Cliff-Hanging Without a Cliff. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “The Bridge”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “The Bridge” brought us the show’s very first cliffhanger and possibly its worst episode since Echo became a back-up dancer so far. Did anyone else feel like they were being put on hold? Listening to the same jingles over and over, perking up when they stopped, only to hear the same disappointing pre-recorded update?

The plot here is all set-up, and all telegraphed well in advance. Centipede has busted their (leader?) Edison “The Creeper” Po out of prison using three supersoldiers they’ve managed to stabilize. Our agents are all UH OH and recruit Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) from the pilot episode to be their own supersoldier, which is handy for everyone because he’s already training to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 10: The Bridge

And then they said I was the best S.H.I.E.L.D. trainee ever, and then everyone got cake!

That’s about as far as the agents get in regards to sound, tactical planning. Next thing we know they’ve hunted down Centipede and The Creeper and also Raina The Girl In The Flower Dress to a warehouse, where they proceed to fight three supersoldiers with only one supersoldier and Agent May’s kicking. Coulson does the ONLY smart thing, which is to get a clean shot with their tranquilizer gun, but it doesn’t work. Centipede then stabs Peterson and leaves for no reason.

Or maybe it was because they were overpowered, because it turns out supersoldier punches don’t even give you a mild concussion. Ward nurses his not-bruises with a cold beer and Peterson gets better offscreen and now everyone’s feeling better, yay! Raina then kidnaps Peterson’s adorable little boy ostensibly so they can convince Peterson to come outside and let them know how he’s so stabilized when their own supersoldiers are exhausted after every fight. (The solution, the episode tells us, is to get shot in the head while everyone is looking.)

The agents make the exchange with Raina but in a twist that everyone saw coming it turns out they actually want Coulson. Peterson gets exploded. Ward gets defeated by a cement mixer and then shot. And everyone else literally waits in the car.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 10: The Bridge

Tell them the Big Mac should be no pickles. NO PICKLES. Tell them.

The episode ends with Raina telling Coulson they’re going to find out how he survived his own death and the team calls S.H.I.E.L.D. to let them know that Centipede has finally done something noteworthy and kidnapped Coulson. In a thrilling cameo, Robert Downey, Jr. says into his phone “Phil needs me. I understand.” turns around and says, “Jarvis. Time to suit up” except he doesn’t because that would be exciting and it would also make more sense than this show does. Because, seriously? I mean, I understand that Coulson’s team is the B-squad and Centipede is a very low-rent threat but Coulson is one of maybe five people on the entire planet who has intimate knowledge of how the Avengers work. If you are S.H.I.E.L.D. you don’t let Centipede-Is-The-Best-Name-We-Could-Come-Up-With kidnap him. You send in Barton, Romanov, Cap, Tony, Thor, anyone else and you sweep the leg, you understand? The knowledge Coulson has just from working with the Avengers is a world-class asset and therefore a world-class threat, so he needs to be kept safe.

Even from Centipede, whose leader isn’t actually called The Creeper I know, but I’m at a loss as to how else he should be defined. He’s ex-Marines and provides tactical strategy and connections to willing supersoldier trial participants, but that doesn’t explain why Centipede takes their orders from him. Did he form the group? If so, why? The only other reason he might be in charge is that he seems to be the only one who can talk to “The Clairvoyant.” But that’s like saying that you’re the only one to whom The Wizard of Oz grants an audience. Watch, I’ll put my socks on my hands and talk to The Clairvoyant right now.

My right hand sock puppet: “Hey Clairvoyant whatcha wanna do today?”

My left hand sock puppet: “I dunno Chris what do you wanna do today?”

Boom. Done. Let’s go kidnap Coulson!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 10: The Bridge

Mmm. Good Malk today.

Wouldn’t it have been nice to have been given more information about Centipede’s motives? They’re such a marginal threat that even with Coulson in their clutches and a trio of supersoldiers I’m not all that worried about his fate. Or their fate, for that matter. What if they’re actually trying to accomplish something important? Or something that we viewers might even agree with from a moral standpoint?

Combine this with the wheel-spinning on the show’s other mysteries—Skye’s parents, Coulson’s resurrection—and you understand why this episode was so frustrating. Later, we’ll find things out later, “The Bridge” tells us, but that’s been the show’s mantra from the very start. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s more satisfying episodes at least gave us some tantalizing hints, or some forward progress, about those mysteries. All “The Bridge” gave us is “We want you to tell us about the day after you died.”

You and us both, Centipede. Though if the previous episodes are any indication then Coulson doesn’t actually know. I can’t wait to come back in January for tedious interrogation scenes where Clark Gregg yells that repeatedly!

 

Other tidbits:

  • “A whole class…on women?” I know, right? It’s only the early 21st century! (Seriously, what the hell was that scene doing in a Whedon show?)
  • Poor Mike Peterson. Only 10 episodes in and he’s already been shot in the head and exploded. Someone in that writing room really must hate him.
  • Agent May is extra baffling in this episode and outwardly antagonistic towards her teammates. That would have made sense in the beginning of the show but after the events of the preceding episode it’s now just weird. Not that I expect her to be effusively joyous or anything, but we know she at least tolerates Skye by this point.
  • Hey Ward, maybe don’t position yourself where the drop-off point is blocked from view? Also, for future reference, when the bad guys start hauling your boss away and walk straight through your crosshairs, you can feel free to take the shot.
  • Yes, even if May says they’ll kill Coulson if you do. A big hunky Fizzlebeef like yourself could probably shoot down two people before they even realized what was happening.
  • I’m starting to really dislike Fitz. It feels like every time we see him he’s just being needlessly critical of Simmons. Let her be happy about nerd things!
  • The preview for the next episode looks really exciting, actually. It looks like the agents do in fact try to bring in some heavier hitters to save Coulson, and it also looks like the team will be without him for a little while. Watching the agents try to cohere without their leader should be interesting.

  • We’re also promised the answer to Coulson’s death. Centipede’s “Clairvoyant” must actually be an off the radar psychic then. Time to plunge into Coulson’s mindscape! I bet it’s full of vintage toys.
  • See you in January!

Chris Lough really needs this break from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He hasn’t felt this let down since Torchwood: Miracle Day.

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