[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Seeds," written by former Fringe producer Monica Owusu-Breen and series creator Jed Whedon, sends the majority the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents back to school – Sci-Tech Academy, specifically – in order to figure out how an entire pool instantly froze over and, more importantly, who could be behind such a frigid power. Meanwhile, Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen) investigate the mystery surrounding Skye’s childhood and the Agent who found her, which leads to even more deadly secrets needing to be protected. Also, the supervillain Blizzard is created.
As with last week’s episode, "The Magical Place," which unnecessarily paired up previous solo writers – sans Whedon, in this week’s case – “Seeds” is very much a tale of two minds and, surprisingly, the storyline which should be the most compelling - Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) past – is (almost) anything but, while Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) continue to serve as the lone hearts of the series, elevating their stories to a level beyond what any Coulson-attachment or overarching mystery reveal could now hope to attain. As they've likely come to say at Marvel Television: Praise Odin for Fitz and Simmons!
Though these two cheeky chaps started off as proverbial bottom-barrel annoyances in the pilot, they benefited far more from the subsequent episodes than Coulson, May, Skye, Ward (Brett Dalton), or even the series as a whole. This week’s episode allowed them to flex their charm even more and present a seemingly convoluted – yet wholly delightful – story about the desire to be accepted, the impact of influences, and how those two elements can come together to drastically alter the destiny of one’s life. And then there is Agent Avery. (Who?! Exactly!)
Neither Coulson nor Fitz and Simmons really have all that much to work with in this episode, as far as content is concerned; however, each story does have its own unique elements: F&S have Blizzard (Dylan Minnette) and all that comes with him, while Coulson and May have the “Skye mystery” and a flying "Lola." Unfortunately, it’s the obvious weaknesses in Coulson and May’s arm of the episode that reveal the true obstacles the series still faces.
After all the love earned by Coulson throughout Phase 1 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, there’s still an increasingly apparent disconnect when it comes to him driving a storyline audiences are supposed to care about, and even the mysterious Melinda May has difficulty coming to his aid this time. When it comes to May, it’s still more interesting to hear her talk about herself than anything involving her teammates (including Coulson). Calm and quiet has served May well throughout Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s evolution, and it’s still a bit awkward when she steps out of those previously laid confines and attempts to convey anything that isn’t immensely profound – especially admitting to having sex with Grant Ward.
Even so, there’s at least something that lies deep within Marvel’s television experiment that actually works. What that is and how they’re going to use it to bring the series together are two completely different questions - and, unfortunately, neither one has an answer. Fitz and Simmons were never established as strong characters, so their heart, however overflowing, can never fully carry the weight of the series; and Coulson, like the introduction of this episode explained, was dead for days – and his lack of anything serves as a constant reminder that all good things must come to an end, and perhaps he, too, should have.
At this point Coulson’s mystery – existence, really – hurts the series more than it helps, and there’s absolutely no explanation that could make up for such poorly handled and artificially lengthened stories that truly lead nowhere. Coulson in the movies is loved, unequivocally, and for no real reason other than attitude; here, on television, the Whedons attached a plot-device to those emotions, for no real reason (other than necessity), and it required all the many fans to absolutely define what it is about him that they care about. As it wasn’t really anything more than “just him." everything else that was implemented while transitioning to television added unnecessary weight to a character who is known – not to mention beloved - for not actually doing much.
Simply put: Marvel fans love Coulson, and the only people who really care about what brought him back to life are the show’s creators – but not enough to reveal the secret without the abuse of many ratings traps. Stop killing a character that has already died – because now you’re doing in front of the eyes of everyone, and that does last forever. We're now up to hour 13.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, February 4th @8pm on ABC.