Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Fun & Games" Renews Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

The Good: Decent plot progression, Some interesting moments of character, Good direction
The Bad: A few performance moments, Narrative gap between prior episode and this one
The Basics: Clark Gregg's directoral debut on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is "Fun & Games" and the episode is surprisingly well-executed for a otherwise disappointing season so far.

Binging television has spoiled me. I like getting my film stories (generally) complete and in a timely fashion, undisturbed by random hiatuses and network schedule reshuffling. No program has suffered in recent memory for me quite like Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is, currently, the only show I watch on ABC, who gave the show a late release for its fifth season and moved the show from its Tuesday timeslot to the Friday night timeslot of death. As a result, I do not get prompts for new episodes of the show while watching other things and - given how little the current plotline has engaged me - I have had an unfortunate tendency of late to miss it when it airs. So, while most people in the U.S. are watching the Golden Globe Awards, I am catching up on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., with the show's latest episode, "Fun & Games."

"Fun & Games," despite the plot divergence of "Rewind" (reviewed here!) continues the story of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. from where it left off in "A Life Earned" (reviewed here!). As such, "Fun & Games" is set in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after the Earth has been pretty much destroyed and Agent Fitz has managed to get to the same time and place as his friends.

Flint is making his way through the Lighthouse, bartering and interacting with the agents of the black market, when the Kree arrive to harvest the children in the population. In the Kree sector, Enoch and Fitz discuss the alias that Enoch has built for Fitz over the decades while Fitz was in cryosleep. Fitz, in the guise of a bloodthirsty marauder with an impressive body count, encounters Simmons, unaware that Kasius has deafened her. At the harvest, Flint appears to be transformed using terrigenesis, but Rodriguez rescues him. After a tense dinner with Kasius and the other bidders in the Kree sector, Kasius pits May against Ben.

While Fitz is able to delay May's murder, Ben is killed for betraying Kasius. When Grill returns and hears the Agents discussing their past, he gloats about how he will rat out the others. In threatening Flint and the Agents, Flint's abilities manifest as the ability to control rocks. When Kasius's brother arrives to take possession of Quake, Fitz is troubled by the idea that he will not be able to outbid Faulnak. Faulnak, for his part, challenges Kasius by pitting Sinara against Quake, which forces Fitz to act!

There is a narrative gap between the events of "Rewind" and "Fun & Games" and that is a comparative problem with the episode. Enoch seems like he would have had enough time to explain what life is like in the dark future, but Fitz is already on-mission while Enoch is briefing him. That's somewhat ridiculous as the whole scene between Fitz and Simmons where Simmons cannot hear him is something Fitz should have been prepared for. In a similar fashion, Fitz acts - on mission - like a guy who has never been in the field as a spy before. Enoch, in a good briefing, would have explained almost all of the key elements that leave Fitz asking questions in a public setting.

The dinner scene in "Fun & Games" is well-executed. Clark Gregg establishes a wonderful sense of dramatic tension throughout the scene in which Fitz has dinner with Kasius and the other slavers who are there to bid upon Inhumans. The scene works because of how Fitz had recently accessed his dark side in the Framework and he seems to be tapping into those experiences to sell his alias in the future.

The acting in "Fun & Games" is problematic. When Simmons is deafened, Elizabeth Henstridge continues to look up in a way that is not at all natural. Gregg, directing the episode, tries to cover that by having Simmons looking out a window, but the way she reacts to what Fitz is saying is not organic to a deafened person randomly looking out a window while working at a task. In a similar fashion, Ming-Na Wen has one of the best poker faces of anyone working in film today. So, when May first sees Fitz and she reacts with surprise, it is a tremendous disappointment.

At the other end of the spectrum, Iain De Caestecker continues to plumb new depths as Fitz and his bounty hunter alter-ego. De Caestecker had good practice playing Fitz evil, but playing him as a cold rogue allows him to shade out some of the degrees of his range without simply mimicking where he had been before.

Brent Fletcher wrote a generally solid script for "Fun & Games" - despite the narrative gap and this episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. progresses the season forward in a positive way . . . the first for this erratic season!


For other elements of the MCU, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a comprehensive listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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