'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Review: Eye Spy (1x04)
This episode gets a failing grade for title creativity. Seriously. Eye Spy? Are you people kidding me? But if I stop sighing in exasperation at stupid title puns, this episode did have a few good things to offer us. It was certainly stronger than last week's. For the first time, I felt some connection to Skye's character, which is a pretty significant improvement and a definite step in the right direction. But let's slow down and look at the plot.
We open with a very interesting scene. This was my favorite opening sequence on the show so far. There were creepy people with red masks and briefcases. They get on a subway and a suspicious looking woman suddenly shuts off the lights. By the time they come back on, the masked men are dead, and one of them has even had his hand cut off. Why?
Well, it's Coulson and the team to the rescue. They're not clearing this mission with the higher ups, because Coulson soon identifies the suspect - Akela Amador, his former student. She's been missing for years, presumed dead, although Coulson has always had his suspicions that she was still alive. Now she seems to be evil, running heists and stealing diamonds, not to mention the bodies she's leaving in her wake.
Coulson's past relationship with her means that he wants to give her a second chance. The team goes to try and find her. Fitzsimmons and Skye wait in the van while Coulson and Ward attempt to track down some leads. Skye's tech skills allow them to hack into some sort of video feed showing Akela's movements, but when they do, they see... their van! Akela drives them off the road and escapes. From there, the team discovers that the camera they've been tracing is actually inside of Akela's eye - and not only that, but she's been getting messages from someone else telling her to do these things. She's not evil - she's being controlled!
The team agree to monitor the video feed, but May takes matters into her own hands and goes to confront Akela. Their exchange was one of the highlights of the episode. It was a pretty bad ass fight, and some of it happened in the dark. Coulson showed up in time to save May, and Akela is brought back with them. Fitzsimmons does eye surgery on Akela in order to rid her of the control from her handler, while Ward wears glasses simulating the video feed and continues to follow the mysterious orders.
Ward's stuff in the episode was decently funny. I liked the entire sequence where he pretends to be Akela. He runs into a problem when the mysterious handler tells him to seduce a guard. Ward tries to "bromance him," as Skye says, but then knocks him out. While all of this is going on, May is tracking the location of the handler. Every time another instruction comes through, they get a little closer to finding him.
Eventually, Coulson zeroes in on the guy. However, the kill switch in his eye is set off before anything else can happen, showing that Akela's handler was just a pawn in an even larger game. In order to save Akela from dying due to her own kill switch, Fitzsimmons just cuts the eye out and puts it in a sealed container before it can explode.
In the end, Akela still has to stand trial for the things she's done, although Coulson assures her he'll do all he can to help. In a tantalizing moment, we see Akela and May talk about Coulson, and Akela asks: "what did they do to him?" Clearly, she notices something different about the man she used to know...
So, what did I like and dislike about this episode? Let's see... I thought the whole camera-inside-the-eye plot was pretty clever, although I think the episode would have been more interesting if Coulson's judgment was wrong, and Akela really had been evil.
A lot of the character moments were great. Skye and Coulson actually had a couple of really sweet moments, wherein Skye expressed vulnerability because nobody had ever really valued her before. She also helped out a lot on the case. Ward's character had some moments of humor, which I liked, but I'm still a bit disappointed in his development after such a promising character build in the pilot. Fitzsimmons are, as always, adorable to watch, but I'm really hoping they become more substantial characters in the near future. May and Coulson butting heads was fantastic, because you can tell that even when they disagree there's such a fundamental bond and trust between them.
Most annoying things about the episode? Well, I thought it was pretty stupid that Skye and Fitzsimmons were left alone in the van when nobody had any idea where Akela might be. None of them are at all trained to defend themselves. And Skye's incompetence with a gun was really eye-roll worthy. And there were still a few quippy lines that missed their mark. Honestly, the character chemistry is getting better but there are still a lot of things not clicking for me.
So, as you can tell from these last few paragraphs, I liked a lot of stuff, and I also had problems with a lot of stuff. Once more, I can tell this show has potential. It just needs to push a bit harder.