I think the writers for S.H.I.E.L.D. have finally found the dynamics that work in “Eye Spy.” The team does have to work as a whole, but each individual has a different talent and pairing those off in a smart way that sparks chemistry has been challenging. I feel like I really got to see the team gel and step more firmly into their roles in this latest episode, particularly the three youngest members, the relationship between Coulson and Skye grow, and the growing bond between Wade and Skye deepen.
The opening, like last week, was interesting, mysterious, and mind-bending. Red masks covered anonymous gentlemen delivering a cargo of diamonds but did nothing to protect them from the one person who could see beneath the masks. I love that they used someone who had once been so close to Coulson, someone he still cared about as a member of the larger S.H.I.E.L.D. team, which led to tension within Coulson’s own immediate team as they wondered if he was trying to bring closure to an old mistake at the expense of his new subordinates.
Coulson’s compassion and patience provides a contrast to Melinda May’s take charge, shoot first, attitude. I foresee this tension spinning itself out into a potential situation where May has to follow S.H.I.E.L.D. orders by directly disobeying Coulson and giving us a fascinating peek into the conflict within S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as each of the agents on Coulson’s team.
Speaking of Coulson, the hints near the end of “Eye Spy” about the changes he’s undergone since the attack on New York are tantalizing. I hope they don’t draw it out too long (hoping for a mid-season reveal) but I’m glad they’re just giving us bits and pieces. It’s more satisfactory than being handed a cut and dry explanation. Several characters know something is off – Akela Amador asks, “What did they do to him?” while Melinda May seems to know about the whole business (Why she played dumb with Akela I don’t know, but that only heightens my curiosity). I’m wondering if Coulson knows all or at least part of what happened, because he’s dropped more than one hint. Tonight he said he got a “second chance” – a second chance at leading a team, or a second chance at life?
I thought it was clever to play on his relationship with Akela as he develops his relationship with Skye. The role of mentor and guardian fits him well even though he’s made mistakes in the past with his trainees, like Akela. He seems to have learned from them and approaches Skye with a more methodical patience that seems to be winning her over.
“Eye Spy” also had a gloriously dramatic moment as Akela talked about her experiences with Coulson. After the rest of her team died, she was shut up for a few years before being equipped with an electrical eye and sent out on missions. She had been alone, but once she had her new eye, she was never alone. This is fascinating when played off of Skye’s experience. She was alone, but then S.H.I.E.L.D. arrived and put her in a team. She is now never really alone. There’s a difference between the teams, however. Where Akela lived in fear of what she would be made to do or the punishment for what she refused to do, Skye is warming to the idea of being included in a team. There’s a difference between the teams: one is built on fear, and one is built on trust – albeit shaky, young trust. The depth of this theme and scene was plumbed by the writers and used to fabulous effect.
Strong themes aside, the humor in “Eye Spy” was also wonderful, with several different kinds on display. We had the laugh-out-loud shot of Wade’s horrified face when he read the assignment he had to perform while pretending to be Akela: “Seduce him.” There were snarky quips from several characters as well as a silly pun on Skye’s affectionate nickname for Agent Coulson. This helped brighten the general atmosphere which could very easily be dark and dry and dull.
“Eye Spy” was a fun episode, with a hint about the future of S.H.I.E.L.D. assignments. Who is the person behind the electrical eyes? What was the equation the team found (there was a hint it was alien)? What did they do to Coulson?
This is shaping up to be an exceptionally strong show. It has great themes to play on, characters that are beginning to develop well, a secret, and guaranteed excitement. I’m looking forward to next week.