So I finally caught up on TV with a post-finals DVR binge and watched the last three episodes of Agents of SHIELD for the fall. And I still love it. I’ve always loved it. Evidently this puts me in a minority on the Internet.
Talking to a friend, I realized I love it so much because of one thing: FitzSimmons. Or more accurately, two things: Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz. (Although others think they are basically one character.)
Why do I love the two characters that other people view ambivalently? Because they’re scientists. Okay, technically Fitz is an engineer, but their roles are very similar in the show. And both scientists and engineers end up using the scientific method, and in their work, Fitz and Simmons use a lot of technology. With Fitz and Simmons, Agents of SHIELD shows science and technology as forces for good, and that’s something we haven’t seen much on TV shows lately. I’m particularly excited by the fact that they’re actually full characters in the show, not recurring lab rats who just dump tech on the protagonists as needed like Q does in James Bond (or Marshall from ALIAS). Also, the things they talk about typically make some kind of sense (I’ve only heard the term “pure energy” once, but “gravitonium” makes no sense whatsoever).
What strikes me as particularly important is that they’re ethical scientists. I realize this sounds like an incredibly low bar, but seriously, this isn’t something we’ve seen on major TV shows lately. People (especially children) tend to be scared of the people they see working in science-related fields on TV. And honestly, I can’t blame them. The entire backstory of LOST and Heroes seemed to be related to mysterious mad science. It is incredibly important to me that Fitz and Simmons comment on how unethical Project Centipede is, and that in the pilot, they angsted over the uncertainty of whether or not they could help Michael Peterson without hurting him. In the third episode, their favorite professor calls out the villain of the week for hypocrisy in his technological development.
Pretty big spoilers below the jump, if you haven’t been watching the episodes after the winter break.
Most of this post was written over winter break, before SHIELD picked up again for the spring, and that seems to suggest some new twists. The first new episode in January shows how Coulson comes back from his seeming death in The Avengers, and it’s one of the most disturbing scenes on the show so far, involving a terrifying medical robot doing something to his open brain as he begs for death. Even one of the doctors working on the surgery says that it’s wrong and questions why it’s being done. (There’s also a good question of how truthful the story as presented is. It seemed kind of peculiar how multiple people said Nick Fury “moved heaven and Earth” when referring to Coulson’s revival. Considering how down-to-Earth most of the characters are and remembering that SHIELD has worked with actual mythological figures, a reference to heaven might be more meaningful than we would otherwise think.)
Fitz and Simmons haven’t heard anything about this yet, so I’m interested to see their reactions if they ever learn the secret behind Coulson’s reappearance. Also, Captain America: The Winter Solider looks like it will feature SHIELD as a villain (or at least partially so), so it seems like there will have to be some divergence between the Agents team and the rest of SHIELD if we’re going to keep rooting for them. Fitz and Simmons’ professor also called out SHIELD for being as careless about technological development as the villain they were fighting in his debut episode. This kind of brings up a concern I have. Right now, all the stuff Jemma and Leo have seen is stuff most people wired normally would see and rightly say “that’s bad.” Whether they’ll be able to criticize their own organization that seems to be more deliberately at the edge of ethics is another issue.
My other major concern is Fitz and Simmons’ relationships. As characters on their own, I really like them (honestly, I think they’re better developed than Ward and maybe even May). And as a set, they’re adorable right now. But I think the key is that right now they’re much more partners and close friends than a couple, and a mixed-gender group of scientists who are not in love with each other is seen so rarely on TV I can’t bear to lose this. I generally think the show treats them as friends, but some of the conflict between Fitz and Ward in episode 7 seemed to be based on reading what Fitz did for Simmons in episode 6 more out of romantic love than out of friendship (a philia or platonic love). Also, the latest episode about the SHIELD tech academy really confused me on their relationships. How long have they known each other? They said you need a PhD just to get in, but most of those students looked like high schoolers. When did Fitz go from being a loner to having friends? (This actually really bothers me, because the more recent episodes show Fitz being okay with harsh retribution against enemies because of his former status as an outcast.)
This also ties in to how they work with Skye. They’re becoming good friends with her, but their working relationship seems like it could be clarified. Why doesn’t Fitz understand any of her work, and vice versa? He does a lot of computer work too. Also, Skye seemed to drop most of her concern about SHIELD after the meetup with her ex-boyfriend in Rising Tide. That took away what could have been one of the more interesting conflicts between her and FitzSimmons.
I’ve enjoyed the show so far, so I’ll definitely keep watching to see how these elements turn out. Like I said, Fitz and Simmons are pretty unique on TV right now, so it’s not like I have something else to go with.