Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 9 review: Repairs

Review James Hunt 28 Nov 2013 - 07:25

The aptly named Repairs is an episode badly in need of some, says James. Here's his review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.9 Repairs

Well, they can't all be classics. This episode of Agents of SHIELD was back into cod-Fringe territory as the team investigate a woman with suspected telekinesis while attempting to solve the mystery behind Agent May's surly demeanour.

The truth turned out to be more complex than a woman who actually had Carrie-style telekinesis, although if you've ever applied the most basic amount of thought to a story it was fairly obvious from about five minutes in what was actually going on (admittedly, I thought he'd be invisible rather than teleporting, but only because they cheated with the initial portrayal of the "telekinetic" effects).

The episode could've survived its dull predictability had the characters been interesting, but the guest stars were total cyphers, impossible to empathise with because they lacked any definition worth mentioning. Meanwhile, the show finally got around to bringing May's closed-off, grimly-efficient attitude into focus, but failed to convincingly weave it into the plot. Again, logic skips and plot holes were abundant as the show contrived ways to get May talking to Hannah.

Worse still, while the main story involves a woman with a Catholic case of self-loathing and attempts to contrast that with May's own sense of trauma, Fitz and Simmons are larking about like boarding school kids from the Fifties attempting to pull "pranks" on Skye. Some of which involves making up exaggerations about May's brutal past. It's a tonal gear shift that the story can't remotely support, and it gave this episode a severe case of schizophrenia.

Perhaps Repairs was always destined to be a bit crap. It was, after all, a classic bottle episode, in which the case wanders back and forth around their regular sets like confused shoppers trying to find the exit in Oxford Street John Lewis. Bottle episodes are notoriously produced on the cheap, with a minimal cast and effects, which perhaps explains why the power-of-the-week was the ability to disappear and have a wrench. Of course, it did involve a lot of wandering around darkened corridors and people getting trapped in cupboards, which poses the question: just how many miles of tunnel have they crammed into this weird aeroplane thing?

The only thing that even registered on the excitement-ometer this week happened right at the start of the episode. We got confirmation that May and Ward have decided to get recreational with one another and an early scene showed a "Roxxon " logo, which is the Marvel Universe version of a large oil company, legally distinct from Exxon. Frankly from that point it was all downhill. Coulson's resurrection plot thread didn't get a look in this week and although someone realised they should actually explain why Skye's worth having around, the solution was to suggest that she's someone who can "see the good in people". Which meant her being the only person to offer Hannah the barest sliver of human dignity (although not so much that she got her own seatbelt during the crash.)

Generally, though, what seems odd about Agents of SHIELD is just how poorly-made it is. This episode particularly embodies the show's general set of maladies. Clunky dialogue, clichéd plotting and tedious set pieces. Even the cinematography seems to know the show is boring, because the cameras can't sit still: Agents of SHIELD has more Dutch than the original Predator.

This far in, we're long past the point where it's acceptable to blame teething issues. The show is reportedly losing viewers fast, and it's not hard to see why. Week on week, it's absolutely failing to deliver the flavour of the Marvel Universe. It's not as funny, as upbeat or as optimistic as the movies. It's trite and overly earnest instead of fashionably glib. I don't worry that they don't have the budget to get Iron Man in to cameo, but I do worry that no-one involved seems to understand what makes the Marvel movies such hits: not so much the effects and characters, but the tone of gleeful escapism.

Still, let's end on a positive note shall we? The team resorting to using retro technology during the power cut sequence was good fun, and gadgets like a walkie-talkie watch brought the tiniest sliver of James Bond glamour to proceedings. Coulson's line "I think they only made 20 of those" when he detonates a small charge was brilliant. But when the good stuff in your episode totals about three minutes out of forty-plus, it's fair to say that Repairs was badly in need of some.

Read James' review of the previous episode, The Well, here.

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