All right. I was wrong.
I was really looking forward to the return of J. August Richards as Mike Peterson. The last time we saw him, back in the Pilot, he was on the verge of exploding until our heroes opted to take him down non-lethally. Now he’s a full-fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (in training?) and somehow the Extremis portion of his Centipede Super Soldier Cocktail has stabilized. He’s super strong and fast, but he burns calories like crazy and has to eat massive amounts to “refuel” after exerting himself.
So basically, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has created its own superhero to use on the show rather than incorporate a previously known Marvel character, which in theory should lend itself to more fantastical stories that are more in line with what the vocal critics are clamoring for. But if this episode is any indication, that is not to be.
For this winter-finale cliffhanger, we instead got clichés galore, horrible dialogue, awkward sexual attractions, and a near-total failure to live up to any potential whatsoever. The only interesting moments in the entire show are in the final moments, and they were only interesting because it means we’re going to finally find out some details about why Coulson (Clark Gregg) isn’t dead.
In the future.
Maybe in January.
Anyway, back to this clusterfuck of hamfisted dialogue and ludicrous plotting. Honestly, either the writer of this episode has no handle on structuring an action-adventure cliffhanger or has utter contempt for the audience. We have a number of plot threads unwound incrementally and in each case rather than actual movement we instead have the spinning of wheels followed by either anguished looks or actual sobbing.
That’s by the characters, not by me on my couch watching it unfold.
Actually, there may have been a little bit of both on my part, to be honest.
Super Powered Mike spends most of the episode mooning over a picture of his son before going into battle and getting stabbed in the guts. But he’s okay. He just needs food and a little rest. Meanwhile it turns out he’s no longer explody thanks to being shot by Fitz/Simmons’ Night Night Gun just before he went off, which somehow magically cured him. And it didn’t just cure him, it also magically fixed it so he doesn’t have to keep reinjecting the Super Soldier Cocktail like Centipede’s three generic bad guys.
This leads to the only moderately interesting plot point as Raina (Ruth Negga) – the girl in the flower dress – recognizes him and realizes that Mike may hold the secret to the next stage in Centipede’s plans. Which sets up the surprise twist at the end as Mike betrays the team to save his son, by turning Coulson over to Centipede.
Because despite never showing any interest in Coulson or having his mysterious return from the dead being mentioned by anyone outside of S.H.I.E.L.D., Centipede actually wants Coulson so they can figure out his resurrection, instead of wanting Mike so they can fix their defective Super Soldiers. It’s definitely a surprise twist, but only because there was no groundwork laid for it AT ALL. Somebody somewhere higher up seems to have just decided at the last minute that we need to get into Coulson’s story and this is how we’re gonna do it.
Meanwhile, over in the twisted narratives of our other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Ward (Brett Dalton) is kind of pining for May (Ming-Na Wen) who is aggressively shutting down any emotional ties there while also being a bitch to Skye (Chloe Bennet) who is desperate to find out who her mother was. This leads to the aforementioned anguished looks and sobbing. It’s all very Junior High and lacks any real emotional depth as everyone gives fairly one-dimensional takes on the awful, awful dialogue.
I kind of felt sorry for everyone involved.
But that was for the actors, not the characters. This episode did a grand job of making me lose interest in any of the characters, so when the climactic scene begins to unfold, rather than be emotionally invested in the moment, it was instead just a series of cold plot devises lifted from pretty much any other action-adventure TV show. But instead of making us care, like say Leverage did every time it repeated the exact same elements in a season-ending cliffhanger (and they did it over and over again), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was just boring. (Is there any way we can just get the cast and crew of Leverage back together and rebrand that show as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? I’d watch that. Again.)
Blowing up Mike in a huge fireball made no impression because it was so clichéd that we already doubt that he’s really dead, despite being engulfed in flames. But honestly, even if they kill him off I don’t think I care anymore. They neutered him so thoroughly in one episode, that his loss will make no impact whatsoever.
I didn’t even feel a flicker of concern when in the closing moments, Ward is apparently shot. Hell, the show itself didn’t even seem concerned as it focused on him collapsing in a hail of bullets for all of half a second before moving on. But seeing as how he set up his sniper post in the WORST POSSIBLE PLACE HE COULD, he deserves whatever he gets.
Again, horrible writing is the real enemy in this episode.
Hopefully, when the show returns on January 7, since we’re moving into the final three episodes of the original order, there will be a firmer hand on the tiller for the big Coulson reveal.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, &
amp; Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.