Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone back and forth in terms of quality, to say the least, over the course of the first season. And this episode might finally be where it comes into focus.
Essentially, this is about what happens to the team during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As HYDRA is revealed, everything about the team collapses. Nobody trusts anybody, and with excellent reason.
The episode picks up with the standoff between May and the rest of the team, which only gets resolved because Agent Garrett needs a rescue. Two of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s UAV drones are attacking him, and Coulson has to blow them out of the sky. A temporary truce is formed between May and the rest of the team as they land at the Hub… and are immediately attacked by Agent Hand’s strike team.
Needless to say, they figure out a way into the bowels of the facility. Meanwhile, Simmons seemingly finds a set of allies in the form of a group, including Hand, that claim to be a handful of S.H.I.E.L.D. loyalists. The team try to disable the Hub, fighting their way through the facility, only to be caught.
Which is when they discover that Garrett is a member of HYDRA. There’s a lot of shouting in a basement, but, of course, the tables are turned, Cap saves the world, and Garrett gets his ass thoroughly kicked and packed off to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s prison.
Except not, as Ward turns out to have been a HYDRA agent as well. Ward kills Hand, frees Garrett, and we’re off to the races.
This show has finally turned into what it needed to be on a lot of levels: We finally have a central antagonist who isn’t some vague mumble mumble something something, we have a clear threat for Coulson’s team to fight, and we finally have an emotional axis for the show to hinge on. Furthermore, even if it’s obviously the writer’s room fitting their plot to the needs of a movie, it does help substantially because it clears up a lot.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. now actually has a promising back half. Considering the show’s ratings, we hope it’s enough to earn it a second chance.
Some more thoughts:
- This show still needs a budget bump; the opening obviously cost most of the episode’s money.
- It helped a lot that the show barely had time to insist at us that we like Skye, and the person they used to do it turns out to have been manipulating her emotionally.
- Garrett had better hope he can get Deathlok on the phone before Deathlok finds out what’s going on.
- The show does a good job playing off loyalties and paranoia, although reading the comics means you kinda know how most of this will shake out.
- May’s admission that she’s been pulling Coulson’s strings is a nice fake-out.
- I have to admit, I’m curious where Coulson’s funding will be coming from now that there’s no S.H.I.E.L.D. Especially since the next episode features Glenn Talbot on their ass.
Just a note, next week’s new episode airs at 9 next week; the 8:00 slot goes to an encore presentation of this episode.