“FZZT” (Season 1 Episode 6)
“FZZT,” the sixth episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is the kind of episode that works in theory. Indeed, there have been many stories like this one in television — surely, there are at least three or four episodes of CSI that essentially do the same thing — and even more in comics (this kind of story, which I’ll get into, would’ve felt right at home in a mid-’90s issue of Uncanny X-Men).
This episode, written by Paul Zbyszewski, shakes up the structure a little. The team is initially sent to investigate a couple of apparent murder victims, whose bodies are found hovering at the crime scenes. Suspecting foul play, Coulson and crew discover both men were volunteer firefighters who responded when the Chitauri invaded during The Avengers. As a souvenir, the members of the firehouse kept a Chitauri helmet (why? beats me!) which actually contains an alien virus. This virus is responsible for the deaths and not a murderous force as the horribly misleading promos for the episode would lead viewers to believe. This is all wrapped up quickly and capped with a nice moment between Coulson and a man about to meet his demise from the virus.
As the team transports the Chitauri helmet to the super-secret base known as “The Sandbox,” it’s discovered that Simmons has become infected. Because they appear to have taken the most inconvenient route, they won’t be able to land in time to to get Simmons off the plane before she dies from the virus. Oh, and when you die from the virus you set off an electromagnetic pulse. In this case, the pulse would take out the plane. The rest of the episode is dedicated to Fitz and Simmons tackling this problem, which leads to some groaning and eye-rolling when Simmons is willing to sacrifice herself for the team by jumping out of the plane. But wait! She and Fitz have developed an anti-serum, so Ward jumps out of the plane after her, administering the anti-serum and saving her (phew!).
I’m calling it: the plot’s conclusion is a cop-out. First, I don’t think the series has earned having Simmons and Fitz get a couple of Big Emotional Moments. I mentioned my feelings on the last episode of the podcast about these two. At the top of the episode is really the first time we’ve had the chance to see them in any meaningful where they’re not speaking in techno-babble while flying robot thingies scan a crime scene. So Simmons’ (almost) sacrifice at the end rings false. This kind of stunt might have paid off later in the season once the characters have had time to develop a little more and grown beyond caricatures.
Second, I don’t know that it’s actually really a good idea to keep Simmons on the show (or Fitz for that matter). Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a big regular cast, and the creative team seems to be having a difficult time letting them share the screen, especially since the majority of the episodes feature meaty guest spots. Call me morbid (call me pale), I was hoping the writers would use this opportunity to clean house a little and tighten up the cast.
Yet what does work in this episode are its themes. It nicely dovetails musings on the effects of death and mortality. There’s more talk of Coulson’s death and return (see last episode’s drinking game note), though not in the mysterious ‘ooh, what really happened?’ sort way, but how its affected Coulson emotionally. This is the kind of material I like and the kind that works — I’m glad the writers are exploring this avenue and hope it leads to a Big Emotional Moment that’s earned.
- The insert close-ups of Ward skydiving are about as convincing as the insert close-ups of Roger Moore skydiving in Moonraker.
- The pre-credits scene in Moonraker is actually quite great, save the final moments when Jaws’ parachute doesn’t open.
- Skye references The Big Lebowski for the win.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “FZZT.” Directed by Vincent Misiano. Written by Paul Zbyszewski.