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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Strong "Bond" With THE GOOD WIFE

Article originally published as THE GOOD WIFE Review "Bond" on Seat42F.

THE GOOD WIFE (L-R) Chris Noth as Peter Florrick and Margo Martindale as Ruth Eastman Photo: Paul Sarkis/CBS

In the season premiere of THE GOOD WIFE on CBS, “Bond, “Alicia (Julianna Margulies) struggles to make it on her own as a lawyer, Cary (Matt Czuchry) struggles to connect with the young associates at Lockhart Agos, and Ruth Eastman (Margo Martindale) struggles to handle her candidate’s wife. Oh, and in one of the biggest shakeups ever in a show known for shakeups, that happens.

The that I’m referring to is Peter’s (Chris Noth) betrayal of Eli Gold (Alan Cumming). In a world where Eli found Peter and molded him into what he is today, helping him achieve his dreams, that same Peter turns his back on the campaign manager and cuts him loose. It’s selfish and unfair, and not all that surprising when you think about what we’ve seen of Peter.

But is still feels surprising. Eli and Peter’s partnership is the one that doesn’t waver when everything else does. We’ve seen managing partners at law firms come and go, relationships fall apart, and a variety of people come in and out of the scene. What we’ve never seen is that strong “Bond” between Peter and Eli waver much. And now we not only have, but we’ve witnessed it disintegrate completely in the course of a single hour, leaving Eli bent on revenge against his former boss and best friend.

The fact that Eli essentially gives up and shuts down is understandable. His pain is felt in Cumming’s brilliant performance, and it makes sense for Eli to be thrown by this. His lamenting about being ‘the help’ is not accurate, but one can easily understand how he feels that way in the face of Peter’s chill. Thankfully, Eli is not a man that can be kept down, and with some support from Alicia, soon has a strategy to get back in the game.

Some might wonder why Alicia is so loyal to Eli. For those regular viewers, though, it shouldn’t be a mystery. Alicia is a loyal person, by and large, only betraying when she has to, and after being given good reason to do so. She didn’t like Eli at first, perhaps, but she has learned to respect him, as he has her. They have a great working relationship, and dare I say it, even an odd kind of friendship. That Alicia chooses to stand by Eli reinforces the “Bond” they share and rewards those who may have defended Eli in the past.

What Eli’s plan is, I have no idea, but I hope he wins.

That’s not because I don’t like Ruth Eastman. Sure, she’s a slippery political manipulator, but so is he. And I absolutely adore Martindale (The Americans, Justified, The Millers), who delivers her usual excellent performance in this role; the longer it takes Eli to defeat her, that happier I’ll be, and if they should team up to hurt Peter, even better. I just love Eli more, having watched him for years on THE GOOD WIFE, and he must triumph.

Alicia has business challenges, becoming a “Bond” lawyer to make ends meet. She continues to resists Louis Canning’s (Michael J. Fox) overtures, finds a way to work with prickly Judge Schakowsky (Christopher McDonald, Harry’s Law), and even makes a friend who will surely soon be a partner or employee, Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo, Getting On, Torchwood: Children of Earth). This plot is enjoyable but not particularly compelling because it’s easy to be confident Alicia will come out on top. What would be fascinating is if she takes Canning up on his offer, which it seems she’s inching closer to doing.

Alicia isn’t the only one with troubles, though, as Cary struggles to connect to the lawyers working under him. Cary is unique in the his firm because he’s the one young person in a group of much older people running the place. He can’t connect with those on his power level because he’s too different, and those that should be his peers are intimidated because he’s their boss. Like Alicia, I feel like Cary will find a way to get through, as he is tenacious, and Lockhart Agos can’t possibly change names again anytime soon. So I liked his sections, but don’t feel much suspense in them.

Those are the main points in “Bond.” I could actually write about ten pages were I to gush about all the wonderful moments, especially those involving guest stars Jane Curtin (Coneheads, Saturday Night Live, 3rd Rock from the Sun) and Mo Rocca (The Daily Show), among others, and courtroom showdowns, but I won’t. The above paragraphs hit the main points, and there will be plenty of time to talk about THE GOOD WIFE in the weekly columns I’ll write covering the show this year. Suffice it to say, “Bond” is a fantastic episode, and season seven promises to be on par with the first six years, which are overall very strong.

THE GOOD WIFE airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

"The Price" of Watching ONCE UPON A TIME

Article first published as ONCE UPON A TIME Review "The Price" on Seat42F.

ONCE UPON A TIME - "The Price" (ABC/Jack Rowand)

This week’s installment of ONCE UPON A TIME is entitled “The Price.” An evil creature is unleashed upon Storybrooke, coming to collect an unpaid price from magic used. Because only Emma (Jennifer Morrison) has memory of the past six weeks, only she knows why it’s here. She says it’s Regina (Lana Parrilla) who has drawn it to the hamlet. Can Regina step up and be the hero that the town needs?

I’d be lying if I said I weren’t enjoying the role reversal of Emma and Regina. Regina has long been my favorite character, and to see her trying to be the Savior while Emma descends into darkness is great. But I feel like “The Price” is a bit too on-the-nose in portraying this. The situation is too perfect, and because Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) is the life threatened, Regina doesn’t even have to be all that selfless to save him, already being in love with him. It would have been much more powerful to see Regina struggle to step up or do the unexpected for someone she doesn’t care as much about.

That being said, it’s satisfying that the town begins to back up Regina. Many do not believe she has it in her to be the Savior, Leroy (Lee Arenberg) chief among them. And Leroy is one who ends up supporting her and believing in her later. I am sure Regina can be a hero, though not entirely sure she can be the Savior. But I like that Regina has shown enough goodness that others are standing up and paying attention.

On the other hand, I am not entirely convinced Emma is as evil as she seems. She definitely has some darkness in her; the scene where she and the Dark One (Robert Carlyle) look at Excalibur shows she’s still trying to grab power. Yet, she isn’t actively trying to hurt anyone. Rumple, as the Dark One, didn’t always act malevolently. Often, he stayed at home and was just selfish. Emma is displaying the same characteristics, and it leaves me wondering why everyone is so bent on destroying the Dark One. Sure, they want Emma back, but it’s not like the Dark One seeks to kill everyone and destroy the town or anything.

There is the curse, though. Dopey steps across the town line and becomes wrapped up in a tree. Why has Emma cast this curse? What is her purpose? Why did she bring the Camelot group back with her? These are the unanswered questions that will give great insight into this year’s plot when they are revealed.

In Camelot, we see Percival (Andrew Jenkins) try to kill Regina, knowing she was the Evil Queen. He is stopped, David (Josh Dallas) slaying him, and that is when Emma uses deep magic to save Robin Hood at the request of Regina, spurring the creature who is in Storybrooke. (Albeit six weeks late, no? Did it get lost on the way?)

What confuses me is why Arthur (Liam Garrigan) and Guinevere (Joana Metrass) don’t raise a finger to defend their knight. True, these strangers in their midst have come as Merlin’s prophecy said they would, and the king and queen expect something to happen because of them. But why aren’t they more upset that one of their Round Table has been killed? Why does no one in the kingdom, people that know less about the prophecy, demand justice that the interlopers have killed one of their own? Doesn’t anyone seek to know why he attacked? Is the prophecy so clear and so important that and so widely known that the kingdom would allow friends to die in order to not stand in its way? I have serious doubts it will prove to clear this up.

“The Price” is a worrying hour. On the whole, it’s very enjoyable, with some great dialogue and performances. Yet, the holes I’m poking, while not entirely being exposed as flaws yet until we have more information, point to an uneven, non-cohesive story. ONCE UPON A TIME often falls into this trap, starting out strong and then losing steam along the way. It’s a little too early in the fall to be seeing these stumbles, and it makes me worry that season five will not pay off as it should.

At least we get to see Henry (Jared Gilmore) fall for young Violet (Olivia Steele-Falconer, Red Riding Hood) not once, but twice! That softens the blow of the underlying flaws of the hour.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

HOMELAND Brings Back "Anxiety" In a Good Way

Article originally published as HOMELAND Review "Separation Anxiety" on Seat42F.

Sebastian Koch as During and Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland (Season 5, Episode 01). - Stephan Rabold/SHOWTIME

Showtime’s HOMELAND returns tonight for a fifth season with the installment “Separation Anxiety.” After an amazing freshman run that kept the audience guessing about the motivations of one of the show’s two leads, seasons two and three faltered as it kept the same pair of main characters without a story nearly so compelling to back it up. So if you’re one of those fans who jumped ship, you may be asking yourself, should I even care that the show is still on? The answer is yes.

Season four reset the game, reinventing HOMELAND as a one-woman show, with a couple of very good male supporting characters. The trio got into some very heavy things in the fourth year, and the formula diverged from the typical television one in that (SEASON FOUR SPOILER) they didn’t win the day. Not even close.

So as “Separation Anxiety” begins, two years later, these people are in a different place than we’ve ever seen them. Unlike the early days of the show in which our characters kept going after one man, season five finds them moving on, albeit in different ways. This makes the drama much more grounded and realistic, knowing that the world keeps turning, they don’t always get their man, there will be other terrors, and maybe some people don’t want to keep playing a game they’re sick of losing. The psychology behind what each of the trio have chosen to do during the hiatus is fascinating.

As has been publicized, Carrie (Claire Danes) is happier than she’s ever been. Living with an American lawyer, Jonas Happich (Alexander Fehling, Inglourious Basterds), in Germany, raising her daughter, on her meds, Carrie has found peace. She has left the CIA behind and now works security for a private organization, conveniently the same one Jonas is employed by, whose billionaire head, Otto During (Sebastian Koch, The Lives of Others), does good in the world. It is great.

Of course, HOMELAND would not allow such bliss to remain for long. “Separation Anxiety” opens with a CIA crisis in Germany, one in which Saul (Mandy Patinkin) has to come to town for. This year’s emergency is timely and poignant. It deals with hacking and data breaches and rights of the press and homegrown terrorism recruiting and off-the-book-assassinations and government conspiracies. Yes, all of the elements are present in a single event that occurs in a single episode.

I think this shows the way forward for HOMELAND. While some may want it to end, it doesn’t have to if it’s going to be an intelligent look at current events with something to say. Its characters are complex and the writers show the different sides. The world portrayed is both very big and very small. Season five is its own thing, but it doesn’t forget what came before it. I can see a number of more years using this same approach in different ways and being very successful, as season five already seems poised to be.

Now, Carrie isn’t drawn back in immediately, nor should she be, given where she is. I hate when shows artificially stretch things out, and then quickly revert to the status quo, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. From the tension between Saul and Carrie, who are not talking, to the new Berlin station chief played by Allison Carr (Miranda Otto, Rake, The Lord of the Rings), to a righteous, na├»ve rebel (Sarah Sokolovic, Cold Comes the Night), there are enough new pieces to the show that don’t point to a reversion. There are also returning characters like Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and Astrid (Nina Hoss) whose roles aren’t yet defined. Carrie will get involved, but she isn’t just going to jump back in under Saul on an operation, nor did she do that last year.

And what of Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), who along with Carrie and Saul is one of the three current leads of HOMELAND? Well, let’s just say where he’s been is very interesting, revealing something really deep and dark about his character, and where he ends up at the end of the episode in an arrangement with Saul is both surprising and suspenseful.

I’m telling you, despite some bumps in the road in seasons two and three, HOMELAND is a show you don’t want to miss once more. Watch it Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.


Article originally published as THE AFFAIR Review Season 2 Episode 1 on Seat42F.

Maura Tierney as Helen, Dominic West as Noah, Ruth Wilson as Alison and Joshua Jackson as Cole in The Affair (Season 2). - Photo: Steven Lippman/SHOWTIME

Showtime’s THE AFFAIR returns tonight for a second season. The timeline of the series isn’t exactly chronological, so it’s hard to say exactly how long has passed when the new year begins, but there has been a very obvious expansion of the story. The premiere not only gets us back into the lives of these people in what feels like a new chapter, but also does a wonderful job deepening the existing structure.

The biggest change you’ll see, and this has been widely publicized so I don’t believe it counts as a spoiler, is that each episode is no longer split between the perspectives of Noah (Dominic West) and Allison (Ruth Wilson). The premiere is a Noah / Helen (Maura Tierney) division, with only a brief glimpse into Allison, and Cole (Joshua Jackson) will also be getting his own turn soon.

Allowing Helen and Cole their turn makes a lot of sense and is very welcome to THE AFFAIR. Tierney is a wonderful actress, and it’s nice to see her get such an expanded role. In the first season, Cole and Helen are in the dark about what’s going on, so don’t necessarily have as rich an experience to contribute. Now, brought into the proceedings, it’s good to see what they remember, too.

If I have one complaint at all about episode 201, it’s that we don’t get to see what Allison and Cole are up to, and I very much want to know. But I’m sure that will be taken care of in week two, and it’s a testament to how good THE AFFAIR is that I’m eager to return for that.

In the premiere, we catch up with Noah and Helen shortly after their separation. She is raising the kids with the help of her mom, Margaret (Kathleen Chalfant), while he is ensconced in a lake house, finishing his book and spending time with Allison. They both have different priorities right now, but their impending divorce brings them back together.

Like in the first season, memories don’t always line up. Most notably, a meeting with a mediator (Jeremy Shamos, Birdman: Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) illustrates the schism. Where Noah and Helen are in their heads certainly influences the way they recall the event, and as we watch the same scene unfold two different ways, it gives a lot of insight into the mindsets of our leads.

I really like the way THE AFFAIR does this. Perhaps these characters differ a bit more than most people would in telling of their shared experiences, but it provides a way for viewers to analyze the pieces and allows greater understanding of the players. Every time the departures happen, there’s a reason for it. It’s more than just a gimmick THE AFAIR uses;, it’s an important part of the story and necessary to really get what’s going on, which likely isn’t exactly what either are remembering.

The plot arc of Noah facing jail time for Scott’s murder also continues, and provides even more cohesion between seasons one and two. This is something left very much unresolved at the close of season one, and presumably why the past is being brought back up. Detective Jeffries (Victor Williams) has the unenviable task of being the character who most holds the series together while mattering very little to the primary tale. I’m glad to see this continue, and now believe that these events will not be concluded until the series is.

THE AFFAIR’s second season premiere maintains not only the same type of installment that all of the first year does in terms of quality and originality, but finds a way to grow between the two main lines set forth in that initial year. With a locked in beginning and end, filling out the middle in an interesting way is hard to do, and the writers for this program manage to do so consistently. I applaud their skill and very much enjoy their work.

THE AFFAIR airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Article originally written for Seat42F.

MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was an awesome surprise last summer, a film set far apart from the others the comic book company’s movie studio has released, yet thoroughly enjoyable in its own right. Full of unique, developed, magnetic characters and a moving story arc, it is worth repeat viewings, and has quickly sparked both a sequel and a cartoon spin-off. That spin-off, also titled MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, premiered recently on Disney XD. And it is not worthy of the name.

I used to watch cartoons as a child, of course, but have not watched this type of cartoon since probably around 1990. The type I’m talking about is a formulaic action drama in which a generic group of bland characters jump from action scene to action scene, spouting trivial dialogue that means nothing to the story, and lacks any emotional depth or character development. MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is exactly this, and could have blended in a late 1980s lineup seamlessly.

Gone is everything that makes MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY special. Sure, the characters, including many of the supporting ones from the movie, are still there, as are the settings, and even the soundtrack. But they are all merely set dressing for a trite, flat adventure, not used to any real effect. For instance, Drax the Destroyer (David Sobolov, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) still talks about getting revenge, but we no longer feel the sadness in his eyes. And Peter Quill (Will Friedle, Boy Meets World, Kim Possible) pops in the song “Hooked on a Feeling” as background noise as the team stages a raid, but it doesn’t mean anything like the songs do in the movie, it’s just static.

I am loathe to blame the voice cast, because I know many of them have good reputations in the voice-over world, though I haven’t watched most of their work. Yet, the magic that the original group, none of whom return, brought to the film is completely missing. Friedle’s Quill is fine, I guess, as a lead, but he doesn’t exhibit the layers that Chris Pratt communicated in each line. A large part of this could be because Friedle is not given the material with which to play, but part of it is the chemistry between the ensemble just isn’t there.

The plot itself is extremely A.D.D. In a single half hour, there are no less than six, arguably more, sequences that are all about shooting and running, both on the ground and in space. The movie has its share of action, to be sure, but it’s not constant. It slows down to get inside the characters’ minds. This cartoon shows no signs that it will ever do that.

Even the mystery of the pilot, in which Quill discovers that he’s half of a specific alien race, has no impact. That’s because the show has not given viewers enough time or substance to get to know the character. Now, being a follow-up to the movie, it might assume we already know him. But because this Quill is different, we need to meet him all over again, and we don’t get to.

There’s also much made as to whether the characters are outlaws or heroes. Gamora (Vanessa Marshall, Star Wars Rebels), of course, argues for the latter. Yet, since there are no consequences in sight for the former, no one questioning their motives or holding them accountable, the question is a moot point, merely included so Gamora gets a couple of lines, not because it matters.

The bottom line is, I won’t be giving this series another chance. It is a generic as they come, with none of the spark of its source material, and no compelling reason to tune in, the cliffhanger lacking any real sense of danger because of how tame the violence is. Not being a child any more, nor having one yet to seek an opinion from, I can’t say for certain if it will hit its target audience; after all, myself and many of my friends used to watch this kind of junk. But I know there is better, more intelligent programming out there for kids, and it would be nice to see even a little bit of effort on the part of this production to be something stand-out.

MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY begins its regular run on Disney XD on September 26th.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Can I Get a "Witness" (Or Two)?

Article originally published as SLEEPY HOLLOW Review "I, Witness" on Seat42F.


SLEEPY HOLLOW returns for a third season on FOX with “I, Witness.” Ichabod (Tom Mison), gone these past nine months, returns home just as a demon begins terrorizing the town. Abbie (Nicole Beharie) is happy to see him and lend a hand, but her new job as an F.B.I. agent keeps her (sort of) busy, though luckily she’s still assigned to the area. But is the demon an isolated menace, or does a mysterious woman who happens to be fond of boxes portend further troubles?

I will be the first to say that SLEEPY HOLLOW is in need of a reboot this season. Last year devolved into a boring procedural that lost cohesion and became quite full of plot holes. But the way in which “I, Witness” begins could give anyone whiplash. Irving has left town, Katrina and Henry are really dead, The Headless Horseman is destroyed in the opening minutes, and the archive building is about to be torn down. Other than our two leads and Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood), who remains a helping hand, the show has tossed out just about everything that has anchored its first couple of runs.

That may or may not be a good thing. “I, Witness” is certainly an interesting episode. The demon is but a brief distraction, with the majority of the plot focused on more ongoing tales. There’s lots of banter between Abbie and Ichabod as they catch up, having not seen in each other in nine months, and the aforementioned mysterious woman, Pandora (Shannyn Sossamon, Wayward Pines), is definitely present to stir things up. That gets SLEEPY HOLLOW back to its strong roots, a sweeping mythology story of the two witnesses trying to stop the seven tribulations.

Where things fall apart a bit for me is the inconsistency in the way the story is laid out. Aren’t the seven tribulations basically supposed to be hell on Earth? How come almost no one has noticed the world is in serious peril yet? Abbie says she has a new job that keeps her busy, but she gets to run around with Ichabod as much as she wants during the day. (The fact that the demon gets mixed up in her unconnected case is just ridiculous.) And SLEEPY HOLLOW can’t decide if it wants to stick with history or not, bringing Betsy Ross (Nikki Reed, the Twilight films) into the story as a super spy. It’s a bit more jumbled than it needs to be.

Killing the horseman is the biggest miss. This is someone who has been a dangerous foe and has a lot of history with our heroes, and there isn’t even any set up to get him to this point. To wipe him out in a brief scene with Pandora feels wrong. He deserves more than to be written off without even getting the chance to fight back. I could be wrong in thinking he’s permanently deceased, but that’s what seems to happen when his powers are taken and he dissolves in the black smoke.

That being said, I’m willing to give this year a chance to make up for past wrongs. Betsy and Pandora are but two of the four new main characters, the other two sitting out this episode, though we’ve seen one of them before. The story seems poised to get back into longer arcs and more personal backstory. And Abbie and Ichabod are back to doing what they do best, saving the world with the same chemistry any other crime procedural duo has. So it looks like “I, Witness” gets things off to a mostly good start.

SLEEPY HOLLOW airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

New "Laws" for MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Article first published as AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review "Laws of Nature" on Seat42F.

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. - "Laws of Nature" - "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. does not do slow and quiet, as evidenced in the third season premiere last night, “Laws of Nature.” Months have passed, and Inhumans are starting to show up across the globe. S.H.I.E.L.D. seeks to catch and protect them, but they suddenly have competition in that market, and it’s not Hydra (or, at least not entirely Hydra). Not all the members of the team are focused on this, though, with personal issues driving the motivations of several.

Daisy (Chloe Bennet) is probably the most changed. Rejecting the name Skye, she now leads Coulson’s team to find the Inhumans. An intense opening scene in which she meets Joey Gutierrez (Juan Pablo Raba, Narcos) beautifully illustrates the challenges she faces, both physical and emotional. It’s not easy for someone to suddenly gain powers they can’t understand and control without warning, and while Daisy has gone through it herself, not everyone is receptive to her assistance.

Mack (Henry Simmons, now a full-time cast member) does his best to help Daisy, but he doesn’t have the same experience she has, so that’s why she approaches Lincoln (Luke Mitchell, also promoted to full-time). But Lincoln wants nothing to do with her, even after the monstrous Lash (former NFL player Matthew Willig), who looks like Raina’s overgrown big brother, destroys Lincoln’s new life. So Daisy is failing on multiple fronts.

Her failure does not mean that she should be written off. Daisy has shown remarkable strength and character over the past two seasons, growing into a very formidable member of the team, and earning authority despite her limited tenure. While she is drawn into MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. because of her past, she is well-poised to write her own future, and it’s a pleasure watching her go through this. And Lincoln will have to come around, eventually.

The best character on MARVEL’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., though, remains Coulson (Clark Gregg). Armed with a new hand (hehe), as we knew he would be, Coulson spends most of “Laws of Nature” tracking down Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer, UnREAL, Entourage, House of Cards, etc.), his competition for the Inhumans. Their exchange in the subway is perfect, and in Rosalind, I feel like Coulson has met his match.

Though, they aren’t exactly on opposing sides. It turns out, someone is killing Inhumans, but it’s not Rosalind’s group. I think. (Maybe it’s Hyrdra?) So that means this could be a match made in heaven. Or T.A.H.I.T.I. Wherever. As long as Zimmer sticks around as long as possible (as allowable by her other work), I’m happy.

Speaking of chemistry, the electricity between Hunter (Nick Blood) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) has not cooled off. They are at odds and yet happy together at the same time. This pair has an odd balance, one born of both love and conflict, and yet it seems like they are as good together as they’ll ever be, and it’s nice. Someone on MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has to be happy, and my vote is for these two. Who may very soon have their own spin-off anyway.

Poor Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) isn’t so lucky. He’s spent months trying to find a way to get Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) out of the monolith. Even Coulson gives up, telling Fitz it’s hopeless and she’s probably dead. The fact that she isn’t, instead trapped in an alien wasteland, with the rock-thing serving not as a cage, but a portal, only makes Fitz’s seemingly hopeless mission feel warranted.

I can’t help but wonder, though, despite not wanting Simmons off the show, if it might not have been a more powerful story to see Fitz dealing with a truly lost cause. The hero pushing on is a predictable archetype, and usually MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is better than this. It also doesn’t feel entirely right that Coulson and others have given up on Simmons without confirming what happened. I’m still waiting for the twist to redeem this plot, such as Coulson perhaps still working on this in secret, and I expect there will be one coming. Hopefully.

Ward (Brett Dalton) and May (Ming-Na Wen) are both absent from “Laws of Nature,” but that’s OK. MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has expanded its cast enough that not every player must be in every hour, and there’s plenty going on without them. Of course, I look forward to their imminent returns in the near future. But even sans those two, the season premiere is a solid one, setting up a new, interesting arc as the Inhuman-triggering substance spreads globally, and providing plenty of character drama meat to boot. This is a satisfying first episode back for a reliable series.

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