A young woman pulls off several high-profile robberies all over the world, all with an uncanny degree of precision. To make matters worse, it appears that she can see with her eyes closed. Coulson indentified the woman as his former subordinate, Akela Amadour. Once the S.H.I.E.L.D. team catches up with her, they find that she’s being controlled by parties unknown via an ocular implant. She either follows orders, or her handlers trip the failsafe switch and her brain goes plooey. The gang manages to take over her video feed with a smart pair of technoglasses. Skye and Ward continue to work Akela’s mission and try not to alert the watchers that anything is amiss, while Fitz and Simmons attempt to remove Akela’s failsafe. Coulson and May attempt to track down the source of Akela’s orders.
“Eye Spy” is quite a strong episode throughout. The opening sequence in particular with Akela robbing some fools on a Swedish subway is both tense and visually striking. It’s surprisingly funny, boasting the sharpest dialogue since the pilot. Mutant Enemy’s brand of witticism and self-aware humor is here in full force. Skye and Ward’s research facility offers some cloak and dagger material, plus a fun action sequence once things inevitably go tits-up. Plus, Ward looks rather fetching in a suit and glasses, if I do say so myself.
The eye implant story is a really neat idea, I think. Having your every moment broadcasted to the unseen masters who hold your leash is lovely paranoia fuel. Being forced into committing criminal acts against your will while they watch your every move all the time for years. Unsettling, to say the least. Very timely stuff, given the NSA uproar recently. Also, very gross because needles and eyes and scalpels….Not a fan.
I’m beginning to grow a little concerned with the continued use of Coulson’s past to give these stories a more personal flavor. On one hand, we really don’t know much about the life and times of Mr Phil Coulson prior to Iron Man and having that kind of blank slate to fill in and draw stories from is quite tantalizing for many writers and can be a useful tool. However, that sort of thing needs a feel of cohesion and consistency. Lost would often use flashbacks to great effect, as did Angel, and in both cases it felt like you were following the thread of a character’s life. Thus far, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t quite delivering. Both “Eye Spy” and “084” both feature characters from Coulson’s past, and it still feels disjointed and a little scattershot. It’s a bit like Grandpa Simpson where things are just kind of slotted in as backstory as episodes come up. We’re only seeing little snippets and not being told the story of pre-Iron Man Coulson, and since this is drama and not animation, it’s a tad worrisome. Perhaps more will be revealed at a later date and tie these disparate things together, but for now it feels a bit hollow.
The theme at the heart of this episode is second chances. Coulson has been given a second chance on life by surviving the events of The Avengers, and he wants to extend the same opportunity to others. He’s already given Skye a chance to be a part of something special, and he makes it clear that he won’t give up on Akela, either. Second chances and forgiveness are recurring themes in Joss Whedon’s body of work, so I’m not surprised to see it here. Hell, Angel was all about second chances, really. “Eye Spy” doesn’t have a whole lot new to say on the subject, but it’s rather well done, a few sappy moments aside. It’s classic Mutant Enemy to have a heartfelt moment undercut with quirk. In more unsteady hands, it’s a good way to deflate whatever sincerity you had, but Joss Whedon and pals really know how to have their cake and eat it too, and they’ve known it ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer began.
“Eye Spy” raises a ton of questions for the series going forward. One thing these first few episodes have done exceptionally well is to lay a lot of potential groundwork, and this episode is no exception. Who was controlling Akela? Why did they want that equation so badly, and what is it, exactly? Even when Coulson finds Akela’s handler, we realize that he’s just another puppet, too. Akela also asks some rather pointed questions about Coulson. She seems to think he’s been changed or something done to him since she last saw him. There have been little hints in previous episodes that something’s amiss, but this is the first time it’s been discussed so overtly
I must say that I’m very much enjoying the little tag scenes at the end of the episodes. Sometimes they are plot related and act as a stinger, but mostly they’re just a bit of fun before the credits roll. This sort of thing is commonplace in the sitcom world, but it works surprisingly well here, too. I wonder if it evolved out of the Marvel films’ well-known habit of having post-credits goodies.
“Eye Spy” is a highly enjoyable episode that dispenses all sorts of interesting plot nuggets I look forward to watching develop. It still doesn’t quite fulfill its potential, but it’s certainly become one of my favorite new shows this season.