“The Bridge” (Season 1, Episode 10)
The recent trend in television to have “fall finales” is more than a little suspect. At best, a fall finale provides an event episode that marks a break or a turning point in the season’s overall arc and oftentimes ends on a cliffhanger to whet viewers’ appetites for the show’s return in the new year (case in point, “Too Far Gone” from this season’s The Walking Dead). At its worst — which is most of the time — a fall finale is nothing more than a marketing ploy to drum up ratings as the show takes a short hiatus over the holidays. Writers are forced to conform to this ploy, shoehorning in a mini-climax/cliffhanger mid-season, which more often than not interrupts the flow of the season’s arc.
“The Bridge” is the latter — though it doesn’t necessarily interrupt the flow of the show’s overall storytelling since it actually has no flow or momentum. However, writer Shalisha Francis does deserve a little credit for trying to bring together a few disparate elements from the show. This episode sees the return of not one, but two characters from previous episodes: Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) from the pilot and Centipede agent Raina (Ruth Negga) from “Girl in the Flower Dress.”
Coulson’s team recruits Mike — who is now reformed and no longer a villain — to help track down a Centipede-powered super soldier who will lead S.H.I.E.L.D. to Centipede the organization (or something, I don’t think it was really made clear). The first half of the episode is fairly inconsequential since we know so little about the shadowy organization and even less about Mike, who we’ve spent at most 15 minutes with three months ago. The show’s writing seems to get sloppier as the weeks go on. Take for example the heart-to-heart Coulson has with Mike. Mike talks to Coulson about his guilt over letting his son see him as a monster which is why he hasn’t visited him since the incident in episode one. Coulson then tells Mike about difficult choices people have to make when they join S.H.I.E.L.D., forgoing holiday meals and recitals for the greater good — how this is all part of the job and something Mike will have to come to terms with if he wants to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. All the while Bear McCreary’s grating, overwrought score bluntly and clunkily hammers home the emotions of the scene. The problem is that the scene has absolutely no resonance because the characters have no resonance. Am I supposed to care for Mike because he has a kid and his motivation is to win back the kid’s respect? That’s a cheap and dirty tactic. The other problem is why is this show giving away Big Emotional Moments to guest stars? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has six regular cast members and all are practically ciphers. Why aren’t the writers making more of an effort to develop these people than trying to use a cheap short-hand for viewers to like the guest of the week?
Anyway, Centipede has found Mike’s son and is holding him hostage. They’ll return the kid if Mike turns himself over. Only, that’s what Mike says. Turns out, Centipede actually wants Coulson to find out what actually happened to him after being killed in Avengers. The episodes ends on a bridge (hence the title). The exchange happens, Coulson is taken, and Centipede leaves the team in shambles — they blow up Mike and shoot Ward. So the fall finale ends with the team in disarray with the promise that answers to Coulson’s surprisingly uninvolving mystery will be coming in the new year.
I’m completely unmoved by this show, which started out cute and passable not so long ago but has now become just another calculated, mechanical show. It doesn’t have any momentum or any interesting characters to keep it afloat and its used up the last of its goodwill. The episode may end in a cliffhanger as a means to ensure viewers return in January to find out what happens, but I won’t be one of them.
- The whole cast looks crazy bored in the episode.
- Chloe Bennet has some laughably bad lines in her very little time on screen this week. The best was something like “We want to make sure Ace still has a father.”
- Seriously the score in this show is awful. The emotional ’90s-sounding guitar playing while Skye weeps behind closed doors made my eyes roll.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “The Bridge.” Directed by Holly Dale. Written by Shalisha Francis.