Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Did You Learn Nothing From The Avengers?! “Yes Men!”

The Good: Good acting, Good pacing, Decent special effects
The Bad: Light on character development, Abrupt end
The Basics: Sidebar in the larger Marvel universe: “Yes Men” shows that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. might not be developing . . .

Given the way the prior episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended, it was clear that “Yes Men” would be a possession episode of the series. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, possession is a “done” story. In The Avengers (reviewed here!), Hawkeye and other agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and the scientist Eriksen) were possessed by the power of Loki’s staff. So, when Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. heads into familiar territory, one of the key things I was looking for from “Yes Men” was to see some growth. In other words, following The Avengers, the only thing that made sense for S.H.I.E.L.D. was some sense of institutional growth; protocols that were put in place to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Alas, I was disappointed by that aspect of “Yes Men.”

“Yes Men” continues the recent trend of expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in advance of Captain America: The Winter Soldier by making another crossover to the prior cinematic adventure, Thor: The Dark World (reviewed here!). The crossover in this case is the return of Jaimie Alexander’s character Lady Sif, with a scene worth of allusions to The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. “Yes Men” picks up right where “T.A.H.I.T.I.” (reviewed here!) left off, but it is strong enough on its own to work well as a self-contained episode.

With Coulson wrestling with the nature of his resurrection, having discovered exactly what the drug he was resurrected with was made of, Lorelei ditches her first victim and exerts control over a biker gang. The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. head toward the southwest to find what the disturbance between dimensions was (which deposited Lorelei in the United States). En route, another disruption occurs and Lady Sif arrives from Asgard. Sif provides Coulson and his team with the intelligence they need to combat Lorelei; apparently, she has the ability to exert control over men with her voice (or voice and physical contact). Heading to the crappy dive Lorelei has ended up at with guns, men, and gold, Sif discovers that Lorelei is well ahead of the Agents.

With Ward controlled by Lorelei, Coulson resists Simmons’s attempts to get more of the miracle drug that saved both Coulson and Skye. Ward is further seduced by Lorelei and that puts May on a collision course with him. Learning all she can from Sif about Lorelei and her power, May steels herself for having to confront her lover. With Lorelei amassing an army in Las Vegas of wealthy, powerful, men, Ward hijacks the Bus with Lorelei and the showdown that ensues pits May against both Lorelei and Ward.

“Yes Men” is a good action episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it has a few problems in context and on its own. On its own, “Yes Men” suffers because it is not really packed with character development. Early in the episode, the idea that May and Ward are separated and the line is drawn for the inevitable fracture that will come when Lorelei is able to manipulate Ward. Beyond that, the episode climaxes with Coulson having some of the most forced character “development” in the series. In the final moments, Coulson decides that he and Skye have to expose the person who resurrected them and the means by which they synthesized medicine capable of resurrecting them. That utterance is abrupt and emotional in a way that Coulson, traditionally, is not. The fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. neglected to have any protocol in place after the last agency possession that would have prevented Ward from having access to the Bus after getting compromised is an issue with the episode in the larger context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Despite the abrupt plot resolution, “Yes Men” feels like it is foreshadowing a much bigger role for Lorelei in the overall Marvel Universe. Having never encountered Lorelei in any of the graphic novels I have yet read, she seems like she has potential as a villain, but the key question of an adversary is not answered in “Yes Men.” Adversaries who want to rule the world have to have some motivation for it and Lorelei’s motivation is not really explored, only her ability and power.

More than that, “Yes Men” undermines the character of Fitz in a troubling way. While S.H.I.E.L.D. ought to have protocols for possessions in place, the nature and limitations of Lorelei’s powers makes it clear that the characters, even possessed, are essentially who they are. Thus, Coulson fooling Fitz insinuates that Fitz is not all that smart.

The acting in “Yes Men” is fine. Jaimie Alexander reprises her role of Lady Sif adequately and Elena Satine seems like she’ll be able to do a lot with Lorelei should she (inevitably) recur. The final moments of the episode have Clark Gregg uncharacteristically over-the-top and Ming-Na Wen blandly the subject of what is supposed to be a reversal (but is actually one of the most consistent character representations of the series), so fans might be a little disappointed that there are no deep, compelling moments or performances here.

Ultimately, “Yes Men” delivers what it promises; the story is a straightforward possession story that fits in well between the episode that preceded it and the promise the end has for the next episode.

For other works with Jaimie Alexander, please visit my reviews of:
Love And Other Drugs
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia - Season 1

[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 First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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