Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally shaking off its growing pains and finding its narrative footing. It’s still not reaching the heights in quality that it could, but it is becoming a solid family show with hints of darkness and complexity that should pay dividends as the show continues; especially if we continue to focus on Agents Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen).
This episode, “Repairs,” by co-creators Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, keeps the spotlight on May as the truth about her nickname “The Cavalry” is revealed and she finally begins to warm up to the others.
We’re not counting the drunken rage sex with Agent Ward (Brett Dalton), which has apparently carried on without the drink or the rage as far as we can tell, as warming up.
She’s not either.
The main storyline follows Hannah (Laura Seay), a safety inspector for a particle accelerator where four people were recently killed following an explosion. The townfolk blame her for the accident, but worse than that, she blames herself. What brings her to the attention of our heroes is the fact that since the accident, Hannah has been plagued by what could be telekinetic incidents that are evidently triggered by her guilt and the hostility of others towards her. She, however, believes that she’s being punished by demons sent to torment her by God.
There’s a nice exploration here of just how religion can fuck you up, that is then countered by the idea that it’s not religion per se, but one’s own attitudes toward forgiveness and guilt that are the real problems. And that allows both Hannah’s and Agent May’s stories to intertwine thematically while giving Skye (Chloe Bennet) a chance to shine as well.
The B-Plot falls flat, however, as Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) decide that they want to give Skye the full S.H.I.E.L.D. academy experience and start pranking her. Honestly, though, part of the reason this storyline doesn’t satisfy is down to the lame prank ideas that the characters have. I’m pretty sure that this is intentional, rather than a failure in scripting. Fitz and Simmons are just too nerdy and nice to really prank someone effectively (at least until Fitz plants a gas-mask wearing mop in a closet, the discovery of which provides one of the funniest moments in the series so far).
Anyway, once our heroes figure out that they’re not dealing with ghosts, demons, or telekinesis, things take a frightening turn as they are stalked throughout the Bus by a phase-shifting, wrench-wielding, lovesick loser named Tobias (Robert Baker) who thinks he’s been condemned to Hell, but is really only caught between dimensions. Between our dimension and a dimension that looks a lot like Hell.
A LOT LIKE HELL!!!!!
I don’t know about you, but I found that to be both disturbing and annoying at the same time, mainly because the characters don’t seem to really worry about the whole Alternate Dimension Hell discovery. And when Agent May convinces loverboy to let go and dissipate into what for him was Hell, everybody breathes a sigh of relief.
Everybody but me, apparently.
They just sent a guy to Hell. There’s no way the writers should let that one go. This is something that should come back to haunt (heh, see what I did there?) them in the future.
Despite that little misstep, “Repairs” actually went a long way toward repairing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. overall. And next week’s Christmas Break cliffhanger episode should take another few big steps in the right direction as we see the return of J. August Richards as Mike Peterson and the girl in the flower dress herself, Ruth Negga as Raina.
After that, it’s three more episodes from the initial order, then we move into the newly revamped back nine with the introduction of new characters and the chance to tie-in to the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier!
I’m actually excited about that.
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, & 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.