'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Reveals Chitauri Virus (and Some Heart) - Is It Enough?

[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has finally pushed aside its exceedingly over-reaching tales and, instead, presents a surprisingly intimate and successful story focused on the two characters fans love to hate the most, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally taking the steps needed to become an earnest series?

In this week’s episode, “F.Z.Z.T.”, written by Paul Zbyszewski, creator of the short-lived, cult-favorite ABC series Day Break, Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the team find themselves up against an anomaly left over from The Avengers' Battle of New York which leaves its victims dead and levitating. After securing what is thought to be the source, a salvaged Chitauri helmet, Agent Simmons finds herself infected by the alien virus and must find a cure before she becomes the next victim, or before S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters steps in.

On the surface, this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D doesn't appear to be much different from the over-reaching premises and unconvincing resolutions of weeks past. And when it comes to the actual plot device of this week’s adventure – the Chitarui helmet with its living space rust – not much has changed; the overly-forceful attempts at announcing all-things Marvel can be felt, and the references do little to connect audiences to the large and expansive world that the studios theatrical releases exist it. However, if one is able to put levitating bodies aside – even momentarily – an impressive attempt at evolving the characters, as well as the series, can be seen.

In a brilliant effort at righting ABC’s upended television experiment, what would essentially be considered case-of-the-week is quickly resolved with a bit of teamwork, leaving a good majority of the episode left to focus on the most encouraging storyline the series has yet to present. With Simmons now infected by the Chitarui virus, a sense of risk and anger, be it ever so slight, is introduced into the series – and with much success.

As Simmons’ final minutes continued to tick away, the extraterrestrial flu that has infected her forces the characters to show their true colors, in one way or another. For Fitz, who would be any fan’s pick as the least-likely hero in group, he showed his dedication to both his team and partner by sacrificing himself to carry his fallen comrade who had, essentially, given up all hope. Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), too, stepped it up this week. Still, the most encouraging and downright delightful aspect of this week’s episode is Agent Phillip Coulson who, for all intents and purposes, finally stepped up as leader of this would-be team.

From the eye of the view, Coulson comes from the world of superheroes and super threats, where any decision could result in success, destruction or, worse, annihilation, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D had yet to actually present everyone’s favorite character in situations where he’d shine. With Simmons’ life on the line, Coulson was able to defy orders from Item 47’s Agent Blake's (Titus Welliver) all-too brief appearance, buying Simmons some much needed time, while also standing up to Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) about his death. Alas, Coulson’s rejuvenation is still a mystery left to be revealed, and it’s becoming increasingly more unlikely that the reveal – whatever it may be – will be worth the wait.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is now entering into its own version of Phase II, per say, with the series finally catching up to the episodes written before its series premiere, so now the producers are able to tweak aspects of the series they didn’t know needed work before it aired. Does this mean that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D will now become the best superhero-esque series that television has ever seen? Probably not. But if this episode is a sign of what’s to come, there’s still a good chance that fans will no longer have to label this show as a reluctant watch.

_____Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D returns next Tuesday @8pm on ABC with "The Hub".

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