The pre-title card sequence of “Repairs” really sums up one of Agents of SHIELD’s main issues, how it dispenses information. The first shot is of a newspaper with a very large picture of Hannah Hutchins(Laura Seay), a headline in big letters proclaiming “4 Dead in Laboratory Accident”. The camera lingers on the newspaper more than long enough for the viewer to take in the information. Hannah walks into frame soon after and before you know it, the gas station explodes. As the gas station attendant runs out of the store after being pelted and crushed by his stock, the camera follows a trail of gasoline to more newspapers (inexplicably on fire) and the camera lingers once again on the headline and picture of Hannah. If this was the first time seeing this information, the imagery would have been more striking, more evocative, and just perked viewers up a bit. Suddenly this woman seems very dangerous, not a victim of circumstance. Instead all it does is just reinforces something already known to the viewer and does nothing to build tension. Agents of SHIELD really prefers to tell than show, when it should be the other way around.
Poorly dispensed information only makes the madcap tone of the show more annoying. On one hand it’s a light hearted procedural, nothing wrong with that, where FitzSimmons try to prank the noob Skye. In the other hand you have May quickly getting dressed after a night of alcohol and hooking up with Ward, pushing the show into more adult territory. Except it really isn’t “adult” it’s just kind of there without reinforcement. The Last Aribender (a show built on genocide) and Legend of Korra have handled mixing in light hearted and serious ideas with more grace. Which hits on another criticism of this show, the majority of other shows do what this is portends at, but with far more grace and watchability. Sleepy Hollow may be bonkers and not worth really investing in or discussing but there is a competency in execution and chemistry between Tim Mison and Nicole Beharie that SHIELD utterly lacks.
“Repairs” first couples of acts are very clunky. Clunky enough that it was taking me out of watching it, never a good sign. From the cheap and under manned “mob” scene, to Hannah’s talk about being forsaken by God and punished by demons. Trying to sell those last lines is a tricky proposition Laura Seay just fails at it.“Repairs” opening acts was actively taking confidence away from the previous assertion that this show had turned a bit of a corner.
Clunky table setting aside, “Repairs” becomes a decent little haunted house thriller towards the end. Hanna is being haunted, well stalked more like it, by the man responsible for the accident, Tobias Ford. Tobias finds himself trapped between our world and “Hell” as he puts it. Sounds like Muspelheim. His not so corporeal presence heightens some of the tension as he slowly takes over the plane and the Agents out. By no means is this Aliens but there is a hint of style and with how “Repairs” was going it’s a welcome left turn. It is to this episodes determent that “Repairs” air so soon after “Sanctuary” on Sleepy Hollow a excellent haunted house episode with legitimate scares and excellent creature effects.
Melinda May is more an idea than character, with how her fellow agents canonize her as “The Calvary”. So much reverence is being paid; you can’t help but be interested. How she got that nickname is a recurring legend throughout the episode told to Skye first by FitzSimmons, Ward, and finally Coulson. Each time, the story slowly begins to morph from Arnold Schwarzenegger style heroics to something resembling Jim Jones and Apocalypse Now. Suddenly May being a rules oriented damaged war vet makes a lot of sense. This recent Digimon plotted episodes have highlighted character through action and really shown how they are useful, May was already shown as such and hearing about how she got this way isn’t the same as seeing it’s effects. If anything, this makes Melinda May the most underdeveloped character on the show (where it could be argued everyone is underdeveloped and underutilized). The post credit sequences is supposed to show that the fun loving, warm, May is still underneath it all and it is a funny moment, just one that doesn’t feel remotely earned.
Belief, to me, is just another synonym for “trust” the under ridding theme of this series so far (trust in each other, the system, belief systems). “Repairs” religious texturing is heavy handed. Hannah is spoken of as being pious but there is barley a hint of it until she blurts out how God has forsaken her. Skye’s little talk about her time with some nuns also about as subtle as a wooden mallet. Than May cuts through all this cutesy love BS, bluntly telling Tobias that God will not forgive him for his actions and that he cannot change them. All he can do is let go. It’s cold and a bit fatalistic; the way Ming Na-Wen delivers it sounds like something William Munny would say. It paints a very agnostic and high contrast view of the show morally. There is no redemption of absolution to be found all you can do is let go of the person that was before it went sideways.
“Repairs” manages to pull itself together but continues SHIELD down the path of forgetful mediocrity. Episodes can bring up interesting ideas and moral grey areas all they want, it doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t serviced. It is pretentious. SHIELD is a show that should be better all the ingredients seem to be there but something is wrong with the recipe.
The Bits At The End
- So, May and Ward did sleep together. If this becomes a recurring thing, cool. If this is just a casual escapade between two consenting adults with damaged emotional selves even better.
- Man, Skye is really friggin useless isn’t she! Her plot this episode was literally looking for a job, which turns out to be being cheery and seeing the goodness in people. Except, that last part is what we have Coulson for.
- So in the duo of Warm&Fuzy which is which for May and Ward