Review – Agents of SHIELD, “Aftershocks”

image courtesy ABC

image courtesy ABC

Welcome back from the long winter hiatus, SHIELD fans!  Are you ready to find out about the Inhumans and plans for them in the MCU?  Good, then let’s see what’s become of our first Inhuman characters.

When we last saw them, Skye and Raina had been transformed by the Terrigen Mists while poor Trip was killed by them.  In the aftermath of the destruction of the temple, Skye is being watched for contamination from an alien substance.  Fears of a contagion seem well-founded after Raina is discovered fully transformed into a weird thorn-creature.  She’s understandably upset about her metamorphosis.

Coulson wants to kick some HYDRA butt to avenge (he is an avenger, isn’t he?) Tripp’s death by going after HYDRA’s remaining leadership.  He and the SHIELD team trick Bakshi into getting the HYDRA leadership to turn on each other.  When they do, they kill each other and only Bakshi is left.  Coulson plans to turn him over to Talbot.

Skye becomes increasingly worried that something did happen to her in the temple.  Fitz discovers that her DNA has been altered ‘significantly’ and that she has some kind of telekinetic powers.  He hides this news from the rest of the team to protect her until emotions have settled down within the group.

Raina is despondent about her hideous transformation but is rescued by another Inhuman – a blind teleporter.  And it appears that Bobbi and Mac’s secret involves searching for the Tool Box that Fury left to Coulson and ‘contacting’ someone else about it.

What Hit the Target

The argument scene outside quarantine was nicely done, reminiscent of one of my favorite scenes in The Avengers – the similar group argument on the helicarrier among the heroes.  It’s good for this show to express discord and disagreement rather than to have things be too lovey-dovey.  Inner conflict is realistic and makes for better TV.

Skye’s slow realization that there’s something seriously wrong with her is really well-done, as is that final scene between her and Fitz.  Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) has really shone this season on his own.  As much as I like (and miss) the old days of FitzSimmons, this character has grown a lot since striking out on his own and focusing on interactions with other members of the team.

I’m glad that so much of this episode was devoted to dealing with Trip’s death, even though I’m sad to see him go.  This show has picked up the pace this season, but it needs to remember to slow down for character work.

Oh, poor Raina!  She was a beautiful woman who’s now a hideous beast, and her devastation over what she became really made me feel for the character.  How strange that a person who started out as a mysterious villain has become someone we can genuinely want to find peace.

What Missed the Mark

It seemed ridiculously easy to outsmart and destroy the HYDRA leadership.  They’ve survived a long time, but not by being easily fooled and executing a coup after one setback.

I really hope that Bobbi and Mac’s secret project doesn’t turn out to be traitorous.  I really like both characters, and if the show takes them on an unnecessarily Ward-like journey, I’m going to be really disappointed.

The Bottom Line

A fitting, contemplative episode to follow the shocking winter finale.  Skye’s transformation was slow enough to be interesting while Raina’s began to show us the strange world that the Inhumans live in.  Secrets still abound both within SHIELD and in the larger world they inhabit.  The plot in which SHIELD tricks HYDRA was a little too easy, but the episode was really about what Skye and Raina have become and the existence of other Inhumans on the planet.  I suspect that Agents of SHIELD is going to get a little more Marvel-ly with their arrival, and that can only be a good thing.

Plus, next week – more Lady Sif? Yes, please!

The Superest non-Supers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

I’m inordinately excited to see the return of Agents of SHIELD on the 3rd. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the show has really undergone a makeover to go from dud to stud, in a cinematic sort of way.

But as much as I’m intrigued by the arrival of the Inhumans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe on their way to their own Major Motion Picture, that superhuman storyline isn’t the only good thing that the show has going for it. There were a lot of people lamenting the lack of superheroes in Agents of SHIELD Season One. The argument was that in a world filled with Armored Avengers, Shakespearean Norse gods and giant green rage monsters, the mundane non-powered humans were boring. Trite, average, uninteresting.

While I felt that SHIELD had a lot of problems when it started, the focus on non-powered members of the MCU was not one of them. I think that, in a world battling Red Skulls and mischievous Asgardians and Abominations of science, the people fighting the good fight without superpowers are just as interesting… if not occasionally more so… than their powered counterparts. So, let’s take a moment to celebrate the best non-cape-wearing heroes in the MCU. They all have their own special superpower, of course, even if their name doesn’t begin with ‘Captain’ or end in ‘-Man’.

coulson-avengers-deathPhil Coulson

Superpower: The Glue

Clark Gregg surprised everyone – even himself – when Coulson became the quiet, unassuming puzzle piece that linked nearly the whole MCU together. While Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury was scene-chewing his way through the Phase One movies, Agent Coulson was worming his way into our hearts. His ability to stand up to Tony Stark and Thor and still come off as sweet and innocent as a kid who collects Captain America trading cards… that’s a real skill.

Coulson officially became The Glue when his death gave the Avengers something to avenge. He was the one person we could all get behind… and then mourn. He was important enough to resurrect through unholy means because Nick Fury couldn’t let him go. Then he was given the keys to SHIELD to build a new, better organization. Now he’s running the whole operation out of an underground base with one plane, a stolen Quinjet and the loyalty of a handful of true SHIELD agents. And he’s about to be at the center of first contact with the Inhumans and maybe even more.

Coulson lives, indeed.

carter-articoloPeggy Carter

Superpower: Kicking Ass in a Demure Skirt

Her series may not be all we hoped for, but Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) shines. She’s smart, resourceful, ethical and can beat up any opponent even in high heels and a skirt without blinking an eye. And she’s still a lady even when she has to live in a man’s world.

Peggy saw the greatness in Steve Rogers long before he became Captain America, which gives her superpowers of vision and intelligence. She turned out to be a worthy love interest for Cap who not only led a meaningful life without him but also fought to honor his memory at the same time. She’s a real dame, that one.

005_Black_Widow_IM2

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Superpower: Playing with the Big Boys

Natasha has a tough job. She’s (currently, at least) the only female Avenger. She has no real super powers. And Tony Stark likes to check her out. Plus, she ended up having to take down the very organization that she’d built her whole life around. And yet, she doesn’t bat an eyelid.

Whether it’s interrogating Russian baddies while tied to a chair in her slip, kissing Captain America or making first contact with Bruce Banner, she takes on any job she’s given and does it like no one else. She even managed to snag a lot of screen time in The Avengers, despite sharing the film with a lot of acting and comic heavyweights. That’s a superpower in itself.

nick-furyNick Fury

Superpower: Grit

You’ve gotta love a guy who will blow his own plane out of the sky with a rocket launcher if it comes down to it. Nick Fury keeps the world safe while simultaneously wrangling Tony Stark’s ego, Steve Rogers’ morality, HYDRA bullets and the occasional immortal bent on world domination. And he does it all with one eye and and a snarky response.

Nick Fury could nearly be called a superpowered dude just for the car chase scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  If that doesn’t earn this normal human male some credit, I don’t know what would.

Melinda_pistolsMelinda May

Superpower: Being Cool

Next to Nick “The Grit” Fury, Melinda May is the coolest of the cool cats in SHIELD. She’s a woman of few words but great power. Although she’d already shown off her awesome fighting skills, she became a superhero in my book when she bested Grant Ward in a fantastic fight scene during the season finale.

Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) stands out in any scene, even if she says absolutely nothing. She’s the Cavalry and our port in any storm. Half of the Mom and Dad team for all the agents of SHIELD these days. Where would we be without her calm wisdom and tough-as-steel demeanor? More importantly, would we have made it through the boring days of Season One without her?

la_ca_1025_thor_the_dark_worldDarcy Lewis

Superpower: The One Liner

The MCU certainly needs avengers and spidermen and hulks, but it also needs a little well-placed levity. It’s a world full of capes and gods and monsters, and if it took itself too seriously we might not embrace it as easily.

From the moment she tazed Thor, Darcy provided comic relief in what was essentially a Shakespearean drama. While she wasn’t the only funny part in either Thor movie, she can always be counted on to say what the audience is thinking or explain things in a way we in the real world can understand. She’s an unsung hero, as are the other members of the Comic Relief Club.

They may not wear shields or fly or regenerate from small twigs, but the ordinary humans in the MCU deserve a place in this strange, growing universe. They each have their own powers to add to our viewing pleasure.

So, which non-Supers are your favorites?

Leonard Nimoy, ‘Star Trek’s’ Spock, Dies at 83

Living the Geek Life:

Such sad news! I got to see him a few years at a convention in Dallas, and he was s wonderful guest.

Originally posted on Variety:

Leonard Nimoy lived up to his longtime catchphrase: Live long and prosper. Having achieved success in many arenas during his lifetime, the actor, director, writer and photographer has died at age 83. His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, reportedly confirmed his death to the New York Times, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Most widely known for his performance as half-human, half-Vulcan science officer Spock on the classic sci-fi TV show “Star Trek” and its many subsequent film and videogame incarnations, Nimoy was also a successful director, helming “Star Trek” pics “The Search for Spock” and “The Voyage Home,” as well as non-“Star Trek” fare; an accomplished stage actor; a published writer and poet; and a noted photographer. He also dabbled in singing and songwriting.

But despite his varied talents, Nimoy will forever be linked with the logical Mr. Spock. Spotted by “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry…

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‘The Flash’s Harrison Wells – The Show’s Secret Weapon

Seriously, who *is* this guy?

Seriously, who *is* this guy?

One of the awesome things to come out of the CW’s new Flash series has been the fact that the most compelling character on the show doesn’t wear red or (often) run fast. Dr. Harrison Wells is by far the most surprising, mysterious, fascinating person on Team Flash.

As we head into what promises to be a very revealing storyline for dear Dr. Wells, it’s worth taking a quick look at what we know about this enigma so far… and what we don’t know.

In the pilot episode, we meet Dr. Harrison Wells (played masterfully by Tom Cavanagh), who is responsible for STAR Labs and the particle accelerator accident that resulted in the creation of the Fastest Man Alive. Wells is confined to a wheelchair and plays the mentor role quite nicely for young Barry. He believes in Barry but also acts protective of him and his secret. Cavanagh is eminently watchable, but there’s nothing overly compelling about the paraplegic genius character.

But wait! He’s not really paralyzed. It’s an act, revealed to the audience in what would become the first of many coda scenes at the end of episodes which tease Wells and his real agenda.

Wells has a secret room in STAR Labs that contains a futuristic computer and a newspaper from the future. The newspaper’s headline is: “Flash Missing; Vanishes in Crisis”. Also, “Red Skies Vanish”. It’s dated April 25, 2024.

What the heck?!

And so an average character in an ensemble suddenly jumped out and grabbed our attention. Who is he? Is he a canon character from the Flash comics? Is he friend or foe? Is he from the future? What’s his real agenda?

A dozen episodes later, we still have more questions than answers.

Question 1: Who is he? Is he a canon character? We can only speculate. He was revealed to be connected to “The Man in the Yellow Suit” in that episode and confirmed to be actually wearing the suit in “Fallout”. This blew a hole in the common belief that we should be looking at Eddie Thawne to become Reverse-Flash (logical given his name!) At the moment, Eddie looks like a massive red herring to distract comic fans from the real nemesis forming in Wells instead.

As far as Reverse-Flashes go, Wells’ story takes on elements of both the canonical Professor Zoom and Hunter Zolomon’s Zoom, meaning he could be either of them

Or, he could be neither.

Question 2: Is he good or bad? Who knows? While he’s been paternally protective of Barry’s burgeoning superpowers – making us think he’s on Barry’s side – he easily killed a man who threatened Barry in “Fastest Man Alive”.

This is not the behavior of a Good Guy. In fact, he’s been willing to do dangerous or questionable things to protect Barry several times, like convincing Tony Woodward to kill Farooq in “Power Outage” or turning over Stein to General Eiling in “Fallout”. So, he’s protecting the Flash and protecting future history, but doing so with (at best) questionable morals. Not exaclty Justice League material.

Question 3: Is he from the future? This isn’t quite as clear-cut as it appears. His fancy man-cave certainly makes it look like he’s from the future, but it hasn’t been explicitly stated yet. He seems to rely on AI Gideon to tell if the timeline has been changed, meaning he is not personally aware of any changes to history. But, then again, he could be immune to such changes if he’s traveled back in time. Certainly, time travel is involved because he couldn’t have been in two places at once during the climax of “The Man in the Yellow Suit” without it. And all the evidence says that Barry will time-travel too.

Question 4: What’s his agenda? Without a doubt, he’s protecting the timeline that culminates with the Flash’s disappearance in a “Crisis”. For good reasons or for bad reasons?

The 2024 headline is that The Flash vanishes – so is he trying to get rid of The Flash? It seems unlikely since he’s not only actively protecting Barry but he was also so upset when The Flash failed to be a part of history as a result of his run-in with Farooq in “Power Outage”.

Is he facilitating something good, then, related to the Crisis events? And why? He’s proven to be a little obsessed with increasing Barry’s super-speed in both “The Man in the Yellow Suit”and “Revenge of the Rogues”. Super-speed, comic fans know, can result in The Flash being able to time-travel. Is this why Wells is so keen on Barry becoming faster and faster?

There are so many great questions surrounding a guy who’s probably my 3rd favorite person on this show (for the record, it’s Barry first and Joe second!). The many mysteries of Dr. Wells help keep me coming back week after week – and especially keep me tuned in to the final moments of most episodes to see the teaser at the end.

It looks like we may be on the verge of getting a bunch of new answers. I just hope that Wells turns out to be as interesting a character when his story is told as he was when we were still trying to figure him out.