Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Orientation Review
ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 5, episodes 1 & 2, ‘Orientation,’ took the question – of where the Hell did the end of season four leave Coulson (Clark Gregg), his team, and us, for that matter – and offered an initial answer so far out of left (debris) field, that I was left questioning the prospective arc’s sustainability.
This amounted to something somewhere between no rest for the weary, and a crash course in what-comes-next upping of the ante; but first we got to see what Right Said Fred has been up to, since ‘I’m Too Sexy’ earwormed us all. Speaking of earworms – nah, that comes later.
Aparently he’s been too sexy for his skin, this whole time… and maybe an Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Now, for anyone head-cracking over that last bit (S.W.O.R.D., not Right Said Fred), S.W.O.R.D. is an agency contemporary to S.H.I.E.L.D., but primarily concerned with alien threats. If S.H.I.E.L.D. protects us, on Earth, S.W.O.R.D. tells The Scum of the Universe to keep their distance. Agents of S.W.O.R.D. was where some of us reasoned the show might be headed next. In a word: no (or not yet, if you want to be greedy about it).
This brings us back to square one – where the RSF party walked into a diner, and made off with titular cast members. Add Coulson’s stellar new view, and we’re all caught up; but some extra points of interest went into the space between panels. No, not the fact that the grab-n-bag team settled on small talk, instead of creating an actual perimeter; not even that a white monolith was used to whisk Team Coulson away; not even the blood-chiller moment of waking to an explosive decompression about to resume; but that one member was left behind. More on that (him) down the road, however, since Agents had a roll on.
If the events of last season’s LMD arc earned Team Coulson a breather, that was the diner scene. ‘Orientation’ got off to a frantic pace, with enough death, destruction, friendly fire, and jump-scares to maintain a decent WTF rating – but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was that, by part two, all of this amounted to introduction to an entirely different plot, that may-or-may-not constitute the main arc.
After years of “Coulson has a plan,” the character was thrown into the deep end of a substance he couldn’t thread. To his credit, Clark Gregg managed to juggle an I’m-still-on-top-of-this smile, with a mildly panicked look in the eye. I’d describe the combination as a functional instability – forcing the likes of Coulson into a perpetual state of improv. A good place for been-there-done-that Agents to be, after four seasons of craziness.
Improv has become the hallmark of least field-qualified Agent, Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge); but improvising with good intentions only guaranteed that field work won’t be her bag, going forward. More on that also later.
A quick note to Simmons-the-scientist, though: some pathogens outlive their victims; so I sided with Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), on their first impression of their initial predicament.
Mack (Henry Simmons) has always been the one to call out nonsense-as-he-sees-it; so this situation was tailor-made for his every-man’s perspective. Somebody had to be the one to speak for the viewer – and yes, I’d be a little self-conscious, in that situation, regardless of the logic behind scattered cast plotting.
Scattershot delivery usually deliver odds of missing the mark; and if anyone had to be on the receiving end of a handicapping, I suppose May (Ming-Na Wen) was as good a choice as any (be a short adventure, with the resident Boss Fighter at full strength, ‘n all). May would eventually have her moment to Cavalry; but not before locking eyes with a likely equivalent (and a potential Lady Boss Fight for the ages). Before that, however, her reduced talents were spent introducing us to Deke (Jeff Ward).
Deke might’ve borrowed an aesthetic, or two, from Star Lord; but he seemed more inspired by Han Solo & Lando Calrissian. Not to poke at Skyward fans, but I sensed some effort to maybe make Daisy (Chloe Bennet) his Princess Leia. I hope not; but it felt like a thing Showrunners could try (poke poke, tee hee, poke). In the meantime, however, their mutual rogue status left them bonding over VR escapism, season 4 referencing, and how alias Quake as the reason for everything. That last bit was part of reveal, that almost completely re-oriented ‘Orientation.’
Taking a moment, here, but the Sharknado slip-in was genius. And if any of you mis-characterize how I put Sharknado & genius in the same sentence, I’ll deny it & change your online identity to Ian Ziering.
Post-reveal gave us a bit of World building (so to speak), with nods to everything from Titan AE, to Pandorum, to The Purge. By the time the pieces settled, it even seemed like echoes of Snowpiercer might bear out. The front of the train, in this case, introduced Kasius (Dominic Rains) – more OCD doll collector, than Warden or Zoo Keeper – as the projected villain, and Sinara (Florence Faivre) as the Heavy – i.e. May’s likely dance partner, at some point.
In the process, the Blue Blood thread left Simmons in the bridge role – providing viewers & teammates with insider info on what’s going on from the top down, while her colleagues work the bowels up. To that end, a Kree version of the Babel fish (the Hitchhiker’s Guide innovation, not the software named after it) was utilized. This version did the Babel fish one better – selective hearing being a useful way of keep servants from informing on you (like Simmons has been set up to do). With the MCU still too busy to bother with Agents‘ corner of it, this could provide us with the most extensive look at the Kree, as a Colonial power of the MU. Good work, if you could get it – I’m rooting for you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
That said, it might take a few episodes for me to get a more settled sense for what the Showrunners have in mind, for this season’s major turns.
Don’t get me wrong – the Blasts-from-the-Past-to-save-Collective-Ass angle started out pretty sharp, as really sharp turns go. My concern is that it may be too drastic a departure to maintain. The series has worked very hard to build a mythology; and while this arc may yet build on that mythology, it begins with a complete severing from ongoing narratives (the Kree & the Framework notwithstanding).
On the other hand, the previous season managed to do great things, through splitting – then blending – multiple arcs; so I know Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at least capable of bridging this leap. I’ll just try not to look down.
– And if anybody makes the crack about there being no “down” in space, I can always make you Tara Reid….
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