Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 12 review: Seeds
Is Seeds the first credible step towards SHIELD making good on its early promise? James thinks so...
This review contains spoilers.
So it turns out that when it tries, Agents of SHIELD is capable of a good episode. Let's look at the list of things that Seeds did right.
Number one. It tied up Skye's somewhat nebulous search for her parents in a reasonably satisfying way, gave her a reason to stay loyal to SHIELD rather than just Coulson, and hinted that there might actually be some deeper mystery about her which can't help but be more interesting than the question of who her parents might be. Tick for that.
Number two. It spent a little bit of money on effects. Weird phenomena were represented in ways that looked like they involved actual work and imagination, we got a plane-based action sequence that was actually shown from the exterior, and we got to see Coulson actually use his flying car rather than just talk about how his car can occasionally fly. Another tick for all that.
Number three. This week's episode had a whole bunch of things that actually felt appropriate for the tone of SHIELD: An evil weather machine. A flying car. Hidden labs. When I think about comic book-influenced espionage, that's the sort of stuff I want to see. Things with a bit of 70s, Bond-esque glamour, not computer hacking and business suits. So another tick there.
Indeed, this episode even had the holy grail: A few Marvel Cinematic Universe references that seemed almost, almost natural. Big tick.
Finally, and this is probably the most important bit: it had character material that really worked. Fitz and Simmons returning to the academy as rock stars was great, especially since they were both incredibly modest about it. The rivalry between different SHIELD "houses" was fun too, and could be a potential source of future drama. Coulson's reaction to last week's revelation was a far more interesting development than the revelation itself, nicely played by Clark Gregg.
It's not that the episode was without fault. Teens getting into trouble after breaking into a swimming pool at night is the kind of cliché that SHIELD writers seem unable to recognise and subvert, but on the other hand the idea of the weird loner being the villain was subverted when it turned out he wasn't actually much of a loner or a villain. At least, not to begin with.
I'm also not keen on seeing another pseudo-origin story, setting up a character with powers but only revealing that right at the end. It's completely unsatisfying as stories go, because it relegates everything you've just seen to a first act. If you want to bring a character back, don't telegraph it by saying "Aha! But this guy might return with superpowers!" That way, when they DO return, it might A) be a surprise and B) provide some suspense.
One thing it'd be nice for SHIELD to do in future is try and rein in the saccharine nonsense that permeates the series. I like Coulson the deadpan guy, not Coulson the over-earnest guy who credit's Skye's childlike optimism in the face of adversity with restoring his faith in humanity. Shakespeare it ain't. Emotional moments need to be earned by making the audience care, not telling them to.
The final good point about this episode is a debatable one, but it's something that's been lacking from the series thus far: the SHIELD of Seeds does actually seem like an organisation you'd want to work at. From the fun academy to the globe-trotting missions to the general desire to actually help people, whether that's a student who keeps freezing or an agent who's gone off the grid, these guys seem to be doing good in the world. A far cry from that episode where May essentially talked a man into suicide.
Anyway. There's no way of knowing whether this is the start of a generally quality upturn or a one-off, but either way at least it showed that there's still a chance for SHIELD to make good on its early promise. We're a long way off that actually happening, but this could be a credible first step towards it.
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