Thursday, February 13, 2014

View Log: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D "Eye Spy"

Let’s get the first part of this out of the way. I enjoyed "Eye Spy." At this point in time, I recommend the episode. Now, I want to get a little more analytical.

A lot of people don’t know what “high concept” really means. It doesn’t mean the concept has to be anything fancy, or deep, or exceptionally creative, it just means that the concept behind a work is the driving force behind the plot. The plot follows the concept, instead of the other way around. For example, despite what some may say about its quality, Torchwood: Miracle Day is high concept. ("What if everyone were immortal?") Star Trek: TOS is high-concept (a "wagon train to the stars"; or "Horatio Hornblower in space"). Dog with a Blog, Die Hard, Snakes on a Plane... Heck, Hot Tub Time Machine is high concept (it's a hot tub that's also a time machine). More relevant to comics, Superman: Red Son is a high concept example. The story begins with "What if baby Kal-El landed in Soviet Russia?" and everything that happens stems from that core idea. High concept stuff can be boiled down to a single sentence, because that single sentence is at the core of the whole shebang. It’s not a complex idea, but the idea is what drives the plot forward, and it’s followed to logical conclusions… mostly.

Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. high concept? …eeehhhh.

In "Eye Spy," the episode opens with hundreds of red-masked men with briefcases, and a woman closes her eyes and kills a group of them, stealing a briefcase with diamonds. Wow, that’s a cool teaser! Here’s where it falls apart.

The men in the masks were hired to ship the diamonds. There had been a rash of diamond thefts, so they used hundreds of identical couriers to move the diamonds. Okay... but that’s where that idea stops. Except… how was such a thing not a cause for alarm? I mean, hundreds of men in red masks carrying briefcases would get the army deployed in real life! And we live in a world without super villains!

The woman who stole the diamonds is a former protégé of Coulson’s with a new cybernetic eye, which has a bomb in it to keep her controlled. Words appear in her vision to give her instructions, and she uses her cyber-X-ray-eye to see through stuff, which is how she found the diamonds.
This. Should. Be. Huge. And it’s not.

I mean, how do they know that people on the street aren't being controlled in the same way? After all, the guy telling Akela (the eye woman) to do stuff was being controlled in the same way. In this situation, trouser-wetting should be instinctive. But no. What should be a paranoia-inducing, tense, frightening idea, the fact that there are multiple people out there being controlled by someone with unknown intentions… is ignored, or at least on the back burner.

This episode has good action, good humor (I learned you can say “penis” on prime time TV!), good mystery, and good ideas. But the ideas are brought up, they do their part, and they’re dismissed. And that shouldn’t happen. I mean, controlled people with X-ray eyes? You think you’ve private lives? Think nothing of the kind. There is no true escape; they’re watching all the time. 

Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. high concept? Not if they keep ignoring the implications of the episodes. This episode cannot be boiled down to a single sentence, because there's so much going on. And in that way, this episode never really finds itself. Is this episode about a diamond heist? No, it's about a traitor! But she's not a traitor! And now the team has to pretend to be her for another heist! It shifts too many gears.

Speaking of gears, before I forget, Coulson. There must be something wrong with his insides. Akela asked what “they did to him” after the Battle of New York. And she has X-ray vision. Ergo, she saw something freaky-deaky in there. But what? I stand by the LMD theory. Either that, or he’s a cyborg. But, it will remain to be seen. Um, no pun intended.

See you next time! Also no pun intended.

(Originally posted on 10/17/13)

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