Home > TV and anime > Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 6. FZZT

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 6. FZZT

Marvels Agents of Shield

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, episode 6. FZZT gives us a Halloween episode (only a few days after the due date) in which the obligatory small group of two adults and some cherubic boys sit around a campfire and tell each other lame ghost stories. Except this time, when one of the men hears a noise off in the darkness, he ends up fully charged and repelling Earth’s gravity, while the battery in the scout’s truck seems to attract attention.

As we rejoin the crew on the Bus, Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) aka Woodentop demonstrates he has no sense of humour, the British geeks Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) think they can do American accents which should give all Americans a laugh at the expense of Britain, and, on the treadmill, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is spookily healthy for a man of his age. After viewing the levitating man who expectedly stops floating when Jemma Simmons gets a spark from the body, Skye (Chloe Bennet) does a Google search for the man’s background. It seems he and Mother Teresa are vying with each other for sainthood. Then there’s a second electrostatic event only a short distance away and, when they get to the barn (who needs an entire farm house for scenes like this), there’s another gravity-defying body. By this time Skye has a sample of two saints. This was was another volunteer fireman in the same troop as the first victim. That means a stalker serial killer is wiping out men virtuous enough to volunteer to put out fires following the alien invasion that hit New York in the film version of The Avengers (2012). What a dastardly plot. Someone must have picked up an alien device when they were dowsing the flames and has been infected.

The agents out in the field

The agents out in the field

No, wait. This is a different plot altogether. This is an excuse for Phil Coulson to do his, “You should try to stay calm. You’re about to die, but I’ve been there and I can tell you it’s beautiful.” speech just before the third man who cleaned the blood off the alien helmet blows up. Now here’s the thing. They all touched the helmet at the same time, but they are exploding at different times. Now our Brit geek has the bug, she only has two hours to live. How did they calculate this? Since they are in the Bus over a large ocean, that means she will release the equivalent of an EMP charge and bring the plane down with total loss of life among all those who do not have a parachute. Or they could just throw her off the plane. That would solve the problem. So now it’s a race against time as our heroic scientist must experiment on herself to find a cure before the alien virus kills her. The tension arising from this plot takes a vicious hold on the producer and forces him to authorise it to finish. This leaves the worldwide audience feeling helpless. All they can do is watch. Woodentop can’t take out his gun and shoot bad guys. Skye can’t hack the virus. All they can do is sit and wait for it all to end.

So now romance rears its head as the two geeks get the helmet and start working out whether they can extract an anti-venom thing (or if not venom, then virus, or serum or whatever) from the alien’s blood that the firefighters so carefully cleaned off. Wow is this team-building under pressure or what! Now all we need do is wait for the absurd climax. . . when they save one of the weakest and most annoying characters in the show. It would have given the show so much more potential for emotional depth if they had just let her die. So everything should be wonderful now they are all bonding, except Coulson is feeling different. As Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) says, there’s no way he can die, come back and not feel different. She channels a Chinese guru and confirms he’s different because he is different and all he can do now is move forward one day at a time. And if other people don’t like him being a different Coulson, they’d better suck it up because now he’s different, he’s not going to act like he did before.

In my mind, this show is pitching at the wrong audience. The level of character development and this continuing insistence of standalone episodes aim at a young audience. With better plot ideas, this could be great on a children’s channel at this length. But it fails to hit the mark for an adult audience. Although it’s British and therefore doesn’t have quite the same visibility in America, the approach of Torchwood was a better model for a small team tracking down and dealing with alien invaders. Obviously, none of the American producers wanted to risk being infected by a British television virus which is why I think this show is dying on its feet.

For a review of other episodes, see:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 1. Pilot
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 2. 0-8-4
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 3. The Asset
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 4. Eye-Spy
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 5. Girl in the Flower Dress
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) Season 1, episode 7. The Hub.

  1. November 7, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Yeah, they did kind of botch the “timing” explanation, didn’t they? Other than that, though, I quite liked this episode. It really way all about how you handle a situation that you can’t handle. What do you do when you can’t do anything? Every one of them had their moment of helplessness, even Simmons when it looked like her cure had failed.

    It also had an interesting character moment when Fitz–Mr. Oblivious–realized that Simmons has a thing for him.

    • November 7, 2013 at 2:05 am

      Over the last few years, I’ve been immersed in anime and selecting some of the US animated series to follow. On the American side, The Batman and Batman: The Brave and Bold, the X-Men series (some featuring Wolverine), and Justice League Unlimited stand out as combining interesting plots and developing characters. Yet when I come to this live action program in the style of a comic book, it’s not making the leap from either the page or the animated form for me. I suspect it’s not sufficiently over-the-top, i.e. it can’t quite make up its mind how to play it. So our two geeky scientists could be played for laughs but, sadly, they’re just cases of arrested development who only annoy. The only character who impresses so far is May. They could have gone flat out for an action series with big set-pieces, or they could have done a first season Fringe or X-Files with creepy fantasy or SF things for the team to investigate. But this episode, like all the others before it, completely failed to capture my interest. After the battle, there must have been dead alien bodies bleeding all over New York, and tens of thousands of people must have been involved in the clean-up. How come no-one else has been infected? If these three firemen cleaned the helmet and polished it up, how come there was anything left from which to extract the anti-serum. There’s just no effort invested in developing the idea. Now ask yourself, “If this episode was to be converted into an RPG, would I want to play it?”

      Thematically, every episode is likely to be about something they don’t understand and don’t know how to handle. That’s the nature of the series. So every episode is potentially waiting for the one person with the right skills to solve the problem of the day. Coulson must be there to kick Gravitron into the machine, Woodentop must be there to shoot the supersoldier full of drugs that will stop him from exploding, and so on.

  2. November 7, 2013 at 3:37 am

    No argument it could have been better. For one thing, they haven’t really done a good job establishing the threat–not like they did in Fringe. I’ve said before that I think that the pilot started off on the wrong foot, and I don’t feel like they have really recovered.

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