Agents of SHIELD recap

The twelfth episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD officially takes us past the halfway point of the season; there are now more episodes behind us than ahead. You'd think I'd be relieved given how disappointing the show has been, but I'm actually worried that time is running out to make the show work.

This week; Agents of SHIELD goes back to school. But what do they learn?

Episode 12, 'Seeds', opens with smart young people who understand thermodynamics sneaking into a swimming pool at night and almost being killed by a sudden ice field spreading across the water. The boy in the group almost loses his leg and is rescued by a nerdy reclusive kid. Shock reveal: This is all happening at the SHIELD Academy (for gifted youngsters).

The device that caused the incident was based on technology designed by Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), so they're called in to the science and technology division of the SHIELD Academy to assist in the investigation and address the students. Ward (Brett Dalton) and Skye (Chloe Bennett) tag along.

Agents of SHIELD Fitz and Simmons

The Sci-Tech SHIELD Academy is an ordinary concrete campus full of university-age kids. It's the latest sign that SHIELD is a larger and more mainstream organization than it was initially presented as. I hope someone somewhere at Marvel has written out a bible describing how big, how old, and how overt the on-screen version of SHIELD actually is, because they're sending mixed signals.

The school has a memorial wall for fallen agents. Among the names; Bucky Barnes. This set-up for the Captain America movie sequel The Winter Soldier either tells us that Captain America's commando group from the movie has retroactively been recognized as proto-SHIELD agents, or that there's a secret history in which Barnes came back from the dead, became a SHIELD agent, and died again. I'm not sure what we're meant to make of this.

Speaking of dead SHIELD agents; May (Ming-Na Wen) and Coulson (Clark Gregg) have a separate assignment. They've tracked down the partner of the dead agent who placed Skye in an orphanage. The trail leads to Mexico City, where May's version of stakeout small talk includes an outline of her escape plan if she ever decides to go rogue, and an admission that she's banging Agent Ward. Before Coulson can respond to that their target appears, and they take him down with a combination of high kicks and flying car.

The renegade agent performs a short piece called "the secret origin of Skye." The agent was part of a SHIELD team sent to Hunan in China to retrieve an "object of unknown origin." An entire village and several SHIELD agents died trying to protect the object -- which, of course, was baby Skye. The agent claims she has "powers or something," and that wherever the baby goes, death follows. May tells Coulson, "You can never tell her," so guess what happens about fifteen minutes later? Coulson is a sap.



Back at the school, Fitz and Simmons address the student body on the valedictory theme of using their potential for good (SHIELD) and not evil (AIM, Hydra, Centipede). The speech is brought to a sudden end when another ice device freezes the nerdy reclusive kid from the opening scene. Fitz, Simmons and Ward leap into action and save his life.

Ward assigns Fitz to talk to the kid, Donnie (Dylan Minnette), to find out why he's being targeted -- but Fitz is easily distracted by Donnie's design work and ends up helping him perfect his design for a new power cell. Meanwhile, Ward, Skye and Simmons go to the Boiler Room -- a dorky secret nightlcub in the basement -- to question Donnie's classmates. Ward learns that Donnie and the other boy, Seth (Daniel Zovatto), have been talking about getting Fitz here for weeks. The agents realize that the boys staged the attacks to lure Fitz here. Fitz goes back to Donnie's room, sees the full-scale version of Donnie's ice machine, and gets KO'ed by an air canon.

Donnie and Seth go on the run (to a parking lot near the school -- not especially cunning) to rendezvous with their secret backer Ian Quinn (David Conrad). Quinn is the same industrialist whose machinations turned Franklin Hall into Graviton in episode three. Quinn isn't impressed that the kids have been rumbled, so he tells them to demonstrate the machine's power, ostensibly to convince him that it's worth his time, but actually just... for the hell of it. Maybe to kill the kids?

While Coulson tells Skye her secret history (under swelling music so we don't have to hear it twice), Seth convinces Donnie that they should go ahead with the demo. He dies for his sins when the machine explodes, but by this point it's too late to stop it; the machine has created a super-storm that threatens to... make branches fall off trees and land on cars, probably. Maybe make the pavement slippery.

So Agent May lands the wingycarrier in the car park.

That's the rather underwhelming dramatic resolution. Coulson asks how they can get to Donnie; Fitz says he knows a way; and it turns out the way is to land the plane.

Agent May lands the plane. Seth dies. The storm runs its course. It's extraordinarily anti-climactic. There's no fight, because Donnie isn't a super villain yet.

Oh yeah; Donnie is a future super villain, obviously. The explosion that kills Seth apparently also gives Donnie the ice-control powers that will turn him into the villain Blizzard, but he only uses them in this episode to frost a window. Let it go, Donnie. Let it go. Be one with the wind and sky.

Skye returns to the memorial wall to pay her respects to the agents who died to save her. "Her search is over," says Coulson. Actually this storyline is finally kicking into gear. Skye may have super powers, and someone very powerful wants her dead. Now I'm interested!


Skye Agents of SHIELD

In the kicker, we discover that Quinn is working with the Clairvoyant, so presumably he's part of Centipede. Quinn isn't a compelling character, but he's two-for-two in creating comic book super villains, so I'm happy for him to be in every episode if he can keep up that batting average.

This was a middle-of-the-pack episode. I'm a fan of any story that places the show's agents in the context of a greater organization, but the set-up was stronger than the payoff, and the underlying plot was silly beyond belief. One boy almost lost his leg and the other almost died trying to lure a scientist to his school to fix the battery for his doomsday machine. Genius plans shouldn't have that much wiggle room.

Also, as much as I enjoy the old "villain gets his powers in lab accident" trope, it's weird to have it happen without any visible energy transfer (except the blast that hit and killed Seth), and I'd prefer it was the first half of an episode, not the whole episode.
This is the second time that Quinn, the Richard Branson of the Marvel U, has inadvertently given a milquetoast genius super powers that may turn him into a villain in the future. Let's get to the villaining already! As both Franklin Hall and Donnie Gill are now held at SHIELD facilities, hopefully there's a prison breakout on the cards for the near future.

Credit where it’s due:

"Seeds" was directed by Kenneth Fink and written by Monica Owusus-Breen and Jed Whedon. SHIELD, Nick Fury, HYDRA and AIM were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Bucky Barnes was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Donnie Gill/Blizzard was created by David Michelenie and Bob Layton, based on the original Blizzard created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. Phil Coulson was created by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway.


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