Last night’s episode of Agents of SHIELD, “The Bridge” was different. It wasn’t the re-release marketing blitz that all but yelled at us “HEY! This one is important!” It was how personal everything was for Mike Peterson and Coulson, we had clear emotional stakes wrapped up in the plot with centipede. The personal and outer conflict were woven together and layered like Mike Peterson’s super suit. The fact “The Bridge” featured some metahuman fighting helped a little bit. For once the danger felt legitimate and at this point we should care about this wana be band of misfit toys.
The fact that it has taken SHIELD 6 episodes to an episode with such stakes, the last one being “Eye Spy” is another story. Sleepy Hollow has been doing that for awhile, like all good television should not just genre TV. By now the production should be to the point where episodes have aired, numbers are being thrown at the writers, and reactions from the viewership are known. Hopefully “The Bridge” is the step into a more consistently good television show. Arrow was pretty hit or miss, sometimes within episodes, for the first 11-12 episodes and that has turned it around mightily. I’m not yet ready to give up hope that this show can be of a consistent entertaining quality.
Now I’m never one to belive the cliff hanger unless they end on a body. Besides, for SHIELD to blow Mike Peterson away like that would be a huge mistake. Peterson, from the pilot episode, is a more fleshed out interesting and empathetic character than Skye or Fitz. He’s a single father trying to atone for past sins, why would you kill such an easy audience hook off like that? He’d be an interesting foil to Skye as a audience surrogate. Besides, FitzSimmons made that awesome suit all that work just wasted….I think not.
After Centipede (for lack of a better term) break Edison Po (classic Poe!) out of jail, SHIELD finally decides that they are probably worth dealing with. This is a contradictory message to the one Raina makes, lamenting that SHIELD has put them on the run, moving from safe house to safe house every couple of days a bit hard to swallow. Centipede is the “seasonal villain” by sheer happenstance, they just happen to show up in two (out of 9) episodes previously so of course they are the “Big Bad”. Only we haven’t spent any time with them, we know just barely more than the Kids on the Magic School Bus do. It’s like what Andy Greenwald says; you shouldn’t care about plausibility and accuracy in fiction what you should care about is when shows make you think about such things because that means there is no emotional stakes or emotional truth to distract us from implausibility. That whole lament makes no sense in this show from what we have seen and it only is that way because the show has done a piss poor job getting us emotionally involved.
Vague as the antagonists are, the show has done a decent job of casting solid actors. Cullen Douglas as Po is the right brand of weird and creepy. Connected to “the Clairvoyant” he’s cold and alien to everything around him. Ruth Negga is can turn on the seductress charm in Raina and make you understand why broken people like those ex-Army soldiers and Mike Peterson would go with this women in a flower dress promising to change the their lives. More interesting is how both characters are clearly connected cogs into a much larger machine. Po has a zen like peace to that but Raina has ambition within her.
I’ve done my fair share of criticizing Skye and Chloe Bennet with good reason. But man, having May shut down Skye’s selfish attempt to monopolize productivity from the mission was great. Skye barely has a function and the writers seem fit to make her obsessive about finding her parents to an even more annoying degree. May straight up telling her that Coulson is lying to her, is something not so easily sold; it was reinforced with the typical May single mindedness to the mission. Rating on your commanding officer like that though seems very un-May like….not that we know what “May like” really is or anything.
Overall, the team interactions were much stronger this episodes since they actually talked about things that were not germane to the plot. Peeta would call that being “friends”. May and Ward’s verbal sparring post-centipede beat down was nice. The arrogance and vulnerability on display by May was Korra-esque. Have these characters talk to each other about how broken they are or something more often. Play board games, make this a family unit.
The physical conflict had a noticeable upgrade as well. Throwing a couple SHIELD agents against a quartet of super strong army men should be a recipe for easy success. It was for the most part, in comparison to past action sequences, this stands out. In comparison to television in general it’s still over edited and not shot all that well, likely due to hiring directors of varying degree of action proficiency.
“The Bridge” was a much hyped episode and it mostly delivered. The thing is, I feel as if I’m gushing for a show fulfilling the basics of quality television. A ‘C’ grade at best. That should not be treated as a great event when SHIELD has clearly talent in front of and behind the camera. For a show like this there will and always be too many cooks in the kitchen with not enough plates to go around, hopefully “The Bridge” is a sign that these cooks are starting to work together in a more productive fashion.