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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

GRIMM Discovers the "Chupacabra"

Article first published as GRIMM Review Season 4 Episode 8 Chupacabra at Seat42F.


This week is the mid-season finale of NBC’s GRIMM, and although the series is taking less than a month off before it returns, it still goes out on quite the cliffhanger. Nick (David Giuntoli) and Hank (Russell Hornsby) investigate a “Chupacabra,” which is a disease that affects Wesen, rather than a Wesen itself. During the course of the case, Wu (Reggie Lee) gets fed up with being kept in the dark and quits right as the guys admit to him that everything he’s seen is real. Meanwhile, Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) is kidnapped by the hate group that has been terrorizing him and Rosalee (Bree Turner).

It’s about time Wu’s concerns are addressed! This arc has been going since last season, and Wu has been ignored far longer than it is realistic to do so. If I were Wu and became obsessed with these creatures that I’m seeing, I wouldn’t be content to be dismissed for weeks. However, at least GRIMM does deal with it, having Wu willing to quit the job he loves because he can no longer function when the facts pile up in his favor and Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) still won’t listen to him.

I’m impressed at that research Wu does. When he goes to Captain Renard, he has lots of examples of creature attacks and dead suspects, which really points to malfeasance by Nick and Hank. Wu should be angrier than he is and going over Renard’s head, though thankfully he doesn’t. Hopefully, Renard will see that he’s underestimated Wu, who apparently could be a big help to the cause, given the skills he is demonstrating.

Hank is suddenly very keen on filling in Wu, rather than losing him from the force. I’m not sure I quite buy this turn. If Hank really cared about Wu, he would notice how bad Wu is getting earlier and helpe the man out. Instead, Hank has been treating him poorly, which makes his immediate concern a bit false. But I can overlook this if it ends with Wu being a full member of the Grimm team.

I like the “Chupacabra” case itself, which thankfully makes up a more minor segment of the episode than recent crimes have. GRIMM has started spreading out from Wesen lately to show some other creatures, and having an AIDs-like disease such as this is a cool development that further expands the world. Were it to become a serious epidemic in the Wesen community, then the show could do some real social commentary, but I don’t think it’ll come to that, especially considering how easily it is cured.

On a side note, it feels pretty forced that “patient zero” heroically sacrifices himself for his wife. It’s like the show goes too far to prove just how good he is while the ill version of him is slaughtering innocents. And having only enough ingredients on hand to cure one victim is predictable and silly. But I get why the writers do this, even if I don’t entirely agree with it.

GRIMM is doing some social commentary already in Monroe and Rosalee’s story. From burning wood in the front yard to bricks through the window, there is no mistaking that racial overtones to these specist attacks. The story goes a little more GRIMM-y this week when a dead fox is left hanging at the spice shop, but it’s still essentially the same subject material. Given what is happening in the news lately, and the inclusion of at least one law enforcement office on the wrong side, this feels timely, even if some of the methods used against them are dated.

As I’ve pointed out, “Chupacabra” is not without flaws. But I did like the episode a lot, which focuses more on the things that matter, rather than an isolated crime. This includes making time to reveal Juliette’s (Bitsie Tulloch) latest issue, to see Adalind (Claire Coffee) and Viktor (Alexis Denisof) team up, and to bring Renard into the latest resistance developments. All of these plots, combined with the larger Wu and specist stuff, are what I watch GRIMM for. The winter finale does this well.

GRIMM will return to NBC in January, airing Fridays at 9 p.m. ET.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Was GRACEPOINT Worth It?

Article first published as Was 'Gracepoint' Worth It? on Blogcritics.

GPBC

WARNING: If you intend to, but have not yet, watched the full first seasons of Broadchurch and Gracepoint, you’ll probably want to bookmark this column and come back after you’ve seen them. Major spoilers are contained within. You’ve been warned!

When FOX decided to remake the British series Broadchurch, starring the same lead actor no less, my first thought was, “Why?” The original is in English and was produced recently, a second season not even out yet. It’s also brilliant, a compelling, twisty drama with terrific acting and a gripping story. Now that all of Gracepoint has aired and a second season is a pipe dream, we are left with the question, was this project worth viewers’ time? Spoiler alert: my answer is no, definitely not.

The first thing that strikes me about Gracepoint‘s pilot is just how similar it is to Broadchurch. The producers deviated very minimally from the source material. The problem with that is, every time an element goes head-to-head in an obvious comparison, Broadchurch wins. Every single time. Why try to copy a successful series if you can’t do it better or offer a fresh viewpoint?

A large part of the inferiority stems from the cast. I’m not talking about David Tennant, who overcomes bad hair coloring and being forced to speak in an American accent to give us a performance that is essentially as good as when he played the role the first time. He’s a reliable, consistent, impressive actor. I’m also not talking about Anna Gunn. I love Olivia Colman and I wouldn’t say Gunn is better, but she’s as good and Gunn proves here that her Breaking Bad gig will be followed by a long, respectable career. Pretty much everyone else, though, especially the victim’s family, just do not stack up to the originals.

Had I not seen Broadchurch, I would likely have loved Gracepoint from the start. It’s a solidly-written story, and as I mentioned, the leads are terrific. The case has lots of mystery surrounding it, and it’s like an East Coast version of The Killing, a series I adore. Any cringe worthy moments in the early installments are purely colored by my memory of the first edition.

As the season unfolds, I do get drawn into Gracepoint. It doesn’t make many major changes, but it does have a couple of extra hours (being ten episodes instead of eight) to fill, so a bit of layering is added in. Around the mid-point, it starts to look like it may veer off entirely and be it’s own beast, and that gets me excited. I enthusiastically told a friend who was holding out to give it a chance. This experiment may end up being a good one to watch after all.

Then I arrive at this week’s season finale. From the start of the series, we had been promised a killer different than the one in Broadchurch. There is foreshadowing in earlier episodes that this will not be the case, but I assume the writers are being misleading, not truly setting up the reveal. Halfway through the finale, Gracepoint had returned to a nearly carbon-copy of Broadchurch and the same perpetrator is arrested.

After that, there is a big twist in that the person who is charged didn’t actually kill the boy. But he’s still guilty of criminal acts and deserves to rot in jail. I guess this is how Gracepoint gets around the “same killer” charge, but it feels like a technicality more than an actual change, just broadening the circumstances surrounding the death a little more, rather than making it drastically different.

I do believe that if Gracepoint were to get a second season, there is the possibility to overcome the comparison issue. The fact that Danny’s best friend accidentally does the deed, his child molester father is (nobly?) taking the blame, and his mother is covering up the true crime are all rich veins to tap. Danny’s mother’s partner clearly grows suspicious of the outcome at the end, threatening to put fixing his life on hold, though he definitely should not, to further pursue the case. But since the running time of the season is almost out at this point, there’s no time to really explore any of that, and Gracepoint ends on a semi-cliffhanger that will most likely never be resolved because the ratings are pretty bad.

Without this further exploration, most interestingly Ellie (Gunn) hiding things from Carver (Tennant), Gracepoint doesn’t have a lot to set it apart from Broadchurch. If the original had been subtitled, one may argue Americans are too lazy to read them. If the shows went completely separate ways in their second years, a case could be made that they really are different stories. If we lived in a pre-Internet age and Americans didn’t have easy access to the original version, it would be somewhat, flimsily arguable to make our own, homegrown, series. As it stands now, though, Gracepoint is an inferior copy of an easily obtainable show with very few significant differences. So what was the point?

No official word on Gracepoint‘s renewal has been released, but I’m pretty sure it’s not coming back, and it does not really deserve to do so.

Broadchurch season two premieres in February on BBC America. Please check it out.

Monday, December 15, 2014

ASCENSION Rises As Miniseries Goes On

Article first published as ASCENSION Review on Seat42F.

Ascension - Season 1

SyFy will soon present ASCENSION, a six-part miniseries that will air over three nights, and if the ratings are good enough, be picked up as a full-blown show, a la Battlestar Galactica. I’ve watched the first two parts, and while it is nowhere nearly as well written and acted as BG, it is an intriguing premise with some really gripping stakes.

The story begins with a murder, which is soon revealed to have taken place aboard the USS Ascension, a massive ship on its way to a new planet. See, in 1963 President Kennedy secretly ordered the launch of several hundred human begins into the unknown, set to colonize a new planet and ensure the survival of the human race. These people are nearly halfway through their mission, setting it approximately in the present day, and while it’s presented as a twist on the show, marketing materials have made it clear that’s what’s going on, so I don’t feel bad about spoiling it.

The ship is captained by William Denninger (Brian Van Holt, Cougar Town), who is coming to grips with the fact that he is the “middle captain,” who neither launched the ship nor will lead it to its final destination, so will likely not have a memorable legacy. His wife, Viondra (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactcia) is a sneaky manipulator, who wields her own power, separate from her husband. These two are in charge of many things, sometimes benevolently, sometimes not so kindly.

The Ascension itself is interesting because it obviously has very advanced technology, as developed in the 1960s, meaning monitors are black and white and most control panels are knobs and lights, not interactive computers as we think of them today. I’m not sure that I buy that our country was capable of constructing such a thing in the 1960s, and the way the place is presented may not completely make sense.

If this has you wavering in your enjoyment, as it did me, stick through the first night and your patience will be rewarded. This would be a very different article if I was writing to viewers who’d seen the full two hours, and while it isn’t the best series on television, with many flaws, I am completely hooked and on board after night one. Trust me and watch. ASCENSION deserves a pick-up. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Oh, yeah, back to the murder, since that’s the driving story, even though I’m much more interested in the logistics of the ship itself. This small community has virtually no crime, and this is the first murder committed since the launch. That means there really isn’t a structure in place to investigate and punish the wrong-doer. Enter Oren Gault (Brandon P. Bell, Hollywood Heights), the noble executive officer who steps up to the task.

Rounding out the cast are: Dr. Juliet Bryce (Andrea Roth, Rescue Me), who isn’t getting along too well with her daughter, Nora (Jacqueline Byers, Blizzard), a strong-willed individual deeply affected by the murder; Chief Astronomer Emily Vanderhaus (Tiffany Lonsdale, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), the elder sister of the victim; Chief Safety Officer Duke Vanderhaus (Ryan Robbins, Falling Skies), Emily’s husband, who doesn’t like that Gault is heading up the case; James Toback (P.J. Boudousque, Coldwater), a maintenance worker and love interest for Nora; and Harris Enzmann (Gil Bellows, Ally McBeal), the son of the man who headed up the Ascension mission, who is back on Earth.
Yep, we get to see what’s happening on our own planet, too. What does Harris know? What will he do with that knowledge? This is another subplot that draws me in.

My biggest complaint that I currently have about ASCENSION is, where are the old people? The ship launched fifty years ago, roughly, so there should be lots of senior citizens on board who made up the original crew. We don’t glimpse this, with the focus on those who weren’t born yet when the mission started. This is a nagging query not addressed in these two hours that has to be satisfactorily explained for the series to be any good.

There are weaknesses in ASCENSION. I feel like some of the actors are woefully miscast. For example, I adore Brian Van Holt on the sitcom he’s been starring in, but his take on Captain Denninger doesn’t have the weight it should, at least in my opinion. Some of the happenstances are a little hokey and formulaic, and far too many people are cheating on their significant others. But there is a very strong mythology here that could override those problems, and given the nature of the show, the beginning cast doesn’t necessarily need to stay front and center over multiple seasons. The best parts of the miniseries beg for further exploration, and that’s why I ask you to please tune in, at least for the entire first night, and then make your decision about whether or not to continue watching.

ASCENSION begins Monday, December 15th on SyFy.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME Improvements in "Sight"

Article originally written for Seat42F.

Last night’s installment, “Shattered Sight,” may be my favorite this fall for ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME. Ingrid The Snow Queen’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) spell falls over Storybrooke, making practically everyone turn against one another. Ribbons prevent Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Elsa (Georgina Haig) from fighting Ingrid directly, bound as they are to her by the love injected in the material, so they seek out Regina (Lana Parrilla) to break the enchantment with her pure hate. But the real key to everything may be missing memories, some of which are shown via flashback.

Ingrid’s arc has been a moving one. She loves her sisters dearly, and the tragedy that befalls her at a young-ish age is an understandable reason why she turns cold. Her sole mission is to regain the love she’s lost, casting Elsa and Emma in the role of her sisters. Ingrid does not act out of cruelty, and while she doesn’t care if others get hurt, being selfish and narrow-sighted, she only casts the “Shattered Sight” spell to get to her end goal.

Which is why her heroic self-sacrifice is tragic. It doesn’t make up for everything she has done, but had she lived longer, I’m sure she would have worked to do so. The scenes we see of her with a young Emma (Abby Ross) prove that she does care about some people. Sure, the found-letter from Ingrid’s long dead sister proclaiming that she still loved Ingrid and regretted what she did to her is a little convenient, but it makes sense for a fairy tale, which is what this is. That does not cheapen Ingrid’s end, though, a bittersweet conclusion for a mostly-excellent arc.

It’s also a little too easy for Elsa and Emma to get Regina to break the ribbon bond. That was the result of something Ingrid spent decades planning, and Regina can make it go away in a second, accidentally? Then Elsa and Emma run from Regina, who is fully reverted back into Evil Queen, and manage to get away from her? And they’re not even worried about what unleashing the Evil Queen into the town will do?

That being said, Elsa and Emma are busy, so maybe they decide that letting evil Regina out is a risk they have to take. Plus, Regina goes to the jail, which leads to an awesome fight scene between her and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin), so it’s hard to complain too much. In fact, the whole sequence with Snow, Charming (Josh Dallas), and Regina, ending in an uncomfortable laugh as the three try to process the emotional toll of what they just went through, is terrific. It’s some of the best work Goodwin has done in the series, and as much as I adore redemption-path-Regina, it’s fun to see her as the Evil Queen once more. Regina is my favorite character on ONCE UPON A TIME, and “Shattered Sight” affords Parrilla another opportunity to play her brilliantly.

One character nearly absent from “Shattered Sight” is Rumple (Robert Carlyle), and that could very well be why the hour is so good. Rumple arguably has the best plot in the show from its inception up through the middle of last year. Since then, all his development has been tossed out and he’s been ruined worse than just about any character on television I can think of. His story line this fall has been abysmal, completely out of the established persona, and while Carlyle remains a fine actor, Rumple has been an anchor weighing ONCE UPON A TIME down lately.

Unfortunately, the conclusion of this episode means that Rumple’s “scheme” hasn’t come to fruition, so my guess is that he will be front and center next week. Assuming the writers stay consistent with what they’ve done with Rumple recently, ignoring the previous version of him, he’s bent on power and getting his family away from Storybrooke. I just can’t bring myself to look forward to that, still sad about what’s been lost here.

Because Rumple isn’t important in “Shattered Sight,” though, with the focus on Ingrid, who is mostly well developed, and the episode contains some emotional and fun scenes, with a great battle and an exciting climax, it works very well. I kind of wish it were the fall finale so ONCE UPON A TIME could go out on a high note, but even though it isn’t, that doesn’t take away from a heck of a memorable hour.

ONCE UPON A TIME concludes this run next Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"The GRIMM Who Stole Christmas"

Article originally written for Seat42F.


This week’s holiday-themed GRIMM on NBC, “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas,” which is weirdly not the last episode the series will air before December 25th, finds some evil elves destroying decorations. They aren’t actually elves, though. They are Kallikantzaroi, a Greek Wesen that experience twelve nights of hairy puberty somehow linked to this time of year. Get past that strange conceit without explanation, and the hour is better than many this fall, starting to get the show back on track.

GRIMM is best when it’s serial, even if there are strong procedural elements to the show. Recently, many episodes have relied too heavily on the monster-of-the-week format, without enough movement in the character arcs. “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” strikes a bit better balance, still involving a creature, but also letting several in the ensemble progress a bit.

Nick (David Giuntoli) is back to being a Grimm, a welcome development since his loss of power slowed down the narrative quite a bit. This means Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) finally feel comfortable leaving town on their honeymoon, which they will be taking next week, not this one. Bud (Danny Bruno) gives the team important clues as to who is terrorizing the happy couple. Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch) may just be pregnant, which might have happened while she looked like Adalind, meaning the baby could be strange. None of these are major plots; well the last one sort of is but not yet featured majorly. Combined, though, they start to give the series the development it needs to move the characters along.

More notably, Josh (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) decides he wants to go home and Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni) chooses to accompany him. This comes a little out of nowhere, since Josh seems quite satisfied to be there and learn about his dad, and maybe even wants to be a Grimm, too. Trubel, though, is ready for a mission she can undertake without Nick looking over her shoulder. Now that he’s back to normal, it makes sense for her to want to go off on her own, doing something that matters, not just serving as back up from him. Josh provides a convenient way to do so, and given how they leave, it’s likely their story will re-connect with the main one later this season, so no fan should be too disappointed.

This leads to a very touching scene between Nick and Trubel, which is a long time coming, but can really only occur under these circumstances. Personally, I don’t much care for her character, though I like the idea of her. But it’s nearly impossible not to be moved by her teary-eyed farewell, and Nick clearly is. He has done something very important in helping her. Might this be a way to move Nick’s character forward, offering similar assistance to others like Trubel?

Wu’s (Reggie Lee) investigation is brought back up, though it’s still moving frustratingly slow. Next week’s preview indicates this will finally get some focus, and it is long overdue. Renard (Sasha Roiz) tells Nick that whatever Nick tells Wu, Nick shouldn’t tell Wu about Renard, which is slightly puzzling. So Renard is OK with Wu knowing about Wesen, but not about his own captain? Why? Does Renard have some reason not to trust Wu? This dialogue puzzles and intrigues me.

While “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” does spend at least two-thirds of its running time on the Kallikantzaroi, that story is fun and seasonably appropriate. Add to that a number of wonderful scenes that highlight the cast, which remain a definite draw for the show, and the episode ends up being pretty good. It’s not a perfect installment, but it’s an improvement over what GRIMM has been delivering lately. I appreciate that.

GRIMM next airs this coming Friday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

ARROW / THE FLASH Crossover Is "Brave" and "Bond"

Article first published as ARROW Review Season Episode 8 The Brave and the Bold on Seat42F.

The Brave and the Bold

On this week’s installment of the CW’s ARROW, “The Brave and the Bold,” Oliver (Stephen Amell) and company get one step closer to figuring out who killed Sara, with a little help from some friends. It’s a crossover event that works well by serving ARROW’s main player more than the guest stars, using the visitors effectively, and handling a matchup with grace.

When I first heard about the ARROW / The Flash crossover, I was skeptical. That sort of thing is usually a stunt, which values showiness over quality. When the ads starting airing, billing this as being Arrow vs. The Flash, that seemed even worse. Why does the network need to pit two superhero friends against one another? Yet, what ends up emerging in the actual broadcast are two separate, excellent stories that highlight the similarities and differences between the series, while still staying true to the show they take place on.

The Flash’s first hour is very different in tone than ARROW’s second outing. ARROW is dark and gritty, firmly rooted in reality since its titular character has skills, not powers. The Flash is fun and flashy (pun intended), in keeping with the spirit of the young man who accidentally gains super speed. When Oliver visits The Flash, he seems out of place because he’s too serious for that world. When The Flash visits Arrow, he seems out of place because he takes things too lightly. They are perfectly matched to their own environments, and it’s clear that while The Flash may be a spin-off, it is also its own thing.

In The Flash episode, Oliver tries to teach Barry (Grant Gustin), a.k.a. The Flash, to be more aware of his surroundings, training him to be a better crime fighter. It’s a great scene, but it’s even better when Barry tries to apply this lesson in “The Brave and the Bold.” It’s a little corny that he thinks he’s mastering those skills after only a week of practice, but I like the interplay between the two, and how they learn from one another, Barry helping Oliver find his buried humanity.

Oliver may be serious and use brutal tactics, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about people. We’ve seen him go from killing the bad guys to only wounding them to get information, and he acts selflessly to save innocents. Part of this is because Team Arrow is helping to humanize its leader, Oliver’s friends reminding him that there are consequences to his actions and challenging him to be a better man. Having an outsider like Barry come in and reinforce that trend, able to make a more distanced judgment, allows Oliver to really see himself as others see him and extend that change.

It’s also loads of fun to see the two teams intermix. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) are appropriately impressed with Team Arrow’s hideout, being the geeks that they are. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) makes some improvements in The Flash’s base, and Cisco returns the favor. The chemistry between this mix is charming, and I love that Roy (Colton Haynes) is so amused by the newcomers. I also love the casualness in how Barry accidentally reveals his identity to someone. Basically, any scene in which several main characters from both shows are together, “The Brave and the Bold” shines.

As mentioned, this ARROW installment does have its own semi-self-contained story. The villain from The Flash doesn’t carry over, which is smart because it doesn’t make sense for that to happen. Instead, The Flash characters visit more naturally, just anxious to see the base, and end up getting involved in Oliver’s investigation of a former A.R.G.U.S. agent because they are there.

The bad guy, Harkness (Nick Tarabay, Spartacus: War of the Damned), a.k.a. Captain Boomerang, is a very dangerous man. The fight scenes with him are intense, and he certainly poses a challenge to the efforts of everyone combined, which proves more team-ups might just not be welcome, but necessary in the future. He also brings Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) further into the series’ story, which is great because she’s someone who really matters to Diggle (David Ramsey) and whom we haven’t seen enough of. She’s a valuable connection for the team to use.

At the end of all that, a showdown between The Flash and The Arrow is promised, but not shown. How can it be? In The Flash episode, they fight for a justifiable reason, Barry being under the influence of a bad guy, and they seem pretty evenly matched, which satisfies both fan camps. When they go to rematch, just for fun, it isn’t shown. Neither fan base wants to see their man lose, and there are many crossover viewers who can’t root for either to fail. It’s better to assume they both have their strengths and weaknesses and are both heroic men.

The flashback this week, seeming even more unnecessary than normal because I wanted to keep getting back to seeing the casts together, who has a limited window to play in, is actually pretty relevant. It illustrates Oliver’s loss of humanity at the same time Barry is helping Oliver realize he’s finding it again. As well as that fits together, though, it would be better to drop it and have some more bits of Cisco and Caitlin with Roy and Felicity.

The ARROW / The Flash crossover seems to me an unqualified success. It’s also structured in such a way to allow many such repetitions of the event in the future without seeming forced or hokey. Let’s hope the writers and producers make that happen, as difficult as it might be to do, production-wise.

ARROW will air its mid-season finale next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Enter" MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Article first published as MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review Season 2 Episode 9 Ye Who Enter Here on Seat42F.

MING-NA WEN, CHLOE BENNET

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. tees up a heck of a winter finale next week in its latest installment, “Ye Who Enter Here.” The team locates the hidden city and immediately goes to it, Hydra hot on their heels. Secrets are stumbled upon and the game unfolds unpredictably as the show rockets through plot at a quicker pace than it ever has, while still maintaining some good character-driven stuff.

It’s hard to tell how many of Whitehall’s (Reed Diamond) moves are planned and how many are on the fly in “Ye Who Enter Here.” He uses the S.H.I.E.L.D. tracking device in Raina (Ruth Negga) to follow her to the city and get her back, but is that something he figures out late in the game, or does he set Raina up in an elaborate machination? It certainly seems like Whitehall is thinking on his feet, which is a welcome leveling of the playing field, Hydra having been working at a distinct advantage for most of the season.

Of course, that advantage may be regained by the end of this hour. With both Raina and Skye (Chloe Bennet) in Hydra’s clutches, thanks to a newly recommitted Ward (Brett Dalton), Hydra hovers over the mysterious location and has The Bus at its mercy. At this point, Whitehall might be smart to kill everyone, which is exactly what he orders, though we don’t yet have the chance to see it play out.

Certainly the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team will not be killed; without them, there would be no show. However, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t shy away from knocking its leads out of their current orbits. Ward’s reveal as a villain is an example of that, and in the latest installment, Mac (Henry Simmons), who is not a main character but has become a much-valued member of the team this year, is changed, possibly forever, and possibly killed.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the hidden city so far. Mac is the first one down, after the drones lose power, and he transforms into some kind of super human. We don’t know why or how yet, but no amount of pleading with him will awaken the real Mac from this berserker body that attacks everyone else. The confrontation ends with Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) accidentally sending Mac falling down a shaft, which he may or may not survive, given his new state.

Coulson (Clark Gregg) seems a little callous when he tells Bobbi simply that that wasn’t Mac. He’s right, but we don’t know if Mac still exists inside the body or if Mac’s personality can come back to the surface. I certainly hope it does, as I would miss that character. But I’m more disturbed by Coulson’s transformation than Mac’s, as Coulson needs to still care deeply about his people, even if he’s finally finding the distance of leadership he also needs.

If Mac is gone, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) is in trouble, as Mac is the one friend keeping Fitz going. Fitz and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) finally talk about the state of their broken relationship, but rather than hammer it out and make up, Fitz announces he’s transferring to the garage with Mac. It’s a heart-breaking development, even if it makes sense, because Mac really helps bring Fitz out of his shell and begin to heal. If Mac is out of the picture, Fitz might need Simmons back, whether he wants to admit it or not.

There are signs that a reconciliation is possible. Simmons has her own friends, too, sharing great scenes with Trip (B.J. Britt) and Bobbi in “Ye Who Enter Here.” But she also has time for Fitz, and seems less happy with the dissolution than he does, a decision he makes unilaterally. She still finishes his thought at the city entrance, so their bond is still there. I just can’t believe they are fully over, in large part due to the truly excellent chemistry the two performers share.

I can’t help but feel that Skye is key to what will happen next. She’s now a prisoner, but this week’s episode shows she’s progressed enough in her combat training to handle herself in a tough spot, so that’s not super worrying. Raina makes a number of references to Skye being special, something more than human, but not alien. Fans of the Marvel comic books are full of theories about Skye’s connection to the Inhumans, a subspecies of Homo sapiens created by the Kree, who are mentioned in “Ye Who Enter Here.” That is fascinating and I’m excited to see what introducing the Inhumans will do not just MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., but the whole Marvel franchise. However, I’m much more interested in Skye’s personal journey and how it may shift due to this.

I can’t end my review without mentioning how awesome it is to have Patton Oswalt playing not one, but two Agent Koenigs this week. The humor he brings to the proceedings is simply invaluable, and the man simply radiates talent. He is able to get a bit dramatic when confronting the killer of one of his brothers, and I think that’s a good layer for the Koenigs to have, but it’s also very valuable to have him tease others about how many brothers there are and have each of the two siblings featured this week claim the other is shorter. This is gold that show should continue to mine. He would make a valuable main character addition if they can lock him down.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has had an interesting fall run, perhaps not as intense as last spring’s story, but with some wonderful fresh faces and the foundation of another big arc. I am confident that next week’s fall finale is going to be a memorable one.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.