Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – S.O.S. Review
If you have suggestions for what shows Kora reviews during the summer, feel free to post them in the comments or on Twitter to @Korapathy.
Holy crap. S.O.S. is by no means a flawless episode, but it is really hard to remain focused on its faults with the number of reveals, teases, and awesome moments that it throws at you. As a finale, S.O.S. has succeeded in getting me more than a little excited to see where the show goes next, but one can’t deny that the episode suffers from being overly cluttered and contains several narrative issues that become difficult to overlook in hindsight. Of course, you could potentially argue that that blend of particular flaws and strengths makes S.O.S. the perfect representation of this season of Agents as a whole. Some of these problems are holdovers from Scars‘s questionable ending, and others are due to budget limitations, but that doesn’t change the fact that the season offers up a strong conclusion that is sure to leave regular viewers eager for more.
I’m going to come out and state that I don’t find Jiaying to be an interesting villain. Nothing about her feels particularly interesting, and it is a little weird how quickly she succeeds in convincing the Inhumans to go to war with S.H.I.E.L.D. Even if it is a relatively small number of them, that doesn’t change the fact that her whole call to arms feels a bit forced and awkward. Then again we only see a small handful of Inhumans, so maybe she only really convinced about a half dozen to follow her into battle. She feels too detached and oddly pleasant to really sell the sense of madness or rage that would be needed for this to make sense for her character. I did enjoy Raina’s revelations about who she really was as a person, and the fact that she found her purpose in showing Skye who her mother truly was, but that enjoyment was entirely due to Raina’s growth as a character and her acceptance of who she needed to be. Jiaying ended up being the weakest character in S.O.S. which is unfortunately no small problem since the entire episode hinges on her actions.
Fortunately, while Jiaying may have suffered under the role of villain, Cal flourished in the role of heroic turncoat. Once things go awry at Afterlife, Coulson quickly realizes that it doesn’t make sense that Gonzalez would have shot Jiaying, and pieces together that Jiaying plans to launch a war against S.H.I.E.L.D. From there he recognizes that Cal is likely a trojan horse sent to with the main base. Simmons tests the three empty vials that were found on his person, and concludes that they are likely targeted towards an ill-conceived attempt at a super-strength. Cal acknowledges that the formula is missing a key component, and, when his heart ends up stopping, it turns out that the component that he was referring to was adrenaline. While I’m a little mixed on the appearance of Cal under the effects of his Hyde formula, MacLachlan is largely able to sell it. I really do hate sounding like a MacLachlan fanboy, but his performance serves as a cornerstone for many of the best scenes in the episode. From his conversation with Coulson about how he just wanted to have his family back to the moment where he chooses to save Skye in both a physical and emotional sense, Cal dominates this episode from start to finish, and the conclusion that the show devises for his character is shockingly perfect. It served as a form of redemption for the character in the eyes of his daughter and, I’ll be honest, the moment towards the end where Skye introduced herself as Daisy made me grin.
The actual war between the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually pretty underwhelming. It works well enough on the small scale, with the individual fights being decent enough, but, as I stated before, we only see one new Inhuman power, and the fact that the Iliad was taken as easily as it was is almost hilarious. Jiaying’s plan is to use an S.O.S. to draw in as many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as possible and then release the terrigen mist into the ventilation system of the ship, killing anyone without Inhuman DNA. There are some odd flaws in the plan, like why Jiaying would chose to bring Lincoln with her when he clearly isn’t entirely on board with the plan or why she would bring Skye and put her in the hold. She uses the gloves that Jemma designed to lock away Skye’s powers, but that also raises a few questions since one would have assumed that Skye left the gloves at the cabin. The reason behind all these inconsistencies is really quite obvious since, in the end, it comes down to having all the characters in the right place at the right time so that they can take part in the fights and the plot can progress unimpeded. Again, these complaints are not insignificant, but it’s a little hard to care about them due to how heavily they are overshadowed by the episode’s strengths.
There is also the plotline of Ward and Kara kidnapping Bobbi in order to get closure for Kara’s capture and brainwashing. Apparently, Bobbi had given Hydra the location of a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house in order to ingratiate herself with Whitehall and Bakshi, but, because of that Kara, was captured. There is nothing particularly surprising about that reveal, but this particular story thread does go in some interesting directions, particularly for Ward. The primary problem lies in the fact that, despite being relatively well written and executed, this storyline ends up feeling forgettable in light of everything that is going on in S.O.S.
Ultimately, S.O.S. seems to rely on the “throw everything at the audience and see what sticks” kind of approach. Surprisingly, it works relatively well, and results in an enjoyable two-parter, but despite being enjoyable one can’t deny that on close inspection it can come off as a bit uneven and messy as many of the finer details just get swept under the rug.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- So, Skye will be heading up a covert team of powered individuals. That’s a little amusing since it was the very thing Gonzalez was worried about, but it does make me curious about the potential lineup. Deathlok would seem like a natural fit and I’m curious to see whether Lincoln will stick around.
- My biggest problem with Raina was that she usually seemed to lack a clear sense of focus, but, in S.O.S., she has clearly found that focus and purpose, and it serves to make her a far more interesting character than she was prior.
- That interaction between Gordon and Mack was pretty fun. “It’s Gordon, right?” “And you are?” “I’m the guy who kills Gordon.”
- I’m also curious to see how Coulson will chose to deal with his new handicap.
- Those last 5 seconds made me jump out of my damn skin.
S.O.S. is an episode that isn’t very tightly written and only contains a small handful of powered individuals, but it is able to gloss over many of its flaws by relying on some strong performances by several of its actors and through the use of several reveals and key scenes that serve to keep fans eager for more. Once it gets going, it maintains its momentum quite well and it leaves enough tantalizing hints at what is waiting for us in season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to make September seem all too far away.
For all its problems, S.O.S. is just plain fun. Admittedly, it won't hold up as well as some of the other episodes from late in this season, but it sets up a lot of intriguing plot threads for viewers to follow in season 3.