Agents of SHIELD: 104 “Eye Spy” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a bumpy couple of weeks, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have begun to found its footing with an episode less concerned with the team fighting crazy science or inadvertent superhumans, and more interested in the team being more straightforward super-spies: throw in a genuinely interesting plot and we just may have seen the best episode of the show so far.
The episode opens with some slightly creepy imagery as a large group of men in blank red facemasks and grey suits walk through the streets of Stockholm, each with a briefcase handcuffed to their wrists. A young woman looks on, and eventually follows them onto a train, where she switches the lights off and removes one of the briefcases, along with the man’s hand. As it turns out, the creepy men were delivering a single case full of diamonds from one bank to another, and the theft is one in a long string of similar thefts which have been impossibly pre-meditated.
Naturally, team Coulson are called in to investigate, and it doesn’t take long for them to identify her as Akela Amadour, Coulson’s former protégé, previously thought dead after a botched mission. Melinda May, back in the field after the events of last week’s episode, believes that they should take Amadour down to stop her from doing anything more dangerous than stealing diamonds, but Coulson firmly believes that she isn’t capable of turning on S.H.I.E.L.D. and wants to give her a second chance, or at least a fair trial.
Meanwhile, Amadour is shown trading the diamonds for some sort of pass-card, and manages to evade team Coulson by rolling their surveillance truck. However, the team soon discovers that Amadour has been implanted with a bionic eye implant which is being used to give her orders, and has a failsafe bomb inside it which will detonate if she defects. The team manage to capture her, and Coulson confirms what has been going on and gets some details about her handler; and the rest of the team puts together a device that allows Ward to hijack her feed and carry out her next mission in her place.
This leads to one of the best sequences of the episode, in which Ward is ordered by the feed to take out a guard in the only way he is unprepared for: through seduction. Being the macho, one-note operative he is, obviously he is unwilling to seduce the guard and instead attempts to ‘bromance’ him, talking about women and ‘the game last night’ to no discernible reaction, and finally resorts to smacking him upside the head and proceeding with his mission.
The ultimate goal of said mission gives us yet another hint at an ongoing storyline, involving whoever is behind Amadour’s movements wanting a snapshot of a complex, possibly alien formula on a chalkboard: this is a storyline which seemed as though it was going to be wrapped up neatly, as Coulson manages to track down the man controlling her, only to find that he also has an eye implant, which detonates and kills him. My only hope is that this isn’t another disparate plot thread to be solved, and all the various dangling loose ends (what S.H.I.E.L.D. did to Coulson to bring him back to life, where do Skye’s allegiances really lie, who was behind Project Centipede from episode one, who wanted the formula) are somehow tied together by one person or organisation by the end of the season, otherwise we could be in for some disappointing reveals further down the line.
While relatively simple, the plot of the episode was a lot more engaging than in previous weeks, and it is aided by everyone involved having something to do: in other words, everybody gets their ‘moment’, whether it’s Fitzsimmons removing Amadour’s eye implant or May’s nicely-choreographed fight sequence in Amadour’s hotel room, or Skye co-ordinating Ward’s operation. It is also helped along by Pascale Armand’s unnerving performance as Amadour: her wide, almost unblinking eyes and cold demeanour mean she is almost too believable as a highly trained, almost Black Widow-esque super-agent, and she provides an odd presence throughout the episode.
Elsewhere, Skye seems to be fitting nicely into the fabric of the team, particularly bonding with Coulson at a few points throughout. This is a double-edged sword, however: while it makes her more engaging as a character, her claims of the team being the first place she has felt like she ‘fits in’ makes her ongoing connection to the Rising Tide seem shallow and slightly arbitrary, unless she’s a much better liar than she seems to be. It’s yet another element of the show that needs time before it can be analysed too much, but at present the ‘possible traitor’ angle seems a bit forced and somewhat jarring in context.
While far from perfect, this episode is a great step forward for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – fun and engaging, with some nice character moments and a decent, straightforward plot. In fact, if we can get more episodes like this one over the course of the season then things may yet work out fine for the show.