‘Agents Of SHIELD’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 11: ‘Bouncing Back’
Welcome back to another Agents of S.O.M.E.T.H.I.N.G., where Comics Alliance’s Special Agents Chris Haley and Ziah Grace debrief you on all the things to like and complain about in this week’s episode of Disney’s ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
This week we’re back from the winter wonderland that was Agent Carter, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are back from that blue planet and are talking about powers and Inhumans and fish pills! “Bouncing Back” was directed by Ron Underwood and written by Monica Owusu-Breen.
Ziah: Well, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has returned, and while you and I would both rather be watching Agent Carter, we are professionals, and we’re going to do our dang jobs. However, in a perhaps uncharacteristic bit of positivity, I have to say I actually liked a fair amount of this episode. It fixed a few of the problems I had with the first half of the season, even as some of the major problems continued to be egregious. (Lincoln. Oh boy, will we get to Lincoln.) Chris, what did you think of the return episode?
Chris: You know, when it started I had all those old familiar (awful) feelings immediately start creeping up, but by the end of the episode I was like, “Eh, that wasn’t so bad.” I don’t expect these feelings to last long, as I’m sure they’ll drop the ball on us, but I was pleasantly surprised. Still plenty to complain about if we choose, but we’ll leave that for later. 😉
Ziah: So, I was wrong about Coulson leaving SHIELD, a theory that was pretty immediately leaky the moment you reminded me that he’s the ostensible star of the show, but I still think that his taking a break would be narratively satisfying. As it is, he’s barely involved with the main cast, doing HYDRA phone tags and hanging out with the president (who really seems like he’s got a lot of free time, let’s be real).
These were some of the most boring and frustrating scenes to me, as it’s a reminder that the writers have no idea what SHIELD has been for the last year. Are they a paramilitary organization with no oversight? Are they on the side of angels and still need to be on the books? How are they funded if the government shut it down? Wasn’t SHIELD a world-wide peacekeeping force at one point?
The answers to all of these questions are still, “Shhhh, shut up, shut up, just watch the show” which is fine, but just don’t draw attention to it in that case.
Chris: Yeah, I liked that part where the president said something like, “Look, I don’t even know how you’re still in business. Who is paying for all of this?” Also that part where the president was all, “If you wanna kill that dude, I’m totally cool with it.” Then he put on his sunglasses and got back to air guitaring with Bill and Ted.
You’re absolutely right though, the parts with Coulson were almost certainly the least interesting parts of the episode even though, like you said, they raise some questions. I started to say “interesting questions”, but I don’t know that the questions raised really are that interesting in the long run. They weren’t the worst parts of the show (that’s reserved for any scene with Lincoln, but especially any scene with just Lincoln and Daisy), but they were substantially less interesting than what was going on over in the Columbia plot with “Yo-Yo”.
Ziah: On the plus side, hey, actual sets and locations involving places other than “the warehouse at ABC Studios” and “interior of an office building that gives us a discount to shoot in”! This was pretty exciting for me, and it brought in one of my favorite characters from Stefano Caselli and Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors run, Yo-Yo Martinez. She’s pretty different from her comics counterpart, but the power (she’s got super-speed, but “yo-yo’s” back to her starting point) is a really fun hook that’s left untouched. What’d you think of Yo-Yo, Chris?
Chris: I liked her a lot! I also wonder what it says about a show when the person who speaks a language I don’t understand is a far more compelling actor than the rest of your cast. When her “acting” has more nuance and conviction without me being able to tell what she's saying. I'd say I hope she becomes a regular, but I'm sure they'll find a way to grind what I enjoy about her out if they do have her come back.
Ziah: It’s not like you even need to worry about that, considering the show banished her and Joey both to “guest stars that are obliquely mentioned every so often” status. Remember how Joey was literally the first openly gay character in the MCU, and they did nothing with it before sending him off to off-screenville?
Chris: Aw man, you think Melt-Master is going to be gone too?
Ziah: Well, they said that he’s free to go home now, and they’ll treat him the way they’re treating Yo-Yo. Backup as necessary once the season finale rolls around and they need a hook.
Chris: I thought Daisy just said maybe he could make it to Sunday dinner with the fam this week. Like, implying he's still on the team, but they don't have to keep such a short leash on them anymore? That's how I read it, but maybe I'm giving them too much credit.. which would probably be a first. I hope they're not getting rid of The Melterer already though. I felt like he really went a long way towards feeling like he really belonged on the team with this episode. Unlike some people. (Hint: I'm talking about Lincoln.)
Ziah: Maybe. I guess we’ll find out next week, but her later talk with Lincoln read to me a lot like Joey was going home to just be around when they need help, and not day-to-day.
It also seemed like they were hinting at a romance between Mac and Yo-Yo, and Coulson and May, and I have to say I am sick of the majority of the cast relating almost entirely through romantic couplings. Mac and Daisy are friends, right? Let’s see more of that! Seems like Mac and Hunter have a friendly rivalry, right? Maybe? Or was it just clever dialogue? I want to see something beyond, “Oh, those two are having sex right now and that’s why they’re spending time together”.
I will say that there’s a chance that these were just heavily flirty moments and won’t actually lead to romance, but the fact remains that these types of scenes are the norm, and it limits the show’s characters.
Chris: I didn't get any hints of the possible Coulson and May romance you mentioned. I actually really had to try hard to even recall May having any lines this week. If my memory serves me correctly (and it may not, because I think my brain is actively trying to purge all memories of this show), May is generally a highlight on the show and she had so little to do this episode that I wondered why they bothered having her show up. If I had to guess I'd say it was because they wanted to make sure we saw the whole cast on the return episode, but if that's the case, couldn't they have found something more interesting or entertaining for her to do?
Ziah: Well, she stroked Coulson’s robo-palm. (Not a euphemism.)
Chris: Really? I must have been writing something down when that happened, or else my brain is rejecting this show much faster than I thought.
The Mac and Yo-Yo thing was definitely there, but I think that was just to establish a connection between the two of them for if and when they bring her back. Honestly, the two of them being a tiny bit cute with each other was fine with me because they were tops on my list of “characters I don't actively dislike” for this episode.
I'm with you though, I'd be all for less of this show having to do with who people had the hots for, and speaking of romantic BS, what the hell is going on with Fitz and Jemma? They've gone through all of this awful, horrible, no good, traumatizing stuff to get together and now Fitz is all… what? Mad at himself for killing (or not killing as it turns out) the possessed body of Stranded Astronaut Will? Even after he explicitly said that “Actual Will” had already died saving Jemma! What is the deal? Am I missing something?
Ziah: I think we’re both missing whatever cilantro-style gene is required for us to like this show’s writing, but yeah, I didn’t understand the mopeyness there. I don’t even really like them together, but the show’s spent so long keeping them apart that they might as well just get together and stay together for all I care. At least that would be new.
And speaking of negativity, Lincoln. Oh man, do I hate this character. He’s terrible. He gets very little to do this episode, and I still detest everything about him. When Daisy reveals at the end that Yo-Yo and Joey aren’t going to be at SHIELD headquarters but Lincoln is, I audibly groaned. Why do we need him on the base? Why is the world so cruel to us reviewers? This is the real question.
Chris: Oh man, me too! I legitimately groaned. In disgust. For a number of reasons. Then I started booing the TV. That's not even me trying to joke around. I literally booed the TV like Grunkle Stan. Then I started hoping the two of them get shot into the sun. In wrestling terminology, we would say Lincoln has “X-Pac heat”.
I think the worst part about going straight from Agent Carter to this is seeing just how much of a step down we're forced to deal with in acting talent/ability. There should have been a palate cleanser week or something. If I can be allowed to make another sports analogy, if the casts of these two shows were basketball teams with their acting talents equating to their skills on the court, Agent Carter would be the Harlem Globetrotters, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be the Washington Generals.
Ziah: Yeah, this is a strong episode of AoS, and it’s still not even close to the worst episode of Agent Carter. There’s just a huge gap in charm and talent and even just ambition, I think. You can really feel the writing staff of Agent Carter trying to bring in themes and motifs and social commentary, and in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you can really feel the writing staff turning in scripts on time.
Chris: There was the little bit of business with Baby von Strucker being in a coma, but really, the only other major development I think we need to discuss was Ward’s transformation into The Guy with the Thing From the Blue Planet In Him. A condition which causes him to eat a lot of meat and watch a lot of TV in bed. Truly scary stuff. I don't think I'll ever be able to escape the image of him eating that... leg of... something?
Ziah: Yeah, not a fan of that development. Sexy evil Agent Ward was a rare bright spot in the last half season, so having him go all spooky cosmic horror isn’t that intriguing to me. It’s not even really something I want to discuss because I legitimately forgot that was something they spent screen time on until you mentioned it. It’s boring. Maybe it won’t be soon?
Chris: Well, his hand did turn into sand or something there at the end. That’s sure to lead to something interesting. I guess I have to give it to the guy that plays Ward though, this show has really asked him to wear a lot of different hats.
Ziah: Agents of Haberdashery would be a better show, probably.
Chris: Agents of H.A.T.S..
Ziah: Greenlight that immediately, ABC. As critics who’ve been consistently negative towards one of your more successful shows, we’re obviously the best choices as showrunners.
Speaking of inside baseball stuff, it would seem a little silly for us not to mention the recent news article that pointed out that most of the people in charge of the MCU not only don’t watch AoS, but aren’t even aware of the ongoing plotlines.
What does this mean for the show, for us as an audience, and for you and I as reviewers? Well, that means that I’m once again baffled by what this show brings to the table for the brand as a whole and as a creative work detached (as much as it can be) from the main Marvel Cinematic Universe. If they can’t connect anything, why the constant focus on SHIELD vs. HYDRA and the Inhuman threat, with little time paid towards developing the characters and building towards smaller, character-driven narratives?
Chris: I have no idea. If I was too busy trying to figure out how I was going to direct Civil War and The Infinity War, I wouldn’t be watching this show either though.
Ziah: This might seem as if I’m critiquing a show that doesn’t exist, but I’m genuinely baffled by the creative decisions that the show has made, just in the time since we’ve started watching it. It’s not as if I need my entertainment to “matter,” or that I’m worried that AoS won’t fit into the canon or something. It’s that if I’m struggling to find characters or minor plotlines to connect with emotionally, the only defense I can offer this show is that it’s got the difficult job of contributing towards a macro-narrative while having none of the strengths of tentpole movies, but as it is, it’s not even doing that.
My somewhat positive feelings towards this episode aside, Chris, we’ve been watching almost a dozen hours of this show. What does Agents of SHIELD mean to you?
Chris: Yikes, way to close with a tough one! That’s a good question. To me personally, I guess it means a lot of weekly disappointment, but if you want to put a positive spin on that, I could say it’s something that I view as having untapped potential. And I guess that’s sort of how it falls into the place in the greater MCU as well.
This show is really in a bad position, because if they don’t do much with people with superpowers, people complain that it doesn’t feel like it’s really in the MCU. But if they try to go too far with that, they end up doing things that the movies can’t be bothered to address and then people complain that it doesn’t feel like it’s really in the MCU. It’s tough. If we could somehow pretend this show just existed on its own, I think it might be more enjoyable, but then you kind of lose the hook that would bring people in in the first place.
Ziah: I guess all that could be avoided if there were just better written characters and interesting hooks. I’m very open to television shows that aren’t groundbreaking and just kind of quietly enjoyable, but so far I haven’t found anything to really latch onto with Agents of SHIELD. I enjoy Hunter and Bobbi’s interactions, but they’re going to have their own show. I like Mac in brief moments, but his star turn as (temporary) director of SHIELD really showcased his weakness as an actor. I like Daisy Johnson in the comics, but can’t find anything really remarkable about her TV counterpart.
I hope this episode is a sign of things to come and improvements to be made, instead of a brief diversion, because otherwise I’m going to be retreating back into negativity pretty quickly.
Chris: There’s always hope. Why, even after all that nay-saying, it looks like Agent Carter may get a third season after all… so there’s always hope.
Ziah: No no, Hope is owned by Fox, I think.