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'Agents of SHIELD' episode 4 review: Coulson's protégé goes rogue

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After a slight lull last week, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is on top form with episode four 'Eye-Spy' - in the pre-titles teaser alone, we're treated to a subway massacre (of sorts), a diamond heist and a memorable troupe of dapper masked villains.

As an opening sequence, it's pleasingly unsettling - setting the scene and setting the viewer on edge, ready for a SHIELD episode that is a touch darker than previous weeks.

Pascale Armand as Akela Amadour and Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May in 'Agents of SHIELD' S01E04: 'Eye Spy'

© ABC

Akela and May in 'Agents of SHIELD'



'Eye-Spy' concerns Akela Amador, played by the impressive Pascale Armand. Amador is Coulson's former protégé - there's plenty of potential in a SHIELD agent gone rogue, so you can't blame writer Jeffrey Bell for choosing to mine such a rich vein of drama.

I'll admit I did initially have concerns that the show might be treading old ground though - we already met a villain with a past connection to Coulson in episode two. But the events of 'Eye-Spy' have far more of a personal impact on Coulson, which helps to differentiate the events of this week from what came before.

Elizabeth Henstridge as Simmons and Iain De Caestecker as Fitz in 'Agents of SHIELD' S01E04: 'Eye Spy'

© ABC

Fitz and Simmons in 'Agents of SHIELD'



In fact, what makes 'Eye-Spy' so great is that it occasionally takes a pause from the action to develop character - something which the past couple of Agents of SHIELD episodes have mostly failed to do.

Clark Gregg's Coulson gets a particularly good showing - clashing with Ming-Na Wen's Melinda May and sharing warm and meaningful exchanges with his two protégés, Akela and Skye (Chloe Bennet).

Pascale Armand as Akela Amadour and Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson in 'Agents of SHIELD' S01E04: 'Eye Spy'

© ABC

Coulson and Akela in 'Agents of SHIELD'



Fantastic as it is though, we're still waiting for that perfect Agents of SHIELD episode, because 'Eye-Spy' has a couple of flaws - having taken the time to develop Coulson's character beyond what we saw in the Marvel movies, the show now badly needs to do the same with Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton).

He's still the blandest of the bunch by a country mile and an episode where the central plot has a personal stake for the chiselled one could go some way to remedying that.

There are also a few plot contrivances that would bug even the most forgiving of viewers - could Agent Ward really fool Akela's mysterious controller for so long? We're expected to buy that he drives a car without once catching sight of himself in a mirror?

Chloe Bennet as Skye in 'Agents of SHIELD' S01E04: 'Eye Spy'

© ABC

Skye in 'Agents of SHIELD'



Those few quibbles aside though, 'Eye-Spy' combines Agents of SHIELD's usual dose of humour and action with a satisfying amount of character development. It's solid blockbuster entertainment for the small-screen and the show's best episode since its exemplary pilot.



Parlance of SHIELD...
"She stop saying 'Bang' when she pulls the trigger?" and the pay-off when Amador rams our heroes.
Coulson's "I live outside the box!" and Skye's reaction.
"Boy parts and girl parts are different - and our parts aren't penises!"
"Between Facebook, Instagram and Flickr - people are surveilling themselves."

Make Mine Marvel! - Another couple of references to The Avengers and the battle of New York, with Coulson's fate, aliens and portals all cropping up in discussion.

Coulson Lives! - "He's different - what did they do to him?" - Coulson post-'trip to Tahiti' doesn't seem that different to us. What is Akela seeing that we can't?

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