Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 1, Episode 4 of ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," titled "Eye Spy."
It looks like "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is just determined not to raise the stakes or make things more exciting for the viewers at home. Talk about a slo-o-ow burn. Sure, it continued to tease some larger force of evil out there, but it's still being way too vague about that four episodes in. I'm not sure how much patience modern viewers have. Even a kick-ass fight scene between May and former Agent Amador couldn't spice things up.
The lack of excitement in the action department was exemplified when Amador rammed the van that Skye, Fitz and Simmons were in. Here is a trained-but-rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent attacking three people who couldn't be more helpless in a field combat situation. And when Skye failed to get the van started so they could try and escape, I though all hell was going to break loose. Instead, Amador rammed the van and it simply rolled over slowly down the hill. And that was it. Cut to commercial.
At least having the "villain" of the episode be a former agent who had a working history with Coulson allowed for a little bit of backstory to be revealed about everyone's favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but dipping into that well twice in four episodes is a bit of a letdown. At least Amador's history with Coulson meant that she noticed something was "off" about him. Speculation has been running wild since the series premiere that Coulson is some kind of robot, or clone, or something. That he really did die in "The Avengers" movie, and that this new-and-improved Coulson is something else altogether.
Toward the end of the episode, Amador asked May, "What happened to Agent Coulson. He's different ... What did they do to him?" Oddly enough, though, when May had no idea what she was talking about, Amador clammed up. Why would she do that? She's been off the grid for years, forced to work for this nameless and faceless evil organization. I would think she would have pushed the subject if she really cared about Coulson. What motive would she have to clam up like that? Instead, it was a fairly blatant tease for the viewers.
We learned that Coulson felt guilty for losing Amador after a case gone bad -- he thought she was dead, along with the rest of her team -- and we learned that Amador felt guilty for surviving. She was rescued and had an amazing piece of technology put into her eye socket. Amazing as in it blew both Fitz and Simmons away, meaning it was leaps and bounds ahead of the best S.H.I.E.L.D. had to offer.
This new prosthetic eye allowed a handler to see everything Amador saw, and send her orders. If she failed to follow them, a killswitch in the eye would have taken her out. Simple enough. After rescuing/capturing her, Skye hijacked Amador's feed and sent it to a pair of glasses that Agent Ward was wearing. Ward was then to carry out her latest mission while Fitz and Simmons worked on removing and disabling the kill-switch in Amador's eye.
This sequence led to some fun squeamishness on the part of Coulson's nerd team as they worked together on the surgery. It also showed us how small the budget for this show can be by positioning the camera on the opposite side of Amador's face so her nose blocked the entire procedure. There was even more fun to be had with Ward following Amador's orders. Amador had stolen millions of dollars worth of diamonds to buy a key card. Ward then used that key card to access a research building in Belarus. When he encountered an armed guard, his new orders came through.
"Seduce him." At Skye's urging, Ward tried to "bromance" the guard instead, but his attempts failed and he had to knock him out. Behind the guard was a room filled with chalkboards and guys at keyboards. On one chalkboard, though, was writing that looked alien. And that was apparently the objective, as the camera feed took a snapshot and the mission was over.
The twist at the end was nice, but frustrating at the same time. Coulson tracked down Amador's handler, but upon identifying himself, a failsafe went off in the handler's eye as well. He was as much a pawn of this uber-evil as Amador was. But I'm still feeling too disconnected from this larger threat that's been teased so much. The hints are so vague, it's not even clear if we're talking about the same threat each time.
I'm getting more and more of an "X-Files" feel with this looming menace just outside our vision, but we at least had a face we could hate on "The X-Files" in the cigarette-smoking man. Here, I think they're keeping things too abstract. I love the idea of a looming menace, but it needs to be personalized a little bit. We need for our ragtag team of agents to have a close encounter with an organization that is so far out of their league that it terrifies them. Or maybe the viewer could be let in on more than the agents know.
They also need to step it up in the character development department. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is becoming frustratingly too much like a CBS procedural. This is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I think the viewers are going to demand more than a new case every week with a few minutes of exposition and character development thrown in from time to time.
I get that this was a personal mission for Coulson, because of his history with Agent Amador. But they really need to raise the stakes a bit. This is an elite group of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents -- and Skye. They should be facing menaces more dangerous than geurilla fighters and rogue agents every once in a while.
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.