Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review 1.04 - 'Eye Spy'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 10.16.2013
Coulson is forced to confront a former protege gone rogue, but will his need to give her a second chance put his life, and his team's, in danger? 411's Wyatt Beougher checks in with a review of episode four!
Well, here we are, the final of my four-day binge of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recaps, and while I can’t say that I regret recapping the show thus far, I am definitely rethinking my decision to compress my reviews into such a short window. Ah well, at least I’ll be caught up after this one and I can go back to only doing one a week for the next 18 weeks or so. If you missed the first three reviews and would like to see what I’ve thought thus far to put this episode’s review into context, you can find my other reviews here on 411Mania: Pilot (in a nutshell, solid but not spectacular), 0-8-4 (a noticeable step backwards in quality), and The Asset (the best episode to date, but still not on par with the MCU films).
This marks the first time I’ve reviewed an episode without the benefit of a few days to marinate on it, so forgive me if this (and future) installments are more off-the-cuff. I do know, based on details that came out today, that this week’s episode got the same ratings as episode three, which means the show has probably levelled off around 7.7 million viewers - not nearly as great as the huge numbers for the premiere, but still much better than the drop from week 1 to week 2 would’ve suggested. And, if the show continues to improve in quality, there’s still the possibility that the ratings will increase due to word of mouth. We comic fans are a pretty vocal bunch.
Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: After an evil capitalist kidnapped a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist, the team had to rely on Skye to get inside the villain’s compound and make an entrance for the cavalry (no, not Agent Melinda May) to come and save her and Dr. Franklin Hall. However, Hall proved to be the man behind his disappearance, and Coulson had to drop him into the villain’s graviton generator to stop it before it destroyed the entire island of Malta. Skye realized that she does want to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent (or is it all part of the act?), and she and Ward bonded over their equally troubled childhoods. Plus, Coulson’s muscle memory for tasks wasn’t what it should be, which only further fuels the debate - is he a clone, a Life Model Decoy, or something else entirely?
Season 01, Episode 04: Eye Spy
Fade in on a crowded square in Sweden, where some sort of outdoor party appears to be going on. A large group of men in red masks and suits with briefcases make their way to the center of the square, where a woman with headphones is standing with her eyes closed. The men keep moving, heading for the subway, but the woman is now following them. They board the subway, and the woman joins them, although she appears to be playing it low-key. She and one of the men meet eyes, and then the rest of the men in the train car with her begin to stare at her. She sees that the briefcases are handcuffed to their wrists. After closing her eyes again and apparently collecting herself, the woman smashes an emergency alarm box, which plunges the train into darkness. The riders panic, but when the train comes to a stop, all of the men in masks are unconscious, with one particularly unlucky soul having lost his hand (and his briefcase). Cut to the woman, who opens the case and finds that it’s filled with diamonds.
On the Bus, Coulson attempts to engage May in a conversation, but she shuts him down. In the lab, Fitz shows Ward the updated Night-Night gun, which is now an automatic pistol with multiple rounds (I must admit, that’s a nice upgrade for Ward’s more hands-on approach). Coulson comes looking for Skye and finds her camped out in an SUV. He asks Skye to help him figure out how a group of thieves were able to crack a security system that allowed them to steal millions of dollars of diamonds. The fifty-five men were apparently military, hired to escort the diamonds, which were in only one briefcase. Coulson describes the woman from the beginning as their sole suspect. Skye wonders if the suspect has ESP, which May quickly shoots down, but Skye theorizes that the woman closing her eyes is either random or really important. Coulson says he picked the op, not HQ, and Skye shows them an Instagram photo (sadly minus any filtering - what’s up with that, Swedes?) of the men in masks. Coulson, May, and Skye start poring over social media photos of the men in red masks and Coulson pretty quickly locates the thief, who is an operative that Coulson trained, Akela Amador (Pascale Armand).
Apparently, Amador was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent believed dead for seven years after a failed gulag raid, which May surmises is why Coulson picked this op (Coulson confirms her theory). Ward gives an update on Amador’s travel (last seen in Belarus) and May offers to let HQ know she’s alive to assist in the manhunt, but Coulson shuts that idea down quickly. He tasks Ward with putting together a list of hotels and inns in the area Amador is believed to be. Coulson reveals that Amador was never a team player and that he believes he pushed her too hard. Amadordoes the eyes closed thing in her hotel, opens a door and yanks a man inside, pinning him down with a golf club. She accuses him of not coming alone, pointing out his men in the next room and in the stairwell. He says they are for his protection once he has the merchandise. Amador gives him a golf ball and pours water over it, revealing a handful of diamonds. There are three other golf balls, which are easier to carry through customs than $30 million dollars in diamonds, and in exchange, the man gives Amador a magnetic keycard to access all the levels of something.
The team arrives in Belarus, and Simmons geeks out because it’s the birthplace of a Nobel prize winning physicist, but Fitz is worried about being in the field. Coulson assures him that they’re only there for electronic surveillance and won’t have to leave the van. May reports that S.H.I.E.L.D. has requested a status update, but May didn’t give them anything more than a generic update. Fitz, Simmons, and Skye are left behind to electronically scan for any traces of her contacting her buyer, while Ward and Coulson go looking on foot. Coulson is keeping an open mind about Amador, while Ward believes that she sold out her fellow agents for something. Simmons and Skye break radio silence to ask for a bathroom break (and report they’ve found an unusual signal), but Ward simply directs them to an empty 16.9 ounce water bottle, prompting a derisive anatomy lesson from Skye. Ward angrily says he and Coulson are looking for a dangerous suspect, and when Skye says Fitz wants to know if he packed any snacks, Ward hangs up on her.
Coulson and Ward enter a hotel, and the clerk says that Amador is her angel, because she told her to go to the doctor and he found a tumor. Fitz struggles to unencrypt the signal, but Skye uses some of her Rising Tide exploits to clean the signal up. The hotel clerk insists that Amador’s gift ensures that she’ll know that Coulson and Ward are coming, while the feed that Skye and Fitz/Simmons decoded shows the exterior of their van (although they don’t immediately realize that). Fitz realizes it just as the stream cuts to an x-ray/MRI scan of the van, just before it gets rammed over a hillside by a box truck driven by Amador.
The team returns to the Bus, where Ward argues that Amador ramming the van should remove any doubt from Coulson’s mind that she’s gone full-on rogue. Skye reports that she hopes to be able to turn Amador’s feed around and watch her within the hour. Skye puts the feed on the big screen, but it’s all blurry...until Amador wipes steam off of a mirror, revealing that the camera is in her eye. The feed switches to the x-ray scan again, revealing a robotic implant in her eye socket. Fitz says the technology is a decade too advanced for what S.H.I.E.L.D. currently has. May tries to call in back-up again, but Coulson again argues against it. Coulson attempts to persuade the team that Amador is still one of them, but both Ward and May clearly disagree. Amador asks for permission to sleep via written not, and the words “Stand By” appear on the feed. Coulson surmises that she’s not being watched; she’s being controlled by whoever put the implant in her head. Coulson says they’ll take watches observing the feeds, with May’s offer to go first leading to a tense staredown between she and Coulson.
Skye reports in with no real information, and she tries to chat with Coulson about the situation, but Coulson blames himself for Skye and Fitz/Simmons getting bounced around in the van, and for his argument with May earlier. They have a heart-to-heart, with Skye backing up Coulson’s assessment of Amador. Coulson finds Fitz asleep at his work table, and after playing back Amador’s feed, they realize May knows where Amador is and is on her way to get her. Coulson has Fitz assemble the team to go after May and Amador.
Amador wakes up with a start, but it’s too late, as May is already in her room. May confronts Amador, but she says that the people controlling her built in a failsafe, and that if she doesn’t kill May, they’ll kill her. This leads to a nice little throwdown between May and Amador, with May getting the upper hand. Amador destroys the room and uses her advanced imaging technology to take advantage, drawing a bead on May. Before she can pull the trigger, Coulson bursts through the door and drops her with the Night-Night pistol. She awakes in the Bus with Coulson, who explains that they hijacked her feed. Ward is using a pair of glasses to replicate the feed and finish her mission while they work on destroying the failsafe built into her eye. Amador asks Coulson where his “I told you so” is, and he replies with, “That’s not me anymore.” Nice little touch there. Amador blames herself for her capture because she didn’t listen to Coulson and trust her team.
Skye goes wireless with Ward’s spoofing glasses, and Amador reveals that she took a bullet and woke up, blind in one eye and caged, before being rescued and receiving the implant. Amador still has no idea who gave her the implant, but that they had S.H.I.E.L.D.-like precision. She says she doesn’t know the details for the rest of the mission that Ward and Skye are completing, because her intel comes in bits and pieces. Ward goes in, and Amador reveals that her handler is an Englishman based on his terminology for things like “elevator” and “trunk”. He’s in his late 30’s or 40’s and uses dated references, he’s a clumsy typist. Coulson builds a profile based on what she tells him. Fitz and Simmons are going to remove the implant, in spite of their reservations, and Coulson puts more pressure on them by telling them that if Ward is discovered, they’ll kill her instantly. Ward makes his way into the building with no issue, while Coulson leaves to find the handler. Simmons removes the implant (using only local anesthesia - which Amador injects herself). Skye tries to get Ward to abort, but he says he’s going to do whatever it takes, only to get an order moments later to seduce a male guard.
Ward tries to charm the guard, but he doesn’t buy it, so Ward takes him out before moving into the next room, which contains two guys at typewriters with a blackboard that spans the entire room. It’s filled with equations and a circuit design. Apparently, the mission is complete and Ward needed the guard’s password, as a countdown timer expires and sets off an alarm. Ward flees the scene while Simmons works on removing the implant. Fitz has to step in and disconnect the electronics of the implant, but he’s extremely squeamish. Meanwhile, Ward accidentally sees himself in a mirror, forcing Fitz to cut the wires before the handler can trigger the killswitch. Ward escapes and Coulson rounds up the handler, whose own eye implant triggers, killing him instantly. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents pick up Amador for her trial, and Coulson says he’s going to testify, but Amador says it doesn’t matter how it plays out from here because she’s free. Amador suspects something is different about Coulson and goes to May with her suspicions, but May has no idea what Amador means.
Coulson joins Skye in the backseat of the SUV and Skye says Coulson is cool for giving Amador a second chance. Coulson says he got a second chance, so Amador should’ve too. Skye likes the fact that Coulson has her back, no matter what, and we get a close-up of Amador’s remaining eye twitching as she lays down on a cot in her cell. Ward and Fitz are playing poker, Fitz says he knows Ward’s tell and can tell when he’s bluffing, but he was really just trying to get Skye to use the glasses to see Ward’s cards. Instead, Skye mentions that she’ll see Ward’s cards and Fitz with no clothes on, which prompts Fitz to fold and leave the room, which in turn prompts Skye to use the glasses to see Ward.
“What do you like best? The freedom, the view?” “The solitude.”
“Did she stop saying ‘bang’ every time she pulls the trigger?”
“Not that I’m your protege. I’m not even a real, live S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.”
“Bus to short bus.” “Go for short bus.” “Next time, I’ll decide what we call ourselves.”
“Not that long ago, I would’ve dumped ESP and the aliens in portals in the ‘for crazy people’ file, but now…”
“But I called with an equally pressing question for you, my S.O. - what are we supposed to do if we have to pee?”
“You’re a robot, can you do this?”
“Just checking in with an update - she’s still in the hotel...and that’s the update.”
“If you think this woman deserves a second chance, we should give it to her. Even though she tried to kill me and I kind of hate her guts.”
“You should’ve stayed in bed.”
“Oh my god, super spy is ticklish.”
“Cheap haircut, five’o’clock shadow, nope - odds are you guys play for the same team; you’re going to have to bromance him. Talk sports, vodka, the Victoria’s not-a-Secret catalog - be friendly, Agent Ward - can you be friendly? Please don’t die.”
I hate to say it, because I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think this show has finally settled in and found its footing. For the second straight episode, we got an intriguing storyline with enough espionage-style twists to pay homage to the source material, solid performances from both regulars and the guest star, and a self-contained storyline that manages to continue to build to the larger, overarching one. I’m officially considering episode two an anomaly at this point. Between whoever was pumping Mike with Extremis (A.I.M.), Quinn’s contacts (A.I.M.), and whoever was handling Amador’s handler (A.I.M.), the pilot and the last two episodes feel like they’re building up a shadow organization designed to be the anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. Based on who developed the Extremis in Iron Man 3, I think it’s pretty clear that it can only be one Marvel supervillain organization (A.I.M.), although if they wanted to keep that organization as a largely harmless R&D operation for the immediate future, they could be subcontracted to the Hydra (which would actually make sense in light of the Tesseract-fueled weapon in episode 2).
And while I just digressed pretty badly from the topic at hand, that’s actually one of the things I love the most about this show so far - the theories. Check out some message board topics or comments on other reviews of this show, and you’ll see a whole slew of varying theories about the three main mysteries currently introduced to the show: what’s the deal with Coulson, is Skye working for S.H.I.E.L.D. or is she a double agent for the Rising Tide, and, obviously, who is pulling the strings on the bad guys’ side? I think Lost was probably the last show that I can remember that had people flinging such wild speculation around, and the best part about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that there’s a whole (fictional) world to draw from when crafting these theories. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that after the introduction of Dr. Franklin Hall last week, that’s half the fun - trying to figure out which Marvel characters will be introduced next.
And sure, this episode still features the same major flaw that I’ve highlighted since the first episode - the characters are still very generic and we haven’t really been given a whole lot of reason to get emotionally attached to them yet. I think that’s probably what’s most surprising, given the Whedons’ history in television. Granted, Joss was the one behind Buffy and Firefly, but Jed worked with his brother on Dollhouse and its characters proved to be more engrossing than those from S.H.I.E.L.D. have been thus far. In retrospect, though, Dollhouse was a slow starter as well, so perhaps Ward, Skye, and company will feel more relatable by the end of this first season. At any rate, this was another very solid episode of a show that I’m enjoying very much, and I can’t complain too much about that.
The 411: After an up-down-up trajectory for its first three episodes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. appears to have found its level, following up the very good The Asset with another solid episode. If they can maintain this level of quality for the remaining 18 episodes, I would think it would be enough to merit a second season, but I personally feel that the groundwork is being laid for bigger and better things as the season progresses.