to protect her team. However, it was de Caestecker who really stole the show, particularly in the aforementioned scene as he slowly realises just how much Simmons actually means to him.

What also made a huge difference to the emotional connection to the episode was that we actually weren't sure whether Simmons was going to make. Executive producer Joss Whedon has a bit of a reputation when it comes to killing off characters and in a sense, this entire episode was a trolling exercise based on this fact. It raised the stakes a considerably amount for the characters and then explored the team's dynamics stemming from this. She may have had a smaller role this time around, but Chloe Bennet gave a strong supportive performance and I love that Ward really is just a stick in the mud. The impressions of him also helped and moments like those felt much more natural. They've really started to click and so too has the show.

The only trouble with the episode was that it took too long to get there. The scenes in which the volunteer fire officers succumbed to the disease were suitably creepy and as I said before, the Coulson scene was a good callback to the ongoing mystery surrounding his return. However, we've had some important character development and it's really starting to look like SHIELD is on its way now.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of the previous episode here

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