I hate feeling like an apologist when I tell people that a show needs a few weeks to get some traction. It is very nice, however, to have your faith rewarded.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hulked out with its pilot, drawing viewership from Marvel fans and casual TV viewers alike, but in the weeks that followed, the adolescent series showed its awkwardness with a couple lackluster outings. Thankfully, this week’s episode, Eye-Spy, finally feels like AoS has found its footing, landing fewer blows to head to remind you that we’re in the MCU and focusing more on how this group of agents is learning to function as a team.
Blast From The Past
Eye-Spy kicks off with a much more ominous tone than what we’ve seen thus far. A group of identically dressed men, sporting featureless red masks march through Stockholm, Sweden, turning heads as they make their way to the subway. Are these terrorists? A gang? Potential flash mob? It a mystery? What we do know is that one woman has their number and follows them onto a train where she promptly dispatches the lot of them…with her eyes closed. It’s not really an incident that screams S.H.I.E.L.D., but Coulson and Co. are on the case nonetheless.
As we catch up with the intrepid band of misfits this week, we find Coulson trying to befriend Agent May with little success, Fitz-Simmons perfects their latest addition to the “Night-Night” arsenal, and Skye enjoys some “me time” by hiding out in the backseat of the team’s SUV. Agent Ward gets the last laugh as he adamantly rejects the moniker given to the super-tranq pistol and fills Coulson in on Skye’s combat training, dryly commenting on her inability to discern the safety from the clip release. However, it’s not Skye’s gunplay skills that Coulson ultimately seeks as he takes her along to investigate the scene of the mystery assailant’s assault on the masked mob, which, as it turns out, was transporting diamonds. As Coulson, Skye, and May speculate as to how the plan was executed, Skye throws out the possibility of ESP or telepathy, a skill not uncommon among the more genetically advanced in the Marvel Universe. However, it seems that the X-factor has been taken out of the equation on this side of the licensing fence, keeping mutants firmly situated under the Fox banner. Someday we will have unity…
Anyway, thanks to the miracle of social networking, the team identifies the culprit as Akela Amador, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and protégé to Agent Coulson. Phil takes it upon himself to find Amador, bring her in, and find out why she’s has gone rogue.
An Eye For An Eye
Beautiful Zloda, Belarus plays host to Amador as she exchanges the stolen diamonds for a key card and the agents are hot on her trail. Coulson and Ward take point, hunting down Amador, while Fitz-Simmons and Skye hang out in the van, once again reminding us that they are the non-combatants who inevitably end up in a combat situation. As if on cue, the trio of techies are the ones ambushed by by the target as she makes her escape. Skye also manages to display her utter ineptitude when it come to handling a firearm, echoing Ward’s disappointing evaluation from earlier.
Back on the Bus, the team licks their wounds and attempts to regroup. This time around, Skye turns the tables on Ward, showing impressive resilience after the failure in Zloda, despite his assumptions to the contrary. Bouncing back rather quickly, she uses her trademark web wizardry, not only to locate Amador, but also to tap into her bionic eye, which is revealed to be the source of her ability to see through walls and operate in complete darkness. They also learn that Amador is not rogue, but rather under duress and being controlled by a third party with the ability to transmit orders directly to her artificial eye.
With answers beginning to come to light, and the potential for mutant powers stamped out, Coulson and the team pull out the S.H.I.E.L.D. playbook and bide their time. Unfortunately, Agent May doesn’t feel like playing by the rules and goes after Amador on her own. We’ve seen some hints of May’s ass-kicking prowess in earlier episodes, but the fight she picks with Amador gives the character a moment in the spotlight. While it’s an excellent fight, it proves to be short-lived as Coulson busts in and uses the Night-Night on Amador.
In Soviet Russia, Eye Sees You!
Safely in custody aboard the Bus, the puppet is given a reprieve from her nefarious activities as Coulson’s team devises a way to fool Amador’s handlers into thinking she is still on her mission. Cut to Ward sporting a pair of Clark Kent glasses capable of hijacking the signal. As he follows the instructions of the mysterious handler, Coulson has a heart-to-heart with Amador, revealing how she ended up in her current situation. This scene is particularly fascinating as we see Coulson not only reconnect with his former protégé, but also display some profiling skills as he uses Amador’s clues to determine who might be pulling her strings.
Meanwhile, Ward infiltrates a Russian research lab, maintaining the illusion that he is Amador through his brainy specs. Just when you think things are adequately enough, that Joss Whedon flare pops up as Ward is ordered to seduce a guard in order to gain access. In his best Russian, Ward attempts to talk sports in order to make a new friend, but eventually succumbs to his inner Indiana Jones and just takes the guy out. It’s that moment of levity you’ve come to expect from AoS, but it still manages to not seem out of place in such a serious episode.
After laying eyes on some alien-looking symbols on a chalkboard, Ward/Amador’s mission is complete. Now all Ward has to do is get out before A) security finds him and B) the handler realizes he’s not Amador. As time grows short, Fitz-Simmons perform surgery on the bionic eye in an attempt to sever its connection, preventing the failsafe from killing Amador. Elsewhere, Coulson closes in on the handler. Shooting, running, and yelling over comms ensues, ultimately resulting in Ward’s exposure, which in turn triggers the failsafe just as Fitz-Simmons remove the eye and safely contain its detonation. All that’s left now is the handler, and as Coulson closes in on him, he promptly drops dead, revealing that he too is just a pawn in a much bigger game being played.
To close out the intrigue of Eye-Spy, we get yet another hint that something is off about Phil Coulson. Amador comments to May that something is different about him, furthering the mystery of his resurrection and building upon other such hints as his lack of muscle memory and Maria Hill’s ominous declaration that he must never know the truth.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to build upon that which came before in the MCU, exploring Extremis, digging up remnants of H.Y.D.R.A., and name-dropping Asgardians left and right. It has also begun to find its own footing as it saw the origin of the villain Graviton and now teases a much larger threat. Hopefully, it’s not more of The Rising Tide, but that particular possibility still exists. AoS is finally on the road to adding more depth to the world our heroes inhabit and setting up plenty more mysteries to be explored as the season progresses.
Check back in a week for our next recap from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!