Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 6 review: FZZT

Review James Hunt 7 Nov 2013 - 07:39

Agents of SHIELD delivers a Fitz and Simmons-focused episode this week. Here's James' review of FZZT...

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 FZZT

After a two week break, Agents of SHIELD returns with an episode that finally attempts to widen its dramatic focus beyond Skye the smart-talking computer hacker. Unfortunately, in doing so, it switches its attention to Fitz and Simmons. Is anyone else thinking about how green the grass back over the other side of the fence was?

In fairness, the main problem with Fitz and Simmons thus far has been their painfully utilitarian position in the cast. This episode gives them a little more material to work with than the expositionary guff they've been subject to in the previous five episodes as the pair set about finding a cure for an alien virus under increasingly dire stakes. In the process, we learn a little bit more about who the characters are, where they came from and what's going on inside their heads.

The most rewarding thing about the episode is that Iain De Caestecker (Fitz) really seizes the opportunity, demonstrating that he does have a solid emotional range and thereby allowing Fitz to undergo the long-overdue transformation from prop into character. By the end of this episode he's become convincingly two-dimensional. It'd be nice if we could have three dimensions, but considering we're only a quarter of the way through the season run there's still time for that to improve.

Unfortunately, on the other side of the equation, Elizabeth Henstridge (Simmons) manages to demonstrate that the monotony of her performance isn't the fault of the material she's been given, but a conscious decision. Maybe she'd do better work with better material, but right now she's the weakest link in the cast. It's probably the case that the accent she's trying to act through doesn't help. Somewhat tellingly, the first episode that she gets called upon to convey a demeanour other than prim-but-enthusiastic is the first in which her natural accent starts to show through (I guessed Rochdale, Wikipedia says Sheffield).

Although it fleshes them out considerably, "Fzzt" doesn't spend all its time on Fitz and Simmons. Skye, May and Ward get to inch their respective plots forward (does anyone on this show NOT have a traumatic past?) while Coulson's takes something of a leap forward. It's not a disappointing development, as such, but if this is the end of that particular mystery it does have the potential to be quite lame. For now, though, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. There's got to be more going on here.

Six episodes in, we do have to take a moment to appreciate that the references to the Marvel films haven't got any more subtle. This week's plot trinket is a Chitauri helmet, and that, at least, is a good idea: a loose thread that can be worked into the plot in a way that feels natural and organic. But the writers can't seem to stop there. Characters once again reference the likes of Iron Man and Captain America for throwaway lines that serve zero purpose other than to send a giant wink the audience's way. It's a device which reached the limits of acceptability in episode two, and by this point it's just making everyone involved look desperate. Even comic fans don't talk about Captain America and Iron Man as much as the Agents of SHIELD do.

To give this episode the credit it deserves, while the start was slow and dull, the tension really ramped up in the second (better) half. Crucially, the final act was the first time (for me) that Agents of SHIELD has elicited the emotion it was actually aiming for, and it did feel as though no-one was safe. I genuinely thought Simmons might die. Then I thought Fitz might. Then I switched back. The fact that no-one actually died by the end of the episode is immaterial: there was jeopardy here, in convincing amounts. That's what happens when you shift the focus away from the cast members who are clearly bullet-proof.

As for whether this episode continues the show's upwards trend, that's debatable. It could've been worse, but there wasn't the leap forward that we saw from episode three to four, or four to five. I'll say this for an episode: it was better than I thought a Fitz & Simmons episode would be. That's progress, of a sort.

Read James' review of the previous episode, Girl In The Flower Dress, here.

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.

Disqus - noscript

If the avengers were real, and they saved NYC from an alien attack via wormhole in the sky... I think everyone would be talking about it, all the time, for years to come. I know I wouldn't be able to shut up about it, I'd certainly be wanting to discuss much more than shield does...

Best episode yet for my money.

Was perhaps the second best episode so far, but the big book of clichés needs a rest. Also, such a shame he caught her!

The series is really growing on me, easily the best episode so far, and amazingly even FitzSimmons isnt totally annoying (although Simmons accent still grates), in fact i would go as far as to say i can even see them becoming key characters, if the pair get broken up, just hope they don't go for a lazy plot of one defects to centipede, although if done right a double agent angle could work.

Another thing that seemed to click with me this week is that in a universe where you have Superhero's and powers/abilities then supergenius polymaths are acceptable (given that is also what tony stark is), so fitzsimmons technobable/walking collaboratively edited wiki entry on topic of discussion was also less irritating.

I enjoyed it. Yes, the Iron Man reference seemed a little forced but kudos for Captain America/The Dude joke!

I don't get why you hate the references so much, i mean, its the the biggest most important event in human history for them, I'm surprised it's not being talked about more.

"My blood has a little too much iron ..... but you dont have to call me Iron Man" ....... I think we are done here. Someone gimme a nudge when Taskmaster turns up but until then I am filing this under infinite potential, no payoff. It feels like a heap of dicarded Buffy scripts and not not wanting to use any Marvel characters just incase they need to be used in a film at some point ever

I thought Simmons did fine. Her character is an emotionally repressed, reclusive scientist - she's delivering that. We have Skye as a contrast, we don't want two of them battering each other to over deliver. And I don't understand the problem with the accent, she's English, she carries it perfectly well, and it suits the character.
The performance wasn't outstanding from either of them (having just watched Hanks in Captain Phillips last night as a comparison) but given these two have been bitched about more than any other characters it shows the writers had a plan to flesh them out as time goes on, and this wasn't a bad first effort at doing that.

As with other comments, a huge part of the appeal of this show is being set in a post NY Avengers Assemble world; why references to this is a source of criticism for many I do not know. It's a fantasy TV show based on comic books, and six episodes in it's doing a more than reasonable job of delivering on my expectations. I think the biggest issue with this show is for many those expectations being unreasonable in the first place.

Some good points here. But, I have to disagree with what you said about Henstridge (Simmons). I believe she came out of her shell a great deal in this episode.

Yes, FitzSimmons has been props in the background so far. I did enjoy that both of them showed something more than techo-physics-babble and one liners.

Henstridge the most, conveyed some serious heartbreaking acting. And me too, did think that she might die. Proper acting here. Hoping for something more from both these two actors, but I expect that Henstridge might become the great breakout character in this show.

Strongly disagree, really great work from the actress who plays Simmons.

I'm finding these reviews incredibly negative, and I think it is mostly unfair. There are a few issues with the show, but they are getting smaller week by week, and its still an entertaining hour.

For the record, I thought Elizabeth Henstridge was wonderful in this episode, but reading this review, you'd think she was the worst actor in it. Judging by other reviews I've read online, and the comments below, I'm not the only one.

James, is it time to conclude that this show is just not for you, and let someone else have a crack at the reviews?

I can't wait to see tge tie-ins with the movies and... Marvel's X-Files? But I digress. that'll be the real payoff, especially if the last ep of the season is right after Tge winter soldier. How could somethin like that not affect their team? It might even satisfy the fans it's lost by ENDING the team. How bout expanding the team? They need a black guy. Sorry, that's racist. They need THE black guy. From Criminal Minds. Shemar Moore. He'd make a good Luke Cage...

Forget Shield. Heroes for Hire. Especially if they could make it feel less Buffy and more Burn Notice. He and Iron Fist fighting crime, joining the Avengers in the sequels. Their premise is perfect for episodes rather than a movie here and there. Moore's already a TV actor, just get some guy to play Iron Fist. Mark Dacascos. He's a martial artist AND he's on Iron Chef. Perfect.

I really want the Rock to be Cage, but i can't see the Rock doing a TV show, yet he's always going back to wrestling. I guess that's where he gets the best discounts on Roids. But he and Iko Uwais are my movie choices.

I enjoy it too. Yeah James. Learn to like it.

Didn't they suggest in episode 1 that SHIELD managed to cover this up? (ridiculous as it sounds)

Rather than respond to comments directly, let me make a few general points:

1. If I'm being excessively negative, it's because the show isn't living up to its potential. I'm careful to praise the good as much as I disparage the bad. Looking back through this review and I think the balance is actually quite even. The problem is that there's so much in the show that just isn't working. If you disagree, that's fine, but I don't think I've made any criticism of the show that isn't fair.

2. I would be happy for the characters to sit around discussing Iron Man and Captain America all day if it had a point in the story. It doesn't. The line "you don't have to call me Iron Man" isn't in the show for any other reason than to try and make the audience go "Oh yeah, he knows Iron Man! Remember Iron Man? I like Iron Man therefore I must like this."

Furthermore, the point that "Aliens invaded! It's a big deal! No wonder they keep mentioning it!" doesn't hold water. This isn't a TV series about humanity's response to a failed alien invasion. The writers are making an active decision to to highlight this material. It's not some kind of objective reality that it should be included.

3. I accept that not everyone hates Henstridge's faux-English accent as much as I do. But that said, if you're British and couldn't hear her natural accent slipping through multiple times in this episode, then you're not paying enough attention to the show. I don't know if De Caestecker is Scottish or not, but the fact that he CAN keep his accent straight means he's automatically putting in a better performance than Henstridge.

Henstridge is English though?

If you look up the word 'Killjoy' in the dictionary, there's a picture of James Hunt typing an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D review.

I want to like the show and I'm sticking with it for the moment but I've found most episodes so far incredibly bland as are most of the characters . They need to make it feel like its routed more in the Marvel universe and that doesn't just mean dropping names from the Avengers . There must be a whole host of D list heroes and villains that arn't earmarked for films that could appear .

Powerman, Iron fist and Daredevil have all just been given series with a deal between Netflix and Marvel . So you ll get your wish for a Heroes for Hire series sooner than you suspected . Also I believe they have an option for a Defenders show .

Yes. Which is what makes it all the more egregious that she can't do the accent she's aiming for.

De Caestecker is, and sounds, Glaswegian, so really keeping his accent straight there is not a challenge in the slightest and doesn't really mean he's automatically putting in a better performance. There's no effort there.

Now we're talking! Avengers 4: Civil War! 3 comes first, but it doesn't rhyme. Lets take care of Thanos first.

As an actress she has some level of agency over her own performance. By either choosing or agreeing to do an accent she can't handle, she's harmed that performance. By contrast, De Caestecker may have asked if he could use his natural accent, which would demonstrate a smart performance choice.

Dude. Avengers 4: Civil War. Take care of Thanos in A3. Besides, it doesn't rhyme.

I like the show for the most part and for me
this was the best episode yet. It was less goofy with more drama and character
development. I was curious about Fitz-Simmons because I really like the
characters. My favorites are actually Simmons and May. The most annoying for me
is Skye. She’s pretty for sure, but looks alone don’t make a good character.
Ask Dany Trejo. Besides, the more she moves to the background, the better the
show gets. Caulson should be the main character, not some teen hippie hacker.

I liked that we learned a bit more about
Caulson, however I hope he simply didn’t just survive the incident. There must
be some fancy tech involved or “godly intervention”…

At first I thought Simmons was going to die
and then I realized I was watching ABC, not HBO. Lo and behold, James Bond
saved her.

what is wrong with sending a giant wink the audience's way ?

Were you stoned when you wrote that lol It really doesn't make a lot of sense .

No, no it doesn't. But it WILL.

1. thanks for including the flower with the pot …
2. co-workers sometimes make jokes … no one forces you to laugh … how often do your co-workers talk about what was on the news ("real" information, not entertainment) the days/weeks before … how long did you talk with them about 9/11 or 7/7 … it's a fact most human do not give a crap about something once the buzz is over …
3. to me she sounds like she's from the north … it's kind of vague but i don't care because i am not trying to pin-point her accent to a precise city … maybe her parents had different accents and hers is a strange melting pot of various influences … sorry if it ruins your ability to sit back, relax and enjoy 43 minutes of fun

I'm not entirely sure why everybody is attacking the reviewer. If you disagree, fine. Put forward your argument. Don't insult him.

I find Simmons' accent unbelievably annoying. I don't know why American studios insist on making British characters have what I'd call a posh Southern accent when the majority of British people do not speak like that. To back myself up, I looked up interviews with Elisabeth Henstridge on youtube and lo and behold she's got a Northern accent. I don't blame the actress. I think unless you're actually posh (see Anthony Stewart Head) then it's always going to sound a bit OTT.

I her defense, I'm from Rochdale (mentioned in the review) and in an effort to put her accent into context: I moved from the North to the Isle Of Wight when I was 10, and over time my accent naturally merged into a hybrid of North/South. I have a general BBC English accent when I talk to people, albeit with a Northern twang, but my northern-ness instinctively becomes much stronger when I'm speaking to my folks or in the area. It just happens.

On a purely technical level, it's bad because it shatters the suspension of disbelief needed for the audience to emotionally invest themselves in the narrative. If your characters constantly break the 4th wall, eventually the whole house will collapse.

they said as much, but I don't think it was successful since firefighters keep alien helmets around and all. But even if almost the whole world wouldn't know, everyone at SHIELD is still human. They would want to talk about it for the rest of their lives wouldn't they? Just like a lot of the comments, I don't mind the referencing even though sometimes it isn't a proper joke but "too much iron, don't call me iron man." Apparently they can get away with such jokes to the general audience, but nearly every critic or self-acclaimed comic expert watching AoSHIELD is mad about it.

Could that episode have been an origin story for Simmons with her gaining electrical super powers?

Also am Northern English myself and do hear the actress slipping into a northern accent. But you could easily explain that for the character by having that accent educated out of her by schooling.

I agree. I don't see Simmons as being a person who displays emotions well, and in that respect she acts just as I would expect. Her accent is odd when you know she's from Sheffield (there's more than just English, and we Brits can tell our Received Pronunciation from our Sheffield tongue a.k.a. the accent she's using and the one she naturally has).

On the other hand I really think Fitz had a much better show of character this week, the terrible flirting with Skye (on par with my own) and the anger when someone he cares about is going to die (not everyone gets upset)

Simmons' accent is what I'd expect with someone trying too hard to use Received Pronunciation who hasn't been brought up to speak it.

Received Pronunciation is hardly the hardest accent to 'handle' and in my opinion Henstridge generally carries the accent as well as any Brit who hasn't grown up speaking it would do in this day and age.

Yes she could've just used her natural accent, which probably would'be sounded fine to American audiences as the 'intelligent english' stereotype; but hey the stereotype in Britain is 'intelligent RP' so she was pretty much stuck for which accent she had to use.

That's hardly her fault, and her accent is fine. At least with her natural accent slipping through I can headcanon her coming from somewhere in the North of England and through her sheer intelligence making it into big fancy schools where they all spoke 'proper' and upwards, which to me makes for a far more human character than "She's smart and talks proper and that's it"

There's more than one English accent though, and she's using one that isn't her natural accent.

No one really speaks RP, do they? I think it only exists on actors' resumes nowadays :P Mother would be so disappointed...
Fitz's did do well. I think the whole thing shows people just need to lighten up and let each character have a bit of time to develop. I was quite glad this week was Skye-lite as I'd just about had my quota of her in the last few episodes.

Exactly my point, which adds far more depth to Simmons than just being boring talking proper smart English personj

This was by far the best episode of the series in my opinion! I love the Fitz and Simmons characters, I think they're fantastic, the one I don't like is Melinda. I really thought Simmons was going to die, I thought Elizabeth Henstridge's performance was brilliant. This series is just getting better and better in my opinion, I though Ward was really good this week too. I don't see the problem with all of the references, they're just fairly throwaway and used for comedic effect, I don't even notice half of them!

That was the first episode I watched in it's entirety and without fast forwarding through it. Even Agent Handsome was bearable. And the actor playing Simmons gave a decent performance - actual character development at last.

Quarantine episodes are always the most boring types of episodes in a series. Unless the characters are interesting, which Fitz and Simmons aren't really, I just think it's another chink in AoS's already weakened armour... interest-wise

Being English I am aware of that fact. I live in the midlands, quite near to Sheffield where she's from and know quite a few people that sound like her; southern with a slight northern twang.

I'm continuing to stick with this one, as Dollhouse felt equally flat for the first five weeks and then blossomed into one of Whedon's most thoughtful shows. Yet cliches are still abounding - that is the real crime, not the performances, as the actors do seem able to be able to handle that whip-crack dialogue when they get hold of it.

The sequence where Fitz-Simmons were working side-by-side in an embarassing 80s science montage says everything though. In any other show with Whedon on staff, they would have undercut the ridiculousness of it with some choice bits of dialogue ripping it to pieces. The fact this was deemed an acceptable sequence as it stood bothers me greatly.

The real puzzle is why the show makers wanted her to speak like a BBC continuity announcer and not a lass from Sheffield.

Considering we're talking about an event (and I realise I may be somewhat bashed for saying this) that's effectively 9/11 with aliens, is it any wonder we're still hearing talk about it? Our 9/11 was 12 years ago, and we're still talking about it. Now, I've always been an easy guy to please (I genuinely like Atlantis, and there's been ropey episodes of SHIELD but never one that I can classify as bad), but this episode was the first one that made me actually sit up and pay attention. I like Fitz and Simmons, probably because, let's face it, they're the Dave Lieziewskis of the show - they're the geeks that get to hang out in Iron Man's world, who wouldn't love that?

If I'm honest, the one thing I can actually criticise in this ep was the UST. FOR GOD'S SAKE FITZ/SIMMONDS, JUST SNOG HIM/HER ALREADY! Seriously, can we please have one show that actually allows it's characters to not be monumentally thick when it comes to love?

I enjoyed it, but there was a big plot hole that spoilt the 'ticking clock' element for me. The issue I had with it (& the earlier episode featuring Malta) stems from the wilful disregard of of world geography, or more probably writing for a US audience with little world geographical knowledge & hoping they won't notice.
If the team were flying across the Atlantic from the US & they were 3 hours away from their destination in Africa, there were plenty of places in the Atlantic to divert to within a 2 hour flight time e.g. Bermuda, The Azores, The Canary Islands, Cape Verde.

In fairness, they did sort of undercut the montage by making it seem as though the serum had failed. I'd argue that the whole point of doing a cheesy 80s montage was to create the expectation of guaranteed success, so that they could then flip it on its head. That's part of what made Simmons' fate hard to pin down right until the final moment.

I agree that it's not exactly cliche-free television, but in this instance I think it was at least done in a self-aware enough way to justify it.

I enjoyed this one loads it was fun

I totally agree with you James. There is something missing, the episode was better, but still it doesn't live to its potential. It is competing with the special effects of The Avengers, so it has large shoes to fill. It just feels we are waiting for it to surprise us and it still doesn't happen. Is it the writer or lack of special effects or lack of people with better coordination of their powers, superheroes presence, superheroe recruitment? , definitely, something is missing.

Erm...Anthony Stewart Head isn't "posh" at all... Have you ever heard his real voice?

Just a hint: Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer based HIS faked accent on Anthony Head's REAL accent.

The Iron Man was one horrible to be fair.

I tend to agree with the reviewer, I keep coming back to the show but always feel unsatisfied by each episode. For every cool bit there are two naff bits that undo all the good work. I don't know now if I am too far gone and can't (or refuse to) be won over by the show, I just feel frustrated by it and want it to be better.

Agree with you on the first two points whole heartedly! (I can't agree with the 3rd cos I didn't notice, but then I am a bit naff when it comes to accents (unless its Fassbender in First Class or Crowe in Robin Hood, even i noticed that!)).

The Iron Man joke was absolute horrid and made me cringe after a good solid 15 minutes when the show hadn't made me cringe once- which is good going for this show.

The show needs to do better. If it was possible, half the number of episodes which would hopefully free up some budget and go for the more ambitious story lines (though I am aware this wouldn't necessarily translate into better quality). Actually what this show needs is a proper good old two parter!!

If we lived in a world where Thor, Captain America and Iron Man existed, and aliens attacked New York, we'd talk about it a damn sight more than any of the cast do.

I actually found that this was the first episode in which Simmons was not only bearable, but genuinely likable. I've found her nails-down-a-blackboard irritating up until now, but I really thought she and Fitz came into their own here. I actually cared about all the characters in this episode, which made a change. The show's definitely improving.

Loved the skydiving climax as well. Totally silly but fun, and it made sense dramatically. Plus it looked surprisingly convincing.

Who would've thought that, of all things, a Fitz and Simmons episode could be the best episode so far...

Completely agree. I've seen lots of negative reviews. I disagree with almost every single one of them. I don't know what they expected, but the show is improving fast as hell. This episode might not be a major improvement, men improvement and enjoyable nontheless

Sponsored Links