Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Paying Off The Fitz/Simmons Relationship: "The Singularity"

The Good: Character development, Performances, Special effects
The Bad: The ominous sense of dread pervading the episode for anyone who is a fan of Joss Whedon's works, Special effects are so gross for the squeamish!
The Basics: "The Singularity" advances Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a pretty awesome way!

With Captain America: Civil War being released next week and The Inhumans being removed from Marvel/Disney's 2019 release slate, fans of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. are undoubtedly feeling like the neglected fanbase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite the rising action of the Inhumans in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. setting the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a state of constant panic, the most voluminous element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will undoubtedly be neglected in next week's blockbuster film. Despite that, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is powering ahead and moving towards its potentially biggest season finale yet with "The Singularity."

"The Singularity" continues the action from the final scene and twist in "The Team" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without discussing where the prior episode ended. "The Singularity" picks up after the revelation that Daisy has been infected by Hive and is essentially acting as a sleeper agent for the parasitic organisms running around in Grant Ward's corpse. And the episode is good, especially as it refocuses Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. as something vital and cool.

With S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters crippled by Daisy on her way out of the facility, Coulson uses Campbell to repower the damaged facility and get the bay doors partially opened. Daisy reunites with Hive as May gets the Zephyr in the air and out of the facility. Daisy, who has taken the Kree artifact and some terrigen crystals, is revealed to be under the influence of Hive, much like a drug addict. Fitz and Simmons believe they know a scientist who might be able to help them in getting Daisy freed of the Hive parasites. Coulson opts to try to beat Daisy to the Inhuman Alisha, to prevent her (and her doubles) from falling under Hive's influence. Fitz and Simmons infiltrate a Romanian transhumanist meeting house to try to find Dr. Holden Radcliffe.

Campbell finds Alisha, but she has already been compromised by Hive. Hive and Daisy track down James, inflect him with the terrigen crystals and when he survives to become an Inhuman, Hive infects him with the parasites. Fitz and Simmons are invited to meet with Radcliffe . . . if they implant their cybernetic eyes (which are their ticket into the club) into a human host. When things with Radcliffe go slightly sideways, Fitz must convince the doctor that S.H.I.E.L.D. is distinctly different from HYDRA. But as Coulson and May try to survive one of Hive's traps, Fitz and Simmons must survive a direct attack by Daisy and Hive!

"The Singularity" is a reference to science jargon used by Fitz in the episode to explain his affection for Simmons. The fact that the episode finally devotes some time to progressing the relationship is actually incredibly refreshing. Fans will enjoy the payoff and the on-screen chemistry between Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker is incredible. After years of waiting, the relationship takes a step forward and "The Singularity" is a nice step. Fans of Joss Whedon's other works have to be figuring that one of them will die or be horrifically transformed in a subsequent episode.

Almost instantly, "The Singularity" stands out for the quality of the acting. Despite momentary asides - like Adrian Pasdar's appearance implying a set-up in the next episode for a tie-in to Captain America: Civil War (the resurgence at the end of the episode seems to be trying to close down the last threads of Marvel Phase Two) - the performances are surprisingly solid. Brett Dalton continues to make Hive unsettling to watch with his cold portrayal of the alien-infested corpse. Chloe Bennet gets in on the action by making Daisy seem dark and conniving. Bennet's extended "force choke" sequence is a clear departure from her prior from her prior performances.

In fact, on the performance front, only Ming-Na Wen stands out as at all awkward. May's arc in the episode puts her in conflict with Coulson after Coulson gives Lincoln Campbell a murder vest and her the kill switch. May expresses anger about how Coulson uses her to kill people and while that makes some sense for her character, the expression of the anger - the breaking of her icy and professional facade - is abruptly presented. Later in the episode, when May and Coulson discuss Daisy, Ming-Na Wen's performance is more organic and seems character-based.

"The Singularity" is not for the squeamish. There is an extended sequence with a needle and an eyeball (my two personal bugaboos!) that only appears to be able to be on a network television show by virtue of the eye being revealed as artificial. Despite the gore factor, "The Singularity" manages to make viewers care once again about the core characters of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. while telling an entertaining story (which is clearly setting up the finale!) quite well.

[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!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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