TV REVIEW: Agents of SHIELD 2.03 “Making Friends and Influencing People”

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William: I have to give kudos to Agents of SHIELD for not wasting time with the reveal of just  what exactly Simmons has been up to since she left Coulson and the rest of SHIELD. In an episode that felt a lot like Alias (perhaps it was the fun use of music or large spy elements laid throughout), “Making Friends and Influencing People” is another strong outing for the series. There’s a lot here to pull apart, but it’s very clear this episode belongs to Simmons (and Skye, but we’ll touch on that in a bit). After two episodes of table-setting, we can finally dig deeper into the SHIELD vs Hydra war and the results are very encouraging. What did you think of episode, Justin?

Justin: It is funny that you mentioned Alias because that cold open was exactly what I had been wanting from the show from the start. The jaunty tune playing over Simmons going about her day leading up to the stark reveal of the Hydra logo along with the Kraken trying to break an agent with a weird light show was a blast of confident weirdness that finally showed that the show is willing to go places that we want it to go. Alias seemed like the perfect blueprint for AoS, but it never quite got there in the first season. In just three episodes, AoS has made leaps and bounds in terms of characterization, tone, and yet another strong committal to its own premise. This is finally the Steranko-esque spy show that we all wanted when it was announced. I would also agree that this episode didn’t waste a moment with the Mystery Box involving exactly where Simmons was and delved further into Skye’s budding badassery.

Last week, you touched on just how much better the show is now that we have a central set of villains and episode three is just another example of how great this show can be with a solid focus. We mentioned that this is very much Skye and Simmons’ episode, but I would also argue that the writers are finally finding their feet in regards to Fitz as well. While in episodes one and two, he was just a background player, in this episode he finally becomes proactive despite his affliction. What do you think, William? Are you just as happy as I am that Iain De Caestecker isn’t wasted this episode?
William: This episode was one of the few time I wish I hadn’t seen a preview before, as last week’s promo totally ruined what could have been an incredible way to set up the episode by already cluing viewers into the fact that Simmons was working for Hydra in some capacity. However, I had a feeling it was probably a bait and switch, but that sequence (set to Belle and Sebastian’s God Help the Girl) was one of the more standout moments from the show. More of this, please.

The work with Fitz has been the most surprising aspect of this second season and is certain giving Iain De Caestecker plenty to play with. I hate that it took having to go through a traumatic experience to make Fitz an interesting character, but it’s certain paying dividends – specific in the scene with Ward. Fitz dropped the hammer on Ward so hard that it might have made Thor blush. This is just as much his episode as it is Skye and Simmons’. Speaking of Ward, I certainly appreciated that the writers didn’t steer into having Ward’s actions just be a product of brainwashing. I don’t know what they’ll continue to do with him (outside of having him escape or something), but are you happy with the Hannibal Lector-esque approach they’re taking with the character?
Justin: Honestly, I wasn’t sold on them having Ward in the basement until this episode, not until Coulson’s explanation to Fitz, after his completely justified bit of revenge. I like that Coulson has had to compromise himself a bit with his keeping of Ward, but he knows that he is an invaluable asset in the war against Hydra. This coupled with Ward’s zen like honesty with Skye is a much more interesting character turn than just “good looking field agent”. I was also hoping that the writers wouldn’t take the easy route by explaining away Ward’s horrible actions with brainwashing and by actually making Ward aware and somewhat remorseful about his actions, it leaves them with way more interesting places to go; much more interesting than anywhere they went in Season 1.
William: We haven’t touched too much on Donny Gill, who quickly becomes an important piece of the Hydra/SHIELD war, proving just how much of an influence Hydra continues to have over this world and then also showing just how much Skye has changed (Although, I was a bit disappointed that she seemingly get more worked over Ward’s end of show revelation than flatout having to kill someone).

Now we have bit more of our template for the show moving forward. It’s rush for assets now: whether it’s actual agents, ‘gifteds,’ or tech – I feel that a larger part of this season will continue to balance good character work with these asset of the week type episodes. It’s not entirely different from last year, but with so much more on the line now, it makes all the difference.
Quick Thoughts:
-“You don’t call the shots, Trainspotting” “I’m not Scottish.” – Justin
-I want to buy a FitBit now. – Justin
-The weird audio visualization thing that Whitehall was showing Agent 33 was really off putting to me. – Justin
– Man, I wish Coulson would come and cook me dinner. – William

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