Welcome back to another Agents of S.O.M.E.T.H.I.N.G., where we talk about 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: Murder! Kidnapping! Torture! Portals! ‘Closure’ was directed by Kate Woods and written by Brent Fletcher.

Ziah: Okay, Chris, I know we’ve complained and moaned throughout the whole season in varying degrees, but I have to say I hated this episode. This was just hackneyed writing, stiff acting, and the misplaced belief that I want anything from Agent Ward other than for him to be utterly terrible at kill lines and be handsome. Chris. Chris. He literally says, “We’re not so different, you and I.” It’s not even a bad joke! It’s literally just there! This show is poorly written, and honestly, I’m tired of making excuses for it.

I spent last week watching Jessica Jones, and that is a show, regardless of your thoughts on it, that has an aesthetic and themes and interesting shots and color theory. Sure, they undoubtedly have a bigger budget, but still. This is the same company making both these shows and the quality difference is like watching a major league pitcher strike out a Tee-ball player. There’s no budget consideration that’s stopping this show from just writing dialogue and character interaction better than they have.

Chris: Yes, but how do you really feel?

Ziah: Like even my lowest expectations for this show weren’t met.

Chris: Well, I haven’t watched Jessica Jones yet, but I actually watched this episode twice, and I definitely did not feel as strongly about it as you did, so this should be interesting.

 

 

Ziah: So, let’s get into the episode proper. It starts with what really feels like a dream sequence as Rosalind’s weirdly forgiven Coulson for being a jerk last episode after an unknown amount of time has passed while they exposit in awkward dialogue about what to do next. Ward surprises Coulson by shooting Rosalind and sending a kill squad in afterwards.

Chris: Yeah, when the episode started with that scene I thought perhaps they were accidentally playing the wrong episode. Once it became clear that wasn’t the case, I thought maybe I wasn’t properly remembering what had happened last time, but that was quickly rendered moot when the badness started.

Ziah: Nope, they just gave them a happy date so they could fridge Rosalind. Like, this is the textbook example of Women In Refrigerators. She literally dies to make the man in the story go on a rampaging mission of revenge.

Chris: I think Alexandra DeWitt might take umbrage with you calling this the textbook case, but I take your point. I think my two biggest takeaways from that scene were:

1) Coulson clearly doesn’t have very good emergency medical training because telling someone to “breathe” when they’ve just been shot in the throat is pretty pointless. That’s like the main thing they’re going to have a problem with and your yelling orders isn’t helping, Phil.

2) This is probably going to put Coulson off of ever going to that burger place again.

I initially thought Phil and Roz were kind of cute together, but now I’m just kind of sick of all the relationships on this show. I was certainly surprised when she got shot, but I wasn’t upset… so that feels like a problem.

Ziah: Yes, Chris. Join me. Join me on the dark side with these feelings of cynicism.

Now, commenters have gotten on us in the past about not knowing the backstory which would help us like the characters. Guys. Guys. We know the backstory. Every three episodes they repeat enough that we get it through context. We can work out, for example, that Ward lost a sexy villain chum thanks to Coulson's interference. It’s not hard to parse. If the present versions of these characters aren’t making us intrigued about their backstories, it’s not our fault for having not seen earlier scenes.

Chris: I was going to say I had no idea who “Kara” was when he mentioned her by name. The only “Kara” I know is the one from Supergirl. (Check out Supergirl Guys every week right here at ComicsAlliance!) I mean, I can use my context clues as well as the next guy when they mention things over and over like this, but just mentioning it isn’t really the same as understanding what happened. I’m not sure if our lines of logic are running parallel or perpendicular here, Ziah.

Ziah: Fair point. I guess what I mean is that if the characters in the present were interesting, we’d be intrigued to look at past episodes and major events in their lives, right? If the characters are boring in the present, there’s no incentive to see what made them the boring version we see now. And whenever characters on the show mention past events, I feel way more of the latter than the former.

Chris: It’s funny you’d say that because as I was rewatching this episode, I found myself thinking, “Do I want to go back and watch the first two seasons just to see what some of this nonsense is about?” I haven’t decided yet, so I guess you can look at it as glass half full or half empty.

Ziah: Anyway, so Coulson’s on a rampage, finally having to resign as… Director? Not-Director? He names Mac the new Director of SHIELD, but says he has to go off-book in order to do what he has to do, but why? Is SHIELD still a thing? Does it have a governing body? Are Fury or Hill still around and don’t want him doing that? None of this makes sense, but at least it gives Mac something to do besides be the voice of reason on a show full of unreasonable people. He’s now… The voice of command on a show full of unreasonable people, which is some improvement, I guess.

 

 

Chris: If I understood correctly, he wasn’t resigning, but taking a leave to do this one mission, and Mac was just in charge until the mission was over. This really seems like the kind of thing that someone should step in and wrangle Coulson in on though.

Is it just me or is almost every episode this season about someone who is furious about something happening to someone they love and out for revenge to the point where they aren’t acting rationally, are lashing out at their friends and teammates, and making poor decisions?

Ziah: It is definitely not you, unfortunately. Revenge has been a running theme this season, insofar as repeating a character beat a bunch of times for different pairings can be called a theme.

It might seem like I’m disparaging SHIELD too much this week, but this had more cliches than anything I’ve seen in a long time. We’ve got, “You’re not so different, you and I”, a couple being split up so that one can be tortured while the other one gives up because they just can’t stand to hear the torture, a man who doesn’t “kill because he doesn’t feel… He feels too much,” we’ve even got tracing the call by keeping him on the line.

The only surprise this episode showed was my surprise at how bad Agents of SHIELD could get. This is a property that doesn’t need to exist, that doesn’t even pass the low bar of entry of, “Well, it references the things I like” that so many nerd shows clear with flying colors. In a world where Jessica Jones and Daredevil exist, shows with some artistic merit that would be present even without the built-in nerd audience, Agents of SHIELD basically exists as a demonstration of what not to do.

I’m sticking to the Marvel shows in comparisons, just so as not to add into the false binary of Marvel vs. DC, but even shows like Flash or Arrow, which might not have good writing, have something worthwhile, be it jokes, or twists, or charming character interactions. SHIELD this week was devoid of all of that, except when Daisy fist bumps Mac after he’s the new director. That was it for my high points this week, how about you?

 

 

Chris: Well, I think that it’s worth noting that a big difference between SHIELD and the shows you mentioned is that neither of the Netflix shows are constrained by a lot of the restrictions put on a show that airs Tuesdays evenings on ABC. And I think it’s also worth noting that another big difference between those shows and SHIELD is that the Netflix shows get to focus on the story they’re trying to tell in only 13 episodes, instead of having to stretch and tread water to fill out an entire regular TV season’s worth of 22+ episodes. I think most of these comic shows (Marvel, DC, Walking Dead) would benefit from fewer episodes, and this problem is nothing new. It’s what makes them keep introducing new characters and endless relationship drama. It eats up time.

Ziah: Man, I think it’s a real bad look if the best explanation for why a show is written the way it is is because it eats up time. If the showrunners are thinking in terms of filling space, what’s the audience supposed to feel?

Chris: Honestly, I don’t think most viewers care because they’re not thinking about it nearly as hard as we are. They’re just tuning in and going, “I wonder what’s going to happen this week!” And that’s okay. Not everything has to be a masterpiece or on the level of Game of Thrones or The Wire or Downton Abbey or Whatever Show You Think Is Really Great. There’s room for lots of stuff, including shows that are just okay.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t be striving to be better than “just okay”, but I think it’s also easy to start expecting more from these shows than they are ever going to be. And trust me, as a guy who talks about Arrow every week, I know I am incredibly guilty of this. (Check out Pointed Commentary every week, right here at ComicsAlliance!)

To get back to what you originally asked: what did I like about this episode? Let’s see… I liked the previews for Agent Carter! See, there’s a show that was on a major network, but didn’t waste a lot of time with pointless episodes and water-treading, and had all the charm and quality you want from something that’s supposed to be made by people responsible for movies you like.

Speaking of those movies, at what point do you think the Avengers or at least somone with real superhero experience gets called? Hydra is still active and about to bring some major evil thing to Earth and instead of calling Iron Man your move is to get “Metal Melter” and The Worst Person in the World, I’m sorry, I mean “Lightning Lincoln”? Really? Really?

Ziah: That might be the only complaint I don’t have about the show, honestly. I’ve long since come to grips that this is basically out of continuity for how much they can actually bring in Marvel stuff, so that’s whatever. Speaking of, what’s the over-under on the MCU just kind of sweeping this show under the rug now that the Netflix stuff is 2 and 0?

Lincoln still sucks though. In an episode full of disappointments, his existence is still the biggest one.

Chris: I guess I liked that he was barely in the episode. See, that’s positivity in action.

Oh, I just remembered another thing I liked; Ward makes a Furiosa reference, which means that amidst all the chaos of killing and spying and Hydra he still found time to watch Mad Max: Fury Road at some point since this summer. He probably had a pirated copy though, because he’s such a bad guy. Speaking of, we haven’t even mentioned his brother and the shocking revelations about his childhood.

Actually, there’s a lot of things we haven’t talked about. Let’s knock some out lightning round style.

Ziah: Okay, sounds good. Brotherly reveal: Fine. It was fine. I have no opinion on it, beyond that it led to some really heinous cliches.

Chris: Yeah, it served it purpose well enough. Coulson’s angry guy interrogations of his team where he’s kind of a jerk to everyone?

Ziah: It’s great, because I finally have a reason to dislike Coulson’s actions, and think he’s kind of a jerk, instead of getting the sense that we’re supposed to respect and empathize with him.

Chris: Banks still holding his arm out like he’s magnetized even though the magnetism guy had already taken the gun out of his hand?

Ziah: Garbage, but I like Mag-Not-O in the show, if only because I’m proud of coming up with Mag-Not-O.

 

 

Chris: That part honestly cracked me up. Also, when he’s going to use his powers to torture Jemma with tools and you realize torturing someone with tools held by magnet powers isn’t any worse than just holding the tools in your hands. That was also funny to me, though I’m sure it wasn’t supposed to be, so again… that may be a problem.

Also, well done on that name, buddy.

Ziah: Thanks man.

Chris: Malick’s speech about what Hydra’s trying to do and Ward’s greater purpose as a leader?

Ziah: Actually, okay! If they absolutely have to evolve Ward past the charismatic scumbag we all know and love, then having him go from angry teen to slightly-mature twenty year old (mentally speaking) is pretty good. The HYDRA thing is dumb though. HYDRA’s basically whatever the writers want it to be in any story, so having them be a centuries-old organization focused on this particular goal is as silly as them being super-Nazis, but for some reason this still sounds more fake. I assume Ward’s gonna get possessed by the thing and come back as some superpowered alien, right?

 

 

Chris: That seems as likely as anything else. Honestly, I listened to that speech twice, and really tried to make sure there wasn’t something I’d missed the first time when I watched it again, and it really doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Malick says once they bring this thing back they’ll be able to do whatever the hell they want, but what can’t they already?! They fly around the world, they jump out of planes, they murder people with no repercussions, they hang out in warehouses, they have henchmen! What else do they want to do that they aren’t allowed that this evil, thousand year old creature is going to solve?!

Ziah: I dunno, it’ll teach them to love? This show’s dumb and the characters are dumb, and I’m dumb for watching it. That’s all for my notes, Chris. You have anything else? Some glimmer of hope to extend for next week’s mid-season finale?

Chris: Well, I mean, after next week you won’t have to watch it again for a while, so I think that might be the glimmer you need. Plus, Agent Carter starts up again in a few weeks, so that should be fun!

Alright gang, let us know what you thought in the comments and join us next week for what is sure to be an exciting mid-season finale!