After a number of episodes that focused on Skye and her personal arc, it was refreshing to see Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. put her on the back burner and let someone else take center stage for awhile. As much as I personally enjoy Skye's quips, it was past time that we learned more about the rest of the team.
In "F.Z.Z.T." we explored Elizabeth Henstridge's Jemma Simmons through the case of the week as the S.H.I.E.L.D. team traveled to rural Pennsylvania. Three firefighters who'd been first responders at the Battle of New York were all dying in a very odd way that left them hovering in midair. Eventually, the team discovered that the fire station had decided to keep a Chitauri helmet as a souvenir (to remind them of what a fun, fantastic day that was?), and when the trio of men had been bored overnight, they'd cleaned it up real nice only to be thanked by being infected with a Chitauri virus. Maybe don't keep alien battle gear as trophies? Just saying.
Unfortunately, during her inspection of the first body, Simmons was infected with the same Chitauri virus, and the second half of the hour was dedicated to her character, and by extension, her relationship with Fitz, as she first went through the shock of realizing that she was probably going to die, and then as they attempted to find an anti-serum (not vaccine!) that would cure her. I like that the entire episode wasn't spent tracking down a killer, and that Fitz and Simmons weren't just brought in to find a way to cure a perfect stranger, but that the mystery was cleared up within the first half hour so we could focus on the characters we're supposed to root for and care about. The people were more important than the "mission" this week, and that's never a bad thing.
The episode, however, didn't dig too deep into Simmons and Fitz's backgrounds, but I'm not sure that it needed to. Skye, Handsome, Coulson, and May are all carrying big secrets about their pasts, and all of those secrets have shaped them and made them who they are. But Fitz and Simmons are (presumably) innocent scientists unburdened by secrets and I'd like to keep it that way. Too many secrets, too many ominous speeches about life and death, too many moments fraught with heavy meaning and the series becomes too heavy. Right now we have the mystery of who or what Coulson is, what happened to May that took her out of the field (though the show hinted that she was gravely injured in the field, like Coulson), who Skye's parents were and why they've been erased from existence save for a single S.H.I.E.L.D. document, and lastly, we have Handsome's family history that clearly screwed him up. That's more mysteries than I'd actually like, but as long as the series doesn't intend to solve them all this season then I'll allow it.
The episode wasn't perfect, but it worked because it explored Fitz and Simmons' friendship without having to go into great detail about their history together. We knew they were very close from the moment they walked on screen in the pilot. Their introduction was mostly them bickering and talking over one another, but it was also clear that they were completely comfortable with one another as a result of having known each other for a very long time. But since the series began we haven't really had the chance to get to know them. Like, at all. They've been tucked away in the lab, brought out only when the series needs a science-y fixing, and that's no way for characters to live.
In "F.Z.Z.T." we learned fun facts like Fitz can't stand dead bodies in the lab, especially after Simmons left a cat liver next to his lunch that one time, and we also learned (though I think it was always sort of obvious, and was possibly mentioned in passing in a previous episode too) that it been Simmons' idea to join S.H.I.E.L.D. and go into the field. Fitz has always seemed more like the follower in their relationship, but not because Simmons is such a strong leader. I think she just wanted to explore the world outside of the lab, while Fitz seems completely comfortable staying put. His following her probably came out of their strong friendship more than anything else. I definitely don't think he followed out of some wayward crush on his lab partner, because if anything, I would argue it's the other way around. Fitz has a crush on Skye, and it was funny to see him trying to flirt and have fun with her in the opening scene as they made fun of Handsome's Blue Steel, but I wouldn't be surprised if we found out that Simmons might be crushing on Fitz, even if she doesn't actually realize it for some time. Fitz's insistence that he was going to jump out of the plane after Simmons once she decided it was time to sacrifice herself to save everyone else was cute though. And you could tell Simmons appreciated the gesture and she said thank you by kissing him on the cheek. This relationship is probably my favorite of the entire series.
That being said, while I enjoyed that the episode focused on Simmons and Fitz, I would still like to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. switch up the pairings. The scene at the end of "Eye-Spy" in which Fitz and Handsome were playing cards was fun because A.) they were relaxed and seemed like actual, real human beings, and B.) it was a pairing we hadn't really explored yet. And the same thing applies here. The Fitz and Skye scene was refreshing because they're a pairing we haven't really had the chance to explore. Yes, it makes sense that Fitz and Simmons are constantly together, and it makes sense that Handsome and Skye are paired up as she trains to become an agent, but if we never see these characters in other situations or interacting with other characters, then we'll never really get to know them. All of the exposition in the world won't be able to tell us who they are if they're always in the same place with the same people. Our different friends bring out different sides of our personality, and I think an episode exploring Fitz and Ward or Simmons and Skye could be really fun. Mix is up a bit, will ya show?
— I've saved Coulson for notes because despite a parallel B-story about who he is and why he feels so different, we didn't actually learn all that much. All of his tests, which he'd ordered himself, came back normal. May told him that it didn't matter if it was eight seconds or 40, he still died, and that reason alone means he'll never be the same. And we've seen that this Coulson is definitely different from that of the films, and we had it spelled out for us in that ending tag when Blake pointed out that this wasn't the Coulson he used to know.
— Ward was pissed off that what was killing Simmons wasn't something he could fight. He's good with the physical threats, but not so much things he can't punch in the face. He really needs to work on being less ... mechanical? Is that the right word? I'm starting to wonder if it's not that Brett Dalton is stiff as an actor, but rather that everything he does is part of Handsome, like his stiffness is actually just an acting choice. Discuss.
— I probably could have done without the skydiving scene. Just... say no.
— "Little heavy on the iron. But don't worry, you don't have to start calling me 'Iron Man'."
— "This guy makes Captain America look like the Dude." (Gotta love a well placed Big Lebowski reference)
— In case you missed the news, the November 19 episode will deal with the events of Thor: The Dark World, which opens in theaters this Friday. I'm not saying you have to see Thor to understand that episode or any of the episodes that follow it, but just as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes references to the Battle of New York and the Chitauri, it might help you understand it better if you do. (All right, Marvel, where's my paycheck?)
AIRED ON 10/18/2016
Season 4 : Episode 4
AIRS ON 10/25/2016
Season 4 : Episode 5