Season 1, Episode 17
Date of airing: April 8, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.373 million viewers, 3.4/6 in Households, 1.90/6 with Adults 18-49
I wonder what would have happened with this show, if CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER did not have the premise of S.H.I.E.L.D. broken and in pieces, taken over by HYDRA and awoken from within it, because Nick Fury’s nose was smelling all the bad stuff coming from the octopus toilets. I’m also wondering now how much the movie franchise can change the premise of the show, and how eager the writers are to actually “force” themselves to the movie franchise, when such big reveals like the HYDRA takeover are defining the movie franchise. Okay, in this case it’s definitely fun to have HYDRA take over and destroy S.H.I.E.L.D., because it simply is a fantastic premise that you can use for so many things (and not just to turn one of the main characters into a villain), but what if the next big twist and reveal in the movies actually hurts the development and stories of the television show? I guess that’s a question for a potential tenth season, when the redo of MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS certainly changes the story. But the show will never see an eighth season, and at some point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alternate realities are being introduced to explain away all the inconsistencies. Besides that, I believe now that one reason AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. was ordered to series because the producers loved the premise of the agency falling halfway through the season. That CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER would have that plot device must have been known ever since ABC ordered this show, which means the Whedon clan developed the show and its characters, knowing that one of the films will pull the rug from under them a few weeks before the season finale. I kind of find that interesting and I would love for an hourlong interview with a member of the Whedon clan just about that topic.
Anyway, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER certainly helped the show. Gone is the case-of-the-week formula (for now), and arrived has the fear of being hunted down and killed by HYDRA soldiers, who could be anywhere. Gone is the security and help and tech that comes with S.H.I.E.L.D., and arrived has the fact that Coulson and his team are on their own now, without backup. That’s actually a pretty big change in premise right now, and it certainly reminds of “Phase One” midway through the second season of ALIAS. But like ALIAS, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. will probably go back to the old formula of the first half of this season, and eventually the franchise will see the rebirth of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, because you can’t just kill it. S.H.I.E.L.D. could be like HYDRA at the end, which is hopefully gonna be very ironic. You can’t cut off HYDRA’s head, because two more shall take its place, but you can’t eliminate S.H.I.E.L.D. either, because it’s where the heroes are.
This episode was a good one. The fear of Victoria Hand being HYDRA was even within me, because I always liked the character, and I loved the back and forth whether one character is HYDRA or what might happen when they are not, and instead other characters are. Like the confrontation between Hand and her men versus Simmons and Triplett. As the scene stood when it began, Hand was HYDRA. Then the twist came, and suddenly Hand was S.H.I.E.L.D. Yet the fear of one of them still betraying the good guys was still there, it never left me, even after Garrett was revealed to be the Clairvoyant. You could never trust anything and anyone, making the episode quite tense during the second half. Which is why the reveal of Ward being HYDRA worked, despite the silliness of the scene (but more to that in a bit).
The beginning of the episode was a bit honky though. As expected, May isn’t HYDRA, but the writers wasted a little too much time to explain that Melinda only had eyes on Coulson, just so they could create a possible story of her being HYDRA. I did like the confrontation in the beginning somewhat, but May really could have spilled all the beans during that confrontation, instead of waiting until she heard that HYDRA has taken over, as well as Fury’s death, especially since her mission wasn’t such a big secret at all. Yeah, Coulson has every right to be pissed at May for knowing about T.A.H.I.T.I., but even Coulson has to realize that it might have been not such a bad idea for Fury to keep an eye on him, considering the alien blood in his body and the secrecy surrounding his resurrection — even Coulson feared that the alien blood could have ramifications, it’s why he wanted to stop the injection given to Skye in the first place. Maybe he will realize it in a later episode and makes peace with his best friend, but maybe it would have been a good character arc for him, if he would have found a few seconds to realize it in this episode. Though it’s understandable that he didn’t, with all the HYDRA stuff going on, and S.H.I.E.L.D. falling apart and dying.
The silliness of the last scene mostly lied in Hand offering Ward to shoot the real Clairvoyant. I always thought that Victoria Hand is a professional, and that she would follow orders and rules even under such crazy circumstances. Wanting Ward to kill Garrett was more a HYDRA move than a move of a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with a quickly established agenda of revenge. I couldn’t even believe I was hearing right, when she pretty much told Ward that he could kill Garrett right here and right now, and no one would care. But that silliness was just a plot device to get Ward on his feet, with a gun in his hand, so that he can kill the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Hand, delivering the twist that he is HYDRA. Plot device is hella convenient. The scene would have worked the same, if Hand wouldn’t have offered him the chance to kill the real Clairvoyant, and Ward would have just got up, drawn his gun, and shot everyone. It may have been a bigger shock than we all just waiting for Ward to take a shot.
The rest of the episode was good. The little fight between Garrett and Coulson, and even Fitz having his first kill of the show (which was quite surprising — I hope May is giving thanks in the next episode), and later being hugged by Simmons. Damn, even Ward finishing off the dozen-or-so guys, while Skye is waiting and listening behind closed doors (how funny would the scene have been, if the entire fight would have been from Skye’s POV?). Also, I must say that Garrett is a kind of cool character, even with his HYDRA allegiance. He always has a smile on his face, is always commenting on something in a funny way, and might even be a best friend to anyone (if he wouldn’t be such an evil asshole). He is almost the perfect villain for the rest of the season, because he has a sense of humor, and funny villains are always great villains. A buddy of a villain. I can’t remember having seen a villain like that in any other show.