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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Every week the plots are just so generic. They could be written for anything from Dollhouse to X Files to Heroes to Scooby Doo. The biggest complaint is that it doesn't pay enough attention to the bigger Marvel universe, just passing nods to the recent movies. Its not the worst thing I've ever seen but it could be sooo much better.

"The show is reportedly losing viewers fast, and it's not hard to see why." Actually, their ratings have gone up each of the last 2 episodes. Based on the comments in this review, you seem a little bitter or like you have some sort of axe to grind here. The show has actually been a lot better the last few weeks.

Whilst i agree with what you said about this guy, this episode was one of the worst for me.

I agree, this review does seem overly negative about the series when really only the episode is at fault. It's been much improved the last few weeks. This one wasn't so great, but did okay for a 'bottle episode' (interesting new term!).
If you're factually wrong about losing viewers you need to correct that though, and that does seem to be the case. This episode had the most since the premiere on early figures.
What is cute about the pranking in this one is apparently that reflects how the cast act off screen. The Wheadons try to get that in the scripts, Fitz's desire for a monkey is supposedly also a joke about him wanting that for real too.

Okay, so how would you make it better?

I don't know why I bother reading these comments. Every week I scroll down and every week people are attacking the reviewer for giving his opinion on the show... Shocking I know. Your opinion? In a review? On a site that gives reviews? How dare you! Guys, this isn't an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D fan site. Couldn't we just, I don't know, talk about the show?

Like... the bit at the end when Coulson asks, "What did you say to him?" and May replies, "What you said to me." And I was like, what? Let the girl go? Or one of the other things she said. Because if it's "let the girl go"... would that girl be Skye?

R - I had the exact same thought. Did May have to let the girl go? And if so, who is the girl? They did a Moffat there, leaving a plot thread hanging, so that the fans can go crazy filling in the blanks. It would seem obvious for the girl to be Skye, building up to a big reveal that May is Skye's mom. Leaving lots of breadcrumbs. I kind of would like that to be the answer, but I'd prefer the secret of Skye's past to reveal itself over a longer period. My suspicion based on the way Coulson doesn't describe the cult leader as HE or SHE just as 'a gifted individual', suggests they are deliberately covering the gender. So I suspect May's daughter or sister was the gifted individual. May had to neutralise her own sister to save innocent lives and that changed her forever.

Hire a new set of writers!

Oh I kind of like that. I was thinking, going by how everything else has played itself out, that May would probably turn out to the mother. But an aunt who killed the mother? That would make lots of lovely conflict. I hope they reveal it soon.

No mention of the two major references this week? Granted they were a blink and you'll miss moment. The Scrabble board in the end scene had "Strange Tales" and "Zodiac" on it. First one is obviously a Doc. Strange reference, second one might be a reference to the team of that name. Or just a random word.
On a similar note, perhaps their index thing is a precursor to registration? Might be a root of a civil war story. We know Captain America is starting to doubt S.H.I.E.L.D.

I thought it was...okay. the bit at the end with May playing the prank was funny, but that male agent guy, I don't even know his name, the one who's supervising Skye, he really does suck the atmosphere out of every room he walks into, I've never seen a character so bland and uncharismatic. he's just...a breeze block. I think of this show as a sort of side dish or starter, with the marvel films being the main courses.

Of all the shows that are reviewed on this site, this is the only one where I cheat and look ahead to see what the next episode will be like (I'm in the UK, so we're a few days behind US broadcast). Each week the story seems the same - could be better, want it to be good, but it's not quite there etc. As a result, I have to confess that I'm at least a couple of episodes behind now, as (based on my viewing of the first 6 episodes and the reviews over the last few weeks) I just can't bring myself to waste 40 minutes of my life on such mediocre television. This show could have been great. Instead it really, really isn't. Even those who speak up for it don't seem to be able to say anything more than "it's getting better". This many episodes in, there should have been at least a few moments where the viewer was really drawn in. I didn't see any in the episodes I saw, and nothing I've read suggests anything has changed. Contrast this with, say, "Arrow". Now that show had some serious teething problems when it started but, even then, it gave us some hope it knew what it was doing and, as the first season progressed and now into the second season, it has turned into a show I really enjoy (although still with some issues - let's just call them Laurel for short).
AoS seems to have failed on all counts - the characters are dull, the stories are generic, the dialogue is unconvincing and the acting is (perhaps Coulson aside) of a very poor standard. The occassional reference to Iron Man or New York does not cure this, it just makes it more obvious and sad. What would I do/have done? How about going back to the source - SHIELD has existed for years in comics, and has some great characters of its own, why not use them? Where's Clay Quartermain, or Jasper Sitwell, the Contessa or Dum Dum Duggan? Heck, go crazy and set a story arc in the 60s and you can use all the funky Steranko stuff as written (maybe). Instead, we're plodding around with nothing to make this show stand out from any other. I note what is being said about a slight ratings uptick over the past couple of weeks, but if this wasn't a Disney-owned show on a Disney-owned channel (in the US), would it really have made it to a full season? Finally, and perhaps one of my other reasons for letting those last two recorded episodes stay unviewed, one of the above commentators refers to this being the side or starter to a Marvel movie main course, which is a fine analogy. The problem is, if you fill up on doughy starters, you'll lose your appetite and, frankly, I'd rather stay excited about Marvel Second Phase than be so Marvel-ed out come next Spring/Summer that I won't even bother.

What on earth could I have to be bitter about? It's not like I auditioned to be in the series and got rejected. I'm not even under the illusion I can make a dent in its viewing figures, nor would I want to.

The only thing I care about, as a fan of Marvel's movies, comics and characters, is that they're done justice in a way that entertains me. If that's not happening, the point of a review is to say so and explain why I think that was, inviting others to agree or disagree. By all means, tell me why you think my opinions are wrong, but accusing me of being biased or impartial is unfair and inaccurate.

Ratings have dropped from 4.7 to 2.5, with a low of 2.3 a couple of weeks ago. To lose half of your viewers in 9 episodes can justifiably be described as "losing viewers fast" even if it bounced a little in the last two weeks.

Okay, good to know. I still think the show suffers from exaggerated expectations and your resentment that it's not all that it could be, while understandable, still comes across as overly negative - I think that's the point we're making in these comments. The fact there's a show like this at all is a good start, and yet many Marvel Fanbois come across as if they'd prefer it were cancelled than given a chance to improve.
Can I ask, what's 'cod-Fringe territory' mean in your first paragraph?

It's not a case of this or nothing, though. We should judge SHIELD against the quality of its contemporaries, not against 42 minutes of dead air. I don't want it to get cancelled. Indeed, quite the opposite. I want it to improve so that it doesn't get cancelled. Although as I've said before, "be grateful bad TV exists otherwise you won't get more of it" seems like a fallacious argument to me.

Anyway, by "cod-Fringe" I mean "a poor imitation version of Fringe", in the same sense that cod-Latin is language that looks like Latin, but is actually just gibberish.

I guess my issue is it's just not THAT bad... as a non-Marvel junky I'm pretty happy with it overall, especially as it's something that works for the whole family.

Thanks for the explanation on cod-latin, I've always known that as dog-latin and had never come across the aquatic version.

Was the world they saw in the reconstruction of the explosion anything obvious from Marvel lore?

Nah, not really. It was probably Muspelheim (the Asgardian "fire" realm) but there wasn't anything that confirmed it.

The well was so much better. is it the writer? I am trying to figure it out. Looks like there are two separate teams making the episodes. When they asked about
tahiti, I just answered "Who cares". I watch it because The blacklist is the next show and there is nothing interesting on other channels, but I still have hope that somebody will say "Enough, lets fix this show". I love agent May, specially when she stops the chatting moments lol.

it is not only passing nods,they are forgetting nods, they haven't solved or revealed the annoying Tahiti nod.

THANK YOU. that is what they need as yesterday as possible lol.

noooo the reviewer has broken the 4th wall!!!!!

They do have Sitwell, the bald guy with glasses is supposed to be him (I forget the actors name). Unfortunately they really aren't using him to full potential.
The original Howling Commandos would probably work rather well in a TV series.
Another issue I have with the series is they seem to be making a huge deal about telekinetics not existing. Also the mains tory arc is taking way too long to progress, the last two episodes haven't really contributed anything to it. There better be answers about Coulson Graviton, and the other organisation that seems interested in supers by the end of the series,

For me I was just kinda hoping for Buffy in the Marvel-verse. And on that front the show has been a let down.

I do find I am a bit more engaged with the characters each week though, they are gradually getting fleshed out. I agree though that there needs to be something a bit more tangible in terms of proper stuff from the marvel universe.

On the plus side is occasionally having zinger lines I like now. The SHIELD Hogwarts crack was good I thought.

the numbers have actually improved with the last few episodes after a significant drop after the first episodes. It is now doing well enough to stay on air.

I think it was a completely fair review of the episode, and I have to say, I'm pretty disappointed with this series. I desperately wanted it to be good, and whilst it's fair to say that it had the weight of expectation against it, the truth is, the show, and more importantly the characters are just plain boring. This is nothing like the Marvel movies which are exciting and fun, regardless of which character leads it. Instead it's just boring. The review is perfectly fair, in my opinion, regardless of the accuracy of the ratings.

This episode was just terrible because of the lack of communication used to drive the plot forward and also the ending. No one thought to say "hey, it's not a demon!" or "hey, you're not trapped in hell!" and "Hey, maybe we can help you if you stop trying to kill us!" the characters knew this, they just for writing reasons didn't tell each other. Even that guy trapped between dimensions never got told what was going on.
Which brings us to the ending: yet another stupid miscommunication. The guy was on his knees, admitting what he did, they had a dialogue going, he believes he's trapped in hell and he was trying to do good to make up for it (all except telling people he's still alive) and what does Melinda May, who is supposed to be going through some important milestone in this scene, do? She says "yep, you're in hell, god is punishing you, kill yourself now." and then he gives up on life altogether and dies. They tried to cover that up with a sappy speech of exposition that had the tone of a heart warming scene, but she told that man to die and that it was his only way out... and then she proceeds to play a prank on someone and smile like she did the right thing.

No what this show needs is a main bad guy,maybe some one who is just a small b or c grade villain (b grade may be pushing it) You need some thing the agents are fighting and then you can use those nods in the movies as well. The writing of the script isn't bad. And the problem with the cinema marvel universe is that all those actors are mega stars, none of them will get the pay like their use to in the movies. So what ABC needs to do is set up contracts which allows them to have arcs ranging from season to season. That will ensure the fans of the movies will keep watching the series. I live in New Zealand and I use to watch it every wednesday (due to the time difference which is only a few hours after the States get it) I watch it now but its later in the week. It is losing its appeal however if it uses less of a strategic style of writing it should survive. This show reminds me a lot of Joss Whedon's other masterpiece Buffy, (With Buffy you had the master,see bad guy) however the first two seasons to me were quite oring. THIS SHOW JUST NEEDS A BAD GUY! SOMEONE WHO IS FEARED. And if this bad guy has super power bring back that Mike guy let him be an agent and then you can bring in C and D grade avengers and then link it with the massive battle with Thanos in Avengers 3! Its that simple. Its cool how their investigating all the crap thats going around but all their conclusion comes to is science and all that crap. Its a super hero universe, use SUPER HEROES.

I've been expecting AIM or Hydra to be the big bad, still hoping! They don't even need much in the way of superheroes, maybe a couple but, really, I would like them to expand on SHIELD itself. Maybe show more teams and agents dealing with stuff in the more conventional way for the agency.

The show is claiming that they have never heard of actual telekinesis. What about Jean Grey from the x-men? Might be wrong but seems like someone would have known that.

The huge deal about telekinesis not existing doesn't make sense. Have they never heard of Jean Grey?

Although not the strongest episode yet. Its not as bad as the reviewer makes out. The show is starting to find its legs and the characters are starting round themselves more. I suspect the series will improve a lot once Whedon starts to weave more of an over arching story arc into the series. Its where hes always been his best. His series have always been there strongest once he gets past the compulsory introductions and the monster of the weeks become mixed with longer "big bad" story line.
Reviewers and the public are always quick to slate new shows then wonder why so many are cancelled early before they are given chance to become what they were always meant to be.
Also its too early to being going into "shield is bad" its ultimately where the series and the film are probably going over the next few years. Do that now and where is there to go? I suspect it will delve more into shields darker sides from series 2 onwards. As long as the network, reviewers and audience give it the chance it deserves.

At the moment the current Marvel world is very separate from the X men World. They are playing it that super powers aren't really that well known and kept under wraps. Where as in the X men world they are very well known. Partly due to Marvel not having film rights to X Men.
although I have to agree in a world where they have seen aliens, gods, and the Hulk it seems weird that they all seem to find it hard to believe in any other super natural phenomenon.

It's important to note when discussing the ratings that NCIS (which has like 18-20 Million viewers and sucks) and a few other shows WEREN'T on this week. So a slightly better number isn't really that good, and they would have likely gone down against it's regular competition.

I do agree with Wycombe Dad... This series is enjoyable and it's not the worst series of its kind on air. The issue is that compare it to the other entries in its universe (which are multi-million pound films) and it just doesn't cut it. It's a shame that Marvel didn't think to put a bit more money behind this and get its quality up there even a little bit more.

You are the only one here who makes sense. May goes around preaching about responsability in a cruel way, and then makes something immature for which she won't be responsible.

Wow, James, you really don't like this series, do you. (For the record, I've just read another review which saw all your negatives as the positives!). Maybe you should turn it off, and go do something else instead? The rest of us who really do enjoy watching it, can carry on...

Ah, that's probably where you're going wrong, then. I'm not a comic books fan at all I(found Chris Hemsworth as "Thor" amusing but overall not worth the price of cinema ticket, quite frankly, - I just went because it was my first 3D film). So I just took this series as it came, and the human side of it is what appeals to me, and has done from the start.

I juts don't get why you would expect a small-screen series to be the same as a multi-million dollar one-off blockbuster. They're just completely different entities, both to make and to finance.

It's a story arc, innit. So it gets mentioned when it needs to, and fairly regularly, and we'll see it slowly move to a conclusion of sorts, I'm sure.

No, she was right, though it was a hard thing to do. He was effectively dead, and slowly disappearing away from whatever dimensions he was trapped in. His only option was to accept that and let go. She encouraged him to take that final step.

If you can find a review that thinks a schizophrenic tone, under-developed guest stars and predictable plotting are good things, by all means, read those reviews instead! I won't be offended.

And to be fair, nothing I'm doing here is stopping you from watching and enjoying Agents of SHIELD. The site wanted someone with an in-depth knowledge of Marvel to review the series, and that's why I agreed to do the job. Maybe we can see if someone else is interested in reviewing it after the hiatus, but to be honest I'd be surprised if any of the site's writers treated it any more charitably than I have.

Actually quite a few reviewers have - and some of them seem to know their Marvel universe as well. (Not sure why an "in-depth knowledge of Marvel" is considered compulsory. TV reviews should look more broadly than that, IMO).

It's not compulsory (no-one said it was) but the site wanted someone who could catch the geekier references perhaps, not unfairly, anticipating greater use of the source material than there has been.

In any case, I've been clear that I'm judging the series entirely on how well it works as television rather than how it relates to the comics. Obviously I like seeing references when they appear, but that didn't stop me thinking the Graviton episode was rubbish.

How was that his only option? If he was dying anyway then why not at least try to save him? the one thing you don't do when some is dying is speed up the process, he wasn't in any pain, he was just barely clinging on. May stepped on his hands and made him fall.

I don't think there was any rescue or remedy possible. He was already dead, just a fading pulse of form oscillating between two realities, like an echo.

I guess you could use that background knowledge. I just wouldn't use it as a basis, more as a side-dish. The Gravitron - ah, maybe again you know more than I, but when I heard the word "gravitronium", my suspended disbelief gave way to a broad grin. It was just typical comic-book fun from then on, though I enjoyed the CGI - the gadget itself impressed on-screen, and Mr Baddie squeezed into a blob seemed a decent way to leave it (open-ended for a rematch if any writer wants to go there).

I completely agree with you about not using the comics knowledge as a basis for appreciating the show, which is why I just said I don't do it. I use the tone of the movies as my reference point far more frequently, but I think that's fair game given that this show was marketed as a spin-off and continuation of that world.

The real irony is that it's the people who aren't familiar with the comics that seem to be
the ones who most readily accept the "comic book" nonsense, as if the term excuses poor writing or even resembles modern comics writing at all. (FYI, "Gravitonium" was invented by the writers of the TV series, it doesn't come from the source material. It sounds like a lazy imitation of something Lee & Kirby would've invented, which is of course what it is.)

As for Graviton himself, my problem wasn't that he didn't reflect the comic book version (although he didn't) but that he was dull, unengaging and unconvincing. It doesn't interest me that he might come back for a rematch because we've got no reason to worry/care if he did.

well they should at least have tried, and how could May have possibly known this stuff? plus, you're inferring a lot, he was clearly still alive in some capacity. You can't decide that something didn't happen just because it doesn't make sense. May's actions were completely unjustified in that episode, and I think that the series suffered because of it. A dead man can't talk and think and explain, that man was not dead yet.

I really wanted to make a longer post but hardly have time. Kieran is right. and spiralx is wrong. I was trying to find web wide opinions on the show, and while most talk on how bad the episode was, Kieran is the only person so far to hit the nail; and I was scared to speak of it in other places; as I know people love cruel lessons like in cold-hearted anime.

First of all, what everyone expected of this series; was to see an expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe with B, C or even Z list Marvel characters; but so far nothing (even Hypnohustler, or Ace would be OK). Or at least have original characters with superpowers as Coulson is in; and he is being forced into other Marvel media to carter to people who have no idea on comics.

At the start of the epsiode, one could say the girl had psychic powers but it was too obvious of a plot, and indeed the predictable twist was that someone else was behind that. Seeing the guy, reminded me of Nightcrawler in that he can telelport via some hellish dimension, and maybe that guy ended up there, Mephisto's realm, Doormamu's or something else. Instead no... he goes to "hell;" and tries to protect the woman he loves.

Sure it was extreme in protecting her as he was into the "whatever it takes" mode, so some don't see it noble; but it is compared to what other celebrated vilians do (like Ledger's Joker).

What would had been expected was he had a power over the one he had no control of, and the team would help him and perhaps join them in order to also "let go" the girl. But surprised it didn't happened (they even let go an Asgardian to join the team), and they went with May being self-righteous saying all that horrible crap about responsability; abscence of redemption, and that he should go to hell, despite he clearly had no idea what he was doing... and so he went without trully knowing what actually happened. Was he actually dead? Was he able to teleport? What??? And it ends with a forced funny scene to "break the ice" about May pulling a prank for no reason to a team mate; after she went preaching about accepting responsability and atone for your doing no matter if they are right or wrong... after saying that! And she still did something like that and laughed!!! I am done with the show; hope it kicks the bucket unless the guy comes back and actually explain better his powers or whatever.

You never replied back. Means Kieran and me are right.

I read the S.H.I.E.L.D reviews each week and sometimes feel like I am watching a different series.

For me its growing week on week and the last 3 have really found a stride. I thought this week was one of the strongest yet - tense with some real jumps took me back to the X-Files.

I don't do the Marvel comics so maybe that is the difference.

I thought this was one of the better ones. Maybe it's just better compared to most of the others?

I thought that Catepillar and the Clarivoyant were the big bad guys?

Really? No love for Thor? 2 very good superhero movies that integrated a "god-like" character without being cheesy. Not easy to do based on past films that attempted similar things

Yeah now they are, took long enough to explain that. Ratings are going down I think the last episode will bring up ratings but not enough. Sadly, I think this show will be canceled very soon.

Im with you AIM or Hydra would be perfect.

Sorry, no! I enjoyed Chris Hemsworths' take on the character, but the obvious CGI all round, and his obvious bulking
up for the film,made it less than engaging for me. Now Ep 10 of
"Agents", "The Bridge", on the other hand, grabbed me from the start,
and kept me there until the end...

I really hope not, it has so much potential and most series are shaky for the first season until they comfortable. Hopefully they'll take in criticisms of the first half to rejig it during the mid-season break

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