“Repairs” (Season 1, Episode 9)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has officially worn out its welcome with me. I now actually find it a chore to watch the show each week. It’s not that I find it bad, per se; it’s competently composed and put together on a formal level. I actually secretly wish the show were worse. At least a poorly constructed television show would provoke more of a reaction. No, I just find Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so… middling. I just can’t seem to get excited about the show on either end of the spectrum.
However, what I will say is that the show seems to be consistent in having pretty enticing cold opens. This week’s is one of the best, probably because of its glossy and captivating X-Files feel. Indeed, early in “Repairs” the show shows its promise with an intriguing premise. A potentially telepathic safety inspector at the Particle Accelerator Complex in Small City, Utah is apparently responsible for an explosion at the plant, causing the death of four co-workers. After an altercation in Utah, she’s brought aboard the Bus where it’s soon revealed she’s not actually telepathic, but she believes is actually being punished by God and haunted by demons.
One of my favourite elements of The X-Files was its intersection of science, faith, and religion. Some of episodes handle this better than others, but on a whole The X-Files does an admiral job of investigating these themes and how they all connect together. Initially, I thought this a good avenue for S.H.I.E.L.D. to explore. I mean, why not have the woman being punished by God? After all, this is the same universe where disparate characters like Thor and the Hulk sit comfortably together with inter-dimensional alien races.
Like just about every episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., the conclusion is far less satisfying than the premise promises. I’ll not bother too much with the details, but it turns out one of the men who died in the explosion at the Particle Accelerator Complex is trapped between Earth and “Hell” — he has a ghost-like appearance and Nightcrawler-like powers. He’s not haunting this woman, but rather protecting her because he likes her. It’s so completely corny that it makes the the the whole thing seem even more preposterous.
At least this week Ming-Na Wen’s Melinda May finally gets so more screen time and a bit of the episode’s focus. This leads to an groan-inducing B-plot for the week: Skye wonders how May got the nickname “The Cavalry,” and Fitz and Simmons want to play a S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy-style prank on her, so they embellish the story (she rode in on a horse, guns a-blazin’). This of course leads to others talking about her without actually revealing much about who she is, which is too bad because character details like these are what the show desperately needs. I’m happy, though, that writers are finally taking the time — however small — to at least try to unpack or flesh out these characters. The problem I foresee is that May is now another character on the show that has a checkered past that will be revealed piecemeal as the show progresses. It’s not an good strategy since we’re already getting that with both Coulson and Skye. Plus, not everyone has to have a past full of trauma and mystery to be an engaging character.
I get that shows stick to a formula because that’s what works and that’s how television operates. Yet, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s formula is so thin and just reuses the same beats, whether its providing a backstory or revealing a twist in the plotting. There’s so little actually here beyond plot points and exposition that the show is really having a difficult time being memorable.
There’s a break next week, so the show won’t be back until December 10. I hope I don’t forget that it’s on.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Repairs.” Directed by Bill Geirhart. Written by Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.