When Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a plot where the stakes are personal, and lets Clark Gregg, you know, actually act, it’s a really good show! Who knew?!
The opening of The Magical Place features something we haven’t seen throughout this series; everybody on the team acting like a team. Seeing Ward, May, Fitz, Simmons and Sky outwit an arms dealer in the opening was a sharp, snappy bit of television action that this show desperately needed. And thankfully, that remains the pace of the episode.
Essentially the episode splits into three plots. Skye works “outside the system” to track down Coulson, the rest of the team does their jobs at SHIELD, and Coulson himself deals with Centipede and Raina. Along the way, we learn that Skye has actually picked something up (and is an effective field agent), and what, precisely, happened to Coulson in “Tahiti.”
The “Tahiti” revelation is, if anything, a bit of a letdown. The show has done nothing but drop anvils that Coulson did not go to a magic paradise full of fruity drinks, albeit the exact extent of what’s happening is unclear. Maddeningly, Coulson doesn’t ask the obvious question: S.H.I.E.L.D. sees people get horribly killed in the field all the time, so what makes our man Phil so damn special. Still, Gregg really sells it, as Centipede gets under Coulson’s skin at least far enough for him to want to know what happened when he died, and Ruth Negga as Raina is surprisingly effective. Whether she has superpowers or is just a skilled manipulator, Raina’s dangerous.
The rest of the team is defined by Coulson’s absence in some odd ways. May, it turns out, knows how to game the system pretty effectively, while Fitz turns into the closest thing an adorable little Hogwarts alum can become in terms of a scary hard-ass. One doubts Fitz’s advocation of just straight-up killing Centipede soldiers is going to fade with Coulson’s return.
Most surprising is Skye’s plotline, which is actually well-paced, intelligent, and funny. Granted, what Skye is doing boils down to basic detective work that S.H.I.E.L.D. should be doing, but it seems that Victoria Hand is either secretly evil or very much a “If all you have is a hammer…” kind of person. Either way, I hope she gets to keep the car she stole: She earned it.
This show has struggled a bit, but it seems like we’re finally where we want to be. Now to see if it can keep it up for the remaining set of episodes.
Some more thoughts:
- Of course Centipede uses BlackBerries.
- Coulson is far better at beating the crap out of people than this show generally lets him act.
- That jet fancy U-turn May pulls probably cost more than the last few episodes’ effects budget.
- Skye’s wrist-mounted plot device was actually well used for once.
- I am trying really hard to not make a joke about how Mike Peterson is stumped about what to do next. I do have to admit I wish they’d left the character in a smoldering pile of ash, but that isn’t in the cards, I guess.
Any thoughts yourself? Let us know.