Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Geeky TV commentary - Agents of SHIELD 3.1, Limitless 1.2

Agents of SHIELD airs at 9pm on ABC Tuesday nights. SO MANY SPOILERS BELOW.

Yay, it's back! It feels like it's been at least 83 years since we saw Fitz on that really bad day, and it seems like he's been taking it badly. All summer, he's been tracking down leads, over and over and over, and Coulson has been indulging him because he understands how much Fitz cares about Simmons, and he needs him back. Fitz, though, has just one more mission that takes him to Morrocco like some Indiana Jones / James Bond hybrid, where he walks up to a radial arms dealer like it's not big deal--a sign of bravery? or that he has nothing to live for and doesn't fear death?--and trades a case full of weapons for a scroll that claims to explain everything about the obelisk.

It's just one word inside the scroll, though: Death, in Hebrew. That brings to mind the Golem, to me, but who knows where the story is going?

Anyway, he flips out and screams at the obelisk, but it doesn't do anything and all our hearts break big time because he's the sweetest one and the world keeps hurting him.

And then! Then we get the last-minute-of-the-episode-reveal that SIMMONS LIVES! She's in a blue-filter alien world with two planets in the sky, in a rocky desert, hurt but not stopped. She looks scared. She looks like she's running from something. She doesn't look like she's been there for three months. It looks like one of the dead worlds from Thor, if anything, but again, who knows? Could be anything. But it means the obelisk is a portal! They just have to figure out how to activate it!

And, whoops, that's not the A-plot.

The A-plot is that the terrigan crystals have started spreading around the world and are starting to affect people. SHIELD has tracked at least five, and the one they're tracking in this episode is the first one they've gotten to before they get taken or killed. His name is Joey, and he melts metal, and he doesn't want to go into mutant relocation because he only just came out and got his life together and found something approaching happiness.

Skye is now going by Daisy, and she got him to safety at SHIELD with the neatest flying-room-pod ever, and there was no time in the episode for Fitz and Mac to take credit (or if either of them did, I missed it because it went too fast), but you know they came up with it. Daisy has a superhero suit now, and she controls her power effortlessly, and Mac is her partner but she's the muscle and it's so good. Mac is so much better going along with all the crazy around him and just sort of complaining and then being awesome anyway.

Daisy says they need Lincoln, since he's an actual doctor AND an Inhuman, and he knows what people need when they go through terrigenesis, but when they go find him at his actual job as an actual doctor in an actual hospital, he insists that he's not going to work for anyone anymore, and he just wants a normal life. Too bad that's now allowed. A big spiky-haired Buffy-monster came busting through looking for him and busted up the whole hospital before escaping. Linc goes on the run, Daisy and Mac go back, also on the run.

Meanwhile, Hunter and Coulson have been tracking a mysterious woman they think is responsible for the other Inhumans disappearing, and find that she thinks they're the responsible ones, which means there's a third faction neither of them knew about.

Coulson figures out that there's no more than 17 months and 21 days before the crystals spread their dissolving all over the world, and the new-power events will increase exponentially.

Other neat things:

  • Bobbi is still healing her broken leg and gets to be a scientist since Simmons is gone and Fitz is everywhere; she and Mac both don't want to tell Fitz that he can't do this anymore, so they just pick up the slack and it's beautiful.
  • Coulson's robot arm is amazing. His stone hand is in a case in the lab, where it can be studied and he can, presumably, visit it when he's feeling mopey.
  • Coulson also has the axe that did it hanging on his office wall now.
  • The new Bus is awesome, and less like a plane and more like a massive quinjet with helicarrier fans. It looks like the merging of the SHIELDs did them good, because they've got more toys and more lightbulbs.
  • No sign of Reyna coming back yet.
  • Bobbi and Hunter are debating getting married again?
I read a headline somewhere yesterday that said the show is now the superhero-powered show that we all wanted since the beginning, and I think that's accurate. It's definitely feeling more together than it did most of last season, with a better tone even on the serious stuff, and characters who know who they are and have stuff to do. And, probably best of all, they've been handed this plot point that will change everything in less that two years, and it's mostly their job, so far, to deal with it. Powered people popping up all over the planet with no idea what's going on and SHIELD still being small enough that a lot of them are going to fall through the cracks--that's a big deal. The movies will be getting that, sooner or later, but right now, it's SHIELD, and if we're all lucky, they'll be back to getting places before they're too late again, like they should be.

I've really missed Coulson-the-agent, who just does his job and knows what's going on and isn't at all flapped about it. If they can get back ahead of the crazy, we can get that back again, as well as a useful SHIELD, and any number of characters who can cross between the shows and the movies and do what this show should have always been doing: stitching the world together between the movies!

So all in all, it's a good looking start to the season!

Limitless airs at 10pm on NBC Tuesday nights.

Yay, it's still cool! And still fun! And still totally bonkers in that cheerful way that I love!

This week, the FBI wants Brian to be analyst and he was under the impression that he was going to be a field agent getting to do cool stuff with the team. They ration his drug (and since they're got making it, won't they run out sooner or later?), and they tell him he needs to learn Farsi because that's what they need.

Which he does, but doesn't take long because he's so smart, and he gets bored. The team is investigating a crash that killed a guy who's been doing exposes of big-business creeps. Brian discovers that there should be a chip and a bomb, which there is, and they trace that to a guy who somehow managed to build bombs on contract and then set himself up as a bomb expert for TV interviews. The gall of him. He admits to building it all, but he says he left the set up and someone else picked it up and the chip was never triggered.

So dead end. The doctors think the guy had a stroke. Which leads Brian to the theory, after a long day of running all over the place to talk to people and winding up in Rebecca's living room again, dead sober, hung over, and not really able to explain it well, that the stroke was the weapon. He found two other people of similar ancestry and important jobs who had a cold and then died mysteriously of a stroke, and he thinks there's a virus that targets people with the Genghis Khan genetic marker. How neat is that?

Tracking that leads to a coffee shop where they see someone spraying the cups, to a lady who can't be affected by it, but her lover can be, to a biotech firm. He says he's safe, which is practically a confession, and Brian figures out that everyone hates him and they can get rid of him if they send him the proof they need. Which they do. Before he's done talking.

Meanwhile, he's trying to convince his family that he's doing something right, but he can't tell them anything about a top secret job, and his dad figures out that he's lying about a lot of stuff, and is concerned about that drug connection from last week. Rebecca figures out that if he hires his dad as his lawyer, he can tell him anything and it's protected by confidentiality, which is brilliant...except that when he goes to do just that, he finds that his dad's new at-home nurse is that lady who gives him his anti-side-effects shot, and she reminds him that he's promised not to tell anyone anything.

It was a fun and exciting story, but like the pilot, the really great part is how it's told. The voiceover is clever and irreverent, the difference between enhanced Brian and hungover Brian is instantly feels-making, the team is great, and Brian literally knocking down walls to shake his guards and do what needs doing when no one will just let him do it is fantastic. I hope Mike and Ike stick around and become actual characters, even when he doesn't need guards anymore. Like Casey in Chuck.

The visuals, too, are exactly perfect. Montages of him being amazing are always good, and the maps with the dotted lines as he walks all over the city, and the floating equations and details as he puts stuff together are perfect. The lighting changes between enhanced and not were more consistent this week, and Rebecca cleaning up his messed and smoothing the way for this hyperactive world-changer she volunteered to work with are some of the most useful scenes in the episodes so far. She manages to be in control without being controlling, and there's little moments that show that she likes him, even with all the trouble he causes her; she's amused at least, and possibly a little charmed, and it's adorable.

I hope he always winds up in her apartment when he disappears and comes down. I hope they both get to do stuff other than what he can do on the drug--or when he can't get ahold of the drug. I hope this trust they're building can go far enough to feel solid before things get really tested, which they'll have to be before the end of the season.

Other stuff:

  • Boyle still doesn't like him, but is fighting him being around less, settling for snarking.
  • Every time he tries to do a computer search for the Senator, he crashes the whole grid to his--or anyone else's--house.
  • The boss lady is starting to get a personality, and her exasperation with Brian is golden.
  • Brian winning Trivial Pursuit while on NZT is so great.
  • Brian is so good-hearted. He's a hyperactive puppy, but while he's wandering around solving all the problems at once, he's also helping random people he finds along the way and taking care of stuff for his dad, and not doing anything illegal or unfair as he does it. I hope he stays that way, and that it becomes a thing--that he can be trusted to do what's right and kind, no matter that this is a show about willingly being addicted to a drug that's part of some big conspiracy.
Limitless manages to make it look effortless while they walk the line between cheerful cleverness and serious drama about real things, keeping it mostly on the cheerful side without devaluing the seriousness; it's just that Brian's point of view hasn't had a lot of seriousness in it up until now, and his general point of view is irreverent and funny and unconventional.

What did you guys think of tonight's shows?

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