Forgive me, Whedons, for I have sinned; it has been two episodes since my last Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap. See, the thing is: There were no gay characters and your ratings were dropping like an alien-plague-infected English scientist skydiving from a plane without a parachute and it didn’t look like you were going to make it to the mid-season mark and our readers were feeling pretty “meh” about you. But then you got a full season pickup and we heard some rumors that a lezzer is on the way and our readers were like, “Where’d those S.H.I.E.L.D. recaps go?” And so here we are. Please don’t punish me by making me fall in love with a gay witch and then shooting her in the chest. I claim the blood of Tara Maclay, who sacrificed her life that the rest of us gaymos might live in peace with you bloodthirsty Whedons.
Right, so. Some Pennsylvania Boy Scouts are be-bopping down the road on a whimsical little camping trip, completely unaware that they are probably very near the towns of Rosewood and Ravenswood, homes to more time-traveling ghost-ninja teenage-terrorists than you can shake a stick at. But that’s not really their main concern right now. Their main concern is that their Scout leader gets snatched from their car (along with some important internal automobile components) by an invisible force, and he completely dies right in front of their terrified eyeballs while hovering in mid-air.
Before Coulson & Co. get the call to investigate whatever Thor-y thing is happening down there, they are all just going about their regular days doing their regular things on the bus. Fitz and Simmons argue adorably in the lab while Ward skulks around whining about his broken laser gun, and once they repair it for him, he skulks around in Skye’s general vicinity, bitching about how she’s a traitor for chit-chatting with her Rising Tide boyfriend when they were out in the field last week. She’s already apologized and let S.H.I.E.L.D microchip her and also she looks like Chloe Bennet, so I’m not really sure how Ward is managing to keep his grumpy composure around her. You know who’s not managing to keep his composure around her? Fitz. He tries to nerd!mack on her, but she just pats his wittle head and tells him to scamper off and play with his dwarf drones.
Coulson, meanwhile, has decided to ignore the twenty-something hormonal shenanigans of his agents so he can get to the bottom of the weird feeling he’s been having lately that he’s a clone or a robot or a clone-robot. Simmons administers a physical on him, which he says his doctor ordered, even though me and you and Melinda May all know his doctor did no such thing.
But then the call comes about the dead Scout leader and off S.H.I.E.L.D. goes to save the day. The first victim of the invisible hover-force is the Scout leader. The second victim of the invisible hover-force is a firefighter whom they also find suspended in midair in a random barn. (They are in Rosewood!) Skye uses her super-hacker skills and superior powers of deductive reasoning and also probably Google to determine that both of the victims were first responders in the Battle of New York and both of them worked out of the same firehouse. Once S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives on the scene at the station, it’s pretty clear that a third firefighter is about to keel over dead. The thing all three of them have in common is that they took turns cleaning a Chitauri helmet the other night, just for fun. You know, the Chitauri. The alien shapeshifters that Loki released into Manhattan to try to destroy the earth in The Avengers. Yeah, those guys. The firefighters saved one of those helmets as a souvenir.
Coulson shares a quiet moment with the firefighter, tells him dying isn’t so bad, really, and heaven’s pretty good. There’s no Nick Fury hollering F-Bombs at you or stealing your Captain America trading cards in heaven, at least, so that’s something.
May hears this whole conversation going down through her earpiece and makes a mental note to give Coulson a little cuddle once this investigation has been put to bed.
Back on the bus, May sets a course to “the sandbox,” a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility in West Africa that’ll shelve and investigate the dealio with the Chitauri helmet. Once they’re halfway over the Atlantic, though, Simmons cracks the case. This particular helmet is infected with an extraterrestrial virus and that’s what killed those guys and — oh, balls. Now Simmons has the alien virus too. Coulson apologizes and locks her in her own personal quarantine in the lab.
The problems now are four-fold: 1) The Chitauri virus is definitely going to kill Simmons, 2) unless someone on the bus finds a cure for it, and Simmons, who is looking more and more like actual death by the second, is the only one who can find a cure for it, but 3) Coulson isn’t going to throw her out the window even though HQ totally tells him to throw her out the window, which means 4) she’s gonna blow up the whole plane with her electric brain on accident. Fitz and Simmons work together through the bullet-proof glass surrounding the lab. She’s trying to concoct an anti-serum (not a vaccine, dammit!) and he’s trying to assemble a device to deliver the anti-serum (again: not a vaccine, dammit!). They try and fail to save a couple of rats they’ve afflicted with the virus and argue through the glass about whether or not they ever should have become super secret special agents in the first place. Simmons says yes, it was all worth it. Fitz says no, he was perfectly happy in his lab on the ground. And somewhere between the shouting and scowling, their joint brainpower causes them realize they can create an anti-serum from the antibodies inside the helmet.
While they’re working on the cure, Ward is upstairs — you guessed it! — moping and looking for a bad guy to punch to make it all better, because Ward has never seen a Joss Whedon show (or a Captain America: The Winter Solider trailer) before and is still under the impression that this Good vs. Evil thing is going to bleed its way to black and white instead of becoming more muddy and grey by the day. Skye consoles him as best she can. She already knows the world isn’t divided between good people and Death Eaters. And Coulson is in his office, pretending he can’t hear the orders coming in from HQ to dump Simmons overboard.
When FitzSimmons’ latest anti-serum doesn’t do the trick of curing the plagued rats, Simmons decides to do the noble thing: She clubs Fitz over the head with a fire extinguisher and hurls herself out of the plane. Fitz screams and cries and the music is like OH MY GOD CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THAT JUST HAPPENED and then the rat comes back to life and Fitz realizes they did find the cure so he tries to hurl himself out of the plane with the anti-serum in-hand but Ward pulls the parachute from his back and goes skydiving after his teammate. He catches her right before she smashes into the ocean and zaps her with the antiserum and the music goes SHE DIDN’T DIE FROM AN ALIEN PLAGUE OR FROM FALLING 40,000 FEET AT A ZILLION MILES PER SECOND HOLY SHIT.
Back on the bus, Coulson gently reprimands Simmons and Ward for being noble but also dumb as hell. Ward and Simmons high five, Fitz and Simmons process and cheek-kiss, and Skye and Simmons wrap each other up in a lingering hug and don’t think I didn’t count the seconds because yes I did. It was the longest hug on the show to date and so now kiss and/or makeout, you two.
May stops by Coulson’s office to give him that cuddle she promised herself she’d do. But because it’s May, it’s a lot less hugging and gentle whispers about how he’s the best and he’s going to keep being the best, despite his existential crisis, and a lot more, “Take off your shirt, dude. Yep, that scar looks just about how my scar looked when I also died and was brought back to life by whatever S.H.I.E.L.D. voodoo. I’m me, you’re you; we’re kind of perfect, man. Who cares how long we were dead?”
Which: Whaaaaaaaat? That was an awesome reveal. May died one time too! Also: BrOTP, for real.
For me, this was the best episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far. The team is starting to finally feel like a team and we’ve finally got a reason to be emotionally attached to both Fitz and Simmons and May is finally getting to do more than just swagger around kicking and punching stuff and glowering (though: let me be clear, I still very much want to see her doing all that), and Coulson’s death mystery is finally starting to be explored and even Ward verrrry nearly plucked one of my heartstrings. This show has more potential than any freshman drama on TV and Mickey knows it’s got ten million times the budget of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (are those green screens as bad on the show as they are on the commercials, because good grief) and so there’s really no reason this thing can’t grow into appointment TV by the end of the season. Now, bring on Saffron Burrows as Agent Victoria Hand and why not throw in a little Natalie Portman and Jaimie Alexander for that promised Thor: The Dark World crossover?
What did you think of last night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?