(Two weeks ago, sorry!), on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The agents investigate the strange occurrences of a woman who, they believe, has telekinetic powers.
Diego: For a nice change of pace, let’s start with the things I liked in this episode. The visual effects on the disappearing guy were pretty good. The bait-and-switch on the superpowered person was nice. And how cool was that moment where May was the one who disappeared instead of the other guy?
This show *is* capable of creating cool moments and good character beats. It’s the context that is often disappointing. I know this is a weekly gripe of mine, and I know that you agree. But the position S.H.I.E.L.D. has on superpowered beings is a bit archaic. It’s okay to be skeptic, it’s dumb to rule out telekinesis because it’s not on your “index”. They were happier with the explanation that this man was travelling through universes than him being a simple telekinetic. What? Why?
We’re an episode away from the mid-season finale, and this hasn’t built up to anything. Promos say that it’s all connected, but why should we care?
Matt: I had no idea Slender Man was part of the Marvel Universe. I did like this one better than most, but that’s like saying I like carrots better than cabbage. They are both still vegetables. SHIELD was made to be the glorious secret organization that could have a hold on super heroes. Now it’s a team of baby sitters to keep the audience busy until the next movie. I wish they took it more seriously. It almost seems like they are throwing ideas out randomly every episode to see what people react to, so they can find the popular things and go with that. I’ve said many times before that “they are finding their footing – it’ll get better” but that’s like when Petunia Dursley would make excuses for Dudley being fat. Eventually she had to admit – he was just fat.
The next episode can be redemption. It can make everything ok. Or it can be like the Doctor in Doctor Who according to River Song. “He’ll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further”. Let’s hope it is the former.
Laura: I certainly found this episode to be better than the last one. Even weirder – it made more sense as a crossover episode! The plot was actually informed by the movie! Whaaaaaaat! And I have a lot more to say about this episode, so that’s a good sign.
I seriously thought Ward and May were just going to drink away their sorrows at the end of the last episode, especially after Skye’s whole impassioned “I’m here if you need someone to talk to!” Apparently, it wasn’t talking they wanted to do. That was seriously out of left field, but at the same time actually makes sense for both of these two. They’re quiet, keep to themselves, and don’t really want to talk about their emotions. So instead they just do it and then don’t really mention it again. It kinda works.
What kinda doesn’t work, at least for me? Fitz & Simmons. Not as a pair, just…overall. This week they felt super bland again, as if we were back to the first episode, which is odd coming after we’ve had strong episodes for both. It was disappointing. On the other hand, Skye really worked for me yet again this week with her empathy. Coulson is still adorable with his geeky obsessions, and I could really feel his sadness when telling Skye about the real story behind The Cavalry.
But I have a major major bone to pick. And it’s one I normally don’t have issues with: how they handled religion/God.
I don’t usually get upset about this at all. I don’t mind shows handling religious fanatics like Hannah in different ways. I don’t mind them showing the hypocrisy that can be present in some religious people, or in religion in general. And I really love it when handled perfectly, which the show seemed to be doing at first in Skye’s conversation through the door with Hannah.
Everything Hannah said throughout the episode about feeling she was haunted by demons or being punished by God was perfect because there are plenty of Christians who feel that’s the way God works. Skye’s response was one that doesn’t get shown often on television or in media on the whole because it’s not dramatic enough, but is what I personally grew to believe was (to summarize somewhat ineffectively) the point of Christianity was – that God is love, period, end of story, no more explanation needed. Sure, Skye might not believe in it, but that was the lesson she took away. It’s certainly the lesson I took away from being raised in the church. Again, this is something that rarely gets represented on television because it’s such a simple message, but it’s more “interesting” to show people like Hannah.
So then we come to the confrontation between May and Tobias, the guy who it turns out just really wanted Hannah’s attention in a more-than-friendly kind of way. He’s trying to make up for the people he accidentally killed by protecting Hannah, which is causing even more trouble. When he asks for her forgiveness, Hannah says, “only God can forgive you.” Ok, that’s fine, that is definitely what uber-religious Hannah would say. Then May butts in and is all, “and [God] won’t [forgive you]” and that Tobias can never change the past and essentially never atone for what he did because that’s not possible. (I even went back and rewatched, the exact line is: “And he won’t. You can’t undo what’s been done. That will be with you forever. But trying to hold onto this life, clinging to the person you thought you could be, that’s hell.”)
So here’s my quibble. As far as I’m aware, and especially by what television usually presents, for non-religious people, that last bit is true: that you really can’t earn forgiveness for the sins you’ve committed, just move past them and try to be better. And that’s fine. But to start it out with “God won’t forgive you” implies that you’re basing your argument on religious reasons, and at least for the denomination of Christianity I was raised in, that’s completely wrong. God can, and will, forgive you of anything as long as you ask and are repentant. Which Tobias clearly is. Now, if it’d been about forgiving yourself for what you’ve done, that’s a whole different ballgame.
Basically, I felt really betrayed by the show going so quickly from “God is love” to “No forgiveness from God.” Thanks, I got my hopes up for nothing.
Diego: Great Harry Potter reference, Matt. You would get a pay raise if any of us actually got paid for this. I agree, a lot hinges on the next episode. And your “throwing ideas” remark is exactly what this show is doing.
And Laura, great take on that topic; you made me see an aspect of the episode I never would’ve by myself. I felt that Hannah, as a character, rang true (though, as you said, it’s sad that this religious archetype is the one most portrayed in TV). But May passing judgment like that, a character with no connection whatsoever with religion so far, feels odd. I definitely understand why you felt that way. What the characters say and do can be taken as the stance of the show. However (and this by no means makes it better; if any, it’s worse) I feel like the show wasn’t looking to deep into the topic and was sloppy as usual.
Matt: I didn’t pay attention to the religious aspects of it, Laura, but you bring up some good points. Religion is a tricky thing, especially to appeal to the masses. The worst thing they can do is piss people off with religion. Diego, I think they were happier it wasn’t telekinesis because….have you seen how expensive Ms. Cleo is? Getting your fortune read would be well…a fortune. Sorry. I use humor as a defense mechanism. I wish I had more to say. I didn’t mind that it was different universes, but like you said, its silly that a team who saw the battle of New York are uncomfortable with it. What happens when they encounter Quicksilver or Dr. Strange or someone else who has mental-based powers?
Laura: Oh it definitely was the show being a little bit sloppy. I definitely got the idea that they weren’t trying to say something with it – the sad part is, they kind of did. And again, this only bugged me because for a split second, they were sending a different message, one that I haven’t really seen before and was going to be refreshing. But this show hasn’t really been unique so far, so oh well!
Diego: It was an okay episode, but I still wouldn’t say this is a good show. I said in our review of the second episode that what I really wanted to see was episode 10 and beyond. I still want to, but more because of me being a completionist than anything else. The show had everything coming in, a good crew (the Whedons, Tanchoeren), great actors (Clark Gregg and Ming Na-Wen), and a lot of ways to approach the material. The ingredients are still there, but so far, it’s not working.
Matt: Diego, you pretty much described how I feel. It’s a Whedon-approved show, but not a Whedon show. It’s like microwaved bacon. It has all the potential of bacon, but fails miserably at actually being bacon.
Laura: My annoyances aside, this episode was still better than last weeks, and again, almost a better crossover episode, with Tobias going between portals and all. We got a little bit of emotional backstory from May, but I still just really want more from everyone. These characters still aren’t very solid and it’s quickly making the show more of a chore to watch than enjoyable.