Above: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Last week was pretty rad for television, you guys. It wasn’t a full week of my favorite shows, mind you, but the four that aired made me a very happy camper. Well, mostly, but you know I try and stay positive (season and show finales landing quickly, and Dexter still haunting my critical mind).
Let’s start with How I Met Your Mother, a program that continues to melt into the background with its mediocrity, but at least tries to stay in the game. In this episode, we see Marshall bequeath to Barney the penultimate slap (you remember the slap bet, right?) after a series of flashbacks depicting Marshall’s journey to learn the Slap of a Thousand Suns (a million suns?). The Kill Bill 2 homage is fun (Pai Mei’s name appears on a book about a legendary slapping tree and much of the training flashbacks are reminiscent of kung fu training montages), but nothing of any substance really happens in the episode. It is entertaining, but a whole lot of effort for something ultimately flat. At least Boyz 2 Men appear to sing Marshall’s “You Just Got Slapped.”
But then New Girl was charming and great. In the current installment, Jess tries to befriend Coach using a falsified interest in basketball, angering Nick in the process (Nick and Coach are fans of rival basketball teams, oh noes!). This results in (of course) Nick and Jess trying to survive a self-imposed sex ban, which makes for some uncomfortable but highly humorous dynamics between the two (also, what kinda dude doesn’t like Zooey Deschanel’s awkward advances?). The performances of the whole cast, in fact, are solid here, Schmidt getting to shine as usual as he almost loses job prestige to an older man but doesn’t, in the end fighting dirty with a PowerPoint the codger can’t reckon with. And Winston may become a cop? Awesome.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was pretty great, because finally the stakes are raised and most of the characters become much more human. Coulson, after learning the horror of his reanimation, has to put his emotional turmoil on hold to accompany May to Mexico to figure more stuff out about Skye’s past. Their discovery shakes Coulson, and there’s a sweet scene in which he reveals all he knows to Skye, and damnit if Clark Gregg doesn’t you make you feel your feelings. Also, there’s a pretty rad main arc in which Fitz and Simmons visit the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy (college! woo!) and have to sniff out the creator of a freeze weapon. Ultimately, this is one Agents episode that doesn’t feel recycled or that predictable, with a couple great reveals and some precursor material for the rest of the season. It feels more like Joss Whedon having fun, instead of trying to stuff a lot of references into the show just because.
Community has finally settled back into being one of the best comedies on television, which is highly pleasant. After the news of Pierce’s death, the study group gathers round that emblematic table and is forced to go through another round of Hawthorne’s sadistic bequeathals. As expected, the group turns on each other, and we get to enjoy hearing a myriad of secrets from the characters, each more silly than the last (best use of lie detector ever!). Harmon reminds us here that the study group is filled with terrible people, but friends nonetheless that can see anything through. Pierce’s death (possibly a hoax, based on some hints throughout the episode) gives the cast the chance to sit at that table and get to show their chops against one another. It’s quite an awesome episode, and a reminder of why Community was great in the first place. Also, there’s a lot of bequeathing of cryogenically frozen sperm. So, that’s fun.
But in a turn for sadness, Elementary fans have to wait for next week. Curses!