[This is a review for Agents of Shield season 1, episode 9. It contains SPOILERS.]
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally flexed its strongest muscle - Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) - and through it, ABC and Marvel’s new experimental series finally found its voice, while also delivering its best episode to date. However, what occurred off-screen, in the creation of this episode, is much more important to the future of the series than whatever occurred onscreen.
In this week’s episode, “Repairs,” series creators Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen toss Coulson (Clark Gregg) and co. into a weighty tale of unrequited love wrapped in mysterious case of mistaken telekinesis.
This time, though, it’s the sum of its parts (or people) which is greater than the whole, meaning that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has, once and for all, figured out how to rely on its actors and its writing – not Marvel’s vast catalog of characters – to help fuel an episode that any fan would be happy to admit they watched live, with commercials. No more justifications needed – not now and (hopefully) never again.
If you have been waiting for the tide to turn on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., your time has now come, as this episode allows fans to choose anyone from its ensemble to highlight.
Ward (Brett Dalton), now with salacious, clandestine “operations” to help drive his charisma, is finally able to stand true as an earnest agent; Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) cheekiness has been sanded down and buffed to playful perfection; Skye (Chloe Bennet) finally reveals the humanity behind the “hacker” and helps bring some much-needed heart to the mechanical workings of Marvel’s secret agency; Coulson taps into the cinematic energy that made fans fall in love with him in first place; and the real Melinda May finally gets unleashed, backstory and all.
Since the very beginning, it has largely been May’s calculated silence that has helped fans justify giving Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “one more chance” when the series was, at first, looking grim. Now 9 episodes in, the producers brilliantly chose to combine the reveal of May’s mysterious character - which has always been the series’ strongest - with an episode that services her as much as it does the series and its other characters.
Still, May is not who shines the most in this episode. For that, it’s time to turn to the creators, Whedon & Maurissa.
Joss Whedon may have created much of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen, but it’s certainly the married duo who are around for the day-to-day operations of the series – a duo that, up until now, has been the series’ biggest question mark. Whedon and Tancharoen already proved that they’re able to deliver quality work with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog; however, as writers on Dollhouse, like much of the series itself, they proved that it takes them a bit of time before they’re running at full power. As it turns out, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is no different.
Both Whedon & Tancharoen have not written an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since week 3, so it’s only appropriate that they helm this episode, which rights this upended experiment and has the potential to change many opinions about what this series is or could be. As co-creators of the show, it’s a proverbial poetic nod; as co-creators of show that has faced far more obstacles than anyone could have imagined, it’s extremely important that this occurred in their episode, no matter how long it took to get to it.
Before tonight, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a series that seemingly had no leader, and all the terrific episodes from Day Break creator Paul Zbyszewski and Chuck producers Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc did little to change the fact that those who are in charge wrote some of the series’ weakest episodes.
But now – with an exceptionally crafted, no holds barred-approach to this episode – everyone can confidentially point to Whedon & Tancharoen as the duo who will help take this series into season 2 and beyond, and not just because Marvel or ABC would like them to.
Agents of Shield returns next Tuesday with "The Bridge" @8pm on ABC.