I have distinct memories of watching the first Avengers film in theaters, with one of the first scenes featuring then-Agent Phil Coulson. He looked like a badass, waiting for the also-badass Nick Fury to exit his helicopter. Despite the cool imagery, the only thought that went through my head was “Why is this man wearing sunglasses at night?” Ever since then, Coulson has been the Sunglasses Man to me.
“Sarge” is not Coulson. See, in the opening scene of “Window of Opportunity,” the second episode of the sixth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this evil Coulson doppelgänger finds something that fits his grungy aesthetic better. It is still almost as uncanny for the audience as much as it is for the characters to see this look-alike strut about, but actor Clark Gregg is doing a decent job distinguishing whoever this guy is from Coulson—though it’s mostly thanks to his oddball team.
Let’s do a brief roll call here: we have the not-Coulson known as Sarge, the large and intimidating Jaco, the eccentric and spiritual Butterfly, and a scruffy and sorta anxious Pax; then, you have Tinker, who got stuck in concrete and died on his way to our Earth in the season premiere. They’re an odd bunch, but this second episode helps a little to distinguish them a little better, even though we as audience members still have little idea what their mission is. One thing’s for certain: they’re very alien.
Now what kind of alien is unclear at the time. You get comments about how they’re not used to our paper money; at one point, Jaco is using a breathing apparatus that simulates the atmosphere of his previous home; Butterfly flips through fashion magazines as they attempt to figure out how to blend in. They are strangers in a strange land, and watching them interact with anything Earthly makes for subtle world-building that will probably make rewatches rewarding.
Despite the fact that we saw Sarge literally murder a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in the last episode, he doesn’t seem too ruthless as the show wants us to think he is. At one point, he spots a hostage escaping, and while I’m glad the show didn’t display any gratuitous violence by having him execute her, it was odd that his reaction was a sardonic Coulson-like reaction. This episode makes a point in eliminating any theories of LMDs or anything the show has thrown at us in the past, and as Sarge’s DNA is an exact match as Coulson’s (Skrull, perhaps?), I’m left scratching my head about what the thematic purpose of having a “dirty Coulson” is so far.
Back in S.H.I.E.L.D., everyone is going through the motions. May is dealing with the prospect of facing off against this Coulson imposter, Yo-Yo has a couple of scenes about her uninteresting love life with a so-far painfully generic character, and Mack is dealing with his newest recruit, Dr. Marcus Benson. So far, the latter character’s only purpose seems to be that of the “normal person” caught up in the madness, with excessive comments on how weird and S.H.I.E.L.D. bad is. We get it—we’ve already had five seasons of that from other characters too.
I should say that it’s lovely to see Fitz and his robot(?) buddy Enoch back in the fray, though I wish his plot line had a bit more going on. Fitz is passing as an alien working as an engineer on a ship, when his identity becomes compromised. After proving his worth as an engineer compared to the rest of the crew, he is suddenly put in a moral dilemma—though all of this is just to prove that Fitz is a good person, which again, is something we’re well aware of. Seeing Enoch learn about human emotions in a very Vulcan-like fashion is a bit entertaining, to say the least.
It’s a fine episode, and watching May go at it at Sarge’s crew was an entertaining romp, especially since last week’s episode didn’t feature much hand-to-hand choreographed action. I’m also digging the aesthetic of the bad guys this season, from their costumes to their props—even though I don’t understand quite what they’re doing or what they’re using, there is something compelling about watching them just do stuff with their weird trinkets and gadgets, in a very Waterworld-kind of way.
There’s not really anything to dislike in “Window of Opportunity,” and it furthers the season in making its visuals and scenery more distinct. But for a show that usually respects the viewer’s time and moves the plot along at a fast rate, everything seems less urgent despite the shorter episode count this season. Here’s hoping that episode three next week makes me regret saying that.