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TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “A Hen in the Wolf House”

TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “A Hen in the Wolf House”
By: Brandon Wolfe

It’s gotten to the point where one watches ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ in a predisposed state of defeat. Any time the show does something that sounds promising on paper, it finds a way to make that thing fail in practice. Take the show’s casting of Kyle MacLachlan as Skye’s mysterious father. MacLachlan is a fantastic actor. If given a halfway decent role, he would absolutely crush it. But here, he’s handed a villain role that might as well be torn from the script of an old Van Damme film. He’s angry and he monologues and he grabs women threatening by the throat. Any imposing schmoe could play this role, so why waste Kyle MacLachlan’s valuable time with it? Because this is ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and wasting people’s time is all it knows how to do.

The show adds another new face this week as Adrianne Palicki joins the cast as Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse. Initially presented as a hard-bitten HYDRA operative sniffing around Agent Simmons, Morse eventually reveals herself as an undercover operative working for Coulson to protect Simmons. The erstwhile Wonder Woman helps the technician escape HYDRA’s inexplicable corporate headquarters and even jumps onto an invisible jet to really hammer home the connection. She is also eventually revealed to be the ex-wife of the team’s insufferable newcomer, Hunter, which will almost certainly lead to more of the sort of deathly banter the show clearly thinks it excels at solely because its showrunner shares DNA with Joss Whedon (example of spoken awfulness for the week: Hunter says he’s been drinking to maintain his cover. Skye: “Your cover as what, Ron Burgundy?” Not only timely, but really nails how the dominant trait of Burgundy is his…drunkenness?). Palicki does the tough-chick thing well, but this is the only mode by which this show knows how to employ its female characters, and I don’t know what she adds to the show that we don’t already get from May. Moreover, Coulson’s team is getting pretty crowded with a lot of characters who don’t really stand out from one another. We now have about five versions of the same person.

We continue with Raina’s desperate mission to bring in Skye within 48 hours to avoid being killed by a nondescript Mr. Big bad guy named Daniel Whitehall. Whitehall wants the Obelisk that the show has enlisted as the MacGuffin everyone is pursuing, which is the only form of storytelling this show knows how to do. Raina sets up a rendezvous with Coulson where she attempts to strong-arm him into giving up Skye by threatening to blow Simmons’ cover within two minutes if he doesn’t comply. Coulson doesn’t budge and allows Raina to send the files that immediately incriminate Simmons, a move that, for a second, made me think this show was doing something daring and interesting. Having Coulson play favorites and decide the life of one crew member is more valuable than another, or even just allowing one to be sacrificed to prove that he won’t bend to anyone’s demands, would be a great note for the show to play and for his character to take on. But this show has no stones, so obviously Simmons was never in any danger. Coulson isn’t a complex, iron-fisted leader making the tough choices because the show would much rather keep him as the cuddly papa bear who can’t even be allowed to keep secrets from his charges lest their feelings get hurt.

The Simmons element here is probably the most frustrating aspect of the episode. The revelation that Simmons was undercover deep within HYDRA Inc. gave the show something potentially juicy to play with. Here was a chance to take this irksomely dull character and give her something to do other than technobabble adorably. It was ‘Alias’ boosted outright, but that beats ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s’ house style any old day. Yet here, the show immediately abandons that angle before it bothers to do anything with it. Simmons’ cover is blown, she’s back with Coulson, and during her time undercover, she didn’t glean anything especially useful. The only valuable asset achieved was a hard drive that Morse grabbed on her own. So what was the point of the show sending Simmons to HYDRA at all? To separate her from Fitz, which they technically didn’t even do because she was always present as a hallucination in his damaged brain? It was pointless, gained nothing and was completely not thought out at all. Classic ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

In the end, “A Hen in the Wolf House” sets up an Obelisk-based alliance between Skye’s father and Whitehall, which means nothing because we do not know these two characters and they barely even seem that different from one another. Also, Fitz and Simmons are reunited, which also means nothing because we’ve seen them share the screen in each episode thus far. Coulson’s team has more agents than the show knows what to do with, which means it now has a ton of characters that it won’t know how to write for. The most salient takeaway from the episode is the promise that next week’s episode will have the debut of the ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ trailer affixed to it. Finally ABC Tuesdays will have something in the Marvel universe worth watching.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe on Twitter at @BrandonTheWolfe

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