Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“Beginning of the End”)

Season 1, Episode 22
Date of airing: May 13, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.449 million viewers, 3.5/6 in Households, 2.01/7 with Adults 18-49

It was a very solid season finale, but it had two scenes too many. The group scene of Triplett, Melinda, Coulson, Skye and Simmons looking past the camera into an uncertain but certain future that is the second season should have been the perfect way to end the season, but no, the writers had to pack in two cliffhanger scenes to tease upcoming stories, as if TV shows die when they don’t end their seasons with cliffhangers. Those two scenes were unnecessary for the story of the episode and the only reason they were put at the end of this hour was to continue the tradition of ending serialized drama television seasons with cliffhangers, just so the audience has something to talk about on the internet over the hiatus — as if this is the only way a show can survive during the hiatus, let alone be part of the consciousness of the world. And the way cliffhangers are brought into season finales is getting on my nerves more and more. This episode could have been the best ending of a serialized season of television ever, and who knows, maybe the writers decided to end the season like that, because renewal was still up in the air. But why the two teaser scenes were thrown into the end is beyond me. Someone really needs to get that unwritten rule of television writing out of the books forever.

Well, the final fight against Garrett was a bit boring, especially with Fury and Coulson making jokes about the situation while the Cybertek soldiers functioned like stormtroopers, but what I liked is that the writers included another level to that final conflict between the heroes and the villains. With Skye and May’s Cybertek “invasion,” there was more action in the plot, and it even gave one of the antagonists a happy ending — of sorts. That Skye would make her word for Mike Petersen count was a nice little surprise, though I don’t quite know what to think of Deathlok out in the open now, hiding from the authorities, and kind of turning into a “Richard Kimble with superpowers”-type character, who could easily be the central character of his own little spin-off road trip action show. Yes, he is still a character that can be used in AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., or in one of the future films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I doubt it though, J. August Richards is not someone who gets cast in features), but with Mike Petersen on the road of redemption now, it almost looks like he will become an ally for post-HYDRA S.H.I.E.L.D., especially since Skye will always be able to track Mike’s every move, meaning she sort of becomes her handler, and when S.H.I.E.L.D. needs a cybernetic supersoldier, Mike probably won’t be far, because it is on his way to redemption. And if the writers were really bored, they could get Mike back for an ongoing story that could involve his character, giving Richards a bit more to do as he was probably looking for the next television show to star in.

A desperate hand reaches the supposedly dead deus ex machina.

What was disappointing though was Fury’s sudden appearance. Right in the moment when FitzSimmons needed him most, he was there. Right when Coulson needed an ally to fight against Garrett, he was there (funny, because Garrett was bested by neither Coulson nor Fury). Coming out of nowhere, saving lives, dropping a few oneliners, giving Coulson the premise for the upcoming season, showing his glass eye, disappearing into nowhere again. Wow, Fury was more a plot device than an important character in the MCU in this episode — and I was still happy to see him, because crossovers and all, but you can’t say that his appearance was especially noteworthy. Maybe it is because of Samuel L. Jackson’s status in Hollywood and the fact that one of the smaller A-list Hollywood celebrities made it into a broadcast network television show not once, but twice within a season, but it’s not like his character was really needed to save FitzSimmons out of the ocean, let alone have him assist Coulson in the fight against Cybertek and Garrett.

But whatever. The best scene happened on the surface of the ocean floor, and Fitz’s confession of love for Simmons in a dire situation. I almost cried myself, but then I cringed a little, when Simmons was kissing Fitz all over. It’s great to see that the two shared an important moment, and that love might be a factor from here on (let’s count the days until the two share a first real kiss, then the first time they have sex, then their first break-up, then the whole will-they-won’t-they premise, then marriage, then kids, and then there’s time for the happy end, which should come during the series finale), but maybe Simmons’ reaction to Fitz’s love for her, let alone his insistence of having her life saved over his life, was a little too on-the-nose for me. But the idea that FitzSimmons could be a couple after behaving like siblings throughout the last 21 episodes is a good one. Okay, I don’t really want to see them as a couple right now, because it would be awkward as hell, but there is a back story now, and both character arcs can be deepened from here on. I would just like to know how Simmons was able to keep holding onto Fitz, while the water was hitting her in the stomach for about a hundred times, as described by Fitz. That seemed impossible to do. But I shouldn’t question the show. An advice I never follow by the way, especially when it’s about television.

They’re ready for the second season.

And the rest of the episode? Quinn disappears with the Quantonium, meaning he and the plot device will return. Raina went to Skye’s father, meaning both characters will be an issue in the second season, turning Skye’s life upside down in the process. I’m happy about Raina though, because her road could lead to something great, as she is becoming something of a bridge between good and evil. And considering her words about her allegiance (which lie not with S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA or Cybertek or individual people), she could both be an ally and an antagonist to the main characters in the second season — which is exciting. At least one character in the show remains in the dark, together with her agenda. I really hope she will be an important element coming up.

I didn’t really care about Coulson’s cliffhanger though. After all the talks that the blue alien wonder drug might cause problems, it was to be expected that it will be an issue in the show sooner or later. The “alien writings” were old news though, even if they are now connected to the greater narrative. Not only were those writings already seen in “Eye Spy,” which means Garrett must have been hunting those writings down for a while now (yet there was no mention of it when he suddenly started writing as well), but the fact that Garrett created a similar piece of art, it only seems logical that the alien blood might have given these two some form of alien memories, even if it means that some of the events from “Eye Spy” are now retconned out of the show’s story arc. It could be more, if the writers were thinking big and over the top, but I’m certainly not thinking too much into it. What I see here is simply a form of alien language. Not much to build a season cliffhanger around it.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“Ragtag”)

Season 1, Episode 21
Date of airing: May 6, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.372 million viewers, 3.3/6 in Households, 1.94/6 with Adults 18-49

If it wouldn’t have been for the flashbacks, it might have been a pretty good episode. But the flashbacks were useless for me, because I didn’t care at all about how Ward and Garrett met, and how they were teaming it up in the wilderness, without ever going deep into the beginning of Ward’s S.H.I.E.L.D. career, or even his HYDRA career for that matter. It was all about Ward’s origin story and Ward is unfortunately not that much of an interesting character to deserve such an origin story. It does make me wonder though what would have been better for this episode’s origin story flashbacks: Ward’s wilderness adventures with weaknesses, or Garrett’s Sarajevo accident, which was essentially his first step towards becoming a villain? The writers chose Ward for this episode, but considering Garrett’s back story, it would have been equally interesting to see his origin story as well. In addition, the way Garrett and Ward joined HYDRA seemed a little random, let alone not at all developed in this episode. I would assume that Garrett was training Ward for HYDRA all these years, before Ward got the spot at S.H.I.E.L.D., making him a true HYDRA plant, but how did Garrett, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, discover HYDRA within it and how did he join it, considering its secretive nature among secret agents?

The only thing the flashbacks did good was giving some humanity back to Ward, even though that was a bit of a cliché, as well as the potential beginning of Ward’s redemption arc which I don’t know how to feel about. Said redemption arc could be a huge problem for the second season, because who is really interested in seeing Ward redeem himself after he turned into a villain like this? The guy was a villain for ten years, he is not just going to change into a good guy because of a girl or because of the weaknesses he still discovers within himself. I guess at this point a redemption arc is almost predictable, but please explain to me how a long-time villain, who started his career at S.H.I.E.L.D. by already having been with HYDRA, turns into a good guy in the next season.

Agent Melinda May has finished this phone call first.

The turn of Coulson and his team from agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to vigilantes without backup was great though. That could actually be the premise for the entire second season, but I’m almost sure that rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. will be a bigger issue than having Coulson and his guys be vigilantes who do some good in the world (and to be honest, NO ORDINARY FAMILY did the vigilante thing not in a good way before, so I’m hoping AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. will stay far away from that). Anyway, tech from forgotten times, and AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. going for indirect flashbacks in the minds of the viewers was a good thing. It was funny and it gave everybody something to do. Hell, even Fitz was able to press a button and do some harm, even when it bit him (and Simmons) in the ass just a few minutes later. But with the vigilante status and the mid 20th century tech, scientists like FitzSimmons are suddenly agents who have to deal with the pressure of fighting for their lives. And that’s the fun part of the show right now — or at least it was during the final two acts of the episode. By the way: Their drop into the ocean reminded me of the midseason cliffhanger of SURFACE. When I watched that show for the first time, my mind was blown by the drop to the surface of the ocean (I was young and didn’t know any better) with two of the central characters in it, making me almost pray that the two will get back to safety somehow, let alone getting interested in how the writers were doing it. It makes FitzSimmons’s cliffhanger in this episode a little lame, because I saw it once before, but it could still turn into a very nice plot for them. They are on their own, without an exit strategy, and pretty much left for dead. If that isn’t drama, like in the aforementioned SURFACE episode, then I don’t know what is. Also, Coulson’s team does not need an exit strategy, as depicted in “The Hub.” There is probably a way for FitzSimmons to find a way up to the water surface.

In the meantime, the back story of the Deathlok program was not really my thing. Granted, the program is allowed to have existed way before Mike Peterson (I’m waiting for a couple of older Black Widows, just for fun – AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. could actually bring those in guest starring capacities), but that Garrett was Deathlok 1.0 was a bit of a lazy twist, especially since it was biting with Garrett’s other origin story from the flashbacks. The way Garrett’s involvement in the Deathlok program seemed a bit lame as well – Coulson learned about Garrett’s 1990s trouble, and a couple of seconds later Garrett suddenly has tech problems and almost dies. Twice. It’s like the government agency mole plot device: As soon as the mole is revealed to the audience, the character who is the mole acts like the mole the entire time, even though he hasn’t acted like the mole at all before the reveal. 24 can produce half a dozen albums about that topic. And now AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. brought that device in the form of Deathlok. Yeah, I yawned a little and was thinking about eating my dinner early while watching this story unfold.

On their way to take a big swim in the ocean.

And the rest of the episode? It was barely worth remembering. Seeing Coulson and May with nerd glasses delivered the comedy of the episode, but it was a forgettable scene, as it only took care of the comic relief of the show. And it was even annoying me for a few seconds when it comes to the narrative, because the conflict between May and Coulson is now entirely forgotten. Sure, they buried their hatches between the previous and this episode, but it would have been nice if there was a little bit of friction left between the two, just to make the character arcs a little more realistic, just to not forget that Coulson had a serious issue with May betraying him like that. Furthermore, when Garrett left young Ward in the wilderness for the first time, together with his dog, I actually thought that the first thing Ward would do was kill the dog and eat it. Color me surprised when the dog was still alive after six months and it became a plot device for Ward’s weakness depiction five years later.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“Nothing Personal”)

Season 1, Episode 20
Date of airing: April 29, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.946 million viewers, 3.6/6 in Households, 2.08/6 with Adults 18-49

It was a solid episode, and it had a surprising ending. An easy ending too, because T.A.H.I.T.I. was simply a rock that had been carried through the latter half of the show, and it’s good that it ended right here, with every loose end having been cut off the weight of the show. Even though the T.A.H.I.T.I. plot worked good to give an explanation of Coulson’s existence, the fact that he is still alive after his mortal wound in MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS, as well as saving Skye’s life, T.A.H.I.T.I. wasn’t good for anything at this point of the show. And with Coulson having been the project leader before MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS, the writers took the easy route out of the show, and finished it not with a bang, but with a quick and satisfying closer. The writers literally waited until it’s best to close the story, and when they found the right time, they did it within less than a minute. It’s almost hilarious, but at least it’s not illogical. Though a little T.A.H.I.T.I. back story would be good. I would really like to see the side effects of the drug in action, just to put some unexpected drama and thrill into the show for a few minutes. Also, I wouldn’t mind having something of an anthology show that deals with some past events of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how certain projects came to be. Sort of like how Nick Fury came up with the Avengers Initiative during the final moments of CAPTAIN MARVEL.

Everyone knows that Ward is a terrorist now.

So, Skye played Ward like she is the chess master, and Ward didn’t even notice it for most of the time. It seems like Ward had a huge boner for Skye, or he would have realized that Skye was just stalling time when they were sitting at the cafe and talking about random stuff. Because seriously, why would she need an hour to hack the drive, when she has proven to hack stuff in less than a second since she has been with Coulson? But it was cool that Skye wasn’t just playing Ward anymore, and instead tried to have a serious conversation. Okay, that conversation didn’t lead to anything, but the preamble in the cafe, and the conflict in the plane later, were almost great, and put a lot into the character arcs of Skye and Ward. I could almost believe that Ward really feels something for Skye, and I could definitely believe that Skye wasn’t interested in anything anymore and probably would have given her life to protect the files on the drive, if it hadn’t been for her weird feelings for Ward (or who knows, maybe she is unable to kill a person and that’s what stopped her from keeping her secret). Which makes the heart attack thing ridiculous though — with all the hate Skye had for Ward in that moment, she should have had it easy to let him die. This shouldn’t have been a personal moment for her. He was a goddamn HYDRA agent. She should have let him die, no matter the emotional cost later. Because she knew exactly what would happen when Garrett gets the data off the hard drive.

The involvement of Maria Hill was surprising though and it was fun, though her action against Talbot and his team was a bit off. I understand that she would do anything to help the few friends among S.H.I.E.L.D. that she has left, but she pretty much committed some form of treason by attacking Talbot and his team, and she should be on the FBI’s Most Wanted as well now, no matter the fact she works for Stark Industries now. But apparently the fight in the Providence base wasn’t an issue at all at the end, when Maria had all the time in the world to help Coulson and go against Ward with her own little arm of soldiers (if she actually had one). What a shame she was disappearing at the end again — maybe the show would live a little, if it had a character from the movie franchise for a few consecutive episodes. And Maria would have been perfect for the final fight against Garrett, because Coulson definitely needs all the help he can get right about ow. If not from a superhero, at least from a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that has had his or her time in the movies already (Agent 13, anyone?).

This was a wild fight.

One thing was pretty crappy though: May is getting deep into Coulson’s grave, because right there is a flash drive that contains all the answers to T.A.H.I.T.I., as well as all the momentum to just kill the story by the end of the episode. How convenient that this little piece of a flash drive was in Coulson’s grave and carried all the answers. How convenient that May decided to check in Coulson’s grave (who actually knew that the data was in Coulson’s grave — I can’t quite imagine that Maria Hill would offer that information, but I guess since S.H.I.E.L.D. fell, all bets are off). How convenient that the flash drive contained all the answers Coulson was looking for during the previous six episodes. But everything to kill a storyline that is no longer needed…

In the meantime, the drama in Fitz’s life was intriguing. His freakout when he learned that Ward is HYDRA may have been a bit over the top, but I loved that it was a deeply personal character moment for him, and it even made sense in the whole of the show, when you think back to how Ward and Fitz pretty much became friends and partners during their mission in the episode “The Hub.” Besides that, Fitz mentioned that he hates change, and now a lot of things have changed. His employer doesn’t exist anymore, one of his friends is a serial-killing Nazi, and he may have come to realize he cannot live without Simmons in his life (hence their little talk at the pool). Fitz happens to have the greatest character arc right now. Bigger than Skye’s. Much bigger and more interesting than Coulson’s.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“The Only Light in the Darkness”)

Season 1, Episode 19
Date of airing: April 22, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 6.039 million viewers, 3.7/6 in Households, 1.93/6 with Adults 18-49

Ah dammit, the premise for the second season that was prepared in the previous episode with the prisoners’ escape from the Fridge has been used up in this episode already. Well, now I know that it was a boring premise, so we can move on from that and never get into it again, and now the writers were able to focus on other and much different things for the second season. Also, how stand-alone this episode was has been kind of a surprise to me, and I mean that in a negative sense. I didn’t care at all about Daniels and his weird obsession with Audrey, and the writers did a pretty bad job in painting Daniels as this ultimate and dangerous villain, who could kill people with one touch, while he only killed one person in this episode, all while being the definition of a male creep. Daniels should have been a supervillain, and not a confused man with confusing superpowers in love. The writers totally killed the creation of a villain that could have kept Coulson’s team busy for a couple of episodes, while Ward is playing the love con with the already suspecting Skye.

Agent Koenig does not trust Ward’s answer.

The episode wasn’t that bad though. In fact, some of the scenes in the secret base were actually pretty good. Beginning with the lie detector test and what everyone wants to see in the box that lies in the sand on the island (a laptop, Simmons, a pistol, the Tardis – hilarious answers), continuing with the fact that some seconds during the lie detector test actually opened up some of the characters and gave them a bit of a back story. And even Ward’s scene with Skye, when he opened up about his brothers, was sort of touching, though the question is if Ward was honest about it (could be, judging from the flashbacks in “The Well”) or if it was just his ploy to get closer to Skye, to wrap her around his fingers. The confrontation between Coulson and May was also great, and that she would just leave, since she has nothing more to do that has to do with her mission (watching over Coulson), was a kind of interesting character arc for her. Though leaving just to get a few more answers from other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents seems like just another story for one of the main characters, so some airtime can be filled over the course of the next three episodes, because the writers didn’t want to get to the season finale confrontation between the heroes and the villains that quickly. I don’t know, but maybe May’s arc would have been stronger here, if she simply would have left not only Coulson and his team behind, but also S.H.I.E.L.D.

The super-of-the-week was boring though, and it was only kept alive thanks to Audrey and her connection to Coulson. What a shame that Coulson had to be respectful for Audrey’s life and her future, and that he never stood in front of her, when she had her eyes open. Sure, it makes Coulson a positive character, because he gives a person close to him a chance for a better life, but maybe Audrey would have given Coulson a more personal arc in the next episode. On the other hand I can understand that Coulson kept himself in the darkness, and the writers kept Audrey out of the next episode. There is already enough stuff happening right now, and a one-episode romance in the next episode would have probably been too much. Then again, it’s Amy Acker I’m talking about, and I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing her again. Who knows, maybe Audrey will be important in a later season and Coulson gets his happy end. It surely would be one of the nicer endings of the show, if the writers still remember Audrey after three, four, five or six seasons.

The cellist gets to do her thing.

The way Daniels was destroyed though was ridiculous. Triplett and FitzSimmons weren’t able to destroy him with the three light lasers they had firing at him, but Triplett and Coulson did the trick for some reason. It was a pretty lame ending to a character, who was built to be one of the more badass villains that got out of the Fridge. That only shows the writers were more interested in Audrey than Daniels. Meaning Daniels was just a plot device and not really the antagonist of the episode.

That position was already filled with Grant Ward, Agent of HYDRA. But it turned out that it was a bit of a weird thing with him, and that Koenig happened to be killed was sort of boring and predictable. But when Skye realized that Ward is HYDRA, the secret base arc delivered another great scene. I believed Skye’s shock and fear, though I didn’t believe she had herself under control a few minutes later, just to start playing Ward and doing whatever is necessary to keep him on a short leash and not do what HYDRA wants her to do. Then again, Ward playing Skye and Skye playing Ward is a funny little premise for the final act and the next episode, though it robs the suspense. Ward is not gonna be played like that (he might even know that Skye knows already), and Skye continues to be in danger, until she either shows enough courage to save herself, or gets saved by her team, who is definitely looking for her already, or otherwise they would be pretty lazy after discovering the Bus is gone. After all, the secret base has some tech left, and I’m pretty sure Skye left behind a message. If not, then Skye is pretty stupid.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“Providence”)

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.

New S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the move.

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.

The fox is entering the henhouse.

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.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“Turn, Turn, Turn”)

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.

The split second before the bang is the quietest.

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 new S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is quite tight.

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.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (“End of the Beginning”)

Season 1, Episode 16
Date of airing: April 1, 2014 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 5.711 million viewers, 3.4/6 in Households, 1.96/6 with Adults 18-49

So much stuff happened in this episode. It was an hour that almost got separated by its two individual plots. At first it was a hunt for the Clairvoyant and a little bit of action involving Deathlok, but at the end this episode became an unofficial mole hunt, which seemed more intriguing than the first two thirds of the episode. Unfortunately, the mole hunt came a little too late and maybe could have been the premise of its own episode, or at least took half of this one. Coulson and Skye realizing that the Clairvoyant is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with high-level clearance was quite the thrilling reveal (finally, one among them is the villain, although the writers could choose to make the mole one of their own on the Bus, or a random high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, someone like Victoria Hand), and all of a sudden Melinda May is probably the one who should be considered the villain — seriously the thought of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent being the villain who was the minds of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents through psych evaluations is a huge and interesting thought, but it wasn’t played out very well, because it only had time to develop for one single act.

Someone is getting their S.H.I.E.L.D. wallet.

Anyway, Skye is now a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, which certainly was a touching scene with a happy end, but I wonder a little why it was so easy for Coulson to have her become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, or why the “ceremony” went along this easily for Skye. She never had troubles getting access to files when needed, but all of a sudden she needed S.H.I.E.L.D. clearance to get to even deeper files, as well as evaluation data of all the rejected Index people. That was a little bit convenient, and a somewhat unnecessary scene as well, but as long as Skye is officially a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent now, everyone is happy, and Skye is happy. I was certainly happy. By the way: It took Skye less than a year to become a Level 1 agent. Considering that S.H.I.E.L.D. is the biggest thing there is in this series universe, it’s a little surprising that she didn’t take long at all to get her shield.

The premise of having two agents teamed up to go after different suspects seemed like an interesting one, but it ran afoul midway through, when it was became slightly unnecessary to create this complicated plan, when it had no meaning for the story and episode. In addition, the Clairvoyant still had an in somehow, which could almost mean the Clairvoyant was one of the six people Skye teamed up, simply because it’s much easier to be the mole when you’re in the middle of some action. Sure, it was realistic that S.H.I.E.L.D. would go after the Clairvoyant and try everything not to let them see what is really going on, but if a Clairvoyant can see into the future, it can also see where and when a pair of agents came around to check on a suspect. So there wasn’t much surprise when Deathlok came around and attacked Blake and Melinda. And how convenient it was for Deathlok to not kill Blake at all and instead just crushed his nuts (that’s what it looked like from afar). Deathlok has superpowers, goddammit, it could have been so easy for him to just crush Blake’s neck and have the character be retired after this episode, just to showcase that in AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., S.H.I.E.L.D. agents do die. But apparently Titus Welliver is too much of a well-known face in television to just kill him off after two episodes and two Marvel one-shots. And why was Deathlok even running away? He got shot and it didn’t mind him at all, and it’s obvious that he can’t be touched either. He could have gone after May and made meat sauce out of her. He could have blown up the sub-levels to bury Coulson and Garrett. If this would be real-life, Deathlok would have won this fight easily, and S.H.I.E.L.D. had to deal with about a dozen or so dead agents. Then again, maybe his new rocket storage hand device was too small to carry enough rockets to level the entire building. Maybe the Clairvoyant should have given Deathlok the ex-wife instead.

Supervillain landing!

The scene with Thomas Nash didn’t bring anything either, especially after Coulson realized that Ward might have killed the wrong guy, before he realized that the Clairvoyant is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Okay, the whole thing with Thomas Nash led to that, but I would have hoped that Ward would be eyed a little more critically after what he had done on the race track. But now that he killed not only the potential Clairvoyant, but also maybe a witness, it would almost make Ward the mole, since his action just buried S.H.I.E.L.D.’s chances to get some answers. Coulson definitely had a few questions for this Clairvoyant, but Ward made sure he would never get to ask them. It’s suspicious.

But to be honest, the thought of May being the Clairvoyant was just a little bit intriguing. It’s not only about time to have a woman as a villain in a big-budgeted genre television show, but it would also certainly explain a few things. Though it’s a little obvious that May was all over Coulson and nothing else, making her the least possible suspect for being the Clairvoyant, despite Fitz finding the encrypted hardline in her cockpit. Despite Fitz having to see the two broken spots on the glass right before him, thanks to May shooting the icer at him. At the end, everything turns out to be somewhat predictable.