21 May 2015

Agents of SHIELD S2E19 "The Dirty Half Dozen" review

If I could use any one episode of Agents of SHIELD in order to try and convince people to watch the show, I would show them this weeks "The Dirty Half Dozen" which acts as the tie in episode for Avengers: Age of Ultron. We follow the original line-up of Coulson's team at the start of the first season as they attempt to assault the base where Dr. List is performing experiments on enhanced people in an attempt to rescue Lincoln and Deathlok.

Ignoring everything else about the episode for a moment, I think it's really important to note how "The Dirty Half Dozen" doesn't feel the need to pause the story that Agents of SHIELD is trying to tell in order to try and integrate itself with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, like it did with the previous tie in episodes. "The Dirty Half Dozen" takes place entirely before Avengers: Age of Ultron and actually sets the events of the film in motion by having the agents provide The Avengers with the location of Baron von Strucker's base, meaning we don't end up in the frustrating and cheesy position of the show needing a reason to avoid the agents meeting The Avengers.

This difference in approach to the tie in episode means that Agents of SHIELD never loses the momentum that this season has been building, allowing the episodes main focus point (the assault on Dr. List's base) to matter to both the plot of the series and the characters taking part. I can only hope that future tie in episodes of the show follow this pattern of putting the series first, because it works wonders here.

Regardless, "The Dirty Half Dozen" would make a pretty great episode even if it had nothing to do with Avengers: Age of Ultron thanks to the solid pacing and singular focus. It also contains one of the better action scenes that the series has ever done, a fairly impressive one-take that sees Skye taking out a group of Hydra agents. I've seen people compare this to the action from John Wick, but it's more similar to the now infamous church scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service in my eyes, the camera tracking Skye and moving with her, becoming just as much a part of the action as she is. More importantly, Chloe Bennet really sells the idea of Skye being just as dangerous as other SHIELD agents in this scene, and I'm looking forward to seeing Agents of SHIELD try more things like this in the future.

I also really like what the show is doing with Simmons at the moment - the once curious scientist has already taken something of a turn due to her sudden (but understandable) distrust of powered people, but "The Dirty Half Dozen" pushes her further down a potentially dark path when she has the chance to take revenge on Grant Ward. This is a side of Simmons that hasn't even been hinted at before, but her actions make sense from her perspective (even is her plan is incredibly poorly thought out), and I'm looking forward to seeing how these events affect her and the people around her.

Between the plot and character development on display in "The Dirty Half Dozen" and the many small moments of humour that are found within (such as Ward's heartfelt speech about regret which is thoroughly rejected by the team, or Coulson dropping a knowledge bomb on a speechless Gonzales), Agents of SHIELD has the ability and the confidence to be it's own thing and rely on the characters that it's audience enjoy even during an episode that crosses over with what will no doubt be one of the highest grossing films of all time, a far cry from the show that once centred an entire episode around an Asgardian simply because Thor: The Dark World was coming out at the same time. We've got just one episode left before the feature length season finale, and with Agents of SHIELD confirmed to be getting a third season, I have a pretty good feeling that the best is yet to come.

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