That took one of the most Whedon left turns I have seen in a while and it was so good, like what I wanted good. “FZZT” is an episode that most other shows would not be willing to attempt in their first seasons let alone so early on in the series. It finally allowed us an important element missing from the earlier attempts, emotional resonance. We finally got to see our characters do more than solve the case and be quippy as they were forced to deal with the idea that they may indeed loose one of their own. Each character managed to get that important moment that helped to evolve their character in some sense and luckily it all payed off. The setup was just about the right length, the threat was just real enough, and all of the emotional bits managed to be not overly sappy but still poignant. So lets dive because this was good.
So lets start with the setup a weird infection is killing firemen who were on the ground during the battle of New York, the team is sent into investigate and one of them gets infected. A basic premise that has been done before no doubt and like many episodes of this format it hinges on how the team reacts to this situation and the possibility of loosing one of their own. They could have gone really over the top or made the villain a normal bad guy but that would have defeated the purpose. As Ward says it is impossible for him to protect the team when he does not know how to fight back, and the ability to solve this weeks problem rested heavily on the one who was in the most danger, and Elizabeth Henstridge was up to deliver the material. Being in that stressful of a situation, under such an outrageous time constraint really helped to flex the mental and emotional capability of Simmons to a clear extent we had not seen before. It was just as important that Fitz be given a chance to flex his emotional muscle as these two had been partners for a large part of their lives and whether or not they are able to commit to the romantic connection that it seems the writers are building to is secondary to the fact that Fitz had to be in that room for his best friend. That was some great material and I really hope to see the writers build off that groundwork in the coming episodes.
The idea of facing ones mortality weighed just as heavily on Coulson and once again Clark Gregg managed to make the pain and doubt in his character clearly resonate with the audience. It did not hit me until the very end that we had not seen Coulson’s scar until this episode and I was really worried that he would reveal to May that he was scarless after being stabbed hence his skepticism about his behavior. Luckily the writers went with the logical route of having the scar be a metaphor of how when you go through a life altering experience there are bound to be changes in your personality and how you react to certain situations. Coulson’s speeches to both the fireman and his team about his change in personality and his reaction to coming back was probably some of the best work Gregg has done as Coulson in his career. Being able to present this gravitas and humanity was clearly another hinge of the story, and luckily both Gregg and Henstridge were able to knock the material out of the park.
If there were any downturns in the episode it could be that there was a lack of action in comparison to the preceding episodes, and yet there was such a strong story overall that these aspects did not detract from my overall enjoyment. Similarly I felt the pacing for the setup to Simmons’ infection was a little to slow for my personal liking. I really wanted to spend a few more minutes delving into the emotional ramifications of Simmons being infected. There were chances to see how it effect Skye that I felt were not properly utilized, while I felt that may was very on point with her emotional non reaction. There were some missed opportunities but with a story and writing this good it is just a matter of splitting hairs.
Overall a fantastic episode that I am hoping for more of.
Final Grade A-
+Superb emotional work from all the actors, especially Gregg and Henstridge
+Story was the best of the entire series so far.
+Not physical problem Ward could beat the crap out of.
+Coulson’s scar actually exists
-Skye did not really have a lot of emotional material
-Took a little to long to get to Simmons being infected
-Clark Gregg wrote and directed the movie Choke, fun fact of the night.
-I’m just gonna say floating dead rats, really creepy in my opinion.
-So was it easy to get the helmet off the Chitauri or did those firemen full on behead the thing. These are the thoughts I have folks