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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Magical Place

Coulson is Worth It

There were a lot of things I liked about this week’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The tension was good, Skye gained some independence, May was revealed to not be completely heartless and Fitz grew a backbone.

Oh, and they rescued Coulson from the big, bad lady in the flower dress.

However, the things I didn’t like might have outweighed what I did. Namely, I really wish they’d let Coulson’s abduction last more than an episode. It was obvious that the team needed to grow and Coulson’s absence gave them that opportunity. What might we have seen from any of them if their leader had been missing for a week or two? How else might have FitzSimmons, Skye or Ward matured when forced to think and act for themselves? And by giving them a common “enemy” in Agent Hand, our team of agents had even more to unite them.

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They need some more unity – they need more time.

And to be honest, Coulson needed more time getting his brain muddled, because now we’ve all got more questions than answers regarding what exactly happened after he died.

I feel that the writers and producers of the show tipped their hand a bit too much; they’ve given us a glimpse of what happened, but didn’t give us enough of an explanation. Now, we’re stuck in this strange no man’s land where we know just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be satisfied.

In my opinion, “The Magical Place” tried to do too much in forty-two minutes: rescue Coulson, wrap-up the mystery of his resurrection, reintroduce super-soldier Mike and further the mystique of The Clairvoyant. I would have been happy if the episode had managed to do one of those things adequately. Instead, it tried to accomplish them all poorly.

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One of the episode’s most redeeming features was the emotion. Skye’s reaction at being kicked off The Bus to the coercing the official to provide her with Internet access to rescuing Coulson were close to perfect. While Coulson is the steadying hand on the show, it’s Skye’s every day experiences in this different world that give us, the audience, a way in. By continuing to hang most of the show’s emotional beats on her, the writers are getting it right – if she feels it, so will we.

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Many of the show’s early issues were not present in this mid-season episode. The pacing was better, the characters were fully realized and the story fit well within what’s shaping up to be this season’s story arc. However, I fear that in exchange for these fixes, we’ll be cheated of some others, namely time. In an effort to keep our attention, the writers and ABC might not be worried enough about building a story and a show with staying power. I can only hope they don’t continue to sacrifice character development for action. It’s the characters that will keep us engaged. Even though this show is produced by Marvel, the action isn’t what will keep us interested.

This is something Joss knows. And everyone who works on S.H.I.E.L.D. should know it too.

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