17 April 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E15 "Spacetime" review

I've been criticising Agents of SHIELD since it's return from it's mid-season break for one very frustrating reason - for the most part, it has felt as if the season wide plot established by the seasons first half has been dropped in favour of the "monster of the week" type structure that defined the shows first season. But I'm beginning to feel like I may have been just a little short-sighted.

Without noticing it, Agents of SHIELD has been subtly progressing the season wide plot each episode, making fairly significant changes to the position of both SHIELD and Hydra within the show while focusing on smaller stories each week. We certainly aren't in the same place now as we were when the show returned after it's mid-season break, but the way that Agents of SHIELD has chosen to show those changes has made it feel very natural, to the point where it's been difficult to really notice that some fairly important shifts have taken place.

"Spacetime" continues the kind of progression that we've seen throughout the second half of the third season so far, subtly developing the season wide plot while the main focus of the episode is on a one-off story. This week, a homeless Inhuman who can give people visions of the future is kidnapped by Hydra - but not before coming into contact with Daisy, who sees herself attempting to rescue him from Hydra captivity and being shot by Coulson in the process, while Lincoln lies covered in blood.

As far as episodes of Agents of SHIELD go "Spacetime" is probably the best we've had since the mid-season finale, partly thanks to some above average writing that helps make it feel like a really tightly-plotted, well-structured episode of television. The entire team are focused on making sure that the future that Daisy witnessed in her vision doesn't come true, and her knowledge of what will happen means that they can prepare for this mission is a way they've never been able to before - by recreating the exact movements of the enemy and repeatedly practicing at taking them out as efficiently and quickly as possible. And that's exactly what we see them do in one entertaining sequence that really shows off the teamwork aspect of SHIELD that went weirdly under-utilised by the show until quite recently.

But mostly, "Spacetime" is notable as an episode of Agents of SHIELD thanks to the much improved direction that episode director Kevin Tancharoen brings to the table, and not just in the one-take, John Wick-esque fight sequence we see at one point (the shows second such sequence following on from season two's "The Dirty Half-Dozen", also directed by Tancharoen). Not only does "Spacetime" seem focused in all the right ways, but the production quality just seems higher in general throughout, something I've been waiting to say about Agents of SHIELD for literally years now.

And I really like what "Spacetime" does with Ward-thing and Gideon, something that when combined with a well placed and emotional third-act twist makes "Spacetime" not just a good stand alone episode of Agents of SHIELD but also a great continuation of that which has came before, the kind of episode that reminds you why the show is worth watching. Because yes, Agents of SHIELD can be frustrating at times - but it can also be a hugely rewarding show, and that's never a bad thing.

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