Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013) season 1, episode 15
WRITER: SHALISHA FRANCIS
DIRECTOR: JOHN TERLESKY
AIR DATE: March 11 2014
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. carries on with its premise of a group of agents tasked with responding to threats in the larger Marvel Universe. With this recent episode, Coulson and his team find themselves dealing with Asgardians, in the form of an antagonist and a guest appearance from the Thor films. In the wake of the events of Thor: The Dark World, an Asgardian has escaped from custody and has come to Earth. We saw her at the end of the previous episode, stealing a groom away on his honeymoon. She's Lorelei, played by Elena Satine, and she has a power of influence over men, able to make them do as she pleases. And she has a singular lack of scruples. Sent to come after her is a familiar face, Sif (Jaimie Alexander), who has met Coulson before and is startled to see him alive. He asks her to let him be the one who lets Thor know he's alive (setting up an inevitable "you're still alive?" moment during the next Avengers movie), and the Asgardian warrior joins forces with his team to track down Lorelei. Of course trouble ensues.
The series has had its ups and downs through this first season, some strengths and weaknesses, but it's thus far been a worthwhile exploration of the Marvel Universe. It's building on its own continuity and that of the cinematic universe, from the shadowy organization that has plagued the team to the questions Coulson has as to why he is still alive, how it ties to Skye's near death experience in recent episodes, and the meaning of that alien body. Plot threads are followed up again in this episode, such as the status of May and Ward's relationship and Coulson's search for answers, both in his conversations with Sif (who mentions the Kree as among the alien races known to have been in the neighbourhood at one time or another, a big nod to the comics universe) and in a chat with colleague Jasper Sitwell. The benefit of the series is that it includes figures who might not merit a movie appearance of their own. The Blizzard, for example, was one such example. He's not quite movie material, but he worked well in a previous episode as we saw him become the villain. Lorelei is another such example of that. She's not quite movie material in the way her sister the Enchantress would be, but she does quite well wrecking havoc with the will of men, both in the ground and in the air as she coerces the will of members of the team to her side of things. Elena Satine has fun playing the seductive role of Lorelei, who has a lot of history in the Marvel universe. I'd like to see her in more down the line.
Loreli causes mischief on Midgard
Bringing in Sif is a good touch as well, as it gives Alexander a chance to shine as well. The character's fierce and courageous to begin with, and the decision to send her in is a wise one- Lorelei has no influence on women, so sending Asgardian men in would end in disaster, but Sif can take care of herself. She has history with Lorelei, and there's a tension and antagonistic quality between the two as they come face to face. It also demonstrates how tenacious an Asgardian can be, even surviving being outside a plane and barely holding on while in flight. I've liked Alexander in the two Thor films, and it's a treat to see her back again in a series. She very much embodies what Sif is like as a person.
Sif visits the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier
I've mentioned weaknesses in the series, and one of them is in the regular cast. If you look at social media, you might see some antagonism towards Skye, played by Chloe Bennet, but I don't mind her. Instead, it's the performance of Brett Dalton as Agent Ward. I have yet to see an episode in this series where I can look at this actor and believe that he's a field operative for a spy agency. He brings no weight to the role, no sense of purpose, no direction. Though you'll see him manage well in a fight, it doesn't feel like a character I can take seriously for what he's supposed to be. And that's not on the writers... that's on the actor. He doesn't look like he's been around the block, but more like a fresh faced kid just off a fashion runway. His face seems more of the blank slate variety, and I find myself wondering from time to time when he's on screen if he's standing there trying to remember his lines. The potential for a character was there, but to me, the casting director made a mistake choosing him.
The rest of the regular cast is fine. Bennet dials down the usual abrasive attitude that might be off putting to other viewers. Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge continue to play well, finishing each other's sentences as Fitz and Simmons, the technical lab geniuses of the team (plus I'll admit, Henstridge's English accent really appeals to me... hey, it's a thing, okay?) Ming-Na Wen is much more believable as a field operative, and has been since the series started. She's standoffish at times, but that suits the character, but you believe she's a very dangerous woman when she needs to be. Clark Gregg continues to be the anchor of the series. He has played the character as cool under pressure, but in recent episodes we've seen him frayed at the edges, searching for answers. Will those answers still be forthcoming? Time will tell. We're heading towards the end of the season.
The episode works well on its own, even as it advances larger plot points from earlier episodes. We get a chance to see a welcome movie character interacting with the team, an entertaining antagonist, and a good deal of action this time out. Sure, we're stuck with a field agent who perpetually seems miscast in the role, but it's not like we can always get what we want, right?