The point of the first Fitzsimmons scene, 03x08
(horrible screencap, but here’s a visual memory of the standoff in the scene I’m about to talk about.) Okay, maybe all of what I’m about to say was obvious to literally everyone else, but this first scene has been bugging me. You have Jemma gazing at her selfie with Will interrupted by Fitz displaying one of his slightly more regrettable personality quirks, that legendary Scot irritability. It establishes that Fitz has been bringing in research materials (but we, the viewers, already knew that and would easily have supposed he would continue doing so without this scene) and you have a likable character calling an innocent but bumbling man an idiot to his face. The whole thing seemed completely unnecessary, and I couldn’t figure why it was there.
Not that I mind having extra Fitzsimmons scenes that aren’t just the two of them moving the plot of the episode forward with science, but why this? Why a scene that makes Fitz out to be the dude who insults a co-worker in the hallway over nothing when the show generally portrays him positively and he is in an especially sympathetic position (to most of us) right now? Is it just to make him seem more human around all this “I’m not blaming the girl for liking someone else, sometimes that’s how life goes even though I am personally really sad at the outcome” reaction that, frankly, we could use more people in our culture emulating in real life? And why have Jemma witness it? She didn’t need to be there if the central purpose was to find out the books were coming in and to set up where the Hydra revelation would come from, and the writers are not nice enough to give us an extra FS scene just to make us giddy.
Think of the many, many times Jemma has seen him low-grade cranky like he is here. We’ve seen it too, Fitz arguing with the uncooperative doors at The Hub, his explosive and physical reaction to finding out Ward was a traitor, the irritability we can assume is his half of the ‘fault’ in the situation that drove them apart when he first woke from his coma, and probably a million times when they were at the academy. So this is nothing new for Jemma, this is just Fitz Fitzing (and hopefully apologizing to that poor dude with the books later).
Still, why show us?
She’s just laid two huge bombs on the man. “I thought about you, wanting a future together, I dreamed about us settling down in your home country of all places, my head was clear and this is as close as I’ll come to saying ‘I love you’ without saying those actual words” (which is huge) but there’s also “I gave up hope and gave my heart to another man, a man you strongly suspect I am still in love with” (which the opening of the scene reminds us, the viewers, of by having her gazing at that hogface selfie.)
The Fitz who insults people in corridors over nothing? He’s not angry with her. He doesn’t snap at her (and he’s not above it, he apparently snapped at her so many times after the coma when she tried to help him that she had to go to fecking Hydra to feel like she wasn’t holding his progress back). He pours every waking moment that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t need him trying to help her rescue the man who he fears has replaced him in her heart. The face he shows her is selfless and down to business. He hasn’t told her (yet) that he’s looked for dirt on Will, he hasn’t even asked her (yet) about her feelings for Will. She gives him the world’s most obvious opening for a kiss (”What do you think we should do about it?”) and he is content to stand with her and give her time and space to figure things out.
She doesn’t see him knock the container off the desk when he first sees the selfie (and I contend he wouldn’t have done it if she’d been there, look at the restraint he shows in every other scene when she’s there) and she doesn’t hear him agree that Will has a hog face. We see that. The show is careful to show the viewers he’s wearing his cranky pants, but is equally careful to remind us that he’s not showing that to Jemma.
Imagine you’re Jemma (in a scene other than the kiss scene, ya pervs) and you have an easily-irritated friend who you delivered the world’s worst “do you want the good news or the bad news first” truth bomb to only to have him work diligently by your side and do nothing but support you, clearly and honestly putting in his best effort to utterly supplant himself in your life and in your heart. Calm, rational, understanding, gentle, not even a snarky remark. If it were me, I’d wonder what the fuck was going on. I’d do exactly what she does, and blow up at him. Why are you helping me? Why are you being so nice about this? Don’t you care? WHY AREN’T YOU UPSET WITH ME? Maybe you are having the world’s most even-tempered reaction to losing your chance with the girl you have made it clear you were in love with, but not even an odd snarky remark? Do you just hate me, hate me for what I did and what I’ve asked you to do? Are you so mad that you’ve gone silent? Did this kill your feelings for me so completely that you don’t have to be angry?
She can’t believe what she’s seeing, how he’s reacting, so she puts a stick through the bars of the cage and pokes the bear. She has to know, and it’s not just academic. It’s personal. She needs to know where Fitz’s heart is, and given the fact that neither of them can just spit out “I love you” even if they’re about to die, this is how she has to take his temperature. It’s all brought to a head when the opening scene reminds us (reminds her) that Fitz has a temper that he hasn’t channeled in any way toward Jemma. The man will literally hate the universe and all its mysteries (the life blood of a scientist) for what’s happened before he will say a single unkind word to her about it. Simmons knows how deeply this has cut him, now, with no room in the back of her mind to ascribe some other motivation to it.