Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Aliens And HYDRA And Inhumans (Oh My!): "Maveth" Progesses, Not Resolves.
The Good: Good pacing, Decent plot development, Most of the performances are good
The Bad: Plot heavy over developing the characters, Few big moments for the actors to play.
The Basics: Another Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. ensemble piece, "Maveth" brings the Ward and space boyfriend plots to a head as HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. duke it out in a castle and on a distant planet!
This is a big week for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. As the television season hits its third season's mid-season finale with "Maveth" and prepares to go on hiatus for a few months, the trading card manufactures are releasing their Season Two Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. trading cards (reviewed here!) to capitalize on the enthusiasm with the series. "Maveth" sends off Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a lot of energy and intensity; so much so that the second season of Agent Carter which will occupy Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s timeslot can only seem like a letdown to the audience.
"Maveth" follows up on the events of "Closure" (reviewed here!), which hit a climax with Fitz sacrificing himself to go with the HYDRA team to the distant planet upon which Simmons was stranded in "4,722 Hours" (reviewed here!) . . . and Coulson leapt through the portal HYDRA opened. That left half of the original cast of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a harrowing position where they might become stranded across the universe.
Opening on the distant world, Fitz begins his search for Will, while Grant Ward tries to lead the HYDRA team to find the creature Simmons saw and HYDRA covets. Fitz challenges Ward, before the HYDRA team finds what appears to be a HYDRA temple. While Gideon Malick brings Inhumans to the castle in Scotland in order to give an army to the creature when it comes through, Mack creates a strategy to rescue Simmons (or Fitz) and secure the portal. On the planet, Fitz finds Will's bunker, while Agent Coulson awakens after having a hallucination of ATCU Director Price. Will was attacked by the creature and Ward wants to use the NASA astronaut to find the creature. When the S.H.I.E.L.D. team knocks out the power for the castle, Simmons is able to escape the HYDRA leaders and find Andrew Garner's prison capsule.
Fitz and Will team up to take out members of the HYDRA team, while Coulson makes his move on Ward. Back at the castle, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team reunites and tries to figure out what to do about the portal and the creature on the alien planet. May returns, having discovered that Lash has killed all of the Inhumans Malick brought with him. With fifteen minutes before the portal opens again, Lincoln pitches destroying the portal, regardless of the rest the team's status, while Mack orders the agents back to Zephyr One as a failsafe. With HYDRA advancing and the portal closing, Coulson must choose between safety and vengeance.
The strategy scene in "Maveth" serves to remind casual television viewers just how loaded television is with good looking people. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a good-looking cast, but when one puts most of them - main cast and guest stars - in a room together and have them just talking at one another, it's hard not to feel like the scenes are not mirrored by any sense of reality. Any collection of brilliant super spies or, say, the White House Situation Room is not going to be populated by people with such flawless skin, hair, and outfits as we see in "Maveth." For a moment, this draws the attentive viewer out of the narrative even more than the alien world! This is starkly contrasted by the faces of Constance Zimmer and Clark Gregg, who are both good looking, but are older and whose faces have realistic amounts of character for their characters' positions in the world.
"Maveth" suffers from the characters failing to ask a key question. Back when "4,722 Hours" aired, armed only with the information presented in the episode, I suggested that there was something off about Will. In fact, back then, I suspected that if Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. followed its usual pattern, it would turn out that Will was a member of HYDRA. Since then, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have learned that the NASA mission Will was on was organized by HYDRA and even that the symbol for the mission was related to HYDRA. So, why none of the characters - especially the usually super-smart Fitz - ask the question of "How do we know Will was not a member of HYDRA when he enlisted in the mission to the planet?" seems like pure idiocy. Fortunately, when Will raises red flags with Fitz, he is smart enough to recognize it.
Like most of the episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far in the third season, "Maveth" is plot-focused and has to service a pretty large number of characters. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not like a Marvel Cinematic Universe film like Iron Man or Thor; it's like one of the ensemble movies like Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Avengers. "Maveth" reminds viewers of that by having less character development and more plot progression. A good example of this is in how Mack's tenure as temporary director of S.H.I.E.L.D. does not afford the character much in the way of breathing room, story development or even significant character moments.
"Maveth" is very entertaining, which makes it easy to overlook some of the episode's small problems. I swear Simmons tells May that "Will" took Fitz through the portal when they meet up outside the castle in England. As well, there is something painfully predictable about Coulson making Ward bleed the moment Ward tells the Director that the creature smells blood and Fitz is bleeding. It is somewhat disappointing, from a character perspective, that Coulson does not take Ward out at that moment. Coulson is still pretty raw from Ward murdering Price and he's not all that passionate in "Maveth" when faced with the man who killed only the second woman we've seen Coulson in a relationship with. Similarly, why May doesn't bomb part of the castle to keep out HYDRA in advance makes less sense than it ought to.
Henry Simmons gives the standout performance of "Maveth" when Mack steps up to the role of leader of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. While his talents are somewhat wasted in the early big exposition scene, when Mack formulates a plan to save Earth from the creature, Simmons gives a commanding performance that makes Mack entirely credible. Simmons is a great actor and Mack is a cool choice for a leader; it's nice to see both step out of the supporting role, however briefly.
Director Vincent Misiano unfortunately succumbs to the typical Marvel movie conceits with his direction at the climax of "Maveth." He holds on a significant look between two characters at the episode's end (well, final act five moment, before the pre-post-credits scene) that suggests an irksome direction for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it returns from its hiatus. That look might seem to be undone by the episode's final scene, but the conflict that is implied by the look (at the very least) is melodramatic from a group of superspies and does not bode well for the future of the show.
The purpose of a midseason finale - which is still a pretty new phenomenon - is to wrap up some of the building plotlines and leave viewers excited about the show while the series takes a break for a few months. That almost always means a cliffhanger or significant event of some sort that has a strong sense of dramatic tension going into the episode's final moments. "Maveth" certainly has that, even if there is one really forced kiss at the climax and it's hard to believe that any characters are going to stay truly dead, even in this corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For midseason finales, please visit my reviews of:
"What They Become" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The Man In The Yellow Suit" - The Flash
"The Bridge" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!
For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |