Tuesday, December 8, 2015

REVIEW: 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' - Fitz, Ward & Coulson's Journey to the Alien Planet is a Lethal Adventure in 'Maveth'

ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Episode 3.10 "Maveth"

S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra go head-to-head in a battle that will change Coulson's world forever. While Daisy and her team of Inhumans fight to keep Hydra at bay, Coulson and Fitz take the ultimate risk.

The third season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. produced the show's best episode ever in "4,722 Hours." It was a stunning achievement in a season that has been really lackluster with every other plot development. This show is just too interested in its plot and not making sure the character beats actually make any kind of consistent sense. Daisy and Lincoln are apparently a couple now. Andrew is freed and then never seen from again. Mack and Daisy are partners who seemingly care about each other. These details happen in the midseason finale but none of them particularly feel earned as something the audience should care about as much as the characters do. Even the main story of Ward, Fitz and Coulson traveling through the portal to the alien planet isn't as resonant as it was during Simmons' trip. "4,722 Hours" prioritized character over plot. Because of that, the storytelling was much richer and made the developments for Simmons and Will in this episode land so well. When Ward, Coulson and Fitz are on this planet, it's entirely about advancing the plot forward in the most roundabout way possible.

The trip to the alien planet this time is much more formulaic and lackluster. It's purpose is really lame. When Simmons went, it was all about survival. She did whatever she had to do in order to survive in this alien world because she didn't know if she would ever get back to Earth. This time it is literally about walking from point A to point B. That is seriously all Ward and Fitz do on this mission. They have several hours to go from the drop site to the place where the portal will reopen. That's basically all they have time to do. How were they planning on luring this creature to them if they barely had any time to get back to the portal? It's very weird. It made it clear that some big twist was about to happen. That was always going to be true with Coulson right behind them. But the biggest twist was much more devastating than that.

It's thrilling to see Fitz find Will. He made that commitment to Simmons to bring Will back with him this time. The plan was going well too considering he and Will could unite against Ward and his men. They could use the sand storms to their advantage. And yet, this is not Will who Fitz is traveling with right now. Will died that day when he got Simmons to safety and confronted the monster. Apparently, the creature is either a shapeshifter or able to reanimate bodies after their death. Either way, Will is gone. This hour alludes to a much deeper history regarding the civilization of this planet. It's exposition that really isn't necessary at all. Plus, the big twist with Will makes it seem like the show is afraid to feature what this creature is like in his true form. It was annoying that the show didn't do any solid creature work or special effects during the Simmons spotlight episode. But now, the show has found such a big workaround to keep those costs down - even though it's less appealing to have yet another monstrous and alien bad guy be played by another very attractive man.

Still, the confrontation on the alien planet between Fitz and the monster was thrilling as was Coulson's own battle with Ward. It's just great to see Fitz be a badass in battle. He has come a long way as a character over the years. It hasn't always been consistent but it has led up to this very exciting moment where he puts several bullets into this creature and then fires a flare into him for the final blow. It's a stunning success. It also trumps Coulson's own battle. That Coulson-Ward fight is too drawn out. The show does that because it features two long-standing characters on the series. It can't just be a simple and easy fight. It needs to be big. But it seems to be more important to the characters that Coulson just killed Ward with his robotic hand than it is to the audience. It's a great moment to see Ward die because he was a character who stopped being relevant to the show several reinventions ago.

And yet, the show still wants to keep Brett Dalton around for some reason! The end of the episode twist is so frustrating because Ward just won't die and stay away. There's nothing to suggest that Dalton is a good enough actor to carry off such a severe twist either. The Hydra monster that Gideon wanted to bring to this world has gotten here in Ward's body. He may be gone but the actor will live on. It's so confusing because it's hard to understand why the show loves Dalton so much when it has shown such a willingness in the past to kill important characters. This monster promises to be a different and potentially more exciting villain and focus for the second half of the season. And yet, the need to confine him to Ward's body seems like a potentially devastating mistake. It drags things out for the main characters in a way that will keep them acting with their emotions instead of their heads. It's great in this episode when Mack starts ordering everyone to go back to the ship. He was thinking like a leader and not as someone who needs to get Fitz and Coulson back. But all the twists that happen in this episode's final third don't suggest that any of those emotionally-driven choices will be leaving the show any time soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Maveth" was written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Vincent Misiano.
  • Seriously, where did Lash go? Simmons freed him because she believed he was the only way to keep her safe from the Hydra soldiers - even though she seemed pretty resourceful by herself in the field. He killed the rest of the Inhumans being held in the facility. But then, he was gone. Even though Mack ordered the destruction of the building, Andrew's dead body wasn't seen. So he'll still be important when the show returns. Also, the show has put a ticking time clock on Andrew not being able to maintain his human form for much longer. So at least there should be some consistent creative design in the future.
  • That action beat where it seems like May has just ordered the destruction of the facility and thereby her friends was very rushed. First of all, how did the rest of the team escape that sealed off room in a way that Hydra also couldn't have gotten into in? And second, how did Mack and Daisy find that escape pod in order to return home with Fitz and Coulson?
  • Didn't it seem like the Secret Warriors did the exact same amount of work as the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team? They took out a handful of Hydra operatives. The only difficult one was the Inhuman with telekinetic abilities. Even then, it wasn't that impressive.
  • The show is on hiatus until March 8. Filling the gap again this year is a new season of Agent Carter. I'm probably going to enjoy that show much more than this one.