Gordon S. Miller writes...
During an overnight scouting trip, a man suffers what I believe is termed an electrostatic event, leaving him not only dead but floating a few feet off the ground with wounds in his forehead. After a second victim is found in a similar manner, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is able to deduce what the men had in common: they were firemen, first-responders during the Avengers battle in New York.
Further investigation reveals what the firemen suffered from was an infection from a Chitauri helmet they found and kept as a souvenir. They activated the virus by cleaning the helmet. While Fitz and Simmons work to find a cure as the team takes their plane to the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility known as the Sandbox, the latter gets infected. It's a grave situation because not only could she die if they don't find a cure in two hours, but her body will also give off an electrostatic pulse that will destroy the plane since they are more than two hours away from land. There's a nice character moment when Agent Coulson refers to Simmons by her first name.
Fitz decides to risk his life to help her and enters the quarantined lab, where it's unfortunate to see S.H.I.E.L.D. still using rats for experiments. With time running out, Simmons decides to save the other and jumps off the plane. Of course, Fitz discovers the cure moments later, leading to an inevitable and rather ridiculous rescue.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the potential to be The X-Files, but the lack of interesting characters and mythology keeps it as a standard TV procedural with little compelling a viewer return and previews of Thor: The Dark World aren't enough. The only intriguing idea is Coulson coming to grips with having died, even though everyone else, viewers included, know it's more than that. I really hope they can figure out a formula that works that makes me look forward to watching it, but it might require major changes in the cast and writers.
Todd Karella responds...
I’ll have to disagree with you somewhat on your evaluation of this episode. Normally, I’m the type of person who wants a lot of action. And characterization isn’t always on the top of my list of concerns in a show, but after the first few episodes I’ll admit that I’ve been starving for some reason to care or even like these characters.
While the plot was a fairly weak one that resulted in a strange virus, I felt like for the first time this season I got to know something about the characters. While most of the story focused on the two scientists in the group each member of the team had some revelations for the audience. Coulson showed that not only is there something different about him since his death, but he’s worried about it himself. May also alludes that she herself has died and is not quite the same. Ward feels like he should be the team’s protector and feels helpless that he can’t do anything about the virus. Skye is overly emotional. And the entire Fitz/Simmons relationship is broken wide open for the audience.
My two favorite scenes are when Coulson has a talk with the fireman who is about to explode and refuses to leave knowing that his own life is at risk, and when Simmons essentially tells Fitz that the reason she’s been following him around from lab to lab and assignment to assignment is because she is in love with him.
For me there were a lot of important events in this episode and none of it really had anything to do with the alien virus plot. I feel that this episode is them finally crossing over the threshold of likability. While I was dreading having to watch the show I find myself actually looking forward to the next episode. I just hope they continue to build on what they’ve done already and don’t fall back into previous patterns.