Agents of SHIELD: 311 “Bouncing Back” Review
Reviewed by Ollie Gregory.
After a long break, during which we all watched Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is back in business. With the first half of this season being adored by pretty much everyone, you knew expectations for the second were going to be sky high. Since the gap between this episode and the previous episode was so huge, this week, not only did they have to entertain the audience for forty minutes, they also had to reintroduce us to the universe, and the characters who inhabit it.
In terms of reintroducing the universe, Bouncing Back is a complete success. Admittedly, some characters are largely ignored (but more on that later), but other than that, we’re reminded of everything that we grew to love over the first part of the season. Clark Gregg’s Director Coulson is back, and if you need a reminder of how important this guy is, his first appearance involves him arguing with the president. While it may technically be the same person, this Coulson is far more focused than any version we’ve ever seen before, and I fear for the first person who stands in his way (both metaphorically, and literally).
Daisy, Mack, Hunter and Bobbi all return, and although none of them have enough of an arc to really delve into there performances, they all have a couple of great moments in the spotlight. Despite this, it’s the way they work together that makes them special. During the break I completely forgot how much I loved the banter between the S.H.I.E.L.D team, but this episode was happy to remind me of how great it was, and why I had grown to love it. It’s not as silly or fun as the team dynamic in Agent Carter, but it’s quippy and sharp and great and I just can’t get enough of it.
While there were many returning characters, this episode also introduced us to some new characters, namely ‘Yo-Yo’ (played by Natalia Cordova-Buckley) an inhuman with the ability to travel at a superhuman speed to as far as she can in one heartbeat, and then instantly bounce back. As cool as this power is, it’s pretty much a nerfed version of Quicksilver’s (same universe, remember?) making it a little less imaginative than it originally seemed. Regardless, the fact that she bounces back to where she came from was a nice Achilles’ heel for her, and made the character far more interesting. I also enjoyed her motivations, and given what has been going on in the news lately, presenting a mild anti-police message, especially using minority characters, was a ballsy move on Marvel’s behalf. Cordova-Buckley was solid casting and it was great to see a character who upon discovering her powers, instantly began using them to deal their own form of justice. The fact different people respond differently to their abilities, some believing them to be curses, others, such as ‘Yo-Yo’, believing them to be a gift, adds an interesting layer of realism and intrigue.
In terms of villains, this episode seemed to make it incredibly clear that Gideon Malick (Played by Hollywood icon, Powers Boothe) is the baddie of all baddies. When the President of the United States is too afraid to even try and go near someone, you can bet that person is one powerful sonuvagun.
Alongside Gideon Malick is Earth’s latest alien visitor, Hive (Or as most people call him, Zombie Ward). For some reason, Zombie Ward has become incredibly weak since his appearance last episode, meaning he spends most of this episode complaining about how hungry he is or just sitting about looking gross. The evil inhuman who really steals the show this episode is Medusa Eyes, a police officer with the ability to turn people to stone by looking at them (Yup, inhumans names are rather literal this episode). It’s great that we’re seeing so many superpowered people these days, since at the end of the say, we’re all here for the superpowers. While both Medusa Eyes’ and Yo-Yo’s powers confuse me slightly, and the CGI is a little bit dodgy in places, I’m all for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D adding more and more superpowered beings.
While there’s a lot of fun to be had this episode, there’s also quite a lot of heavy stuff going on. The scene in which Coulson put Von Strucker in the memory machine, causing Strucker to beg to be killed was pretty hard to watch, and the death of Yo-Yo’s cousin was surprisingly saddening. While it isn’t super dark, there’s enough serious content that the episode still packs an emotional punch, and affects those who are a part of the older demographic.
That’s not to say this episode is perfect. After having to wait a whole three months for the return of Fitzsimmons, we’re still kinda waiting. Sure, they appear on screen, and there’s a scene where they decide to try and go back to square one with their relationship, but they’re both fantastic characters, portrayed by fantastic actors, and we need more of them. We got to see Daisy and Lincoln’s relationship develop a bit (Yawn!), but we didn’t get any real Fitzsimmons action. Melinda May was also barely existent this episode, but I suppose when you’re sporting a cast this large, someone is always going to have to be put on the back burner.
But as a whole, this episode achieves everything it had to. It got us back into the universe and began to ask questions. The very opening shot, set three months in the future on what appears to be a space shuttle, instantly gets the audience thinking and theorising, while the revelation that Talbot (Woo! Flying guy from Heroes) has been chosen by the President to be the director of the ATCU gives us something to look forward to in the immediate future. Well done Bouncing Back, you were pretty good, I guess.