One of the most common criticisms thrown about regarding Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the lack of character development but this week's episode F.Z.Z.T. should help to sway those with that opinion. The episode provides more back story and development for our main characters, Agents Fitz and Simmons in particular.
The episode opens with the typical Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. formula by introducing the "mystery of the week" that our team will be sent off to investigate. The mysterious death of a scout leader who is discovered in the woods, not only dead, but mysteriously suspended mid-air. As with some previous episodes this means the first 3-5 minutes of the episode is lacking any on screen time with the main cast and despite the interesting scenario that serves to set up the episode, at times it feels these opening scenes could be condensed considerably to give us a few more precious minutes to explore the characters viewers are tuning in to see every week.
This episode provides some bonding time with the S.H.I.E.L.D. "kids". Fitz makes an hilariously awkward attempt at flirting with Skye and Skye and Simmons tease Agent Ward behind his back although it is revealed later he is fully aware of what's going on and it clearly doesn't bother him. This is a great development because a brooding Ward bothered by people poking fun at him would be horrific. It's nice to see Ward starting to relax a little and the scene at the end where he impersonates Simmons impersonating him is great fun.
The reason Agent Coulson recruited Ward becomes more obvious in this episode. Likely as a result of his domestic violence situation growing up, Agent Ward has a strong protective instinct and this in addition to his obvious combat skills is why Coulson sought him out to protect his team.
Ward seems to be the only one still struggling to place any real trust in Skye though there are moments that reveal some continued reservations from the rest of the team and a point is made of the fact she's still "imprisoned" by the bracelet she acquired as punishment in The Girl in the Flower Dress. It's nice to see there are ongoing consequences to her betrayal in The Asset.
The "mystery of the week" turns out to be the result of a Chitauri helmet retrieved by the victims, firefighters who were present at the Battle of New York (seen in The Avengers). After Agent Simmons becomes infected with the alien virus contained in the helmet it's up to her to try and come up with a cure. Alone.
While Simmons is isolated it becomes apparent that Fitz and Simmons have a deep emotional bond to each other and the exchanges between them have a strong impact on the viewer thanks to great acting by Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker. In one fleeting moment, if you're paying attention, you get to see what an underrated actor De Caestecker is. When Fitz and Simmons are sitting back to back against a glass door there's a moment Fitz suddenly realizes Simmons is in serious trouble and he's not sure there's anything he can do about it. Fitz takes a deep breath his body shakes, an inspired move on De Caestecker's part that works well to convey the anxiety of the moment. There's a good chance you missed it so go back take another look.
The tagline of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been "Not all heroes are super" and this episode reinforces that with Simmons, Fitz and Ward all showing extreme self-sacrificing heroism, each risking their life to save others. Simmons literally threw her life away to save the rest of the team. Fitz overcame his fear of being put in dangerous situations and of course Agent Ward ultimately came to the rescue and save Simmons from an horrible end. It's nice to know that in a world of superheros regular people can do extraordinarily heroic things too.
There are continued developments in the "Coulson's Death" mystery when Coulson consoles a dying man. He confesses that while he was told he was dead for 8 seconds he know sit was longer. The scene is particularly touching and credit goes to Clark Gregg for his ability to convey so much with facial expression and body language.
Coulson knows something isn't right and despite the medical testing he requested for himself coming back "normal" he knows something is "different". While Agent May takes the opportunity to share with Coulson that she can identify with his situation having come through a traumatic experience herself (she didn't imply she almost died, just that she suffered a trauma) there's a hint that she, like Coulson, knows something more is going on with him and there's a sense that things are starting to build to a head on this particular ongoing storyline.
The tag at the end of the episode highlights the fact that Agent Coulson appears to be at odds with some of the decisions S.H.I.E.L.D. is making and it's entirely possible this tension will continue to build until Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits the big screen in April.
F.Z.Z.T, is an enjoyable, emotionally charged episode, and another step in the right direction for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The characters are really starting to round out and there is obvious development in the ongoing story arcs. Bring on the next episode!
Also, someone needs to tell Agent Blake you Don't Touch Lola!