Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “The Return” Review

Image Source: SyfyWire

This week’s episode opens with Coulson yelling “can we get a break please?!” which aptly describes all the guff the crew has been through this season, and I agree, with him; those poor unfortunate souls. In this season’s penultimate episode, we get drama, excitement and explosions. This is the first time since Hydra’s insurrection that the Agents had to deal with mistrust on a personal level. While the show has escalated at a smooth pace, this is the least by the numbers episode of the entire show. The show has matured and come a long way from it’s Fringe/Buffy the Vampire slayer origins.

While we get a fair share of yelling and crying from this show, this is the first time where the yelling and crying was the highlight of the episode. Everyone is dealing with the emotional comedown from the framework, and nobody trusts themselves after living as other people in a simulation. The primary source of all the drama comes from AIDA, who serves as the hypocenter for the episode. AIDA is now coming to terms with being a human (inhuman?) and has emotions that she can not control. I’ve stated several times how AIDA was the most interesting aspect of the second half of this season, and now she throws tantrums because she is child like, having been born yesterday, figuratively. It’s the right amount of over the top. It’s just enough that it doesn’t delve into schlock, even though some schlock is good (like an ancient evil book that says “DARKHOLD” in plain English). Image Source: IGN

Other than AIDA, we see Jemma and Fitz at odds with each other, internally, which serves as the other part of the emotional drive. Jemma was the only agent that had the luxury to not have to live a lie in Jeb’s world. It’s almost like a weepy melodrama, how much internal drama was going on. This episode was pretty much “will they won’t they?” with how much emotional conflict is stirring. This is a good thing, because it doesn’t delve into a 45 minutes of people running around and shooting. It’s probably as close to a break as this show will offer, even though it begins and ends with a good sized, small screen action spectacle.

The most important part of visual media for me is character, and the core of AoS is the characters. I’ve been critical of many shows in the past for failing to enthrall me for relying on stock and bland characters. We live in an unfortunate age where many creators and writers substitute shock and crassness for likability, and captivity. Agents gets the basics right: accessible, likable, tight, emotional, and simple. When the action gets high, the next episode brings it down with emotion. When the melodrama flares, we get a display of bullets and superpowers. It plays by the wide audience action narrative, but it has that Whedon charm, where it feels like a comfortable breath of air.

I do like a good shoot out, or a fist fight, but I prefer the small scale melodrama. One of my favorite movies, “Less Than Zero”, is 100 minutes of weepy melodrama, but I need a break from time to time with something like Aliens, which is over 2 hours of jaw dropping excitement. Only a fool would compare Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to these 2 outings, but I reference them because it’s the characters that keeps you invested. Agents gets the balance right. When the action gets too high, the drama brings it down. When the emotions get too high, the actions bring it down, and at the core is a team of likable characters that you root for and come back to see every week. Oh, and Ghost Rider is back.