Tuesday, May 12, 2015

With "S.O.S. Part 1," Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Prepares For A Big Finale!

The Good: Moments of performance, Serves the large cast of characters fairly well, A couple of the villains are well executed
The Bad: Poor villain motivations, More plot-focused than character-centered
The Basics: "S.O.S. Part 1" propels Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. into another big season finale in a watchable way.

While fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe react to The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (reviewed here!), Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. works to keep viewers engaged through a big second season finale event. "S.O.S. Part 1" continues the set up for The Inhumans which is Marvel's next big superhero team franchise. Unlike The Avengers, The Inhumans is being test-marketed on the small screen before the big screen debut and this finally gives Skye a part that is significant on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..

It is impossible to discuss "S.O.S. Part 1" without some allusions to how "Scars" (reviewed here!) ended. After all, "Scars" concluded with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. stealing a page from the second season of Lost (reviewed here!) where Jiaying shot herself to advance her agenda. "S.O.S" Part 1 is very much a set-up episode and it is no surprise that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. cleared the night to air Parts 1 and 2 back to back.

Jiaying claims Gonzales shot her and Coulson orders the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to retreat. Gordon teleports with another Inhuman into a quinjet to attack Afterlife and implicate S.H.I.E.L.D. Trying to ascertain the truth, May and Skye end up fighting when May tries to locate Gonzales. Skye uses her powers to incapacitate May. As May and Simmons retreat with Calvin as their willing prisoner, Coulson orders Agent Weaver to retreat with the helicarrier until he determines who is actually at fault in the assault on Afterlife. Hunter and Fitz try to track down Agent Morse, while Skye uses Raina to try to divine the future about what S.H.I.E.L.D. will do next. Raina tries to poison Skye against her mother, while she maneuvers to take control of Afterlife.

Morse wakes up in Kara's custody, where Ward tries to get her to confess to turning Agent 33 over to H.Y.D.R.A. on purpose. While Jaiying manipulates Skye, Simmons and May determine that Jiaying manipulated the evidence to make it appear S.H.I.E.L.D. attacked Afterlife and destroy any evidence of how Gonzales died. Ward tortures Morse, while Simmons determines that Calvin Zabo is trying to become a super soldier and she is baffled how he is still alive. But as Skye makes a decision about which side she is on, she is exposed to Jiaying's true nature . . . and it horrifies her.

Agent Phil Coulson continues his heroic ascent on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout "S.O.S. Part 1." Coulson's leadership has been questioned and undermined for the entire second season, but as the other high-level Assistant Directors of S.H.I.E.L.D. are cleared out, he becomes the more obvious and powerful leader of the splintered intelligence organization. In "S.O.S. Part 1," he does a good job of both asserting leadership and relying upon his team, like May. As a delightful benefit, Coulson is given some awesome banter in "S.O.S. Part 1."

Jiaying is established in "S.O.S. Part 1" as a legitimate adversary. She is calculating and is trying to manipulate Skye into joining the Inhumans in a war with S.H.I.E.L.D. Part of the problem with "S.O.S. Part 1" is the way it fits into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. First, Jiaying is hardly a compelling adversary. She seems to have the interest of her people in mind, but has been willing to avoid most of the world. In "S.O.S. Part 1" she is exposed as a live energy vampire and despite Skye claiming S.H.I.E.L.D. can find the Inhumans anywhere on Earth, that does not appear to actually be true (based on the entire rest of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). So, why Jiaying simply does not relocate the Inhumans is almost as baffling as why Coulson does not call in some of the big guns (i.e. Avengers) to stop the comparatively mediocre adversary.

"S.O.S. Part 1" utilizes a number of the secondary performers and their characters better than most of the rest of the time they have been on in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Christine Adams is finally utilized as Agent Weaver in a way that makes her seem like a truly worthwhile and legitimate leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the absence of Gonzales, Weaver steps up to lead the Helicarrier and Adams plays it with an authority and posture that makes her entirely credible.

At the other end of the spectrum, Maya Stojan is entirely creepy as Kara (the former Agent 33). Stojan has a powerful monologue that makes Kara suddenly interesting. Ruth Negga is once more given a decent range to play as Raina (who has been stuck more as a factor of make-up than performance ability since her transformation). Negga makes Raina interesting again and in a franchise where virtually no characters die and stay dead, she is given a very cool (potential) final scene. Even Adrianne Palicki makes the torture scenes for Bobbi Morse intense to watch, even though visually they do not have a lot going on (other than Morse having needles stuck under her fingernails) for most of the time she is on screen.

"S.O.S. Part 1" is a set-up episode. Zabo is interrogated by Coulson and his nature is more or less revealed in the episode. The continual allusions to the alien artifact that Gonzales had in "Scars" and how the tracking device on the telepath has been lost make for a somewhat inevitable climax. The journey in "S.O.S. Part 1" is engaging enough, even if it devotes a lot of time to Skye,though her arc is somewhat obvious.

For other big penultimate episodes, be sure to visit my reviews of:
"The Ones We Leave Behind" - Daredevil
"Graduation Day, Part 1" - Buffy The Vampire Slayer
"The Dogs Of War" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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


For other reviews of television shows, seasons and episodes, please check out my Television Review Index Page for a listing of reviews!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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