Right, who had a “SKREEEEEEEEEEEEE!” moment? Okay, the show hasn’t actually used the “K”-word yet, but surely after Reinhardt’s “A star that fell from the heavens; blue angels who came bearing a gift for all mankind” speech there’s little doubt what blue-skinned aliens we’re talking about here, and it ain’t the Twi’lek.
There’s definitely more sense of momentum, urgency and foreboding as Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD nears the mid-point of season two, and “Things We Bury” certainly has a lot of things to recommend it. Tons of action, Bobbi’s interrogation of Bakshi, Coulson getting Fitz out of his fugue and back in the field, Hunter and Bobbi’s sexual frisson, Skye reminding us she started out as a super hacker and that wonderfully creepy look Skye’s dad gives Whitehall when he says, “It’s always good to look your enemy in the eye.”
Plus, it’s certainly revelation-packed, and for the second week in a row makes good use of flashbacks, this time to reveal exactly what Reinhardt did to make an enemy of Skye’s dad. It’s not nice, of course, and gives the guy a new catchphrase: “Discovery requires experimentation.” The flashbacks this week have the extra benefit of guests appearances from Peggy Carter, who’s doing a very good job of making us think her spin-off series may be worth a gander.
All the flashbacks are moodily and evocatively directed giving these scenes the kind of style and visual flourish all too often missing from the show’s contemporary scenes. The mock-stop-motion sequence showing Reindhardt growing old in his cell is especially effective. Compare these scenes with those featuring Ward and his brother, which should be tense and edgy, but instead are blandly shot in bright sunlight which saps all the intensity out of the confrontation. Okay, a TV show can’t afford to wait for the perfect weather to shoot a scene, but these days digital grading can easily add to the impressionistic feeling of a scene.
Skye’s mum is played by Dichen Lachman, who you may remember as Sierra in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.
The Ward sub-plot is easily the weakest part of the episode. The mind games between the brothers are less interesting than those between Bakshi and Bobbi (maybe a mistake to have too such similar plot strands in the same episode) and if this is the episode when we’re supposed to be shocked at just how evil Ward has become, then ultimately the script drops the ball. He murders his family off-screen. If that’s supposed to heighten the horror when it’s revealed in a news report, it’s a gamble that fails totally. It’s a shrug moment rather than a shock moment.
Conversely, the meeting between Skye’s dad and Coulson is exactly the kind of scene the show needs to produce more often. Rather than a chat in an office somewhere, this is a piece of exposition and character development wrapped in peril and action. Admittedly Hydra’s reason for turning up at the same communications hub in Australia as SHIELD is very contrived, but as an excuse to have Coulson and the Doctor eyeball each other as they try to save the dying Trip (the most pro-active thing he’s done so far this season), it’s a highly effective piece of scripting mechanics.
Maybe the problem now is that the show is actually trying to pack too much in to every episode and some elements suffer as a consequence. But there’s definitely more here to enjoy than moan about; it’s just that the moaning seems to require more words.
Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD airs on Friday nights on Channel 4 in the UK and is currently on a midseason break in the US.