Wed
Mar 12 2014 4:00pm

Gender Flail. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Yes Men”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 15 "Yes Men" recap

Last night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode “Yes Men” saw the world of Asgard intersect once more with our puny Midgardian pebble and the results were catastrophic, although probably not in the way viewers had hoped they would be. The fill-in-the-blanks plot was a parade of missed opportunities, one of which was particularly egregious, and what resulted was one of the lowest points in the show’s struggling first season. Let’s recap where it went wrong.

Lorelei, a scourge of Asgard 600 years ago, has broken free of her confinement and traveled to Earth in order to build a new base of power for herself. Her sorcery enables her to control men with only the power of her voice, and she utilizes this immediately, ordering a groom to abandon his new bride and drive her to the nearest seat of power. So naturally, they stop at a biker bar.

Sif arrives and our agents are on the scene, having already tracked Lorelei’s arrival. Sif knows S.H.I.E.L.D. is her ally and teams up with Son of Coul and his cohorts in order to re-capture Lorelei, whom they track to the bar. In response to Sif warning that Lorelei exploits an “inherent weakness in men” Coulson basically replies “I’LL SEND MY BEST MEN IN!” and Ward is captured by Lorelei pretty much immediately.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 15 "Yes Men" recap

Then they go to Vegas because fuck it, who cares, love is only here for such a short time let’s get married. Actually, they go to Vegas because Lorelei wants “a palace.” Then there is a really, really, really inadvisable scene of them going to town on each other. (You know, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., maybe what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because we DON’T WANT TO SEE IT.)

S.H.I.E.L.D. knows that Vegas is where Ward takes all of his dates, though, and goes to capture them. But it was all part of Ward’s wily plan! He just wanted to lure S.H.I.E.L.D. to him so that he and Lorelei could take over the plane and...wait, why would an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. need to lure S.H.I.E.L.D. to him when he could just go to S.H.I.E.L.D. pretending he had captured the bad guy and a.u.u.u.u.g.h.t.h.e.p.a.i.n.

So, Ward and Lorelei have the plane and she seduces Fitz into locking Sif in the interrogation room and then ejecting her from the plane. Coulson runs around trying to fix everything while May fights Ward. Earlier, May was telling Sif that she knows Ward wouldn’t kill her, leading Sif to warn May that even if Ward loved her he would still kill her under Lorelei’s influence. Instead of saying something in-character like, “I’d kill him first” May just kind of repeats her earlier statement. In an episode full of nonsensical dialogue, this exchange stood out in particular. May doesn’t have much of a character, but she still has some character. There’s no way she has feelings for Ward aside from thinking that he is an agreeable sack of human.

Anyway, Sif gets back into the plane on account of she’s Asgardian and has been clinging to its skin this whole time, and manages to snap a magic collar on Lorelei that negates her power. The show makes some half-hearted pretense at pretending Lorelei shook some personal revelations out of the team, but the episode and the series itself don’t really support that. As the episode closes, Coulson essentially tells Skye that now that this fun interlude is over they’re going to go after the people that did “that” (he points to her stomach wounds but it doesn’t look like he is hey Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. what are you implying) and take them down.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 15 "Yes Men" recap

You know a television show is in a bad place when you can summarize an episode with “It features a warrior goddess and is a total let-down.” Introducing a manipulative character like Lorelei gives you some wonderful storytelling opportunities. Since the main cast is evenly divided by gender it gives you an excuse to play them off of each other in a way that you couldn’t do naturally, thereby exposing new tensions or discovering new ways for those characters to appeal to one another. The show sort of attempts this in regards to the May vs. Ward freak-out, but it’s trying to draw tension from a relationship that has been mostly off-screen, so there’s no impact to their clash. Because of the out-of-character botched dialogue between May and Sif that I mentioned earlier, the episode doesn’t succeed in establishing that May even has feelings for Ward, so her wounded nature at the end of the ep feels like it comes out of nowhere.

In contrast, Ward has been established in previous episodes as someone who has deeper feelings for May, so there’s potential there to bring that to light. Imagine if Ward had actually succeeded in giving May a grievious injury right before he comes to his senses. He would be devastated, he would be forced to question himself where before he was unquestioning (something else the show is slowly starting to develop since “The Well”) in short, he would grow as a character as an organic result of the plot development.

While the episode half-tries at using Lorelei to develop May and Ward, it completely abandons everyone else. Fitz gets easily turned by Lorelei but the only thing that results in is his getting punched by Coulson.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 15 "Yes Men" recap

God, that’s so satisfying. Let’s look at it again.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 15 "Yes Men" recap

Afterwards, Coulson doesn’t even apologize to Fitz for punching him. And while my darker nature is thrilled with that, it’s yet another indication of how this episode didn’t seem to know what to do with itself. Coulson would apologize, but that’s an incidental development of the plot. Where the episode really missed the mark was in putting a Lorelei-worshipping Fitz up against Simmons. We still don’t really know what’s up with them. Sometimes they really seem to hate each other, sometimes they seem like they’d be holding hands into death and beyond. Altering Fitz’s affections and stolid nature was the show’s opportunity to teach us a little more about their dynamic. What is Fitz like when he doesn’t give a care about Simmons? Is this it? We have no idea.

And the missed opportunities just kept cropping up. We never got the chance to see if Lorelei’s power would have even worked on Coulson. How scary would it have been if they had? Coulson is a steady enough personality that he could have ordered the team to their deaths under Lorelei’s influence without them (or us) batting an eye. And even if the team knew that Coulson was compromised, they still would have had to struggle with their own feelings to justify removing him from play. It would have given Skye something real to struggle with instead of her “But I really want to get out of bed” plotline.

And then there was the “Men have an inherent weakness” remark.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 15 "Yes Men" recap

This is not a statement that I have a problem with within the context of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Lorelei’s power affects men, and while that’s pretty cornball on the face of it, Sif’s remark is nonetheless an attempt to explain the logic behind that power.

What the episode utterly, catastrophically, fails at is engaging with the logic behind this remark. Instead of the silence that this line was greeted with, we should have gotten an exchange akin to this:

Sif: “Men have an inherent weakness that we [women] do not share.”

Coulson: “What is the inherent weakness?”

Sif: “You allow your lustful urges to overcome your sense of the greater good.”

May: “Right on!”

Coulson: “All men do this? Every single one?”

Sif: “Yes.”

Coulson: “That’s half the entire population of this planet. And you’re saying 3.5 billion people are all alike?”

Sif: “From my experience, it is no different than the assumptions you make of the women on your world.”

Coulson: “Are these assumptions correct?”

May: “No way!”

Coulson: “Then maybe the assumption that all men have an inherent weakness is also incorrect. Maybe the more likely answer is that Lorelei’s power only affects the Y chromosome?”

And so on. The point of such an exchange isn’t to definitively arrive at a singular truth. Rather, it brings up an opportunity to discuss different perceptions of gender and the validities or fallacies behind them. And while I understand that this is not really the intent of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there’s still a Whedon at the helm of the show and this was an opportunity to speak on the issue of gender in a way that fit organically with the characters, Marvel mythology, and the larger story of the episode. That they didn’t gives me the impression that the show runners aren’t paying as much attention as they should to what they’re producing.

The consideration of gender could have also brought variety to Lorelei’s actions within the episode. If the episode is going to assert that men have inherent weakness that makes them vulnerable to Lorelei’s manipulations then it should also assert that this also makes women all the more a threat to Lorelei.

Eliminating the male characters as responders to this particular threat gives the show a chance to highlight that it features highly capable women who Lorelei really needs to watch out for, not just amongst the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but out in the real world. The episode almost realizes this after Lorelei takes over the biker gang, only to discover that the wife of the gang’s leader isn’t going to allow that without a fight. The show could have used this moment to depict Lorelei as more strategic and forward-thinking than the straightforward seductress she was ultimately presented as by having Lorelei realize that she will encounter this type of resistance repeatedly from Midgard’s women and that she thus needs to develop a way to control them as she does Midgard’s men. “You will grant me the use of this bar,” Lorelei could have said. “Or I will tell your husband to kill himself in front of you.” Instead, she just tells the husband to choke his wife to death, making Lorelei completely unsympathetic as a character and therefore less of a threat to us as viewers. We don’t care about Lorelei’s motivations after that, we just want her taken down and every obstacle to that goal just becomes annoying instead of exciting.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 15 "Yes Men" recap

By the end of “Yes Men” I just felt bad for the show and the folks working on it. This was one of their worst outings, but thanks to Sif’s guest appearance there were probably more people than usual watching it.

Despite the failure of the episode’s story, there were two things it did that I absolutely loved.

1.) The “reclassification” of “Tahiti”:

Agent Sitwell: “How was Tahiti?”

Coulson (shades up like a mofo): “It sucked.”

2.) Asgard’s in trouble:

At the end of the episode Sif reveals that Lorelei isn’t going back to Asgard to be imprisoned. Rather, she’s going to join Asgard’s army as per Odin’s orders. [Spoilers for Thor 2, highlight to read] Except Odin isn’t Odin anymore. Odin is actually Loki. [End spoilers] It sounds like dark days are coming to Asgard and Sif is torn between her loyalty to Asgard and her sense of what is right. Especially in the absence of Thor. I want to watch that story.

 

Tidbits:

  • Sif gives a handy rundown of blue aliens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:  the Levians, the Sarks, the Centaurians, the Kree (!), and the Frost Giants.
  • Skye knows she’s probably an alien baby now. She’s cool with it.
  • Coulson: “Two men died to protect this secret.” Yeah, because you kind of killed them? Well, you were put in a position where you had to kill them even though you tried not to kill them. It’s so debatable! We can certainly understand why you’re upset. Let’s go kill more people.
  • Nick Fury is a “top agent,” and not the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? That seems like a script error.
  • The post-credits scene: May is informing on Coulson to S.H.I.E.L.D.. I wish that was more surprising than it is.
  • I thought Sif recognizing Coulson as someone who should be dead was pretty cool, actually.
  • It was also cool how Coulson specified that he wanted to tell Thor that he’s alive. Although it seems weird that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t know Thor is on Earth for good now. I guess they wouldn’t if he’s just kind of chilling with Jane Foster and not out superheroing? I wonder what their dates are like? Imagining them, like, going to the zoo makes me giggle like crazy. THOR PUT THAT GIRAFFE DOWN. Also I feel like Thor would hate pizza. I don’t know why.
  • This episode’s writer Shalisha Francis was also responsible for my other least favorite episode “The Bridge,” which also suffered from being a flat, by-the-numbers story. I’m not sure if this is her style or if it’s just luck of the draw, since television episodes tend to get worked on by an entire writing staff and not just one sole voice.
  • Who does Ward actually care for? Is it his abs? It’s probably his abs.

Chris Lough is the resident Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. voice of doom and doesn’t dare reveal what he actually cares about it’s whiskey. Send him some on Twitter.

48 comments
Chris Meadows
1. Robotech_Master
Fun fact: "Lorelei" derives from a German poem written in 1824 by Heinrich Heine. (Well, okay, actually the poem isn't the original source, but still.) And to think people claim comic books aren't educational!

Here's my own father's translation of said poem. (You can find other translations, but I think my Dad's is the best. Partly from family loyalty, of course.) It's also been translated by no less a personage than Mark Twain.

Why is my heart sorely saddened?
Some sorrow has taken its toll;
An old time legend has maddened
And almost enchanted my soul.

The air is cool in the twilight
And peaceful flows the Rhine;
The sun’s last rays before the night
Make the stone peak twinkle and shine.

The lovely maiden sits there
High up and young and bold;
Her gold jewels glint, she combs her hair-
Long strands of radiant gold.

With golden comb she combs her hair
And sings a clear refrain;
A song of power and despair
Fills the darkening domain.

The boatman in his little skiff
Is seized by the song’s savage grief;
He looks up to the lofty cliff,
Not down at the rocky reef.

I think that the waves did swallow
The boat and the boatman as one;
And this with her terrible solo
The Lorelei has done.
Andy P.
2. Andy P.
"Who does Ward actually care for? Is it his abs? It’s probably his abs."

To be fair, I care for his abs.
Andy P.
3. FredG
Was Lorelei impervious to the night-night guns? "Shoot first" should be the order when dealing with someone that can control you with their voice/touch.
Brigitte Reed
4. brigittereed
I don't know, I understood what Sif inferred when she said men have an inherent weakness. . .

And the randomness that you came up with above is worse, IMHO, than just leaving it implied. >.> It read like bad fan-fiction. >.>

I do agree with you on how it didn't make a lot of sense to send in their "best men" when they knew that men were susceptible to Lorilei's influence.

I don't think the episode was as bad as you made it out to be. Maybe you should watch it again and see if your opinion changes?
Chris Lough
5. TorChris
Oh, I am totally jealous of his abs. I'm not at all kidding about how much care they take to create and maintain.

Robotech_Master! That is fantastic. Three cheers for your dad!
Chris Meadows
6. Robotech_Master
To be honest, I kind of expected the stupidity of the central cast. I'd hoped for better, but the moment I saw that, apart from mysterious blue (da-ba-di) dude, the "in our last episode" flashback was focused on "Ward and May are boinking," I pretty much knew what was going to happen.

You can't have something like them sending only female agents out. That would make too much sense. One of the central premises of shows like this is that people will take stupid pills when the plot requires it.

As for Nick Fury being a "high level agent," don't you remember that, from Avengers, he's technically actually not the one in charge? The Shadowy Council is. And they can do things like order nuclear missiles to be fired without his say-so.
Chris Lough
7. TorChris
And the randomness that you came up with above is worse, IMHO

Oh, absolutely. It's not meant to be actual dialogue for the show, though. My intent is to illustrate that exploration of the subject should have occured, considering the pedigree of the show.
Chris Meadows
8. Robotech_Master
Also, TorChris, how do you get that Lorelei's going back to join Asgard's army? All I saw was that "Odin" had ordered she be returned alive, and as far as I could make out both she and Sif fully expected her to be imprisoned again.

(To be honest, I was half expecting the post-credits teaser to be "Odin" revealing himself to be Tom Hiddleston and telling Lorelei he had plans for her. Alas, disappointment.)
Kalvin Kingsley
9. KalvinKingsley
I agree with @4, I think the ep wasn't as bad as you think it was. I do admit that I shouted to Ward "SHOOT. SHOOT HER! SHOOOO dammit!" though.

As for missed opportunites, I think there were some, definitely. But not the ones you list:
1. May didn't "just repeat what she said", she specified "Ward might TRY to kill me, but he won't." As in "I'm more bad-ass-er than he is." And she was right - he pulled the trigger but she'd already kung-fu'd the clip out of the gun (what about the round in the chamber? Eh whatever.)

2. I'm so sick of everything having to make points about gender, or losing points if it doesn't. This show made a quip about how "all men have an inherent weakness." As a dude, I'm ok with that, and not offended. It was a throwaway line from a sexist woman, and pretty completely in character with Sif. Also, it happened to pretty much be true (with respect to how the episode played out, that is). And that's how the Enchantress' power works in the Marvel Universe, so...meh, that's fine.

3. Fitz and Simmons - we've already seen that Fitz is generally nonviolent. Lorelei's charms worked on him obviously because he goes running after Simmons, but we all know he's just going to try to lock her up so Lorelei doesn't get mad. Trying to shoehorn in some drama there wouldn't really advance the story of their relationship - everyone knows Fitz cares deeply for Simmons, and any conflict due to being under the influence would look the same whether he thought of her as a sister or as a lover.

4. The biker's wife - I think that scene played out exactly as it needed to. The Enchantress not only seduces men, she wants women completely out of the way. They bother her because she can't directly control them. "*Yawn* kill this woman would you?"

The biggest missed opportunity, I think, is showing any sort of twist. I kept waiting for a Firefly-esque flip to happen where it turns out Ward had been injected with some hormone-deadening serum or something, and had been playing Lorelei from the start, just to get her to the plane.

Nope, he's just dumb, and so was Coulson's plan to bring men along to a woman-fight.
Kalvin Kingsley
10. KalvinKingsley
Oh the other missed opportunity was not getting Christina Hendricks to play Lorelei.
Nathan Martin
11. lerris
@8
The whited out spoiler text for Thor 2 explains why this conclusion makes sense, even if not consisitent with Sif's words.
Luis Milan
12. LuisMilan
I, too, read Agent May's repeated "He _won't_ kill me", as an affirmation that he could try, but he wouldn't succeed.

Agent Abs may be good, but he's not Cavalry good.
Henry Loose
13. schrodinger
Coulson's feelings about Tahiti echo my own feelings about this episode. "It sucked" sums it up pretty well.

The episode was bad for a lot of reasons, but the main one was the uncharacteristic incompetence of SHIELD. We're expected to believe that Coulson would send in his team whithout even a hint of protection against Lorelei? Sif tells him that Lorelei can only affect men, does he just send in a team of women? or advise local police to stay away to keep her from growing her army? (and we're supposed to consider a gang of bikers to be a threat to international security?) This is Coulson at his most incompetent, and it is just so fundamentally counter to his character that it is disarming.

I agree that he should have asked a few more questions about how Lorelei's powers worked. Seriously, you have two certified geniuses with biology and technology backgrounds and don't even consider asking them to come up with a way to block her powers? Do the powers work on a genetic level, i.e. the y chromosome, or at a chemical level, i.e. testosterone? If, so, maybe just shoot Ward up with some estrogen... which would have been kind of funny. On the technology end, maybe have Fitz work up some earplugs to drown out her voice or attach "night night" (icer) capabilites to his little drones. No human contact required to take her and her army out (and if they do make contact, maybe an order to shoot on sight should be give, because Ward clearly didn't get the memo about Lorelei's powers).

Or, hell, this was the government agency that was prepared to nuke NYC in the Avengers; just get a drone in the air and blow up the bar Lorelei's staying in. (Yes, Sif has orders to bring her back to Asgard, but SHIELD isn't exactly on Odin's payroll).

The bottom line is that there were too many plot holes and deviations from character in this episode to make it anywhere close to enjoyable.

Oh well. There's always next time.
Andy P.
14. mirana
Agreed, this episode was full of plot holes and missed opportunities. The worst to me: Coulson didn't send a team of women, and in fact, didn't even take AGENT MAY. Nor did they explain why the hell she wasn't there! Then Ward doesn't even bother to attempt shooting Lorelei in the face, let alone keep his distance. I thought as well that it must be a ploy because it was so bad. Apparently not. "Hey, can make a stop at the gas station for some ear plugs? No? Ok."

The "men have a weakness" thing was a throwaway joke. It's how her powers work in the comic, no doubt, and the character is a throwaway too so they were lazy about the explaination.

I'm beyond annoyed at Ward's "feelings." I was so stoked that Ward and May were getting down. Whether they had secret feelings otherwise is really not important. What was important was it made sense and wasn't cliche. Them not being "in love" was even better for a non-cliche plot line. Y'know, like it would be if Ward had feelings for irritating, bratty Skye. Ugggggggggggggh. Let's hope he has feelings for someone else. Like Fitz. They did spend some quality sandwich time together, after all.
Andy P.
15. Colin R
I don't agree that any more time should have been spent talking about "Men have inherent weakness" stuff. It was a dumb line; they should have just said "It's magic, it only works on men," and moved on. But I think the rest of the points were well-made. This kind of episode is exactly what I fear the Marvel movie-verse is always at risk of turning into--cheezy and kind of brain-dead. I have no idea how they can basically get things just right for the movies, and they can't find someone to write this show.

I'm sort of a little pleased that it at least is starting to feel like it belongs in the Marvel universe though. Two Asgardians, Deathlok, and the Kree are all mentioned in this episode, so that's something. Is there any reason Sif couldn't be a regular member of this show? And Deathlok? I mean, Sif, Deathlok, and some SHIELD agents is no CHAMPIONS of LA, but it's something at least.
Andy P.
16. KAsiki
Ok i get that this guy is pissed that the show isn't as good as he wants it to be, but this episode was much better than this guy would care to admit.

Had holes? yes. but far from the dung heap claimed.

The early holes, well bringing men to the fight. So short noticew on a Welcome wagon operation that turns inot a near worst case senario. The team they had was never going to be all women, because you work with what you have. Why wasn't May there? no idea. But getting an all women team together really would never be feasable that short of notice. Ward was sent to the back and he screwed up. Ok i get it.

Face it. Most of these mistakes aren't nearly as bad as one would be lead to believe by this article. "Real world" these mistakes would happen.

My issue isn't that most of it happened, but there were some stretches that seemed to be ok we get one quick take and lets move on. A few of the key sceens were just poorly acted or edited.
Alan Brown
17. AlanBrown
Wow, I almost feel like I saw a different episode than you, Chris. Yeah, they could have done a few things differently, but I thought the whole thing worked pretty well, and having the Asgardians involved definitely took the proceedings up a notch. It was an interesting episode that was fun in and of itself, but also moved the story arc forward.
Andy P.
18. Gorgeous Gary
I know they were going for a sight/name gag, but having been to Vegas three times in recent years on business, I have to say that Caeser's isn't the creme de la Strip. I'd head for the Venetian, myself.
Tudza White
19. tudzax1
May should be dead should she? Taking the magazine out leaves one round in the chamber. These folks wouldn't walk around without a round in the chamber.

Unless she took the magazine just before a round a fired. I can't remember.

And yeah, shot the Asgard lady on sight. Don't let an Asgardian that can kick people through walls get close enough to touch you. Etc.
Andy P.
20. Ragnarredbeard
On the gun with no mag issue, most pistols will fire with no mag in the well. Some, however, do have mag disconnects so you can't fire with the mag out. I don't know what pistols they use on the show, though.
Andy P.
21. Gardner Dozois
Amusing that this reviewer said that it was the worst episode of the series while the reviewer over at io9 enthused that it was the best episode of the series. Just goes to show you how subjective reactions to anything can be.
Liz J
22. Ellisande
I was very happy with Sif's appearance, myself. Sure it's all a bit cheezy and dumb, but that's been true of this show since the start. And Sif kicking trailers and throwing dudes thru walls makes up for a lot. My main complaint is that they didn't get someone with more fight training for Lorelei - an interview w Jaimie Alexander described how inexperienced the other actress was, and it really showed. If you're going to have a character throw down with Sif (and May) you should probably cast someone who knows what she's doing, not just hope she can figure it all out in a day.

We know from the ep that Lorelei was taken alive to Asgard last time, so I don't think it's necessarily out of standard practice. However I would bet keeping her alive has more to do with Enchantress, who's Lorelei's sister in the comics, and a big deal villain. I've been presuming Enchantress is being held for the movies, so it'll be interesting to see how they end up connecting the two in the MCU.
Bill Capossere
23. Billcap
I'm on the Chris side on this one. Found it flat, predictable, and predicated on people-have-to-do-dumb-things plot points, which I've so lost patience for. Normally it would have been just disappointing, but it was doubly so for just those reason given (even if not necessarily the specific examples)--so many wasted opportunities. Beginning with the Asgardians. So much better use could have been made of them, of the characters, so much room for humor in so many different forms/ways. The show keeps teetering on the edge for me, but this one came close to pushing it over. Hope they right the ship soon.
Andy P.
24. Athreeren
They have drones, they have night-night guns. Combine the two, shoot everyone, pick up the pieces. They didn't need to send men or women. The whole point of S.H.I.E.L.D. is to handle superhuman threats without any superpowers, why can't they ever have decent plans?
William Wible
25. Wodan
I agree there were some flat bits and maybe some places the episode could have expanded into some more interesting creative dialogue. The main problem is that this should have been a two-parter. They had to cram way too much action into 45 minutes, and that means you have to shortcut the dialogue. End of complaint.

Chris, no offense but I think you're trying too hard to write what you think should have happened instead of simply critique what did happen. Seems to me you are a good writer and probably could have written a better script. With 45 minutes? When the director says "no, you have 10 seconds for this scene, not 2 minutes" all while he refuses to let you cut scenes? All of your suggestions will take way more time than was allotted.

Seems to me we can be critical and demanding that they improve the show, without being unreasonable. I for one love that we have a SciFi show with promise, a realistic budget, and mass-market backing in the midst of a world of waste-of-space sitcoms. The success of the films is what is letting this go mainstream, and we need to give it support and constructive criticism. Frankly, pretty much all good shows start out with season 1 sucking, season 2 pretty good, and season 3 where it really starts to shine. For whatever reason that seems to be the case.

Back to the review and being overcritical... As an example, the comment about Fitz-Simmons, "Sometimes they really seem to hate each other, sometimes they seem like they’d be holding hands into death and beyond." Frankly, this is perfect. They have a brother/sister relationship, and that hits the nail on the head. If you want them to go into some Luke/Leia thing, we're not there yet. As it was, this scene was perfectly in character for them.
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
Nick Fury is a “top agent,” and not the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? That seems like a script error.

Or it's a reference to the events of Winter Soldier, which hints heavily at Fury being taken out as director and even features a line where he says "Get me off the grid, NOW!"
Amey Chinchorkar
27. ameyc
I read May's repetition of " won't hurt me" as "He may try, he won't be able to". Not because of his feelings for her, but because May is May and she kicks everyone's ass.

They did miss the chance of putting Simmons front and center along with May and Lady Sif.

That said, nobody, not even Asgardian sorceresses can seduce Son of Coul.
Andy P.
28. Colin R
How are you supposed to be critical without questioning what has happened? I think it's a salient point that it's trivially easy to think of better ways to do this stuff. I mean if they had put more thought into how SHIELD should react to an Asgardian threat, they would not just make the team look smarter--they would make the threat seem more competent and dangerous when they overcame the team.

If they send in only women and drones to deal with Lorelei and she still escapes, that increases the stakes. When everyone just seems to be going at their jobs half-assed it makes you question everything else that is going on. Like, maybe that board of directors from the Avengers wasn't wrong to think that Nick Fury has a few screws loose, if this is the kind of team he is putting together.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
The biggest fail, IMO, is how the show seems like it has failed to recognize that Ward was raped.

May didn't break it off because she's mad at Ward or because he tried to kill her, she broke it off because this episode made it clear, she does have feelings for him. Are they earth shattering "I'll die for you" feelings? No, but they are more than she feels comfortable with, so out of her bed he goes.

And the character that Ward has feelings for isn't Skye, it's Simmons, now setting him and Tripp from the previous episodes as romantic rivals.

And yes, that's a misreading of the May/Sif exchange, May's repetition was her establishing that No, Ward won't kill her, he's not capable of killing the Calvary.

And as far as the "go after Lorelei with only women" requests, that's what they did in Vegas, so the implication is that they just didn't have time to get that together at the biker bar. The plan was that Sif was supposed to engage Lorelei, leaving the men free to use the NiteNite guns on the men she had recruited(because from what I've seen, the Asgardians are immune to the NiteNite tech). That Lorelei would easily evade Sif was not foreseen.

I also agree that they should have adapted how Lorelei's powers work for more modern sensibilities(having a Y chromosome and penis doesn't make you a man, FYI*) by having Lorelei's powers work on those who are attracted to her, no matter where they fall in the gender spectrum. Even better would have been to have Sif unaware that is how her powers actually work, and have the team send in a woman only to have her fall prey to Lorelei's powers.

*And honestly, Loki's pretty gender fluid in the myths and comics, Asgardians should know better.
Andy P.
30. Random22
Last time I saw this episode on tv it was on SG1 and called Hathor. Sadly AoS shows no sign of getting its act together like SG1 eventually did though. This is stuff that would be embarrassing television back in the 90s, to have it on these days is just pathetic. I still do not care about any of these walking bits of cardboard that they call characters, and that is the problem with AoS; the actors are just dialogue dispensing machines and not doing much in the way of acting.
Andy P.
31. harmonyfb
Re: #9 KalvinKingsley
I'm so sick of everything having to make points about gender, or losing points if it doesn't
Except this episode was all about gender, by design.

I found it disappointing, and it's treatment of the subject was more like a 70's tv show than a modern series.

That's before we get to the ridiculous character reactions. Why on earth wouldn't this be an Agent May operation? Why - for goodness' sake - would they send in Ward? It makes no sense whatsoever. If the writer really wanted to explore Ward & May's uneven feelings, then why not have them run into Lorelei before they met Sif? Then Ward could have been turned without making Coulson & Co act like a bunch of blithering idiots.
Andy P.
32. Gardner Dozois
I'll bet you a quarter that it's Skye, not Simmons.

Taking the time to show off the array of night-night weapons they have at their disposal makes it even odder that they shot the two poor mooks only doing their job in the last episode with real bullets, and killed them.
Andy P.
33. Gardner Dozois
Be interesting if it's COULSON that Ward is secretely in love with--but they're not going to go there.
Andy P.
34. Ellen G
If Ward is fawning over Skye, I will srsly hang myself. I was all excited when he and May turned out be hooking up because zomg, less predictable! ... But it looks like we're headed right back toward pat love interests instead.

Also. WHY WOULD YOU SEND IN THE MEN!? wtf Coulson. Maybe the "inherent weakness" Sif was talking about is the fact that you couldn't just admit you're all a risk on this op and let your perfectly capable ladies take over instead.
Andy P.
35. Gardner Dozois
Since Lorelei's power is based on making herself irresistably desireable to men who desire women, I was hoping that they'd send in a gay male agent, immune to her power, to take her out. But no.
Andy P.
36. arhcadia
surprised no one mentioned the one scene that really doomed the episode for me. You know, the one where Lorelei enchants Fitz and then says, "you need to lure Sif into the prisoner room" and Fitz says "Sure. I have a great idea. I fixed that collar, which is the only way to imprison you. Why don't I use that to lure her in and then leave it there with her." and Lorelei says "Great idea. I don't see any way that plan could go wrong..."
Seriously, joss can do no wrong in my world. i just wish he was playing a little more actively in the SHIELD world.
Alan Brown
37. AlanBrown
I think that this show is suffering from one of the same problems as Babylon 5 had in the first season. The leader of B5, CDR Sinclair, was a combat veteran traumatized by war who had gone through a terrible experience that he didn't quite remember. And he tended to be a dour presence on screen. Until CAPT Sheridan showed up with a grin and some enthusiasm, and the show felt like it snapped into focus.
Coulson as currently presented is kind of the same as Sinclair in that first season. The confident and snarky agent of the movies has been reduced to a sad and brooding presence, and the show suffers because of it. In this case, though, I don't think a change of actors is called for. Clark Gregg is a good actor with a lot of range. The writers just need to give him a chance to resolve this whole 'what happened when I died' angst-filled plotline, and let him move on. Enjoy life a little. Go on a date (maybe reunite with an old cello-playing flame). Execute a mission well, and have a beer and a laugh with the team. He can have challenges, and even suffer from time to time, but he needs to lighten up a bit, or we should rename the show "Eeyore and the Agents of SHIELD."
Andy P.
38. ClintACK
Really, really lazy plotting. I *hate* plots that require everyone to make stupid mistakes for the plot to move forward. But this was even worse. The stupid mistakes weren't even necessary for any aspect of the plot. Lorelei could easily have beaten Ward in a straight up fight where he didn't behave like a mook cop without the benefit of Sif''s briefing.

The lack of even an attempt at earplugs drove me completely out of the story. They had a council meeting *in* the science lab, with the two science geeks, where it was explained that the big bad controls men who hear her voice. And no one thought to use earplugs? Really? And we're supposed to buy the notion that Fitz and Simmons are uber-genius types, and the rest are masters of unconventional tactics? And this is SHIELD's top team for dealing with freaks with special powers? No plot point depended on the team not even *trying* to counter the big bad's power. It wasn't even "stupid to make the plot move" -- the writers just didn't think of it, apparently. Earplugs, deafening sonic weapon, sonic subliminal vibration jammer... even if it doesn't work, at least they should have tried something.

Heck, even Sif -- why did she come alone? Couldn't Asgard spare a handful of shield maidens to come with her -- rather than sending her solo against an enemy who was her equal one-on-one and would have an army with her? Were they *counting* on SHIELD to back her up? What was her plan if they hadn't shown up?

Bah. I *really* want to like this show. There have been moments of brilliance, but so many moments of facepalm.
Darren Kuik
39. djk1978
Wasn't the best episode I'll agree. You knew with Asgard presence that it was going to be an episode that had a lot of holes. You just can't cram escaping Lorilei enslaving the world (or at least a couple men), sending Sif after her, involving SHIELD etc into a 40 min episode and expect to do justice to it.

I did raise an eyebrow at them initially sending Ward in instead of May given Sif's intel about Lorilei. Also am I the only one who found Ward and Lorilei's escapade in Vegas to be at very best morally ambiguous? I mean I guess it's not that much beyond ensorcelling and I suppose you might say it was her "reward" for him, but I found it pretty sketchy.

I have to say I hope that the writers aren't suggesting Ward have feelings for either Skye or Simmons instead of May. I hope that was a throwaway petty line from Lorilei. In fact I'd just as soon not have romance on this show at least for now. The characters barely know each other. At least with Ward and May it came across as less of a romantic relationship then a mutual agreement.

Lots of growing pains, but I hope it turns into something. I really would like this show to succeed.
Tom Smith
40. phuzz
I'm begining to think that the night-night guns come with an in-built plot hole generator.
Why were Coulson, Simmons and May running around trying to find ways of keeping the boys occupied, when they'd already had a scene showing FLIPPING LOADS of sleepy guns. Like, ALL SORTS of night night guns, pistols, shotguns, one that looked like Garrus's sniper rifle from Mass Effect, all sorts!
But do they use one to shoot their teammates, so as to non-lethally take them out of the game? Nope!
Was there seriously not a single one left on board the aircraft?
(I suppose a 5s scene of Fitz throwing them off the plane might have closed that particular plot hole)

hohum anyway, calming down. There's a interesting difference between Simmons' attitude towards the magic healing injection*, ie she want's to analyse it and find out it's secrets, vs Fitz's attitude 'don't bother, it's just a weird thing'. I'm guessing this will be a plot point at some point.


* I've already forgotten what it's called
Andy P.
41. Lwyd
Is it just me or was this episode sexist? I quote "Men suffer from a weakness women don't have." & "I'm not saying you're weak, I'm saying all men are weak." Reverse the genders in these statements and how does it sound? This is misandry in practice, sanctioned and promulgated by sexist writers. I am boycotting this show as of right now.
Andy P.
42. Bytowner
Aeryl: Exactly right in your assessment of what Lorelei did to Ward.

Interesting context here: Ward was telling Skye at the top of the show that Mike Peterson "had his chance". And in the course of the story, Lorelei uses Ward. Not exactly the same way as the Clairvoyant is using Mike...but it's still enslavement.
Leigh Butler
44. leighdb
I've talked about this privately, because this episode really bugged me, so I might as well put it here as well.

I completely agree with Chris that Lorelei's power was entirely nonsensical, relying as it does on an insulting and patently false blanket stereotype (that all men think only with their dicks - which is a stereotype I particularly loathe, because while it seems like it's merely insulting to men, it's also a sneaky way to absolve men of responsibility for what they do under the supposedly indomitable sway of their sexual urges. I.e. it excuses rape culture and places all responsibility for preventing rape and sexual harassment on women, because what can men do? Their dicks think FOR them!).

Not to mention the next logical step in the nonsensicalness, which is that Lorelei's entire "power" was also based on such ridiculously outdated notions about sexuality that it's laughable. If her power was based on making people who were sexually attracted to her do whatever she wanted (which is certainly what the episode implies), then logically a gay man would be unaffected, wouldn't he? And what about if she encountered a lesbian, or a bisexual of either gender? What if she encountered someone who identifies as asexual, with little or no sex drive at all? Would an ace person be immune to her power entirely?

That would have been a really interesting and modern thing to explore, and could additionally have provided some really cool plot twists AND character development to the story (what if Simmons was bi and she was the one who got roofied instead of Fitz? Just for instance). But no, we only see men falling all over Lorelei, which only reinforces the illusion that everyone in the world is straight, which is not only boring but especially lame for a show like SHIELD, which has been so good in other areas of equal representation that their blatant omission of LGBTQ characters or themes is all the more glaring by comparison.

The second and much more problematic thing, however, is the sex scene between Ward and Lorelei, and how that was a rape scene. And yet no one on the show, either on the screen or behind it, seems to have noticed that fact.

Even I didn't really realize it until I'd really thought hard about why it was bugging me so much, which is a disturbingly telling thing about how ingrained gender expectations/roles are in our culture. Because Ward is a guy, and girls can't rape guys, right?

Yeah, no. The roofies being magical doesn't change the fact that Ward had his ability to rationally consent taken away from him, and was coerced into having sex with someone who he otherwise would never have touched. And that is the bloody textbook definition of rape. And yet, neither the characters nor the show made any acknowledgment of that, and just played it as a steamy HAWT sex scene.

Which is both gross and disturbing, because if the genders of the two participants had been flipped I bet there would have been absolutely no question about how icky and not cool the scene would have been.

In conclusion: Ugh. It's a shame, because Lady Sif was 1000% made of awesome in the episode and it did have some great moments, but the ickiness of the Ward/Lorelei scene and the eye-rollingness of the "explanation" of Lorelei's power really kind of ruined it for me.
Chris Nelly
45. Aeryl
I feel the same way, Leigh, and I'm pretty much in "wait and see" mode to see if this is addressed next episode.

I've watched Dollhouse. I've watched Spartacus. I know that Jed and Mo can DO BETTER when it comes to this.

So I'm holding out hope that this is going somewhere, that the show intends to deal these characters investment in rape culture and victim blaming narratives head on, because that is honestly the ONLY excuse for the atrocious way it was dealt with this episode.

I'm willing to cut them a *tiny* amount of slack in regards to Lorelei's powers on this, only because at the end of the day, these characters don't belong to the showrunners, but to the network and they could be the ones balking at an interpretation of Lorelei's powers that wasn't so stuck in the gender binary.

That doesn't give me a lot of hope for the movies going forward though, because it hints that their modern interpretation of the Enchantress is going to be done the same way, and honestly by now, Marvel should know better.
Steven Halter
46. stevenhalter
If they address it in future episodes (like starting in the next one) it could really open up Ward's character. Although, then they would be playing the "let's rape someone to let them show feels card". All the various alternates ways that Leigh mentioned would have worked better.
Andy P.
47. J Town
The episode wasn't the greatest. It relied too much on the tie-in characters, had too much to realistically address in the allotted time frame, and no real payoff at the end of the episode. But it clearly illustrates a few things that REALLY frustrate me about this show. One thing that is within the writers' ability to address and one that may not be.

First, they keep playing the long game, but at the expense of the here and now. So many episodes plant seeds for the long run (which is good in season 1 of a new show), but don't have that much in terms of immediate payoff. Which means that you may not get to have a long term payoff if no one cares about the characers and stakes in the first place. My main enjoyment of this show is Coulson, Fitz, and Simmons. May is ok, but too stoic for me to care that much. Ward doesn't do much for me. Skye is great in concept but doesn't seem to completely click in the way the show desperately needs her to in order to use her as the catalyst for so much of what happens. I should have been horrified when Skye was shot, even knowing that she would almost certainly survive it. I might have raised my eyebrows for a moment, but that's it. Not good enough.

But here's the second problem, and I can't see how to get around it.
ABC has GOT to stop with the horribly erratic schedule for new episodes. Any good progress that is made is utterly dependent on bringing the show back week after week to keep upping the ante. When you have an episode like Tracks and then "Tune in a month later to see what happens!", you lose people. Attention spans are too short, the show is too new, people aren't invested enough and they stop watching. I checked again after this episode was over and, what a shock!, no new episodes until April. It's absolutely idiotic and it's going to kill the show if it keeps up.

The show needs a steady production schedule, engaging episodes with an immediate payoff (not just setting the stage for later reveals), and at least one new regular cast member (killing one of the existing ones if need be to make room - I vote May or Ward since both could theoretically fill the same function from what we've seen so far.) Otherwise, I don't see the show surviving for long. Which is a shame, since it has a lot of potential and has provided some very enjoyable moments.
Andy P.
48. Wodan
Nice post, Leigh. Agree 100% with everything you said. I do wonder about future episodes to bring this all home.
Paul Keelan
49. noblehunter
According to Clark Gregg's twitter, next week is a repeat but after that it's a solid run until the end of the season, which will help.

I understand that being a comic book show (pretty much any kind of show, really) means they're going to be dumb sometimes but they could at least be clever about it.

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