I recently made the most obvious realization for a certain Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. character. The word “deke” is “a deceptive movement or feint that induces an opponent to move out of position,” hence our sneaky Deke Shaw character. He is a grifter by nature, one who has slowly filled both the comic relief and outsider roles of the show. Jeff Ward has earned his place on the Marvel show, even with his late entry, more so than other new characters before him.
With that, I sure hope you like Deke too, because his part is the only one that really works in this middling episode.
Consecutive episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D. have never been more disconnected—last week’s episode solely focused on the space bound pairs of Fitz & Enoch, Davis & Piper, and Daisy & Simmons, while this episode has none of them and focuses on, uh, everyone else. Almost a third of the way into this season, S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like two different and barely connected television shows.
Deke has been mysteriously missing from the season thus far, but the show quickly catches the audience up on what he’s been up to in the year-long gap since the last season. His grifting seems to have reached a peak (a Deke peak?), now the head of some sort of Silicon Valley-ish tech start-up, based on the Framework from season 4 and 5 and what appears to be stolen or copied S.H.I.E.L.D. technology. Deke has gone full Zuckerberg.
It’s a bit of whiplash, considering he’s only been in our present (his past) for just a year, but his personality remains consistent, and one can easily fill in the blanks of how he got to this point. He even has a girlfriend, played by co-showrunner Maurissa Tancharoen, who is a hilarious addition to the supporting cast. She is millennial Instagram incarnate, and the writing around her character puts Hulk dabbing and a Fortnite reference in Avengers: Endgame to shame.
It’s a great set up, but I’m quite surprised how underwhelmed I was by the inciting incident. Not!Coulson aka Sarge and his groupies are at it again—whatever that may be. It is clear that they are hellbent on eliminating specific targets, and Deke appears to be their next one. Why Sarge and co. are after these people isn’t clear (as is everything they do), but it seems like their targets are people who don’t belong in this world for one reason or another.
It’s fun to be coy and to leave breadcrumbs as television writers, but I’m beginning to get impatient with how vague their motivations and intents are. S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that is best when it is moving at a brutally fast pace, but at this point, I’m not expecting any important revelations until the last minute. These new characters who fascinated me in episode 2 are already beginning to come across as annoying one-note caricatures.
You can almost say the same for legacy characters Mack and May. It’s cool to finally see more of Mack as a Director, but for some reason, the show doesn’t seem to want to follow him. Then we have May, an otherwise excellent character, but all we’ve seen from her is the same reaction to Not!Coulson. With the way the episode ends, it looks like we’ll be getting more movement on that next episode, at least I hope so.
And then we have new character Benson, whose stock line is “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Yo-Yo, and his boring, charisma-sucking new boyfriend whose name I have to look up every week when I write these reviews (it’s Keller, by the way). Their plot line involves these side characters (Yo-Yo feels demoted this season) chasing some sort of parasitic bat around the Lighthouse, which by the way, is a painfully dull-looking base compared to the Playground from season 2 to 4.
At one point, the parasite enters Keller, slowly and painfully, and Yo-Yo, a character who literally has super speed, just stares and watches in horror. Everything is trite, and the plot line ends in a way that makes the whole thing feel like a shaggy dog story. It lacks in any sort of levity, a stark contrast to the rest of the episode. I still feel like I’d say that this was a good episode, but with a big asterisk attached to that statement. Deke’s return to the show was something I didn’t know I would be hyped about, but here we are, with me singing praises of him over Melinda May, of all characters.
Perhaps later episodes will make up for my disappointments this time around, and maybe the full 13-episode season will work excellently as a unit. Despite its longer episode counts in the past, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been a well-structured show, even compared to the more middling 13-episode seasons from Netflix’s Marvel shows. With less time to work with, I contemplate on how the writers structured this season differently. I sure hope that I can revisit “Code Yellow” with affection upon a full season rewatch sometime in the future.
Also, please stick around at the very end of the episode before the credits—it’s perhaps the funniest end tag for a S.H.I.E.L.D. episode yet.