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TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "One Door Closes"

Wherein Team Coulson won't just let the experts do their job.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

The conflict between the Real S.H.I.E.L.D. and Coulson’s fake one is one of the better gambits that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has yet attempted, even if the divide separating the show’s intentions and the audience’s (well, my) reception is substantial. The show is insisting that Edward James Olmos’ Gonzales and his agency are the antagonists of this story and that Coulson and his merry band of crybabies are still our white knights, yet from where I’m standing, Gonzales is completely in the right. When Gonzales points out that Coulson has been infused with alien DNA and has been used as a conduit for an alien race, making him an unreliable wild card, it’s hard to dispute any of it. Even Coulson himself doesn’t seem to be able to. But beyond Coulson’s alien-related unpredictability, the proof is in the pudding. We’ve seen him and his team in action and have witnessed first-hand their numerous limitations and failings as an intelligence organization. From what little we know of Gonzales, it’s clear that he’s a tough monkey in a way that Coulson, with his gooey soft center, could never be. Hell, just from a personnel and resources standpoint, Gonzales wins, since he has a full roster of agents and operatives, not simply four people who can’t keep their tears in their eyes.

“One Door Closes” strains to make the case that Coulson is worthy of sitting in the big chair. The takeaway from the episode is that Coulson should immediately step aside and allow somebody qualified to take over. As he struggles to play catch-up and figure out just what’s going on, it reinforces the feeling that he’s hopelessly out of his element. Gonzales is up to speed on everything while Coulson only figured out ten minutes ago that Bobbi and Mack were ringers. When we met Coulson all the way back in Iron Man, he was a grunt doing Fury’s legwork, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has inadvertently bolstered the notion that that’s exactly where he belongs. Naturally, the show doesn’t see it this way. It expects us to still pull for Coulson, simply by virtue of the fact that he’s the lead, but the show is hanging itself with its own rope by providing too much evidence of Gonzales’ qualifications and too little of Coulson’s even basic adequacy.

In the plus column (a column that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. often leaves empty), the episode does attempt to employ a nifty narrative structure, as it flashes back to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to show Bobbi, Mack and Gonzales first forging an alliance while S.H.I.E.L.D. crumbles all around them. These flashbacks, peppered all throughout the episode, are intended to juxtapose Team Gonzales' previous status of being sieged by insurgents from Hydra with their current status as insurgents sieging Coulson’s fake S.H.I.E.L.D., and it doesn’t quite land since nothing that happens in the flashbacks feels that substantial. But the show tried something, so points for effort. Although the fact that Bobbi says she’s operating on orders from Fury, who was already presumed dead and in hiding for some time before this point, stands as further evidence that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is being written by people who habitually don’t do their homework.

Skye’s portion of the episode actually somehow isn’t a total bust, either, as she avoids being captured by Gonzales’ forces at her Banner-created, Cap-frequented (gotta get those Avengers references in wherever you can stick ‘em) cabin in the woods thanks to Gordon, the eyeless teleporter who’s been popping up for some time now. Gordon is a product of the Terrigen mist that also transformed Skye and Raina, and he arrives offering to take Skye away to a place where she can be among others like her, an offer she only chooses to accept as an alternative to being shanghaied away by Real S.H.I.E.L.D. The show finally delving into the Inhumans element it’s been teasing since the Christmas hiatus holds some promise, even if the likelihood is that it will drop that ball just as it drops every ball.

“One Door Closes” ends with Coulson at a beachfront bar with an umbrella drink, meeting with a similarly AWOL Hunter to discuss their next move. Hopefully after a few Mai Tais, they’ll come to the screamingly obvious conclusion that what they should do is kick back in paradise and let people who know what they’re doing run things. It’s better for them, it’s better for the Marvel universe and it’s better for us watching at home. I would much rather watch the Edward James Olmos version of this show, so don’t fix what ain’t broke, Phil.

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


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