Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review 1.06 - 'FZZT'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 11.06.2013
Coulson and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team must hunt down a killer of extraterrestrial origin before one of their own falls victim! 411's Wyatt Beougher checks in with his full review of "Fzzt!"
Welcome back to another review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and after a week off to refresh and recover, to ruminate and rededicate, I’m glad to be back. I was actually looking forward to a new episode last week, and I had no idea that it was going to be a repeat of the pilot episode until I turned the television on. I think the break came at a good time, though, as, unlike Fox’s Sleepy Hollow (the only other show I make a point to catch live each week), this show hasn’t quite built up the same momentum as that one, and also a one-week break is much preferable to a three-week one. But Coulson and his team came roaring back to action this week, so let’s get to it, shall we?
Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The team traveled to Hong Kong to locate (and eventually stop) a simple street magician turned supervillain, all while dealing with the revelation that Skye’s whole purpose of joining the team was to relay information to the Rising Tide, including her boyfriend. Said boyfriend turned out to be selling information to the mysterious Centipede organization, and he was at least partially responsible for the kidnapping. Skye, having seen the error of her ways, surrenders any and all privacy in exchange for being allowed to remain a part of the team.
Season 01, Episode 06: FZZT
In Wrigley, Pennsylvania, a troop of boy scouts are gathered around a fire, telling ghost stories. The scout leader goes to investigate a noise that only he can hear, but weird things start happening, as metallic objects start hanging in the air. The scout leader, Mr. Cross (Rick Gifford), screams, and a huge electrical pulse radiates from where he was at. The scouts find him hanging in the air, dead, but with an electrical energy pulsing through his body.
On the Bus, Coulson is running on a treadmill while Simmons observes him (I’m ignoring the fact that his biometric sensors are just an iPhone with a fake display). Coulson isn’t due for his field physical for another three months, but he says his physical therapist requested the check-up. Meanwhile, Ward checks out Fitz’ newest invention, a night-night pistol, but Ward says it’s an ounce too heavy. When Skye incredulously questions him over an ounce, he gives her a speech about the difference between success and failure. Fitz does an impression of Ward and flirts (in stereotypical ineffectual geeky fashion) with Skye. Simmons joins them and does her own Ward impression, only for the real thing to inform them that they’re on a mission. Simmons pretends that they took a dummy round out of the pistol, which should make the weight right, which Ward agrees to, drawing another laugh from the Nerds Three.
The team investigates Cross’ death, including his still-floating corpse. Ward hypothesizes that it was either a freak natural occurrence or a weapon, but Skye thinks it might be a powered person. Coulson says they don’t know of anyone with power like that ,but he’ll check into it. Simmons sees a wound on his forehead and as she gets close to investigate, the body discharges a pulse to her before falling to the ground. Skye gives the background of Cross, and he’s completely clean, but Ward and Coulson want her to dig deeper. Coulson says Ward is being tough on Skye, and he says that she has to earn back their trust. Ward is interrogating the junior scout leader while Simmons is performing an autopsy of sorts on Cross’ body. Fitz is in a sealed room off of the examination room, and they have an exchange about Simmons dissecting a cat. Apparently, Cross’ brain was hit with nearly twice the electricity of a bolt of lighting, which fried it from the inside.
Fitz picks up another electrostatic event and Coulson, May, and Ward try to get to its source before anything bad can happen. They arrive at a barn after the source has disappeared, but they find another floating corpse with the same head wound. The second victim barricaded himself inside the barn and went after his shotgun, but there is no one nearby. Skye finds a photo of both victims as part of a volunteer fire company who responded to the Battle of New York. Ward and Skye think they’re looking for a killer, and the scene shifts to another man who sets down a polished Chitauri war helmet. Fitz uses a drone to bring the body down and notes that there was an electromagnetic field around his body. The field agents visit the fire hall and the man who was polishing the helmet comes out. Simmons reveals that the wound is not an entrance wound like she thought, but an exit wound. At the fire house, the man who was polishing the helmet, Tony Diaz (Vincent Laresca), looks increasingly worried as Coulson reveals details about the other two men’s deaths.
Diaz is sweating profusely and excuses himself, so Coulson puts the fire house on lockdown. In the lab, Fitz and Simmons banter theories about the cause of death, while their satellite picks up another reading starting to build. Diaz hears a buzzing noise, like Cross did. Coulson pulls his gun on Diaz as a pot starts to levitate, but May finds the helmet and sends a photo to the lab. Diaz says that he, Cross, and Baker cleaned the helmet because it was rusty. Simmons says he’s not using a weapon, he’s infected, and Coulson evacuates the firehouse. He sits with Diaz and tries to console him, getting very introspective about his own death in what is, thus far, the most touching scene in this series.Diaz sends Coulson away before he detonates, and Fitz scans May, Coulson, and Ward for the virus while the rest of the firefighters are quarantined. A team of hazmat suited agents loads up the helmet, which the team is going to transport to the Sandbox, a research facility across the Atlantic. Coulson tells Simmons to find a cure because he’s sure more people will need it.
In the Bus, Coulson and May discuss Coulson’s physical, giving her a different excuse for it. Simmons calls Coulson away, but before he can leave, May reassures him that he did everything that he could for Diaz. In spite of May’s reassurance, Coulson is still visibly affected by it.Simmons says that the “rust” on the helmet was actually a Chitauri organism that had been dormant, and that it’s a propagating virus that doesn’t move by breathing or touch, but by electrical impulse...as a metal hook starts to float behind her. As Simmons continues to prattle, Coulson quarantines her in the lab, and she realizes that she’s infected. Fitz and Simmons sit back-to-back, separated by the glass of the lab wall. Coulson, May, Ward, and Skye discuss Simmons - she only has a couple of hours to live if she can’t find a cure, they’re at least three hours from being able to touch down because they’re over the Atlantic, and if Simmons detonates, it’s going to disable the plane, likely killing them all. Fitz builds a delivery device for Simmons’ antiserum. Simmons tries a formula based on the antibodies left from the firefighters’ corpses, but it she ends up with two tiny, floating lab rat corpses. The rest of the team attempts to deal with their feelings about Simmons. Ward and Skye both feel helpless, with Ward wishing it was a person, someone he could punish, because he can’t protect Skye, Fitz, and Simmons from stuff he can’t see or understand.
Coulson video conferences with Agent Blake (Titus Welliver), who tells him that if they have infected cargo, they have to dump it because they can’t risk losing the helmet if the virus turns into a pandemic. Fitz tries to reassure Simmons, but she won’t have it, and it quickly devolves into an argument, with the end result being that Fitz *finally* realizes that Simmons might have feelings for him. Simmons says she can’t find a cure because no one’s survived it, but they realize that the Chitauri was immune to the virus and Fitz goes to get it to try to extract cells from the inside. He lets himself into the quarantined lab and they get to work. The rest of the team gathers and paces outside the lab, and Simmons’ alien-infused antiserum floats out of the centrifuge. She misses it, but Fitz catches the vial and delivers it to the third and final lab rat, who survives longer than his brethren before emitting the pulse and floating to the top of his cage. Simmons ask Coulson to tell her father first and let him tell her mother; Coulson argues that they still have time, but Simmons shoos him and the rest of the team off so that she can have a moment with Fitz. She whacks him in the back of the head with a fire extinguisher, knocking him out, and then jumps from the cargo ramp without a parachute. Fitz wakes up to see the rat has returned to consciousness and seems fine, only to see Simmons make her fateful leap. Fitz rearms his delivery device and grabs a parachute, but Ward grabs them both from him and jumps out himself. He straps on his parachute and snatches Simmons out of freefall, delivering the antiserum before pulling his ripcord.
Back on the Bus, Coulson angrily lectures Simmons about jumping out of the plane and then dismisses her and Ward. Ward tells Simmons that what she did was especially brave, only for Simmons to reveal her earlier deception regarding the Night-Night pistol. Ward reveals that he knew all along and then does his version of the FitzSimmons’ impressions of him. Skye rushes in and hugs Simmons, and Coulson and May have a discussion about near-death. Coulson’s bloodwork is apparently normal, and he reveals that he ordered all the tests himself because he was feeling differently. May has Coulson open his shirt, revealing a massive scar from where Loki ran him through, and she says an experience like that makes you feel different because you are different. (The heavy implication is that May has also died in the field, which is what prompted her to make the switch to desk work.) Fitz and Simmons are talking about Fitz’ aborted rescue; Simmons assures him that he was the hero for staying by her side and giving him hope. Agent Blake meets with Coulson when they arrive at the Sandbox, and he warns Coulson that if Coulson continues disobeying direct orders from HQ, someone might try to take away his dream team. Coulson says let them try, Blake says that he doesn’t sound like the Coulson he used to know, and Coulson says “No, I suppose it doesn’t. Get used to it.”
“You should know - I’m not a fan of getting poked.”
“Been there - they have a nice little Strawberry festival in the spring.”
“This guy makes Captain America look like ‘The Dude’.” (Blank stares) “The Big...Lebowski...seriously?”
“It’s happening again.” “It’s science, Fitz, I have to dissect something!” “No, the satellite is picking up another electrostatic event, not 20 kilometres from here.”
“What are you looking for?” “A scented candle.” “Not you.”
“Oh, does that mean we’re to leave now?”
“A little heavy on the iron, but don’t worry, you don’t have to call me Iron Man.” “I wasn’t planning on it.”
Theory of the Week
Less of a theory and more an inference from May and Coulson’s final conversation in this episode. May seems to intimate that she, too, has died in the field (or at least was very near death). Yet she seems to have more knowledge of Coulson’s situation than even Coulson himself, so I’m anxious to see how things play out between the two of them in the future if one or the other is in immediate danger to life and health.
Finally some real tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper, although my favorite one was more of a tip of the hat than an actual nod, as the emblem on the scout leader’s uniform was the same as the Nova Corps. But we also got to see a Chitauri war helmet and some actual, “everyman” type fallout from the events of The Avengers, pluse an appearance from Titus Welliver’s Agent Blake, who first appeared in the short Marvel One-Shot: Item 47, which came bundled with The Avengers and dealt with Agent Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez, who will be appearing in at least one episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season) attempting to recover a Chitauri weapon from a young bank-robbing couple. It’s these odes, both large and small, that comic fans have been clamoring for since this series debuted, and it was nice to see the payoff in this episode.
As for the episode itself, it was a tale of two halves, as the first half was very much a police procedural while the second half was a much more personal look at how each member of the team deals with the potential loss of Simmons. On paper, it doesn’t sound like it would work, but in execution, I feel like it really did. For the first time on the show, it felt like every member of the team had a defined role during an investigation - Coulson was the field leader, May the highly-skilled, extremely dangerous field operative, Fitz and Simmons did their science stuff, and Skye actually did helpful computer related stuff! Even Ward, who didn’t have much of a role in the first half, other than being an extra gun and some extra muscle, managed to redeem himself in the second half of the episode, showing real vulnerability and also being the guy who jumps out of the plane to save people (May obviously can’t do that because she has to fly it). For arguably the first time in the show’s admittedly short run, each character started to feel like a real person with real feelings, motivations, and emotions, and the overall team dynamic improved drastically (as evidenced by the Ward impressions by Fitz, Simmons, and even Ward himself).
I did have a few issues with this episode, but they were very minor ones. First off, why is Fitz so forgiving of Skye’s betrayal? Sure, he’s got an obvious crush on her, but dude, she just sold you out for her secret boyfriend. As the nerd with the crush on her, you should’ve been the most personally offended by the whole deal. Secondly, Ward debuted as this suave, James Bond-styled super agent, they’ve made a big deal of his ability to speak multiple languages and his excellent field work, which (in theory) should require a great deal of thinking on the fly, so why is he regularly being reduced to “dumb guy who likes to hit stuff”? Between the “English, please” in episode two and the “I wanted it to be someone I could hit” in this episode, I don’t think they’re doing the character any favors. I feel like he should be a non-powered Captain America, but instead he’s coming across more like USAgent (and that’s not a good thing). Finally, while the humor aspect of the dialogue has been about what you’d expect from a Whedon show, a great deal of the rest of it has felt either forced, heavy-handed, or some awful combination of both. I can’t even blame it on Ward/Skye/Fitz/Simmons either, as both May and Coulson have been guilty of it as well, and Ming-Na Wen and Clark Gregg have both proven to be better actors than that.
All in all, though, another step in the right direction for this show, and I’m definitely enjoying it more as the season is playing out.
The 411: A nice investigative procedural combined with a human interest angle makes this episode one of the show’s strongest episodes yet. The action was well-done, the effects were solid, the characters are starting to feel more like characters than walking cliches, and we’re finally getting some of tie-ins to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and Marvel Universe at large) that fans have been waiting for.