Pascale Armand

PASCALE ARMAND, MING-NA WEN

Agents of SHIELD finally delivers its first solid episode, courtesy of writer Jeffrey Bell, who cut his teeth on The X-Files and Angel. Though it concerned a former SHIELD agent, “Eye-Spy” is also the first episode that feels far enough removed from the ins and outs of the superhero world that it could conceivably take place in any number of fictional universes, or even ours. (On The X-Files, Mulder would have tried to sell Scully on the sixth-sense angle before eventually abandoning it himself; on Angel, a harder-hearted sidekick like Wesley or Gunn would have tried to talk their redemption-loving vampire-friend from offering Akela a second chance.) Agents of SHIELD set out to tell human-scale stories in a world full of super-powered beings. The series’ first three episodes directly tackled that idea, but the contours of this world are still so amorphous that the characters seem to exist in a plot-convenient vacuum. “Eye-Spy” grounded the characters in a more recognizable universe by hewing the A-plot closer to sci-fi than fantasy and setting down a rule: ESP doesn’t exist. That world-building tidbit is accompanied by a few more details about the show’s mythology: Coulson used to be a jerk-boss and may have received a personality transplant during/after his near-death encounter, Melinda May is far from the only traumatized spy who’s had to retire from the field, an eye-exploiting mastermind is still lurking out there somewhere. At last, the show feels like it has a history.

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