Entertainment Magazine

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “FZZT” (S1/E6) – Do We Like Fitz and Simmons Now?

Posted on the 06 November 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

After going with a re-run last week, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned last night with a brand new episode, “FZZT.”  It’s been a rocky first five episodes for the show, but in such a short time span there has been definite gradual improvement.  What these handful of episodes have indicated is that the more S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes about a group of secret agents and less the “all Skye, all the time” power hour the better it will be.  After the previous episode revealed Skye’s big secret is a somewhat laughable “search for her birth parents” storyline, “FZZT” thankfully back-burnered that noise.  Instead, we got our first showcase for Fitz and Simmons, the Irish guy and British gal who to this point have mostly seemed like something you get when Joss Whedon jokes about splitting Q from 007 into two different characters, a boy and a girl, and nobody is brave enough to point out how redundant this would make the two resulting characters seem.  


Fitz is doubly challenged as his electrics and gadgets angle overlaps enough with Skye’s skillset that at times in episodes this season he’s basically just stood and watched with awe as Skye hacked to save the day.

These problems are too big to be solved alone in “FZZT.”  However, like the most successful episodes of the show to date “FZZT” managed to give almost every character something important to do (I say almost because as far as plot advancement goes, Melinda May has nothing to do this week even if her serving of cookies to a little kid and kicking down of a barred door were both funny moments).  It also de-emphasized the action and focused on character, turning the second half of the episode into a bottle-episode set entirely on the plane (the second episode this season to do so).  For all of the episode’s attributes, though, was its happy ending a cop-out?  Hold that thought.

–>Plot Recap

The cold open? Boy scouts camping at night.  Leader leaves to investigate a noise.  Suddenly, a strange, louder noise occurs and an electric shock cascades throughout the camp.  The leader is found dead but somehow floating in mid-air.  This sounds like a job for…

The stuff on the plane? Coulson has Simmons give him a physical, though Simmons is unclear why.  Fitz, Simmons, and Skye bond over behind-the-back mocking of Agent “Frowny Face” Grant.  Skye, for one, doesn’t understand why it’s taking Grant longer than two weeks to forgive her treachery from the last episode.  Plus, Skye totally fails to notice Fitz’ attempt to flirt with her.

The investigation? On scene, Fitz and Simmons have no idea what could have caused a weird electric shock and dead floating guy who appears to have exit wounds with no corresponding entry wounds.  Back on the plane, Simmons does brain tissue analysis while Fitz mostly bitches at her.

The action? Grant, May, and Coulson follow Fitz’ electrostatic readings to a nearby farm where they find another dead, floating victim.  Skye’s computer hacking links both the victims to a volunteer firefighter regimen who acted as first responders during the Battle of New York.

The first plot twist? This is not something being done to people by a villain.  This is an alien virus three firefighters contracted days prior when they cleaned a Chautari helmet they kept as a souvenir from the Battle of New York.  The third victim dies at the fire station, but not before Coulson gives him a “I died, heaven is great, you’re going to love it there” pep talk.

Agents Shield FZZT Electroshock

The third victim having no idea that he is the one making that pan float in the air next to him.

The second plot twist? Back on the plane, Simmons works to come up with a vaccine (anti-serum) as they transport the Chautari helmet to a SHIELD facility in the desert.   However, the virus is transmitted person-to-person by electroshock, and Simmons contracted the virus when she touched the first victim when he was still floating in air.  She now has less than 2 hours to live.

The character drama? Grant channels Steinbeck in railing against the perils of battling a foe you can’t see or understand while Coulson continually ignores orders to basically throw Simmons off the plane before she dies since the accompanying electromagnetic pulse will destroy the plane.  Fitz says to hell with the quarantine and works alongside Simmons to perfect an anti-serum.

The action? With the last anti-serum an apparent failure and time almost completely run out, Simmons knocks out Fitz and jumps off the plane, attempting to sacrifice herself for the good of the team.

Agents Shield FZZT Simmons

An effective moment made less effective for anyone who saw this moment from the episode’s trailer.

Fitz quickly figures out the anti-serum actually works, and Grant manages to catch Simmons in air and administer the anti-serum to her just in time.  Parachute away.

The one-on-ones? Simmons gives Fitz a friendly kiss on the cheek for helping to save her, and Coulson admits to May that he ordered the physical himself because he didn’t feel normal anymore.  The physical indicates he’s fine, but May has him bear the scar on his chest as a way of emphasizing that he literally died; of course he’ll never feel the same ever again.

The pre-credits stinger? Agent Blake from Marvel’s Item 47 short film that inspired the creation of this very show arrives to collects the Chautari helmet.  He foreshadows potential conflict down the road for Coulson with the higher-ups at SHIELD if he continues to ignore direct orders.

–>End Plot Recap

In some ways, this episode represented a darker flipside on the promise presented by Item 47, thus making the return of Titus Welliver’s Agent Blake not only welcome but perfectly timed.  In Item 47 (it’s a special feature on The Avengers Blu-Ray), a young couple discover a Chautari weapon from the Battle of New York.  Down on their luck, they use the weapon in a series of bank robberies, only to eventually be apprehended by SHIELD.  As a reward for their ingenuity in using the weapon, the couple is recruited into SHIELD.  It’s a rather light and fun short film.  ”FZZT” takes the same central concept of the discovery of a Chautari artifact from the Battle of New York in The Avengers and explores a darker set of circumstances where an innocent item like a mask could hold within it an alien virus.

What Worked? – The creepy tone at the crime scenes; Coulson and Melinda’s final mystery-laden conversation; Clark Gregg’s acting during his conversation about death with the third firefighter victim; the way the two big plot twists unfolded; the acting from all involved once Simmons became symptomatic; the argument between Fitz and Simmons through the glass before he decides to break quarantine and join her; May interrogating by giving cookies

What Didn’t? –  Skye’s “Jeez, it’s been like two weeks.  Why is Grant still made at me for having lied to him every day since I’ve met him?”; the slightly awkward exposition of working in Skye describing what exactly her wrist-band is about for those viewers who don’t remember or missed the last episode; the inescapable “why don’t they just call Tony Stark or Bruce Banner?  If it’s taking Fitz and Simmons hours, Stark and Banner could probably do it in minutes” feeling.

Overall, almost everything worked in “FZZT,” which exploited the disease outbreak storyline for all of its potential for rich drama (orders from leaders looking to protect the many but not the few we actually know, first couple of vaccines don’t work, someone breaks quarantine because without them a cure won’t be reached, helpless onlookers rail against the idea of being helpless, loved ones talking to one another through quarantine glass).  But did they need the happy ending?


1. The Argument for Killing Simmons


Angel on left, Doyle on right. Too much brooding for one screen, or so Joss Whedon thought.

Let me tell you a story about a man named Doyle.  Back in 1999, when Joss Whedon and David Greenwaldt co-created Angel together as a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer they made what they regarded as mistake when they cast the now-departed Glenn Quinn as the character Doyle.  The show was conceived as film noir with a vampire.  The titular Angel was the tortured, central detective, Cordelia his gal Friday, and Doyle his partner who helps find cases due to his curse of getting visions of people being attacked by evil creatures.  The problem was Doyle was supposed to provide levity but Quinn brought to the performance a tortured quality that overlapped with what David Boreanaz was doing as Angel.  Joss Whedon has explained that they messed up by casting two leading men, joking that there simply wasn’t enough screentime for both of them to brood.  So, the decision was made to replace Doyle after 9 episodes, killing him off in a brutal and completely unexpected way.  While this was not by design, the net effect of the move was to introduce uncertainty into all future storylines because in the form of Doyle they had done a storyline where despite audience expectations the hero did actually die.


Joss Whedon pulled a similar trick by killing off Jesse in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot even though he had been presented prior to that point as someone you’d expect to be in the show’s full-time cast.

Killing Doyle also allowed the writers to re-balance the show by replacing Doyle with a comic relief presence who would not challenge Angel for brooding time until over 2 seasons later.

Killing off Simmons in only SHIELD‘s 6th episode could have fulfilled the same function, eliminating a redundant element in the cast while disrupting audience complacency by daring to actually have the heroes lose.  Granted, Fitz is arguably more redundant than Simmons, but the point remains valid.  Killing Simmons in this manner would not just be brutal but introduce juicy material for Fitz and Coulson, the latter’s decision-making and confidence put into crisis mode and continuing his “I don’t feel like my old myself anymore because my old self would have never even let Simmons on this plane as she was not field-ready yet.”

2. The Argument Against Killing Simmons

Angel managed to grant Doyle an entire story arc across his 9 episodes involving his crush on Cordelia and related decision to keep the truth about him being a half-demon a secret from her, both of which are resolved in his final episode.  Plus, he’d also had his own showcase episode in which the audience got his full back story, meeting his estranged-soon-to-be-ex-wife in the process.  On top of that, Angel was a show whose central character’s identity was defined by the need  for atonement, a need which was typically shadowed by the supporting character’s as well.  So, Doyle dying was just another thing for which Angel could atone, even though it wasn’t really his fault.  He went out affirming Angel as a heroic character who not only did the right thing despite all odds but inspired those around him to do so as well, even at their own peril.  Doyle’s death also had a profound impact on Cordelia, who inherited his curse of visions which gradually turned her into a better person.

We still know nothing about Simmons other than joining Coulson’s team was her idea and she indeed has a father and mother at home.  She has no story arc to speak of, and her only showcase to date has been “FZZT.”  Plus, death is a central aspect of Coulson’s identity (and apparently May’s as well) but that does not translate to being a central component of the show.  Killing Simmons now wouldn’t mean as much because she’s been such a non-entity on screen before “FZZT”, and her death would largely be meaningless.

3. Will we ever see Lola fly again?  

Agents of Shield Back to the Future

When Grant and Fitz were both in the cargo hanger and hurrying to save Simmons after she’d jumped out, for the briefest of moments I thought they were going to use Coulson’s car, Lola.  It was just sitting right there, featured prominently in the shot.  The pilot had the Back to the Future homage with Lola flying directly at the screen to end of the episode.  So, we know it can fly.  A flying car in that situation probably would have punctured the emotion of the moment.  However, it does make me wonder if we’ll ever see Lola fly again, or if that will go the way of Rose Tyler’s ultra-handy gymnastic skills from the first episode of the revived Doctor Who: that helpful attribute that is never again referenced.  Truthfully, I don’t particularly care as I wasn’t exactly blown away by the bit with Lola in the pilot.  I’m just curious at this point.

What did you think?  Like it?  Hate it?  Let us know in the comments section.

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