Being with a show from the beginning is kind of like watching a kid grow up. They take their first steps, they fall down, they make a mess that everyone runs away screaming from, they get older, they learn to talk, to run, to leap, to paint pictures... and then suddenly they're an adult, amazing the world.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't an adult quite yet, but it has certainly grown up a lot over the past year. Last night we got our first really unique episode. It's the daring type of episode that a baby show can't do, but a show in its third season can and should try.
The actual storyline was not, perhaps, the most revolutionary. Two humans struggling for survival. No crazy aliens (except one, maybe sorta), no weird planet (it's just always night), no terribly surprising twists... but even a fairly basic plot like girl meets boy, girl and boy survive crazy desert together and fall in love, girl and boy get separated can be deep and absorbing when executed properly. And I'd say that this was executed superbly.
Jemma has been the weakest member of the team for awhile, with the greatest 'annoying' factor. In order to keep her relevant and likable, the writers had to do something drastic to her this season - and wow, did they ever pull it off. They threw her into an absolutely horrible situation, and had her react to it, and she changed but not completely. Yet, though some of her annoying quirks are still there, she has changed enough and our perception and affection for her has changed enough that suddenly we see her differently - we like her more, there is a new fondness and understanding there. They stayed true to Jemma and brought out all of her potential in one beautiful and devastating episode.
Like I said, the actual plot was not revolutionary. It was only surprising, perhaps, that it was another human there rather than some alien. I was expecting her to meet aliens, or at least descendants of some of the inhumans that passed through the monolith in the past. So finding just a stranded earth astronaut was a little anti-climatic at first... but they took that simple story and made it deep and clearly it is going to have enormous ramifications on the Fitzsimmons dynamic going forwards. I mean, whose heart didn't break at the end? There is no happy ending to this love triangle. Fitz, or Jemma, or Will; one of them is going to be left alone at the end of this - or Will is going to die and that is going to cause seasons of angst for Jemma and Fitz.
It's a little ironic. I've been loving this whole season so far, but I haven't been at all motivated to blog about it until last night's episode, about my previously least favorite character. So that's a strong testament to what they've managed to achieve.