Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Recap: Eye Spy

The episode starts in Stockholm, Sweden.  Several men carrying briefcases handcuffed to their hands and wearing red masks, tweed caps and business suits enter a subway station.  A woman notices them and follows them onto a train.   While the train is in a tunnel, she smashes a panel that disables the lights in the train.  When the train reaches its next stop, people exit the car in a panic.   All of the red masked men are dead.  One man’s hand has been cut off and his briefcase is missing.

The woman is seen opening the briefcase at another subway stop.  It contains a smaller case full of diamonds which the woman places in her bag. 

Worst idea to transport diamonds ever!

Coulson breaks down what happen in the tease.  One of the largest gem brokers in the world hired 55 men, dressed them in identical outfits, gave each a randomly assigned briefcase, and sent them along randomly assigned routes in Stockholm.  The elaborate method of transport was chosen because there have been a number of recent ‘impossible’ diamond heists.  Coulson notes that witnesses described an athletic black woman as the sole attacker.  Witnesses also noted that she closed her eyes during the attack, something that is ‘either very important or very random’.

Coulson wants Skye to break down some theories on how someone could have ‘hacked’ the system.  Skye posits superpowers are involved, (e.g., ESP, Precognition, etc.), but Agent May says science has shown no proof that these powers exist.

Umm… didn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clint Barton (a.k.a. Hawkeye) spend nearly the entire Avengers movie mind controlled by an Asgardian god?  I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the concept that someone might have a little ESP.

In any case, Coulson notes that they only have a description of the perpetrator because the CC-TV network was taken offline during the attack.  Skye then points out that they should check social media (specifically Instagram).  Coulson makes some crack about how this part of the job gets easier every year, but becomes serious when he finds his ‘athletic black woman’ in the photos.  Her name is  Akela Amador—and he trained her.

Akela Amador was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who went missing during a mission about ten years ago.  She was presumed dead, but Coulson wasn’t convinced.  May realizes that Coulson suspected she was behind this robbery, which is why he took this case to begin with.  Being the no nonsense agent she is, May suggests inform S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ that Amador is alive so they can track her down.  Coulson wants to keep internal to their group for the moment.  It is obvious this mission is very personal for him.

Amador is in her hotel room waiting for her buyer.  After dramatically closing her eyes, she asks him why he has one guy in the stairwell and one in the room next door.  The buyer is shaken, but she seems to accept it when he says that they are for his protection when he leaves.  Amador gives him the diamonds in exchange for a blank keycard.  He assures her that it will ‘access all the levels as promised’.

In Zloda, Belarus the entire team (minus Melinda May) is driving down the road in a van, or the ‘short bus’ as May calls it.  Skye and Fitz-Simmons setup a command center in the van, where they can use the Internet and Science! to track down Amador, while Coulson and Ward head out to do things the old-fashioned way.  Skye once again posits her ESP theory, which Simmons immediately scoffs at.

Seriously, has no one here heard of the Avengers?  That can’t be it because in the previous three episodes they wouldn’t shut up about them.

Arriving at a hotel, Ward and Coulson show the woman at the front desk a picture of Amador.  She recognizes it and calls Amador ‘my angel’, telling the agents that Amador sees things and warned her about her cancer in time for treatment.  When Coulson says that they need to speak with her, the woman at the desk notes that ‘with her gift’ that Amador probably knows they are coming.

Back at the ‘short bus’ they lock onto some kind of encrypted video feed.  After clearing it up a bit, they realize that it is someone watching them just in time for that someone to ram the van with a truck.  Skye is able to see Amador is driving the truck just before the van rolls over.

Luckily for the team, this was the extent of her evil plan.  Apparently, she just wanted to delay them and give herself plenty of time to escape.  Once back on the bus, they are able to tap into the transmission again.  They soon realize the camera is Amador’s right eye, which apparently has been replaced by a camera ‘ten years’ more advanced then anything S.H.I.E.L.D. has.  When she closes her eyes, the transmission changes to a sort of x-ray mode. 

S.H.I.E.L.D. also finds out that she is being controlled by someone else.  The watch Amador ask if she can sleep by writing on a piece of paper.  The response to ‘stand by’ is visible as writing superimposed on the screen.

Melinda May thinks it is past time to bring the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. in, but Coulson shuts her down again.  Instead, he suggests the team take turns watching the video feed until they see something that reveals her location.

Much later, Coulson comes out to find the video feed unattended even though it was May’s turn to watch.  Playing it back, he sees that Amador received an eye message concerning the Todorov building as well as a receipt for her room services that shows which hotel she is in.  It doesn’t take Coulson long to figure out that May has gone after Amador herself.

May confronts Amador.  Amador asks if Coulson sent her, but May tells her that while Coulson feels sorry for Amador, she does not.  She will take Amador back to S.H.I.E.L.D. where she will get a fair trial.  Amador scoffs at this and tells May that there is a failsafe device in her head that will kill her if she does not comply—only one of them will be making it out of the room alive.

The two women fight, and Agent May has the upper hand until Amador knocks out the light.  May can’t see, but Amador’s super-vision allows her to pick up a discarded gun and point it at Agent May.  Before she can pull the trigger, Coulson kicks down the door and shoots her with an improved version of ‘night-night’ gun from the pilot.

Amador wakes up in the bus.  She is surprised to be alive, but Coulson explains that they have hijacked the feed.  Agent Ward is wearing a pair of glasses that are transmitting to her handler and is performing her mission to defray suspicion that anything has gone wrong.  Coulson grills her for information, but she has very little.  She knows her handler is English because he uses terms like ‘boot’ and ‘lift’.  Because he is a bad typist, Coulson determines he must be heavy set with pudgy fingers.

I don’t know how to break this to Coulson, but in my experience how well you type has very little to do with how much you weigh.

Since they have very little time, Coulson recruits Fitz-Simmons to remove her eye.  I kind of wish one of them had exclaimed, “Dammit Coulson, I’m a scientist not a doctor!”  Instead, after some weak protests the two of them nervously begin surgery.

Coulson and May believe they can track the transmission back to the ‘heavyset Englishman’.  May sensibly suggests she take him down while Coulson supervises the operation but not surprisingly Coulson insists that this one is his.

Meanwhile, Agent Ward is making his way through the Todorov building when he hits his first snag—the handler asks him to seduce the a security guard.  Ward suggests that he just take the guy out, but Skye tells him he can’t because he might be needed for the next stage of the mission.  Since Skye determines by the guard’s slovenly appearance that he is probably not gay, she suggests Ward’s only hope is to bromance him by talking sports and being friendly.

This is not Ward’s strong point and it shows.  Failing to bromance the guard he knocks him unconscious and walks into the next room.  This room has chalkboards full of equations and two men in front of typewriters.  Unsure what to do he walks around until he sees a specific set of equations on the board and his handler sends him a message saying “Mission Complete. Good Luck.” 

Ward realizes what this means when he walks outside and sees that the guard apparently had to periodically enter a password on his computer or else an alarm would go off.  Oops.  Agent Ward ‘James Bonds’ his way out of the building, but not before seeing himself in a mirror.  The handler activates the failsafe in Amador’s eye, but Fitz-Simmons manage to remove it just in time.

Coulson manages to track down the handler in a nearby square by noticing his nervous demeanor.  Coulson stops him and shows him his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge, but it turns out the handler is also under control of someone as his own eye’s failsafe goes off, killing him instantly.

Amador is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, where Coulson assures her she will get a fair trial.  Agent May speaks with her briefly and Amador asks “what happen to him?”  May explains that he has lightened up a bit after his injury in the battle of New York, but that is not what Amador means.  Instead, she more insistently asks, “what did they DO to him?”

Obviously, when Amador still had her bionic eye she saw something odd about Coulson.

Stray Thoughts

The bionic eye in this episode seemed to be ‘inspired’ by the Eye-5 contact lenses from Torchwood.  They both transmit visual information but not sound and they both allow another person to communicate with the ‘wearer’ by typing information into his or her field of vision.

When I first saw the red masks in the trailer last week I assumed that we were finally going to get our Rising Tide story and that the red masks were stand-ins for the Guy Fawkes masks worn by some members of Anonymous.  The real reason, they were disguises for men transporting diamonds, makes much less sense.

Transporting diamonds via men wearing red masks seems like a really bad idea.  Wouldn’t they attract way too much attention?  Rather than trying to disguise the men, wouldn’t a double-blind situation work here?  If neither the men or the people giving them the briefcases knew which one had the diamonds in it, it wouldn’t really matter if you could tell the men apart.

Everyone dismissing Skye’s ESP suggestion just seemed odd.  Throughout the series it has been noted that the world has gotten ‘weirder’ and it is the mandate of this team to investigate the ‘weird’.  I understand exhausting normal explanations first, but discounting the possibility of superpowers just seems idiotic.

The show really seems to be struggling with the massive resources S.H.I.E.L.D. brings to the table.  This is the second episode in a row where Agent May suggests they take advantage of the resources S.H.I.E.L.D. can bring to bear only to be shot down by Coulson.  I hope this doesn’t become her ‘thing’.

Agent Ward killed some people on his way out of the Todorov building, right?  As far as I know it was never established that these were bad guys.  In any case, the security guards seemed like average Joes doing their jobs, not nefarious killers.

I really, really hope that when the big bad is revealed that it is not a group made up specifically for the TV show.  A resurgent Hydra or AIM would be great, but I would settle for Agence Byzantine, Black Spectre or the Secret Empire.

In Conclusion

The drama was a bit improved this outing and everyone got something to do.

Rating: 4 out of 5