Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 10 review: The Bridge

Review James Hunt 16 Dec 2013 - 07:11

There's good and bad in the last Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode of the year. Here's James' review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.10 The Bridge

This week's Agents of SHIELD was the last before the holiday break, and that meant a marked change in structure and style for The Little Show That Could (But Frequently Doesn't). This week's story tied in with several previous instalments, brought back fan-favourite J. August Richards from the pilot episode AND ended on a cliffhanger, all new tricks to some degree. So let's deal with them one at a time.

To begin with, the return of Centipede and their super-soldiers was hugely welcome, given the lack of story direction thus far. As essentially the anti-SHIELD, Centipede's plans are the closest thing the series has to an antagonistic arc and the mysteries raised about their organisation have been far more intriguing than those elsewhere in the show, which have revolved around fairly basic and uninteresting questions like "Who are Skye's real parents?" and "Is Skye a traitor?" and "Why is Skye even here anyway?"

That said, the idea of Centipede is definitely more interesting than the individuals behind it. Reina is still the most intriguing member of the team and her behaviour this week was, if anything, a little more ineffable than in her previous appearance - something which only deepens her appeal, given that she's surrounded by characters with absolutely no hidden depths. On the flip side, while the idea of "The Clairvoyant" was interesting the first time around, this time the SHIELD team throw themselves so heavily behind the idea that the person might be some kind of precognitive psychic that any viewer with critical faculties would be able to spot the attempt at misdirection. Not very satisfying.

As for the psychopathic marine, "Edison Poe", if there's ever been a more ridiculous bundle of clichés in a TV show, I want to know about it. Did we really need two scenes where he calmly eats dinner in a threatening way? Did they really need to copy that bit from Iron Man 2 where the villain sits at a restaurant table in a large hangar? If Edison is anyone's idea of compelling, we're simply not seeing the same TV show.

Speaking of clichés, this week didn't just take the cake, it took the whole dessert trolley. The team behind Agents of SHIELD – professionals, we might add - literally allowed a "He's behind me, isn't he?" joke to make it to TV screens. One played completely straight, with no subversion or twist to make it actually funny. Okay, so it's not like it's a crime, but does suggest a certain lack of effort, judgement and taste on behalf of the people involved. Who gets as far as broadcasting that without someone pointing out that it's maybe a little embarrassing? It's just indefensible to put that into a show aimed at grown adults.

Now, in terms of things that weren't horrible, J. August Richards returns as super-powered everyman Mike to remind us what it's like when someone with charisma and warmth is available to interact with the cast. His scenes with Coulson were some of the best this series has had, and the development of his character from the pilot episode felt layered and genuine, rather than forced. Given that he's one of the most sympathetic characters in the show, it's a shame he isn't in the cast full time (I don't believe for a second he actually died in that explosion.)

As cliffhangers go, Mike blowing up and Coulson being abducted wasn't exactly high-end stuff, especially by modern standard. Whatever you thought of Lost, it knew that the best cliffhangers were the ones that left you asking "What does this mean?!" rather than "What happens next?". The fact that they had to trail the next episode by promising to reveal the mystery of Coulson's return rather than letting the story do the work tells you all you need to know about how much confidence they have about getting people back for the next half of the series. And given that they hit a ratings low with this episode, that lack of confidence might be justified.

Still, shutting down production for a couple of months might give them time to re-evaluate the show's direction, respond to some common criticisms and generally give it the kick up the behind it badly needs. Contrary to popular belief, no-one would be happier than me to see Agents of SHIELD improve. But if it can't? Well, let's put it this way: I hear Tahiti's quite nice this time of year.

Read James' review of the previous episode, Repairs, here.

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