Â The shadowy figure haunting the S.H.I.E.L.D. team
Almost all science fiction television shows attempt a â€œhorror episodeâ€; a stand-alone story in which the main characters are thrust into a plot that echoes the conventions of a horror movie. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts its first horror episode with Repairs. Whilst not quite as engaging as last weekâ€™s The Well, the episode is certainly strong in comparison to the majority of entries in the series so far. There are still some major faults that puncture any sense of consistency, but Repairs is certainly evidence of gradual improvement (the episodeâ€™s title is somewhat ironic).
Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his S.H.I.E.L.D. team investigate a young woman, Hannah (Laura Seay), who has been demonstrating dangerous telekinetic abilities (moving objects with her mind) since a terrible accident occurred at the particle accelerator where she worked. Hannah has been facing ostracising abuse from her neighbours as they blame her for the deaths of several of her co-workers. This bullying is seemingly causing Hannahâ€™s powers to become progressively more dangerous and S.H.I.E.L.D. is required to move her to a save location. However, once Hannah is relocated to the plane, she is tormented by a shadowy figure that can appear and disappear at will. Soon Coulson and the others begin to suspect that things are not as they seem. The episode has multiple plot-lines unfolding simultaneously; the main narrative involves Hannah and her haunting tormentor, yet the episode also touches on Skyeâ€™s (Chloe Bennet) frustration about S.H.I.E.L.D.â€™s policies as well as Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmonsâ€™ (Elizabeth Henstridge) childish attempts to pull pranks on their team-mates. The underlying sub-plot that links these three separate plots together concerns the previously unknown back-story of May (Ming-Na Wen). Mayâ€™s troubled history provides a contrast to the other three plot-lines. The episodeâ€™s theme is about mistakes and regret; the mistakes of Mayâ€™s past are contrasted to the mistakes that Hannah believes that she has made. These themes are complex and to the episodeâ€™s credit, they are explored in a delicate and mature manner. Hannah is a very religious person and so frames her mysterious powers and her shadowy attacker as evidence that God is punishing her for her mistakes. May is so traumatised by her mistakes that her entire personality has changed as a result. Repairs could be seen as a rather cerebral episode, taking interesting stances on challenging concepts. Themes of blame, forgiveness and the impact that mistakes can have on a personâ€™s life are all examined in the narrative.
The performances are relatively strong. Guest star Laura Seay does a great job at making the audience sympathise with Hannah and the tragedy of her life. Ming-Na Wen imbues May with a great deal of sadness despite never exactly addressing her dark past. Also impressive is the combination of atmosphere and clever special effects techniques that help to create a sense of tension. The â€œhorrorâ€ aspect of the episode begins when the mysterious figure cuts the planeâ€™s power, forcing the characters to stumble around in the dark whilst trying to protect themselves and Hannah from attack. Not only is the villain concealed in the background and in shadows, he is frequently shown disappearing and reappearing through the use of computer effects. There is a real feeling a dread as the characters blindly amble around the dark corridors, being attacked on all sides by their antagonist. Unfortunately, it is extremely obvious from a very early point who the villain is but the showâ€™s writers should be commended for inventing an interesting motivation for the villain; something more complex than the antagonists of previous episodes. Indeed, the writing of this episode is particularly good. For the most part, the characters interact and communicate like real people as opposed to a few episodes ago when everyone spoke in a series of one-liners and witticisms. There is a particularly effective sequence in which Skye and Hannah share a moment together and discuss the nature of God (the atheist Skye has a more positive view of God than the religious Hannah). The science fiction aspect of the show, the explanation for Hannahâ€™s powers and the powers of her attacker, are very clever and subtly tie in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (of which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a spin-off).
Not that the writing is faultless. Once again the show has difficulty defining exactly what kind of organisation S.H.I.E.L.D. is. Skyeâ€™s protesting about S.H.I.E.L.D.â€™s apprehension policies and the revelations about Mayâ€™s back-story paint the organisation as very morally grey, something more akin to the way they are presented in the Marvel films. However, this is inter-cut with Fitz and Simmons playing silly pranks on each other and the characters meeting up at the end of the day for a game of Scrabble. The showâ€™s creators seem to want S.H.I.E.L.D. to be both a sinister paramilitary force as well as a big happy family of nice friendly people. The dissonance is astounding and very off-putting. If it was clearly established that Coulsonâ€™s team where the exception, that they are a team instead of a unit and that is what makes them special, then there would be no discord. Such a notion is never brought up; S.H.I.E.L.D. is whatever the writers and production crew need it to be for the episode to work.
Repairs is another strong episode but many more will be needed to balance the plethora of extremely underwhelming episodes that have aired so far.
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