Season 1, Episode 18
Date of airing: April 15, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.516 million viewers, 3.4/5 in Households, 2.11/6 with Adults 18-49
This was a pretty solid episode, and one that went by pretty quickly. I don’t encounter these kind of “going by pretty quickly” episodes all the time, but when I do I always believe that the episode has done something right, even though I can never pinpoint what it is the episode did right. With Coulson and his team on the run from HYDRA and certain death, as well as on the run from the government and certain prison time, the show is using its new premise as expected, and even managed to bring some drama into the mix to make the character development count. Though it would have been nice to include more characters than just Coulson in this dramatic mess of having lost S.H.I.E.L.D. as a back drop. In addition, Ward playing HYDRA’s undercover agent within S.H.I.E.L.D. brings more fun to his character and to his story. Sure, Ward is a completely different character now, almost alienating himself from the narrative in the process, as it’s a little difficult and sudden to accept his villainous role, but as long as it’s fun, and it’s not the boring special agent Ward we have seen throughout the first half of the season, it’s a good thing. In fact, being a villain added to Ward’s character depth, which I kind of find intriguing and I have no idea if it was an intended part of his character development throughout the show, the writers knowing that the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. would come and one of the main characters would turn into a villain.
What a shame that Coulson and his team had to leave the Hub so quickly, because it would have been interesting for him to run an entire S.H.I.E.L.D. location instead of using the Bus all the time. Coulson had the chance to not only be the highest-ranked S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and be an actual boss, but he would have been the leader of a couple dozen other agents, and he would have had more room to do his job (and probably more tech, too, as the Hub probably housed some great stuff for Fitz to play with). Hiding in the Hub and trying to fight HYDRA from here might have been fun. But then the premise of a surviving team running away from the danger would have been destroyed, so I can accept that the Hub was never a place to stay for more than just two acts. Still, would have been an interesting back-up premise, if the other one would not have worked out in the writers’ room. Meanwhile, the inclusion of Agent Triplett into the team seems logical. The numbers of Coulson’s team stay the same, even with Ward’s “exit” and turn into a villain, even though it’s quite convenient that a white guy was replaced with a black guy. Also, Ward and Triplett are very similar characters (a.k.a. operatives), so just in case Ward’s cover gets blown very quickly, Coulson doesn’t have to lose an operative with certain fight skills. Besides that, Triplett’s addition makes for a more interesting team among Coulson. A black fighter, an Asian specialist, a half-Asian hacker, and three white folks, with two of them being Brits. We’re so close!
Anyway, Coulson’s desperate belief in Fury’s survival was a great pusher in creating some conflict between him and his team. May conflict with Coulson might have been a little over the top (especially with her wanting to get his gun, just in case), but there was an interesting piece of character development in that story, which saw Coulson against all odds, hoping for a miracle and believing in his very own version of faith (which sees Fury among the living and helping Coulson stay under HYDRA’s radar), while May was the exact opposite, seeing the realism of the situation and the danger that hides behind every corner. It was basically a “man of faith, women of fact” storyline, which could have been played out in a grander scale, but apparently there wasn’t enough time. Also, thanks to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, it was already known that Fury is still alive, and logical that he would try to help Coulson somehow, since it has been established that Coulson is very much seen as Fury’s right-hand man. The scene in which Coulson was trying to make his team believe in his faith as well was a strong one, even when throwing his shield was mostly a plot device for giving him right about the middle of nowhere being a spot for S.H.I.E.L.D. to put a secret base in. But it was a true character moment — one that AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t show often enough for my taste.
In the meantime, the adventures of Garrett and Ward were a bit boring. Taking over the Fridge, releasing prisoners (do we have a season two premise here? Retaking escaped convicts and retaking dangerous tech from HYDRA), getting Raina back into the game, giving Quinn back the Quantonium device (the thought that there is still a living being and potential supervillain in there is still strong)… It’s like HYDRA just started out their plot of taking over the world, while the last 70 years were mostly a waste of time. The only thing I really liked about that plot was the still easy going Garrett and his few jokes, as well as Ward being the ultimate second villain and playing Skye to get to some information HYDRA needs. Sure, Ward playing the good guy in front of Skye is a huge genre cliché, but I still could find a very strong liking to the very new and improved Ward. Also, Skye’s life is in danger, and since she is pretty and cute, I can’t help myself hoping for her survival again. And not to forget: By returning Raina and Quinn to the show, the writers are definitely interested in not just creating characters for throwaway arcs, but keeping them for the long run. Okay, Quinn is a bit useless, but Raina is kind of interesting, and I wouldn’t mind her sticking around a little longer.