‘Agents of SHIELD’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 8: ‘Many Heads, One Tale’
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: Secrets! Subterfuge! Spies! Smooches! ‘Many Heads, One Tale’ was directed by Garry A. Brown and written by Jed Whedon and DJ Doyle.
Ziah: First off, Ward continues to be sheer delight. He’s charming, a huge jerk, and all of his fight scenes are the cleanest and best-shot. The opening scene is a great example of all of those qualities, while adding to what is, at this point, just a running joke: Ward’s complete inability to come up with a pithy post-fight-scene line.
Chris: To your point about the fight and Ward in general, I made a note to myself that that opening fight was probably the best fight scene of the season so far, and I absolutely agree about Ward’s delightfulness. It’s hard to top a bad guy with some charisma.
Ziah: Speaking of charisma (or lackthereof), Lincoln continues to be the worst, in a way that is honestly impressive. I actually said out loud, to an empty room, “No, May, don’t apologize to him, he sucks.” Yes, Lashdrew might have killed a bunch of his friends and tried to kill him, but at least he’s not Lincoln, you know? Chris, is anyone worse than Lincoln?
Chris: Not that I’m aware of. I hate him so much that as soon as he appeared onscreen, I went to the trouble of pausing the episode and writing down, “I hate you, Lincoln.” His real Inhuman power is the ability to be super-unlikeable. Readers: Leave a comment if you like Lincoln! (So we can ban you!)
Ziah: Chris. Chris. Are we magic? Are we actually changing the way this show works in real-time with our reviews?
Chris: I’d like to hope someone from the show is eagerly anticipating each new review and furiously scribbling notes on how to fix their show.
Ziah: We finally, finally, get powers on television that can be shown and lead to cool fight scenes without breaking the budget and looking terrible. Bobbi gets magnetic batons, and they fight Mag-not-o, and his… Adeptness in magnetism?
But seriously, this fight is pretty cool. Bobbi’s new weapons finally imply that this super-secret high-tech organization actually has resources, and they’re pretty budget conscious, which helps imply that maybe we’ll actually see more of this. The fight scene’s over pretty quickly, but Bobbi dodges a metal drawer, and basically looks awesome, so hopefully they’ve figured out how to do better fight scenes.
Chris: She seemed a little shaky on how they were actually going to work, but I like the idea that someone finally has some gadgets going. I mean, I know Coulson has his robo-hand, but we all know he’s just got a glove on. This at least requires some work and script planning.
At first I was disappointed when Mark Dacascos walked in, then used “powers,” because if you’re going to hire Mark Dacascos to be on your show, you damn well better have him do some legit fighting and not just some hand wiggling. Thankfully they didn’t let me down on that end.
Ziah: Once again, geography strikes the Agents of Shield. I was totally lost as to where the characters were. Why did May and Lincoln have to get in a huge CGI-plane? Where were Mac and Daisy? I assumed they were in DC so the radios could actually reach Hunter hacking the database, but if so, why were May and Lincoln flying a jet around DC? Add in the fact that a full subplot was about Ward getting to the other side of the world quickly by using his incredible skills, and the lack of establishing shots keeps hurting this show.
Chris: And as if to rub it in our faces, we have Gideon Malick talking to Andrew in his hidden location, then meeting Ward somewhere in Germany, and Ward then showing up at Andrew’s hidden location. The time and the locales really seemed all over the place, but this episode was pretty fun, so I didn’t mind letting it slide... or at least not letting myself get fixated on it.
Ziah: I feel like I get fixated on it because it’s such a simple fix that doesn’t require a lot of scripting or budget money. Just an establishing shot or location subtitle would help a lot, especially in a globetrotting show.
Once again, the commenters were right. You told us that Rosalind being evil was a fakeout, and you were right! She’s just been a fool, and kind of a bad spy the whole time, which is… better? And while this does sidestep the metaphor last week of superpowers equalling gun control, it kind of does it in such a way that… I really wish they hadn’t brought it up at all. It’s just muddled the text, and made the whole thing more confusing.
Chris: Yeah, I think I understand why they tried to approach it the way they did, but the cracks in that approach started showing immediately. Maybe it’s one of those things that worked on paper, but they just couldn’t really know that it was going to get away from them until they actually make the episodes. I think sometimes we, the viewing public, wants to believe that shows like this have grand plans, but I think you’d be pretty foolish not to adjust things on the fly if they’re not working out like you thought they would.
Ziah: Speaking of muddy subtext, I will say good job to this show for having the bad guy use torture to get information out of people, instead of the heroes, which is becoming unfortunately all too common in television. This is who should be torturing people, not the heroes.
Chris: It seems like they still want Ward to be kind of likeable though, because they mostly just imply he’s tortured them rather than actually showing it. Of course, that probably also has to do with the fact that this is a prime-time show in “superhero world.”
Ziah: Well, I mean, he literally puts a lighter up against a guy’s neck.
And speaking of torture, Coulson is a jerk this episode. Even going beyond his suspicions of Rosalind (which take a very nasty, if fair, turn later), when Mac very reasonably asks if his mind’s in the game, he puts on a whole meeting just to show him up. Mac, you’re too good for this show. You are a true professional, and the Agents of Something salute you.
Chris: I’m happy to salute Mac, but I think Coulson had that meeting planned the whole time, but I’ll agree that some of the Coulson moments seemed not only a little out of character, but kind of like they just didn’t make sense. I found myself at one point going, “Wait, who is mad about what here?” That “Trapped in the Containment Room” argument between Coulson and Rosalind just seemed bizarre. Not that I don’t understand what the ultimate point/payoff of it was, but as it was happening, it felt like one of those arguments you have with someone where you both feel like what the other person is saying makes no sense and something has happened and they’ve clearly lost their mind. Maybe that’s what they wanted it to feel like, and it wasn’t just poorly written.
Ziah: Speaking of, normally I hate when characters on a show tell another character about their personality, but it was pretty refreshing to have someone finally call Coulson out for how much of a jerk he can be.
Chris: Yeah, I mean, I think he comes off as a jerk sometimes, but it always seems like it’s in service of some plan he has that is for the greater good. So, is someone who does jerky things with good reason still just a jerk or is it more complicated than that? This is getting heavy. What else happened?
Ziah: It was actually pretty cool seeing the team work together and talking on headsets as they execute an actual plan, which is kind of what I’ve been wanting from the beginning. If there were heists of the week of this sort, I’d be a fan. I guess I’m just saying that I want Marvel Leverage, so let’s make that happen. Daisy’s hacking skillz came back, Bobbi got cool new gadgets and even got to use the lab experience she’s picked up in the first episodes of the season, while Hunter gets to be a delightful jerk to special guest star Nelson Franklin who played Comeau in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Chris, how did you feel about the caper?
Chris: I enjoyed it all, but once again, Hunter was my favorite part. If I can’t find that t-shirt he was wearing online somewhere, I’m definitely going to make my own.
The other big thing that stuck out in my mind about this episode was the Fitz and Simmons “cursed love” subplot. I’m a little at a loss, because I don’t know how they want me to feel about it and I don’t know how I want to feel about it. What’s your take?
Ziah: I just don’t care, unfortunately. Commenters have been hard on us not seeing the first two seasons and not having a prior attachment to these characters, which may be fair, but again. I don’t feel like I should have to watch 46 hours of their relationship to enjoy their chemistry or well-written dialogue. I liked the sunset scene from last week, but placing their relationship as this big giant thing completely disinterests me.
Maybe Fitz can get beyond the whole jealousy thing and work on saving a literal astronaut/hero? Beyond the love story, there’s still this guy who’s trapped on an alien planet that needs their help, and it’s a bit strange to see the love factor being put front and center over that.
Well, we’ll back in two weeks for 'Closure', which I sure hope gives us some!