After taking a week off, Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ returned on Tuesday with a new episode. Somehow, it feels like the show was gone for months. I didn’t miss it, and frankly I’d pretty much forgotten about it until it suddenly showed up in my DVR recording list again. That can’t be good, can it?
As I recall, the last two episodes of the series felt like an upswing. I’d started to hope that maybe the show was finding its footing and might finally develop into something interesting. This week’s return episode, unfortunately, is neither here nor there. While not necessarily bad, it just isn’t terribly compelling or exciting on any level.
The episode has a goofy title of ‘F.Z.Z.T.’. As near as I can tell, that’s not an acronym for anything. It’s an onomatopoeia for the sound of an electrical spark. Why it’s spelled out with periods between the letters, I have no idea.
Rather than chasing down super-powered people, the storyline this week is more like a dull, later-seasons episode of ‘The X-Files’, in which our S.H.I.E.L.D. agents must investigate a strange supernatural phenomenon. It starts when a scout troop leader mysteriously dies from an electrical strike, and his body is left levitating a few feet off the ground. A second and eventually third victim lead to the connection that they were all volunteer firefighters and first responders during the Battle of New York at the climax of ‘The Avengers’. In the aftermath, they’d found a Chitauri helmet among the rubble and saved it as a souvenir. That, of course, was a bad idea. From the helmet, they contracted an alien virus that causes victims’ bodies to build up a huge electrical charge until it finally releases like a lightning strike, straight out of their skulls, and then makes them levitate for some reason.
With no evil-doer behind the deaths, Coulson has the helmet boxed up for transport to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in Africa called “The Sandbox.” Halfway there, a big problem arises. Agent Simmons gets infected by the virus, and Coulson quarantines her in her lab. Somewhere over the ocean, hours from being able to land, Simmons must race against the clock to develop a cure for her own illness before… well, before going fzzt, and potentially taking out others (if not the whole plane) with her.
As time runs out, Simmons makes a brave decision to sacrifice herself by leaping off the plane’s cargo ramp into the ocean. Naturally, just at that moment, Fitz realizes that Simmons’ last attempted antidote, which she thought was a failure, actually works. Before he can tell her the good news, a wind shear knocks Simmons off the ramp. Agent Ward grabs a parachute and the antidote, and leaps after her. The resulting mid-air rescue is clearly meant to be a big visual effects showcase. As we’ve discussed in previous recaps, this show’s visual effects are not typically very good. I’d say that this is probably the best we’ve seen so far, which means that it’s still just a bit shy of competency but not as outright laughable as some episodes.
Obviously, Ward saves Simmons and gives her the antidote. In the midst of this, Coulson gets in hot water by disobeying S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Blake (Titus Welliver from ‘Lost’), who’d ordered him to dump the infected cargo, including Simmons.
Typing this out, I think I may have made the episode sound more suspenseful than it actually is. It plays out like a very by-the-numbers retread of ‘The Andromeda Strain’. At no point do we actually believe that Simmons will die. And without an antagonist, the episode lacks a dramatic spark (no pun intended). The dialogue is also particularly dull this time. I usually include quotes in the headlines to these recaps, but this episode didn’t have a single memorable line.
On the other hand, despite its uninteresting story, the episode manages to work in a number of good character moments, especially for Coulson, who suspects that something is different – and wrong – about himself since recovering from the events of ‘The Avengers’. Supporting characters like Simmons and Fitz are also given some much-needed development that might help us to sympathize with them in the future. (It’s a peculiar failing of the series that most of the characters are so bland.)
I didn’t hate this episode, but I still find myself waiting for this show to finally get going.