From the very beginning I had a sneaky suspicion that this episode of “Agents of SHIELD” may have been their post-Halloween episode. It starts with creepy ghost stories being told around a campfire (a staple of any cliched Halloween segment) and then jumps right into a dead body which makes everyone run in terror. The dead body is shown floating in mid-air and it starts to look like the opening scene for a “Sleepy Hollow” episode. However, “Agents of SHIELD” proves yet again that their show does not resort to gimmicky crap like holiday themed episodes and actually delivers a great segment that is filled with equal parts suspense and sympathy wrapped around a plot that is written and directed very well, despite a few glitches here and there.
This week’s episode deals with the team having to solve a murder that has taken the lives of two volunteer firemen present during the New York invasion in “The Avengers.” Coulson and the team find out how these firemen are being killed and it becomes a race against the clock when team member Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) becomes a risk to the team and must find a solution to the problem before time runs out.
When the promo first aired for this episode, I thought it was going to be a simple murder-mystery plot (a la “Scooby Doo”). However, this episode has so many layers that it actually becomes quite interesting when you step back and think about what you are seeing. The firemen that die in the episode are dying because they kept a helmet that belonged to one of the aliens as a souvenir but when they wanted to clean it, they became infected with an electromagnetic disease that the previous owner had.
One scene in particular that stands out is when Coulson has to talk with the last firefighter that came into contact with the helmet and is about to die. At first, it seems like the last fireman in the trio is a murder harnessing the alien technology for his own twisted scheme; however it is revealed that he and his buddies just happened to be doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. It actually becomes quite a tear-jerker moment when Coulson decides to sit with the fireman and talk him through his last minutes. The scene is practically bleeding sympathy and Clark Gregg’s acting chops continue to shie as he really makes you feel empathetic for this lone firemen who is nothing more than a victim for this week’s episode.
Coulson also starts to question if he is the same person he was before he was killed and Agent May gives him a nice little pep talk that amounts to nothing more than “Hey, people change… whadya gonna do about it?” This is one of a few laughably bad moments present in the episode. The scene where Simmons decides the best way to solve her being infected is to commit suicide by jumping out of the plane, and Agent Ward has to jump out and catch her mid-flight is hilariously awful. It has to be the lamest green screen effect ever that looks like it was shot in the basement of Joss Whedon’s house. I have always had a gripe with the special effects on this show but, I shouldn’t expect miracles from this show. After all, they are still in their first season. Also, the moment at the end where Fitz and Simmons reconcile felt really awkward and half-assed. After Simmons gives Fitz a nice, friendly peck on the check, Fitz gets a constipated look on his face and then the scene just cuts to black with a loud THOOM noise at the end. Was this scene worthy of that kind of ending? I don’t know, Whedon must think so and if I try to question his motives the internet will kill me so let’s just leave it at that.
Despite my few nitpicks, this was a very well done episode. Starting off as a whodunit story that nicely blends into a race against the clock, all the while finding time to flesh out some character development and true empathetic moments makes for a great installment for a show that just keeps improving over time. Let’s hope next week’s episode can keep the trend of these knock-out hits.