Agents of SHIELD: Purpose in the Machine

10/13/2015


I'm sorry. I won't give up. I can't give up.
~ Leo Fitz

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not a series that grew on me. It wasn't one of those shows where it's interesting enough to give it another shot and then another until I realize that the premise that drew me in initially was not really living up to its promise, but by then it was too late because the characters were developed just enough to keep me hanging around. Not Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; it lives up to and far surpasses the promise I saw in the return of a beloved character. Like all of my favorites, I immediately and thoroughly loved it and can't imagine living without it. The story was intriguing and the characters human from the get-go. This is a show that doesn't grow on me, because it completely swept me away from the start. It can only dig its claws in deeper - and they are razor sharp.

Thinking about the beginning of MAOS still, though we're now in season 3, I feel like addressing something I've always thought about. I often find myself scoffing at new series that put their main characters in danger - even kill them off sometimes - the concern for them so early on being forced. We don't know them yet since they haven't had a chance to develop and can be just cliche-ridden archetypes. It always seems ridiculous to me to expect the audience to care before the characters have earned it. But Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to take that typically forced moment and layer it with raw emotion and make it a bonding experience for them and for us without feeling out of place in any way. I appreciated it for showing me how much they already mattered.

I'm talking about "FZZT," where Simmons got sick and Fitz was screaming for her as she threw herself out of the Bus. By this time, these characters already felt like old friends. It was earned because the series quickly and tightly grabbed our imaginations and hearts with superb acting, characterization, dialogue, and story. And it has never let go or even let up. So you can imagine what it's like now to deal with a life-threatening situation in the third season. After everyone having been through so much, Jemma's "kidnapping" was such was a terrible blow that the beginning of the season was just full of anxiousness and poignancy and the resolution of the second episode was such an incredible relief. They are all indispensible and character is so important to everyone involved. The people are what matter, and the best part of the storytelling is how they mentally and emotionally deal with the situations in which they find themselves.

I'm not sure what prompted this intro to my few thoughts on "Purpose in the Machine." I can't do this every week, and every time I write something, the format will be different. Maybe one week will be a review. Maybe one week highlights. Maybe one week a few of my favorite quotes. As I've said before, there's only one of me and at least a handful of current shows that I find myself compelled to say a few words about here and there. Yeah, "a few words" is what I call all that. There have just been so many scenes that demonstrate why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should be beloved by everyone that I believe those who dislikes it must have a problem with fun and depth and people who make their art of acting look effortless. These are also people who plainly love what they do and appreciate the fans. It's hard to get me to stop talking about it.


Anyway...

Nicki (@iheartcoulson) of the Marvelverse Podcast (@marvelversetalk) asked listeners for thoughts about the second episode. I thought I wouldn't get a chance to write a post about it; it's just not reasonable to think I can do that for every one of 22 episodes. But I wanted to share with someone, and here's the email I sent her. She actually read it on the podcast, which is quite awesome. Thank you!!!

Thoughts about Purpose in the Machine? I'm sure I would have many if I let myself think about them, but if I start then I'll never get to sleep. I had so many about S.O.S. that I spent the entire summer writing a blog post about it. I spent the last week talking about Laws of Nature while I was supposed to be working. I have to learn to reign in my thoughts, keep things brief.

See? Already too much talking and I didn't get anywhere.

I will say this; I always think I love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as much as it's possible for me to love a show, and it always makes me love it more. The whole cast just works so beautifully together. Coulson forgetting Daisy's real name tonight because he was concerned for the person he grew to love as "Skye" was lovely. I'm having difficulty with that, too. I have to use both names. And I just have to mention Fitz, of course. His determination to not give up on Simmons, putting himself in harm's way, is one of the best moments of the series...in a series that made out of best moments. I love that Iain's breakdown with the monolith was continued from the previous episode, because it was just so powerful. He is an amazing actor. Oh, and Jemma putting her head on Fitz's lap! Awwwwwww.

Okay, I have to stop myself before I can't anymore. Do with this what you will, if you want...if I made any sense. Have a wonderful week. I know I will after that episode.

I find it funny now that I worried about talking too much. I always do, but apparently I'm not alone. ;-)

Something Nicki said about Jemma's story being resolved so soon reminded me I didn't even mention that. But it was something that really surprised me, as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. always manages to do. I thought it would take at least half a season. But I guess they need her back and Fitz's head (and heart, as Coulson said) back in the game for what's to come this season. I'm sure Jemma's been changed in some way, whether emotionally or physically, and that will factor into her relationship with Fitz and everyone else.

And since by now I know that this series does story so well, along with beautiful character development, I'm sure they didn't bring back Simmons too quickly. It had been a long time for the characters and every last option had been exhausted. And Fitz's agonizing breakdown, screaming at the monolith (to give him answers, to take him, to kill him, to just do something no matter the cost) would not have been more powerful had it come later. It was as heartbreaking as could be, perfect for a season opener, and I applaud Iain De Caestecker for his Emmy-worthy work. They could have dragged it out, but there would only have been purpose in that if the story, which .we haven't even seen yet, would play out differently.

You'll learn in this podcast that someone said Coulson may have early onset Alzheimers just because he keeps saying "Skye" instead of "Daisy." Nicki gives the perfect answer to this, and I think I addressed this in a previous post. "When that's the only way you know somebody - it would be like one of us changing our names and insisting that everybody call us that and not being able to do it. Because you know somebody for so long and a name is so intensely personal, I think it's only natural for this person who she was the closest to."

Coulson loves her like a daughter and has only known her as Skye. They've been through so much and so many life-altering things have happened, but it's just strange for someone you know well to insist you call them by a new name. Those who could get used to that would be those who didn't know her for long. If my brothers changed their names, I would call them crazy or assume they were going into witness protection. I also think it would be partly intentional, maybe unconsciously so, on Coulson's part because he just finds it hard that another fundamental thing about the daughter he never had has been altered and this is his small protest.

"She can rock him all night long now." This was about the remote possibility, really more a fantasy, of more Skyeward after Ward finds out Skye is Inhuman. And it made me laugh way too much.

I find it interesting that both Nicki and Dan didn't like Skye at all in the beginning. I never felt they were focusing only on Skye, but from very early on I knew she was there for a reason, not just to be the stand-in for audience. I always saw it was about the team. I had complete faith in the ability of the creators to know where they were going. They knew what they had in Coulson and they brought him back for us, but not just for us and him, but also to introduce other stories, and other people are part of these other stories.

Knowing how devastated Fitz was over Simmons, I absolutely expected Fitz to jump into the liquid monolith, but I never expected him to be successful. I thought he would be lost, too, or that Simmons would slip from his grasp.

I love that Marvelverse Podcast mentioned Angel and Fred. It wasn't the same as I was thinking at the end of the season. They wonder how Simmons is going to be now, reminded of how Fred was when she first came on Angel. At the end of last season I was terrified that they would pull a Fred/Ilyria thing.

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