TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Eye Spy”

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 The dramatic opening sequence.

Eye Spy is the most consistently good episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far. The episode boats an interesting premise, genuine emotional stakes, strong acting and much of the tension and suspense that was missing from the last episode. However, it retains many of the faults that have plagued the show thus far. The episode begins with a visually interesting sequence in which a small group of masked men in red masks board a subway train in Stockholm. A mysterious woman (Pascale Armand) stealthily follows and attacks these men in an attempt to steal diamonds that they are carrying. Aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane (nicknamed “the Bus”), Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) reveals to his S.H.I.E.L.D. team that the mystery woman is a former agent who has been missing for years. After some investigation, the team discover that she has been fitted with a cybernetic implant in her eye and that she is being forced to carry out criminal acts by an unidentified antagonist. With the wayward agent in S.H.I.E.L.D. hands, Skye (Chloe Bennet) hacks the ocular implant and finds a way to transfer its feedback into a pair of glasses. Ward (Brett Dalton) wears these glasses and endeavours to carry out their unknown opponents’ mission commands in an attempt to find out who they’re dealing with.

Surveillance is the central theme of this episode. Early in the proceedings, Coulson remarks that in this world of Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, there is little need to covertly watch people because so many people provide all of their personal details willingly. This is contrasted to the constant surveillance forced upon Amador, the agent with the implant. This is an interesting and heavy subject matter for such a light-hearted show; not unlike the political debate from episode two or the commentary on superheroes as gods in episode one. Despite being portrayed as a benevolent organisation, Joss Whedon and the other creators wisely choose to present the problematic aspects of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s activities such as its disregard for people’s privacy (in the last episode, they were referred to as “Big Brother” by one character). Perhaps this notion of the characters inhabiting a morally grey world could be developed in future episodes. Eye Spy is far more successful in its attempts to create mystery and tension then last week’s episode was. As it was last time, one of the agents (Ward this time) has to infiltrate dangerous hostile territory whilst communicating with other team members. The sense of dread and fear that Ward will be discovered is presented in a far more credible manner here than in the previous episode. Whereas Skye was portrayed as being blasé and overconfident when she was sneaking around enemy territory, Ward’s constant efforts to avoid exposure and his panic when he is inevitably discovered are truly exciting; more than enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

The episode is also more successful in its attempts at comedy than last week. There is a very amusing moment when Ward is instructed (by the mysterious villain) to seduce a heavyset Belarusian male security guard; the unknown villain believes Ward to be Amador and Ward needs to maintain this illusion. Ward’s attempt to befriend the suspicious guard is one of the funnier moments of the whole series so far. Even the usually annoying duo of Fitzsimmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) is put to good comedic use in the episode; a scene in which they have to perform ocular surgery on Amador is both tense and humorous at the same time. In addition to the episode’s quality, Eye Spy is significant in that it may be the first episode to indicate that there will eventually be a recurring antagonist or central villain in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Amador’s mystery controller wants her to gain access to a bizarre physics equation; the nature of which has not yet been explained. Coulson refers to this equation as being of alien origin, possibly indicating a link to the Chitauri alien race that appeared in The Avengers (of which this show is a spin-off). This is hopefully the first evidence of a long-term villain for the programme, since a regular antagonist would add both a greater sense of consistency and a greater sense of tension to the show.

Whilst certainly a step up for the overall quality of the show, the episode still suffers from insufferable “witty” dialogue that sound like unnatural sound-bites and not human conversation. The sequence in which Ward murders several security guards also feels a little off; these men are hardly threats or even bad guys, yet Ward guns them down without a second thought. Worst of all is the post-credits stinger, which is both juvenile and potentially even insultingly sexist. However, these are small faults in an otherwise strong episode. Perhaps Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is starting to find itself.

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About George Willcox

George Willcox is in his early twenties and has recently been awarded a Master’s Degree in Film Studies. Film and filmmaking has always been his passion since he was a very small child. George has previously worked as a cameraman and as a film editor for a number of independent film productions, television news and lifestyle programmes. Currently, he is trying to expand my resumé as a film and television screenwriter as well as a film and television critic. Whilst he is extremely passionate about making films, George’s academic studies on the subject has imbued him with a strong desire to work within the media industry in a writing capacity. George considers himself skilled at writing in an entertaining yet clear and concise manner. During his university studies, he was commended for the quality of his academic papers and short film screenplays (one of which was an award winner at his university). Outside of his film and television interests, George enjoys hiking, reading and video gaming.

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