I’ve just seen the fourth episode of Marvel’s Gents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. at New York Comic Con. I’m going to talk about it. There will be spoilers, but hopefully not big ones. Choose whether you want to be spoiler free. Choose to stop halfway down. Your choice.
Eye Spy starts with a sequence without words. Several suited men, with red face masks, handcuffed to cases, walking through a square in Stockholm. They are followed by a woman wearing earphones, onto a subway. They clock her, she knocks out the emergency brake and, after the train is evacuated and the police enter they find all the men dead, masks still firmly attached, shop mannequins spread out across the train. They look like they were never alive, save for the pool of blood under one disembodied hand and a missing suitcase. Opened by the killer thief, diamonds are stolen. Cue titles.
This show does two big things. Emphasising the setting up of what appears to be a big bad, a kind of anti-SHIELD, working with technology to operate their own agents and doing whatever they need to do to… what? The links to previous episodes aren’t there but the willingness to dispose of their agents is rather hydra-ish. They are clearly the ones behind the uses of technology, the weaponising and more alien tech, equations and gibbons being trade, used, collected. And they hide themselves behind agents behind agents.
But what’s more is we are directly shown that many of these threats are enabled, if not directly caused, by SHIELD. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, what SHIELD does in the world can then be turned against them. Or the world.
Here we have an ex-SHIELD agent, Akela Amadala, with a magic tech eye being controlled unless it explodes. Basically this is Google Glass 2.0. And now she’s a weapon.
So it’s a race to take down the tech while caring for the human. Embracing Stockholm Syndrome, making empathy just as important as karate kicks to the head. Though there are lots of those too. Just as 24 was seen as an apologist for torturing suspects in the Iraq War, SHIELD could well be the same for the NSA as well. But it’s not a one way street, as Coulson observes, with much of their tech jumping on Instagram, Flickr and Facebook, people surveilling themselves. And there’s a debate to be had just how much caring should be going on. Coulson has had a second chance at life, so he gives second chances. Melinda May is less that way inclined, but Akela here may be a lesson to her a potential future to avoid. Coulson literally compares Skye to her, but with looks and glances, there’s far more for May to learn.
Amid the action, the panic, and the chase, the history of SHIELD begins to be filled in, just as its base of operations expands in space, moving from the Americas to Europe. We now know Coulson had a previous team who died. We know that Coulson is not the man he was. There are other hints here… But apropos of nothing, did you know that the Norse would wound their dying with a spear to ensure they’d enter Valhalla? Anyway, where were we? This show is getting to craft and cast a mythology for a much greater sphere than itself. As Jeph Loeb said at the end, they have a plan for the stories they are telling, there’s no five year islands here.
The show keeps its funny, mostly by ridiculing Ward. His choice of code word for the S.H.I.E.L.D. Van is “Shortbus”, instantly ridiculed for reasons that… some of the audience will know. As is his knowledge the difference between men and women – and the first use of the word “penis” on the show. And we even get a Peeping Skye moment that would be interpreted very differently these days if the genders were reversed. But there’s one absolutely perfect pre-ad cliffhanger that mocks his bravado, his stance, his masculinity more than any other. And the audience loved it, rising in applause. You may well do the same come next week’s TV screening, before going to make yourself a cuppa. And, yes, Fitz Summons mixture of competence and incompetence makes for the best platonic relationship on the screen right now.
The show has been confirmed for a full season. Some aspects of the show have been criticised, but any flaws are superseded for me by the show’s willingness to confront the tropes, the often ignored subtexts and address them full on. That’s not changing with Eye Spy, and with deft directorial touches with the red faced men at the beginning, it’s certainly my favourite airing US drama right now. Maybe even Jim Steranko will like this one.
There is no telepathy in the Marvel Movieverse. Which is another sign that mutants are right out. No Professor X here.
The extra final scene? Good for the tumblr gifs, but no Easter eggs as in the previous episodes.
If we learn anything rather meaningful… It’s before the final break.
However, what the hell is it with Marvel and black characters with eye patches? Is it a way of saying that Akela could have been where Nick Fury is today if only…? Is that her tragedy too?