[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
In this week’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Girl in the Flower Dress," written by former Lost and Spartacus writer Brent Fletcher, a beautiful title and introduction are given to a tale that essentially devolves throughout its telling, leaving a heavy-handed story of a villain’s origin and faux-allegiances to once again progress the plot inches away from the pilot. (But hey - at least the final fight fire effects were great, right?)
Chin Lin Quan, a street performer with a flair for the pyrotechnics (under the watchful eye of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s INDEX program), is seduced by Centipede into further exploring his powers; meanwhile, Centipede is attempting to evolve the Extremis virus. Quan is eventually given the name of Scorch – one of Marvel’s many ancillary characters – and a battle of betrayal, evolution, and lots of confusion (at least on the viewer’s part) ensues.
Unfortunately, like most things in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., everything is but a hint or a nod to a great tale that will eventually come – a tale that has, so far, gone nowhere.
Even though Marvel has decided to pull yet another previously known (to some) comic book character for the small screen - even gracing him with impressive effects – there’s still no actual context or purpose for what’s occurring, and even in week 5, this is something the series is still struggling to reveal. Each tale, so far, has felt as it was merely going through the motions of what a series of this (supposed) caliber should be. This, of course, leads to an important question: Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. being held back by the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Marvel launched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a way expand its universe onto the small screen, and as a result, there will be times when the show will have to reflect what’s occurring in the theatrical films. Though this sounds like a very impressive venture, the series, which must already face the many obstacles of any new television series, is now working against the clock to (logically) get the series where it needs to be by the time the first act of synergy occurs – which, if what we’ve told is true, will be around the time that Captain America: The Winter Solider is released in theaters next year.
Like many new shows on the air, S.H.I.E.L.D. is attempting to deal with the growing pains of being a new series. What the other shows don’t have, though, is numerous theatrical releases to pair with and – most importantly – writers who have the knowledge of what’s going to happen in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe years into the future. With that, Whedon’s infamous delayed payoffs also include a show that needs to be tweaked and a writers room excited about what’s going to happen, not what is currently happening.
As in past episodes, Skye’s character takes two steps forward in terms of progression, and Coulson does things that cause others to bring up his mystery. Melinda May is still as coy as ever, and Fitz and Simmons are still… part of the team. All in all, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has yet to prove that it’s better than the worst season of NBC’s Heroes. But really, it won’t be able to – not yet, at least.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started off a bit rocky – rockier than most - so the episodes written before the series premiered on television literally don’t allow for the writers to make the fixes they need to. Right now, at episode 5, the series still has a few more episodes to go before it burns through what was already in the can. When that happens, hopeful fans will then see what the series will become, and then they’ll have to decide whether or not they want to continue watching.
Until that time, don’t be surprised if you find that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is but a show going through the motions – because that’s exactly what it is.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with “FZZT” @8pm on ABC.