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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “Eye Spy”

Marvel Agents of SHIELD Review Eye Spy
ABC

Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its fourth episode “Eye Spy,” Coulson and the team track a rogue agent from Coulson’s past who begins committing seemingly impossible robberies, before a sinister twist requires them all to work together..

Last week’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “The Asset” saw the kidnapping of scientist Dr. Franklin Hall (Ian Hart) by villainous magnate Peter Quinn (David Conrad) sending an inexperienced Skye on her first mission, while Coulson encountered an unusual problem in the field, so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series keep us marveling at its inaugural season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s fourth episode, “Eye Spy!”

In Stockholm, a number of identically-dressed men with red masks and briefcases enter a subway station, followed by a mysterious young woman (Pascale Armond) tracking their movement. Upon boarding the train, the men stare at the woman, before she takes advantage of the emergency brake to knock them all unconscious, severing one of their hands to fetch his handcuffed briefcase. Alone in the tunnels, the woman opens the case to reveal a cache of diamonds before disappearing.

Aboard the bus on route to Sweden, Coulson finds Skye taking personal time within one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. cars, asking for her assistance to learn someone cracked elaborate security systems in multiple heists. In the case of the masked men, the thief managed to identify which of the 55 briefcases contained the diamonds, having pulled of several other impossible heists with her eyes closed. Skye posits that they can find the woman through civilian social media photos of the bizarre masked men, in which Coulson recognizes his own former trainee, Akela Amador.

Coulson identifies former protégé as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent gone missing and now rogue, though he resists May’s suggestion they update HQ on their findings, and Skye assures him Akela’s turn couldn’t be his fault. Meanwhile, Akela meets with her buyer in a Belarus hotel room, closing her eyes to correctly surmise several other armed men in the building. Handing the man golf balls that disguise the diamonds, Akela accepts a keycard as payment for the stones.

The ground team of Coulson, Ward, Fitz, Simmons and Skye drive toward the small village, as Coulson and Ward get out on foot to ask around for Akela’s hotel. Meanwhile, the team in the van taps into a mysterious signal broadcasting nearby, quickly realizing it to be Akela’s own video feed approaching the van. Skye tries in vain to use a gun for defense, but not before Akela rams their van off the road and escapes.

Skye recovers the data stream, which the team soon realizes originates from an ocular implant within Akela that switches to x-ray when her eyes close. May insists that Akela attacked S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and can’t be redeemed, though a message on the camera’s viewpoint quickly brings the realization that Akela is doing another’s bidding. Later, Skye agrees with Coulson that Akela may deserve a second chance, before Coulson realizes that May found Akela’s hotel from a room service receipt and already left to intercept.

Akela awakens to find May in her hotel room, refusing to look at the agent for fear her handler will order them to fight, or activate a failsafe kill-switch within her eye. Akela opts to protect herself by engaging May, gaining the upper hand by turning out the lights, though Coulson manages to intervene with a tranquilizer before Akela kills May.

A while later, Akela awakens in the bus’ holding cell, while Coulson assures her they transferred the ocular feed to a set of glasses worn by Ward, intending to carry out the mission until they can remove Akela’s implant. Having been watched for the last four years since her captivity after the failed mission, Akela expresses relief, and laments that not following Coulson’s last orders got her team killed. Meanwhile, Ward and Skye arrive to Akela’s assigned destination, unable to look at one another to avoid compromising Akela’s cover.

As Ward enters the mysterious plant, Coulson and Akela work out from her handler’s instructions that he’s at least English, older, and heavyset, while Fitz and Simmons prep for surgery to remove Akela’s implant. Ward follows the directions to finally find his target, before the handler instructs that he seduce the guard, still thinking the feed to be from Akela. Ward reluctantly does his best to make bro-mantic smalltalk with the guard, ultimately knocking him out and entering the next room. Once inside, Ward sees two men working away with equations written all over the walls, the most alien-looking of which causes the implant to take a photograph, completing the mission.

The alarm rings when the guard fails to check in, sending Ward running through the installation to flee from gunfire, while Fitz and Simmons continue attempting to remove Akela’s implant. Ward accidentally sees his reflection in a mirror, forcing Fitz and Simmons to sever the implant before the handler triggers a small explosive in the Akela’s device, thankfully now removed. Elsewhere, Coulson manages to track the handler’s location, but when Coulson identifies himself as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, the Englishman’s own implant blows, killing him instantly.

The threat over, Coulson assures Akela she’ll receive a fair trial, while Akela points out to May that something seems worryingly different about Coulson since his injury at the Battle of New York. Coulson returns to Skye’s carside hideaway, as the two agree about the importance of having somewhere peaceful to rest, and Akela finally sleeps without fear of being watched.

After the credits, Fitz enlists Skye and the glasses to see Ward’s cards in a game of poker, but quickly folds when he realizes that Skye will also see him without clothes.

As we’ve mentioned previously, Marvel opted to show “Eye Spy” in its entirety to the New York Comic-Con panel audience this past Saturday, though we thought it best to take a second look before dissecting what will likely end up the most divisive ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode to date. On the one hand, “Eye Spy” feels the least connected to the Marvel universe around it, unfolding more like a ‘Mission Impossible‘ case than anything involving established superheroes or name-dropping, which will likely alienate those wishing the series to take more advantage of its namesake.

On the other hand however, we’d rather believe that “Eye Spy” represents a step in the right direction for the drama, questionable though it may be if ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ really warrants such scrutiny or course-correction after only four episodes. Shedding the pilot expectations and overt Marvel connections allows the series to finally function on its own merit, the survival skill it will most need in the wake of a full-season pickup. We can’t realistically expect major set pieces or cameos every week, so the smaller-scale caper wisely places focus on the character relationships.

To that end, we get a nice bit of backstory for Coulson in his history with Akela, another piece of the puzzle that simultaneously hammers home the point that something has mysterious changed since the veteran agent’s resurrection. Akela nicely fits in with the more labored S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives we’ve seen before, and bless the writers for side-stepping any Nick Fury references once the only onscreen black character dons an eye-patch. The story isn’t particularly involved, and only sets up another (or perhaps the pilot’s) unnamed organization running counter to S.H.I.E.L.D., but some cool moods, effects and ominous turns do well to create a larger arc moving forward.

And say what you will about the characters needing further development, but we thought “Eye Spy” well-utilized each team-member to their designated strengths, injecting a bit of needed humor along the way, even if a few of the gags undercut character rather than the moment. Take for instance Skye’s inability to work a firearm in a dangerous situation, which neatly answers a setup from earlier in the episode, but denigrates the character’s effectiveness, rather than play the moment. Contrast that with the biggest laugh of the series so far, in which Ward is given the order to seduce his target, and actually makes a valiant effort of working with the humorous situation.

So while very little about “Eye Spy” will stir the watercooler chat with any memorable moments, likely destined to be forgotten among the earlier episodes later on, the present moment dictates we build the team dynamics before delving into any majorly serialized plot. To that end, mission accomplished. And as Akela’s handler would say, “good luck.”

Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest outing “Eye Spy” sell you on the series?  What did you think about the less Marvel-centric story? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again next week for another all-new recap of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest episode “Girl in the Flower Dress” on ABC!

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