As I discussed semi-articulately here, S.H.I.E.L.D.has distinctly lacked team chemistry, failed to engage their audience in an overall plot, and focused all of their attention on Skye, the least interesting character on the show. "F.Z.Z.T." actually made strides to correct these gaping issues. For the first time, I felt suspense and investment in the outcome of the episode.
Yes, this was another monster-of-the-week, so we're just going to have to accept the paltry offerings that "Girl in the Flowered Dress" provided regarding Centipede and The Rising Tide. Having a Big Bad isn't enough, by the way. They need to make us care, make us invested, in the Big Bad. I'm sure I'll rant about that another time, and hopefully with more fully formed arguments that are less hampered by frustration and disappointment.
Big Bad aside, "F.Z.Z.T." did rectify several other episode-to-episode issues that we've all struggled with. Team chemistry seemed to be first on the docket. The episode starts out with Skye, Lone Wolf, and FitzSimmons puttering around the lab. Well, Fitz is awkwardly flirting with Skye, who is whining about Lone Wolf being mad at her, who is complaining about a gun being an ounce too heavy. For the first time, the scene didn't feel like a forced interaction to set up relationships; it felt almost natural. Although it did ring truer than most previous bonding scenes, I still contend that the show spends far too long spelling out everyone's dynamic instead of just writing it. I'm not sure whether they think their audience are simple or they've become too myopically focused on making sure that absolutely everything is in place before the bring out the big plot guns. It's become boring, so having a scene just go was a relief. The team also sounded like they were talking to each other and not just reciting lines. Gold star!
Skye . . . oh, Skye. Before I get started, I want to say that this is the least she's ever bugged me. Still, she has the fatal flaw of forgetting that other people are people. It wouldn't bother me as much if the show writers didn't keep insisting that she is empathetic and cares too much. She doesn't! She is stuck in her world view and interacts with people and problems solely as they affect her agenda. Just one episode ago, she betrayed her team and revealed that she had been lying about . . . hm . . . everything! This episode, Fitz and Simmons have forgiven her (Fitz for obvious reasons and Simmons because she's the sweetest person on the planet), May goes back to ignoring her, and Coulson is dealing with his own issues (possibly exasperated by his handling of Skye). Lone Wolf is the only one who is reacting like I would. Skye betrayed his trust; now, she has to earn it back. Seems fair to me. Skye, however, can't just give him space and do her time. She has no patience and no respect for the autonomy of her team. In other words, she is the least team player part of the team, and I don't see that changing no matter how many times the writers tell us it is.
Coulson's personal journey was compelling in this episode, although the writing was a little spotty. He feels different after dying and confessing to how that has haunted him during his talk with the firefighter. May tries to understand and support him, giving us some insight into their friendship when they worked together before, but while Coulson found some acceptance through the episode, he ultimately realized that no one could fully relate. It was heartfelt.
That's really what set this episode apart: heart. So far, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been witty and pretty and full of Marvel references, but it hasn't had heart. Coulson's struggle was a start, but Simmons actually managed to make me feel invested.
I have always been a fan of FitzSimmons, and I have always wanted more. I feel like this dynamic could be worth exploring and could give us a relationship to hold onto while the writers fumble around with the rest. This episode made FitzSimmons seem real. They are best friends, obviously, and they think the same way, but they also have fundamentally different wants. Their dynamic was tense from the start, as Fitz toys with the idea of distancing himself from Simmons. Faced with losing Simmons, Fitz gets angry at himself (guilt) and her, throwing responsibility for the situation in Simmons' face. That confrontation was my favorite part of the episode. It established their dynamic clearly and was also a real reaction from a scared guy who might lose his best friend. Sure, the alien virus makes the situation a little unique, I guess, but that anger and fear are no less sympathetic. It might spark some serious matchmaking, but to me, I'm just glad that there is one real friendship that I can get invested in. Fitz recovering from the shock, hugging a pillow as Simmons comforts him, makes me want to hug him.
This post has gone on long, I know, but we have one more vital thing that we have to cover. Jemma Simmons is the most adorable creature on the planet. She is earnest and craves adventure. She believes in doing the right thing and being noble. She cares intensely about everyone surrounding her and would literally sacrifice herself to protect them. She is forgiving and has a thick-skin, not letting the small things affect her. She is the heart of the show, and I can only hope the writers recognize that and use it well.