After taking a break for the week of Halloween, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has come back with just as many promises and expectations attached to it as the pilot had back in September. Between the promises of a Thor 2 crossover and the surging fan demand for answers behind Coulson’s still mysterious return from the grave, the long-term fate of this show seems to hinge increasingly more on what each new episode can do to keep things fresh. Now it’s been somewhat of a bumpy road this season, but I can say that despite a few misfires here and there, this week’s “F.Z.Z.T.” is proof that Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is alive, well, and only growing in strength.
After a firefighter mysteriously perishes with his corpse left levitating in the air, Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his comrades investigate the scene to find that it’s connected to some of the firefighters who helped in New York during The Avengers. They soon discover that rather than some serial killer or super villain behind the death, it’s an alien virus that’s been festering on a salvaged Chitauri helmet from the Battle of New York. In their attempt to transfer it to a S.H.I.E.L.D. biohazard facility, Agent Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) becomes infected and is quarantined with only a matter of hours to find a cure before she suffers a similar demise at the hand of the unknown viral agent.
Now I have to admit that for the first ten minutes, I wasn’t with this episode in the SLIGHTEST due to a lackluster opening and some really grating attempts at humor on the part of Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Agent Fitz (Iain De Caestecker). Don’t get me wrong, I liked what they were trying to do by poking fun at Agent Ward (Brett Dalton), who has mostly had a major stick up his @$$ outside of a few sparse moments of genuine comedy. But the execution of it, particularly the groan-worthy mock-impersonations of Ward, were just way too much for me. That being said, I got progressively more interested as we discovered more about the virus and I thought they did a great job of displaying the cast’s humanity (even Ward’s) once its nature had been revealed. Clark Gregg in particular evokes a great level of heartfelt sympathy during a scene where Coulson utilizes his experience in The Avengers to comfort one of the officers who has been infected with the virus.
But the real center of quality that holds “F.Z.Z.T.” together is the developing relationship between Agents Fitz and Simmons that’s finally getting some exploration. Up until now, the characters have been hit-and-miss for a lot of people and utilized for only two things: exposition and comic relief. But when Simmons’ life is put into danger, we get to see the cracks and insecurities of their relationship, particularly as they have a screaming match with each other through the quarantine glass wall. We always knew that these two were inept in the field, but this episode managed to showcase some real emotional vulnerability from the two of them and even revealed a deeper bond between them beyond academic interests. It’s the best these two characters have been by a mile, and I really look forward to seeing how their relationship progresses from here (romantic subplot anyone?).
Now I’ll be fair, I won’t be surprised if this episode has lower ratings than its predecessor “Girl in the Flower Dress.” The first ten minutes were honestly “meh” at best and a couple of bits were pretty close to infuriating to watch. But after that speed bump, things do honestly start to pick up and I wouldn’t be lying if I said that this might be one of my favorite episodes of the show so far. The character explorations are greatly appreciated, I love the inclusion of the Chitauri helmet virus, and many of the cast members are better here than they’ve been in any previous story. Plus, this episode boasts Titus Welliver (The Man in Black from Lost) as a guest star, so you know that this one is a good time for all.