Wednesday morning, after early spending the week anticipating what we had been told was the best episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made yet, I read a certain TV Guide article that made it clear that Jemma was going to be shown as having met an romantic rival for Fitz while she had been on the planet. Naturally, I wasn’t happy. Like many fans, I had wanted the episode to just be Jemma surviving and having a story apart from that, and a love triangle seemed a stupid, unimaginative way to keep apart a pair of characters whose storyline had already gone on quite long enough, and would already have to go on longer while she recovered from PTSD. By 9 that night, it was less than an hour after I had snapped the TV off in disgust and had also officially given up on the new Muppet show, which had not improved my mood; nor had the fact that my remote was acting up(and when I saw acting up, I mean not working at all; it was a good thing I was on ABC already).
Then I sat down and actually watched the episode.
I saw Jemma be strong and smart and very human and in character in the way she dealt with her impossible situation, helped by Elizabeth Henstridge showing just what she’s capable of. I saw her outsmart the guy who captured her, and even after taking him as ally made it clear he’s never going to be the boss of her, even if she might often take his advice. I saw her figure out the planet with her scientific abilities, and come up with an escape plan and even a plan B herself, one that we can assume only failed because of the extent of the planet’s maliciousness, which wasn’t something she could have been expected to anticipate, really. I saw all her suffering and heartbreak turn her into the person Fitz would pull back through the portal.
I also saw her form a bond with a man which deeply moved you emotionally, and when they finally did kiss, at exactly the right time for them to do so, it felt like the natural thing to happen between them then, and, contrary to what some are claiming, did not cheapen their relationship in the slightest, because at base they still remained what they’d already been to each other, just like she and Fitz will always be best friends first even if they ever do kiss(and I’m actually still 90% sure they will, though we may have to wait until the series finale for it). I also saw her feelings for Fitz remain unchanged, him remaining important to her, a tangible presence on the planet because he’s so much in her thoughts, and her knowledge that he’s still working on rescuing her shine through the moment she saw that flare.
Finally, we came to the end, when of course Fitz was his wonderful self who would do the right thing and help Jemma however much it might kill him, and that was when our hearts all broke. At this point I just want him to be made happy, however it can be done, honestly. But you want it for Will, too; like Jemma Simmons herself, we have come to care deeply about both men, and there may be no way out of that. Love triangles might be cliche, but when this show lives on angst, at least they know how to do one right.
And if you think about this episode as a stand-alone piece of work, well, it’s up there with the best works of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The story, the three characters, the terrifying dark blue planet, the heartbreak at the end. The movies of Phase 3 will want to be this good.
Going back to my hit/miss format from last week’s post, I would say that even though the decision to include a love triangle in this season would be a miss, the way they did it has turned it into a hit. So long as they do what happened this week justice in how they follow it up.