Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D's biggest misstep in its first season has been its characters. Its worst offenders are Fitz-Simmons, the rambling co-dependent scientist duo that are so one-note, even the other characters can't be bothered to call them by their separate names, instead often hyphenating them into a single data-spouting entity. With "F.Z.Z.T," Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has delivered one of the show's better hours by raising the stakes and putting one of its characters in actual danger, while also giving some much-needed character development to the dorky duo in question.
The episode opens with a troop of Marvel's version of the Boy Scouts (since this is in the Marvel Universe, lets call them Captain America Campers) gathered around the fire. One of the adult troop leaders hears some mysterious humming and goes off to investigate, but ends up getting killed by an unknown entity with static electric powers that leaves his body mysteriously floating in the air.
Next, we catch up with the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew. Coulson is getting a physical and appears to be in perfect health, but something about this second chance at life is still gnawing at him. Elsewhere, Skye is feeling the chill from Ward's cold shoulder after the events of the last episode. Betraying your team to your previous hacktivist organization tends to leave some people a little frosty. Fitz and Simmons lighten the mood with some fun Ward impressions, but the fun is fleeting when the team is called to investigate the mysterious case of the floating man.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. gang travels to the campsite with the body to investigate what happened. Simmons gets too close to the gravitationaly challenged man and gets a seemingly innocuous static zap that causes the body to fall to the ground. Coulson and the others wonder who or what could have caused the man's death.
The team then picks up another electo-static event, this time in a barn where they find another man floating in the air. It turns out the two victims were both firefighters that were among the first responders to the battle of New York. The team travels to the firehouse where they find another man who hears the humming. Coulson comforts the man by telling him of his own experience with death before leaving the man to die the same way his friends did.
Simmons puzzles out that the random electro-static deaths are due to a dormant alien virus left on a Chitari helmet, a virus that has also infected Simmons herself. Coulson puts Simmons in quarantine while she scrambles to create an anti-serum for the virus, but fails in every attempt to stop the disease. It turns out that if Simmons dies in the same electro-static event that killed the others, the jet will be blown out of the sky. When a last ditch effort to find the right anti-serum appears to fail, she decides to sacrifice herself and save the rest of the team by jumping out of the jet. Naturally, the last anti-serum turns out to indeed work. Agent Ward goes full superhero by jumping out of a jet in an impressive bit of sky-diving, and manages to impossibly save Simmons from going splat and injects her with the correct antidote. Back on the plane, everyone's relieved that Simmons survived, and Coulson reveals that he feels different since coming back, but Melinda May tells him to embrace his second life, however different he might feel. The scene also hints that May has had a death experience of her own.
Simmons' looming death gives way to some good character work that S.H.I.E.L.D has been in serious need of. The episode also helped to develop Fitz and Simmons as indvidual characters. Jemma coming that close to death also asserts to the audience that these weekly adventures are actually pretty dangerous, and that the risk of death for these characters is always in the air. Hopefully the show will continue this upward swing in momentum in the coming weeks.
Quipiest Quips and Other Observations
"I'm agent Grant Ward. I can shoot the legs off a flea from 500 yards, as long as it's not windy."
"Do you want a cookie?" Melinda May offering people baked goods is terrifying.
"Little heavy on the iron, but don't worry, you don't have to start calling me Iron Man." I think I heard the distinct sound of the entire world groaning after that line.
Knowing that this is a Joss Whedon show in some capacity, I sort of expected Simmons to bite the dust. Joss loves killing of characters just when you thought they were safe. Hold on, I'm having a bit of television PTSD