Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fractured Into Boring, "Among Us Hide..." Is Lackluster Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..

The Good: Final act, Adequately picks up prior plot threads
The Bad: Melodramatic performances, Light on character development
The Basics: "Among Us Hide. . ." picks up the many disparate threads of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but services none of them well.

Network television shows are having a real problem getting viewers to tune in these days. One need look at last year's Primetime Emmy Award nominations to know that broadcast and cable television producers are feeling the pressure to get viewers to tune in each week, as opposed to waiting to stream whole seasons on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. What's truly pathetic about the industry's pander for viewers is how unoriginal they are becoming with their attempts. Take, for example, genre television shows like The Walking Dead and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Attentive viewers will notice that both shows have followed the exact same formula for the last two episodes (and tonight's episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and next week's episode of The Walking Dead). Both Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Walking Dead had episodes where a character appeared to die, they both did an episode that then focused on a solitary character and then they address the "dead" character. That the episodes even aired in the same order and time period of each other is strange. The Walking Dead obviously does not need the ratings boost, but Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems desperate to get a bump by bringing viewers back. On Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. the episode that picks up the "dead character" thread is "Among Us Hide . . ."

"Among Us Hide. . ." is set after "4,722 Hours" (reviewed here!), but it is a more direct sequel to "Devils You Know" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to talk about "Among Us Hide. . ." inteligently without some spoilers for "Devils You Know." "Among Us Hide. . ." explains whose feet were visible in the little grocery store that exploded when Ward's protege went after Andrew. Because, of course, Blair Underwood's character was not going to be killed so ignobly . . . off screen.

Opening with Dr. Garner being brought in to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters following the attack he suffered from HYDRA's forces, Coulson's team learns how May's ex-husband survived the encounter. Coulson removes Hunter from the "kill Ward" assignment and May re-enlists with S.H.I.E.L.D. to take his place. While Daisy looks into the ATCU, May tests Morse to see that she is mission ready to go after the injuries she sustained from Ward. As Morse and May head to find Von Strucker (learning, in the process, who the "student" was in Garner's shooting). Von Strucker makes a rendezvous with Gideon Malick while Coulson meets up with ATCU Director Price.

Daisy and Mack come to believe that the Inhuman Lash is a member of the ATCU and they set out to tail the person they suspect might be Lash in human form. When May and Morse trip an alarm while in a bank looking for information on Von Strucker, Morse attempts to use diplomacy to get them out of the confrontation, but May initiates a physical conflict instead. When tailing Banks seems to lead to a dead end, Hunter goes rogue to capture the ATCU operative. Daisy's team gets a blood sample from Banks, which puts Coulson in potential danger with Price. Malick contacts Ward to offer up Von Strucker.

After a refreshingly simple and focused story last week, "Among Us Hide. . ." returns to the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. pattern (this season) of trying to service a pretty large cast. Instead of focusing on the hunt for Ward, the May/Morse storyline is only peppered in with conspiracy theories about the ATCU, references to Fitz's work and Hunter whining about his relationship with Morse. This attempt to service so many characters comes across as especially witless in "Among Us Hide. . ." when Daisy asks the slowly-recovering Dr. Garner for information on a profile for Lash . . . an Inhuman none of the Agents have directly interacted with for more than a few moments. Daisy, apparently, has no clue how psychological profiling works and the writer of "Among Us Hide. . ." hopes the viewers don't either (profiling requires information, which is something distinctly missing from Lash's encounters).

"Among Us Hide. . ." seems more melodramatic than many of the prior Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes. When May tells off Hunter, the moment seems over-the-top dramatic, as opposed to realistic or tense. The usually solid Clark Gregg also seems like he is hamming it up as Coulson, especially in the first scene with Coulson in Price's home. Constance Zimmer is relegated to playing Price without any subtlety or depth, which is unlike her. Zimmer has played somewhat monolithic "bitchy" characters before and in "Among Us Hide. . .", it feels like either the writer or director Dwight Little did not want to push her.

Ward's brief part in the episode and Simmons's cameo-like role feel like the producers are trying to squeeze everyone in. While Simmons has a plot-based reason for her appearance (running the blood test on Banks), the scenes she has with Dr. Garner and Fitz have a soap opera feel to them. There is some logic to Fitz looking into Will Daniels - to confirm who he is and that he truly exists, at least - but he is not given enough of a role in "Among Us Hide. . ." for his character to actually grow or develop.

The best moments of "Among Us Hide. . ." all seem to come in the episode's final fifteen minutes, with Coulson touring the ATCU facility. There is something troubling, though, about the way Coulson doesn't point out that putting people in a medically-induced coma to find a cure for their ailments usually comes with some form of consent from the patient. But the revelation of Lash's human identity almost makes it possible to overlook the character defects throughout the rest of the episode.

Almost, but not quite enough. It's a long way to go with a "blah" episode to a pretty minimal pay-off. At this point in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., episode 6 of the third season, the show feels like it is floundering. Despite the last minute twist, "Among Us Hide. . ." is largely unremarkable television.

For other works with Blair Underwood, please visit my reviews of:
"One Of Us" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Art Of Getting By
Something New

[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.
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