For those of you tuning in, we are getting pretty close to the end of “Agents of SHIELD.” We are three episodes away from the season finale and it feels like all the loose ends are starting to be tied up neatly, which in all honesty, feels a little bit distracting. I get that Coulson is starting to become suspicious of his return to the land of the living and Skye needs to know more about her past but it kind of seems redundant when both individuals work for a government agency that may as well have the word “CLASSIFIED” tattooed on everyone’s forehead. This episode in general felt less like a fun, happy-go lucky adventure and felt more like some pseudo-soapbox statement about the consequences of maintaining or exploiting secrets in our modern age. I have a lot to talk about with a limited word count so let’s just get right to it.
This week’s episode deals with Agents Ward and Fitz being handpicked for a mission by SHIELD’s upper echelon of secret keepers, Level 8, which is a sector higher than even Coulson’s authorization. Both agents are tasked with going into Russia to deactivate a weapon that could (say it with me now) blow shit up real good. The sub-plot involves Coulson worrying about keeping secrets from his team, Skye moaning about being left out of the loop, Simmons worried about the state of Fitz during this dangerous mission, and May… just being bad-ass May. Things get serious when Ward and Fitz are pretty clearly marked as expendable and the team has to decide how to handle this despite the threat of classified information and top secret BLAH BLAH BLAH.
OK, before I go way deeper than I have to with this episode, let’s talk about some of the good things. I like the fact that Coulson is starting to figure out that things regarding his recuperation period in Tahiti are not adding up. I’m really rooting for him to find out the answer soon but, I swear on Whedon’s bald dome, if Coulson turns out to be a clone I will never finish watching “Buffy.” Now, robo-Coulson, that makes more sense. I also really liked the character interactions shared between Ward and Fitz. At first, it felt like a generic “Revenge of the Nerds” kind of relationship where Fitz’s brains outshines Ward’s brawn; yet, it actually blossomed into this “Band of Brothers” type of plot where both men are looking out for one another and refuse to let the other get left behind. That is a nice bit of camaraderie that is needed in a show like this.
“Trust the System.”
This episode did have one major problem for me that kind of feels like a pine-cone in the punch bowl. The sub-plot revolving around Coulson and Skye trying to figure out why SHIELD is withholding classified information felt like it had much more of an impact on the show then whether or not Fitz and Simmons will just fuck and get it over with. The main tagline of this episode is “Trust the System” and I personally feel like the show is being either very smart or very dumb with this concept. Unless you have been living under a rock with your ears plugged than you may be familiar with the conspiracy theory that our governments are lying to us about EVERYTHING. Secrets are always a hot-button topic and the “for your eyes only” policy seems to only fuel our pathetic obsessions with the truth.
This episode could have been a nice commentary on how the system we thought we could trust turns out to be flawed and we should question everything we are told, OR it’s just a lame way for the writers to make SHIELD look like a bunch of assholes who would rather keep their employees in the dark because they regard them as expendable. Skye and Coulson do grapple with this concept as best as their characters can, but the writing kind of fails them. I can’t believe I have to remind you, Whedon, but this is not “Homeland,” this is “Agents of SHIELD.” Stick to what you’re good at and things will be just fine.
Overall, I like this episode despite the elephant in the Hub. It tries way too hard to create some kind of high-horse commentary on how government bodies shouldn’t keep secrets or recognize their protectors as expendable. It has some really great character development and some great cliff hangers but it just felt like it was trying too hard to be something it clearly isn’t.