S.H.I.E.L.D. Maintains Momentum and Castle Flounders While Bones Proves How Very Dead It Remains

*** SPOILER ALERT!!! This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Castle Season 6 Episode 17 ‘In the Belly of the Beast,’ Bones Season 9 generally, and especially Episode 17 ‘The Repo Man in the Septic Tank,’ and Person of Interest Season 3.***

The blue alien!

The blue alien!

Well, it’s good to have some regular shows back for the last few weeks! I was happy to see that my prediction for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. proved out, and Skye really is going to live (for now). I was especially tickled by the lovely little morsel we were handed at the end of the episode, when it was revealed that May is somehow a mole for the people behind T.A.H.I.T.I. (Boy, these acronyms sure are a pain to type.) Since the mystery of Skye’s origin was revealed, I have always had a very strong suspicion that May could be Skye’s mother– or at least she may have been the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who dropped Skye off at the orphanage. This new development does not necessarily mean that my hunch is untrue, but it does leave me thinking about all the possible levels that could be going on. I’m sure you’re all wondering the same things: Who was May calling? Was it Agent Fury? (Does that mean Samuel L. Jackson will be on the show again at some point? Pretty please?) Or is May connected to the people who created T.A.H.I.T.I.? Plus, that blue alien in the tub… did anyone else think he looked a lot like one of the Frost Giants from the first Thor movie? Whatever the answers to these questions, I feel much more hopeful about the future of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and I hope we will get our answers.

Beckett (Stana Katic) being asked to go undercover.

Beckett (Stana Katic) being asked to go undercover.

Castle has also been puttering along, with an especially good episode last week to break the monotony of tiny Beckett insecurities that only last one episode and are always happily resolved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a Castle fan and not giving up on the show– but the fact that the writers have been struggling for ideas this year has been quite apparent. When Kate wound up suddenly undercover in the most heart pounding, nail-biting Castle episode since she was hanging off a building by her fingers, I was excited. I think that bringing the show back to the conspiracy behind Beckett’s mother’s murder is the best thing they could have done. Ultimately, it’s what invests us in the characters in the show– not solving the one-off murders every week. Plus, TV seems to love a corrupt politician these days, and I say, ‘Keep ’em coming!’ (But for all you nay-sayers who think this means that ultimately the wedding is off? Forget about it! Too obvious. Rick and Kate are getting married, just like Booth and Bones, and the show’s issues will focus on the many other conflicts offered by the situation that is modern marriage.)

Speaking of Bones… I was really sad to hear that the show has been renewed for another season, and I mean that in the best way possible. Poor David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and all the other incredibly talented members of the cast who could be moving on with their careers! I mean, face it, the show is tired. It was starting to get tired two years ago, for goodness sake! Just think of Angela’s and Hodgins’ relationship story arc, and how they are now discussing having their SECOND CHILD. I’m begging the writers, don’t pull an X-Files on such a great show like Bones. Know when to renew, and when a great show has run its course. DON’T BEAT A DEAD HORSE. The show is so tired they’ve resorted to Latin stereotyping for the latest squintern. I mean, enough already!

New squintern Rudolfo Fuentes (Ignacio Serricchio) on Bones.

New squintern Rudolfo Fuentes (Ignacio Serricchio) on Bones.

However, Person of Interest really lifted my spirits this week. It is so much fun watching Amy Acker do her thing in that show, and I was very pleased when it

Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and Root (Amy Acker) in Person of Interest, the show you aren't watching but should be.

Shaw (Sarah Shahi) and Root (Amy Acker) in Person of Interest, the show you aren’t watching but should be.

became clear that she would be playing a more regular role this season. I have to admit, I was very late to the PoI party, and only started watching the show this year. But now that I am caught up, I dare say it may be the best show currently on television. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, the writing is phenomenal, and the acting is always spot on. Plus, Person of Interest has the biggest Heart I’ve seen in a while. Also, the show dares to ask philosophical questions that haven’t been touched since Battlestar Galactica went off the air. Not surprising, coming from Bad Robot creators of Lost.

I’m very much looking forward to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s return next week, and seeing what will happen when Samaritan comes online. Also, I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been enjoying the final episodes of how i met your mother quite a bit, but I’ll write another post on that at some point. Meanwhile, I’ve been catching up with Scandal, based on some advice from friends– gotta say, I’m not too impressed so far. These things, my secret guilty pleasure show, and more in future posts!

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Joss Whedon Jeopardy

***SPOILER ALERT!!! This post contains spoilers concerning Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 all episodes through Episode 13 “T.R.A.C.K.S.”, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 Episode 17 “Passion”, and Serenity (the Firefly movie).***

The moment the gun was fired in the basement this week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I thought, “Oh my god, he’s done it again!”

I was referring, of course, to the habit Joss Whedon has of killing off major characters without warning in the middle of the story.

My first experience with this ‘Joss Whedon Jeopardy’ was, as I’m sure it was for many of my readers, in the second season of Buffy, with the sudden, brutal demise of Ms. Calendar. I later either watched an interview with him, or heard the commentary– I can’t remember which– but Joss Whedon said something like, “After that, everyone knew they had to always be acting at their best level.”

In many ways, sudden deaths of dearly beloved main characters– the ones you think are safe and will never die– has become one of the hallmarks of Whedon. In Serenity, the death of Shepherd Book was a shock, but it also lulled the viewer into a false sense of security: OK, he has killed the one major character he’s going to kill. Then Wash’s death is that much more of a blow.

Skye (Chloe Bennet) lying in the compression chamber on the brink of death.

Skye (Chloe Bennet) lying in the compression chamber on the brink of death.

So when Quinn shot Skye not once but twice towards the end of the episode this week, I thought, ‘Oh my god, he’s done it again! A game changer! A Joss Whedon Jeopardy moment!’ I don’t want you to think I was happy about it. No, I’ve grown to like Skye quite a lot, though I’m not yet identifying with her the way I do Whedon’s other female main characters. However, I thought it could be a really promising move on the part of a show that, while doing well, hasn’t quite hit the ratings high that the network expected of it.

Once I realised there were still seven minutes left in the episode, of course, my hopes for Skye’s life expectancy went way up. By the end of the episode, when she was still alive, I decided that in all likelihood she wasn’t going to die, and so I’ve been much less stressed this weekend than I might have otherwise been. But Skye’s near-death still achieved what the other actual-Joss-Whedon-Jeopardy-sudden-deaths also achieved.

These seemingly random actions increase the shows’ “Heart,” as readers will know I like to call it. To understand more about what I call a “Show with Heart,” please read this post. Essentially, shows have Heart when we care about the characters, and the characters truly care about each other (and not just in couple-y sorts of ways).

Ms. Calendar (Robia LaMorte) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In Buffy, Ms. Calendar’s death in the episode “Passion” draws the Scooby Gang together in grief, gives Giles motivation to become more aggressive than he had been previously in the show, and gets the Scoobies over an internal betrayal that had previously been threatening to tear them apart. Jenny Calendar had been of questionable Scooby-membership due to her withholding important information about Angel and the curse, and in her death it becomes clear that she was still loved by all the Scoobies. Her murder also provided proof to the audience that Angel was truly a dangerous enemy, to be taken seriously. Jenny’s death shocked and upset the audience, making us worry more about the other characters, and empathize with the pain they display. Joss Whedon Jeopardy made the characters care more about each other (the first thing Buffy must do after is save Giles from his own recklessness), and made us care more about them. In short, it gave the show more Heart.

Firefly was full of Heart from the get-go, and there was therefore no need within the short time it was on air to create more. Had it continued for multiple seasons, I feel certain that the relative security of a few of those characters would have changed, and it would not have been Jayne who went down (more on Jayne soon I hope). But the show was cancelled, so we will never know. However, in the reincarnation of Firefly into Serenity, I feel that the change in medium did cause some loss of Heart in general. At the beginning of the movie, the Captain is withdrawn, more taciturn than ever, and Kaylee seems pretty pissed off at him which is never a good sign. The crew of our favourite smuggling space ship is more fragmented, and people spend more time apart from each other. Furthermore, Mal is kicking Simon and River off the boat, which we all knew would never have happened on the show. In short, they needed a little more Heart in the movie.

From the beginning, it certainly helps to have Inara back on board so quickly. Inara melts the Captain’s heart a little bit, which starts to thaw things all around. But it certainly wasn’t enough. After all, Mr. Universe just seems like a different sort of jive than the rest of the space-western feel of the show, and everything is still a little off-kilter without some good old moral judgement from the Shepherd. When he dies, Book’s death does make us a little outraged. (Besides, we never get to learn who he really is, and what his history is!!) But it’s Wash’s death that leaves us gasping and shaken. In Wash’s death we see Zoe’s pain, and see the crew begin to take care of each other again. It is only with Joss Whedon Jeopardy that Serenity finds its Heart.

From L-R: Wash (Alan Tudyk), Zoe (Gina Torres), Kaylee (Jewel Staite), Mal (Nathan Fillion), Inara (Morena Baccarin), and Simon (Sean Maher) in the movie Serenity.

From L-R: Wash (Alan Tudyk), Zoe (Gina Torres), Kaylee (Jewel Staite), Mal (Nathan Fillion), Inara (Morena Baccarin), and Simon (Sean Maher) in the movie Serenity.

One thing that has been lacking in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has definitely been Heart. I have been enjoying the show, especially the characteristic witty banter and slightly made-up words that signify something truly Whedon. But I wasn’t sure I really cared that much about any of the individuals, and the mode was a bit too militaristic for me to always be sure that they cared about each other. That improved in “FZZT” when Simmons became infected and we all were very worried, especially because of how worried Fitz was. “The Well” also increased the show’s Heart score for me, but more in May’s favour for me than in Ward’s favour. “The Bridge” and “The Magical Place” also increased my ability to care about Coulson, though not as much as they could have. When Coulson told Skye about her origins, and I watched the actress with tears streaming down her face, I must admit I wasn’t very moved. But “T.R.A.C.K.S.” has done what couldn’t be accomplished before.

First of all, the moment the agents run to Skye’s side as Simmons attempts to save her is (I believe) the first time in the entire show that all the main characters are gathered in the same room without a techno table between them and a screen up for briefing. It’s the first moment they become a social entity, caring for one of their own, rather than a team that works together.

Second of all, without Skye needing to die, the current situation creates the exact same motivations for characters inĀ S.H.I.E.L.D. as “Passion” did in Buffy. The agents are suddenly drawn together in urgency and concern over the tenuous thread that remains of Skye’s life. Skye’s membership in the group had until this point been fairly suspect; she had even worn a monitoring bracelet until very, very recently. Her mortal wounds have clarified the group’s feelings: she is now one of them, and they will seek revenge for her (or avenge her) as one of their own. I found the look of determination on May’s face upon gazing down at Skye in the pressure chamber especially remarkable. (This goes towards a theory I have about May being more a part of Skye’s origins than she’s letting on– more on that later!) I also found Simmon’s desperate tears with Fitz far more compelling than the tears shed by Skye some weeks earlier.

No matter what happens next week on S.H.I.E.L.D. (and you know it’s going to be big because the episode is called “Tahiti”), I’m going to care a lot more about these characters than I did at the beginning of “T.R.A.C.K.S.” I’m sure Skye will live, and I’m very happy about that– her death will matter to me more now than it would have even the moment she was shot. While I’m not completely sold on S.H.I.E.L.D. as a show yet, it has definitely moved up the ranks. I hope this is the beginning of S.H.I.E.L.D. becoming a Show with Heart. We shall have to wait and see.