First things first: if you haven’t watched The Winter Soldier you should most definitely not watch any more Agents of SHIELD. Captain America 2 is lots of fun to watch, and is way better than Agents of SHIELD. It would be a shame to have the less entertaining one spoil the better one for you.
Second, despite how much I’m mentioning it this isn’t a review of Captain America 2. I did love watching that movie though, and I’ll review it later and probably see it again in theaters. You should go watch it, and keep in mind that all spoilers in this post will also effect your knowledge of that movie.
So then! If you’ve been watching Agents of SHIELD you’re probably familiar with many of the problems of the show. Even ignoring any complaints about the acting, one of the show’s big problems is that SHIELD agents (and especially our heroes) appear to be utterly incapable of acting in a clandestine fashion. Nor are they very good at keeping secrets in a more general sense. Their incompetency in the realm of secrecy is a running joke between me and my housemate. And while I’ve been watching in the hopes that the show would improve and perhaps live up to the potential that I thought I saw at the beginning, it’s been stuck on maybe-not-quite-mediocre for a while now. Every so often there are flashes of fun, little nuggets of something worthwhile jumbled into the dross, but they’re consistently buried.
This most recent episode helped change that. Look below the break to learn more.
It turns out that having all of the characters at each others’ throats makes them far more interesting. We’ve gotten so used to seeing our happy little plane-family working together that watching them begin to burst apart at the seams is really quite fascinating. The most recent episode, contemporaneous with the events of The Winter Soldier, picks up immediately from where the last episode left off, tense standoff and all. Watching Agents Coulson and May hold guns on each other is probably the most interesting part of the show thus far, and I’m glad that we’ve finally gotten around to it.
After all, why have a show about members of a covert organization if you don’t have paranoid mind games in which the main characters convince themselves that they can’t trust each other? Sure, there are other ways that you could go, but this is an important piece of tension that I think the show has been building towards since it started. It’s a shame that they had to wait this long to really give it its own part of the show, but, well…
About those *SPOILERS*. You should stop reading here if you don’t want to know about some of what happens in Winter Soldier. I’ll also spoil bits of Agents of SHIELD for you.
Anyway, I understand why they couldn’t reveal this stuff until after the central premise of Winter Soldier was exposed. There’s nothing quite so good as having Hydra resurrect itself from inside SHIELD like some horrifying parasitic wasp, and Captain America 2 obviously had to have the first shot at revealing that element of the storyline. So while I continued to be unconvinced by several of the main actors in Agents, watching them struggle to deal with internal threats while still not certain that they can trust each other makes the whole episode far better than its predecessors. It’s enough better to make me want to keep watching the show, when I was nearly ready to give up on it.
Better yet, it’s not clear to me whether there are still Hydra sleeper agents operating undercover inside SHIELD’s zombie-like institutional remains. Given that Coulson had his brain rebuilt, it’s entirely possible that he’s been somehow compromised. And (*MORE SPOILERS*) given Ward’s defection, complete with grossly melodramatic shots of his moody brooding face, the writers now have even more opportunities to shift things up in the show.
I was ready to give up on Agents of SHIELD, but in my opinion this episode has bought them a brief reprieve. I’m still optimistic that they’ll be able to pull more good episodes out of this whole dramatic mess, and I look forward to seeing how they handle things going forward. There are still plenty of opportunities for them to screw things up again, but at least now they’ve gotten me excited to see how things turn out next time. And with any luck, the changes in the team’s (and opposition’s) composition will make for better camera fodder in the future.