After the first half of the season took too long to set up the premise of the show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has officially gone into overdrive, which is, I'm assuming, why they have the inexplicable "Rising" subtitle on everything now. What that means for this week's episode is that we finally get to see "Tahiti," and, of course, there's a severed torso just hanging out.
Basically, the entire episode revolves around trying to save the previously shot (and fatally wounded) Skye. And, of course, they go right where you think they will: back to the place that did the crazy zombie surgery on Agent Coulson. Bill Paxton shows up because for some reason they thought what the show really needed was a milquetoast white dude. Oh, and he brings a cute agent with him who's into Simmons.
It's all very edge-of-your seat exciting. They have to get a magical drug for Skye, and, of course, there's a timed explosion, and Coulson and Bill Paxton escape just in the nick of time as the top-secret place they get the magical drug from erupts in a fiery explosion. Oh, and also, there's a damn disembodied torso. That's right, Agent Coulson sneaks into the T.A.H.I.T.I. ward (it's a magical place) and finds the aforementioned glowing body part suspended in medical goo. It's not made clear to us whose torso this is, exactly, but Coulson takes it as a bad omen and tries to stop the agents from giving Skye the magical mysterious cure... but it's too late, because she was just about to die, so they just shot her up with the stuff (despite not knowing how much to give her, or how she would react since she may or may not be superhuman, but I digress). She's magically cured, but Agent Coulson decides to keep his findings to himself.
This recent action-packed, revitalized Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is an exciting turn for the show. But it comes at the price of the kind of wit and irreverence that's inherent in most Whedon-helmed shows. The only time I could get excited about one of the characters (as opposed to all the action) was when Melinda May let her guard down to personally kick Ian Quinn's ass for shooting Skye. And as much as I want to get excited about Simmons' new suitor, none of the character interactions were particularly memorable — nothing touching, nothing funny, just business as usual. And it's not as if they don't have the time — this episode spent a full, awkward 30 seconds slowly zooming out of a shot of Agent Coulson watching Skye sleep. There was no subtext or deeper emotional meaning, that was just it.
But next week's episode might shake things up a little. For one, there are actual superheroes: two Asgardian warrior women. And it looks as if they might make a real impact on the show's characters, since one of these warrior women puts Agent Ward under her sexy sex goddess spell (patent pending), driving a wedge in Ward and Melinda May's weird non-relationship.
So sure, once again, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not quite the show you want it to be. We're not upset with you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we're just disappointed that you're not living up to your full potential. But, hey, it sure is an exciting show to watch... as long as you can expunge the image of the creepy, glowing zombie torso from your mind long enough to get some sleep.