A review of tonight's “Agents of SHIELD” coming up just as soon as you make me watch “Paranormal Activity”…
The flashbacks in “One Door Closes” take place on the same day as “Turn, Turn, Turn” (and the climax of “Winter Soldier”), which was a creative turning point for this series. It was, perhaps not coincidentally, by far the strongest “SHIELD” episode of 2015, as both the episode's past and present scenes were suffused with the same level of tension and paranoia as the Hydra takeover, even if the SHIELD vs. SHIELD conflict is meant to be something different.
The home invasions in both timelines allowed the show to go full-on action, presenting some of the best fight scenes in quite a while (probably at least going back to May vs. May in “Face My Enemy”), including Bobbi and Isabelle killing all the Hydra agents in the control room, Bobbi vs. May, and Skye's powers knocking out an entire forest along with Bobbi, Caledron, and his Real SHIELD(*) unit. And even when punches weren't being traded, various characters got moments to shine, whether Gonzalez explaining his survival (“That man there had an axe. Now I have it.”) or Simmons zapping Bobbi right when she/we assumed she had no idea what was going on. The show occasionally suffers for letting its super-spy characters be too naive for the sake of the plot, but here both Simmons and Coulson (who had all his mechanics ready to take on Mack) were a step ahead of their opponents.
(*) Last week, I suggested that SHIELD splinter cells be treated like the various Ray's Pizza restaurants in New York. Scroll down that review to Vinquus' comment, which has an even better approach, modeled on this.
The flashbacks also did something interesting for the future of the show – assuming Bobbi is meant to be part of that future, as opposed to Adrianne Palicki being promoted to cast regular status to take out the audience – in establishing that it was Bobbi, and not Gonzalez, who came up with the idea for the more democratic Real SHIELD in the first place. On the whole, Real SHIELD seems to be missing the point on a lot of things – both in terms of the flaws of Coulson's team and what caused Original Recipe SHIELD's downfall – but assuming Mockingbird remains part of the show once the dust settles, I like the idea of having one of Coulson's most valuable agents being someone who has a very different philosophy on how things should be run.
(And whether she stays or goes, we now know that Hunter is in it for the long haul; signing his “contract” on a cocktail napkin was a nice moment, given how off the reservation those two are at the moment.)
“One Door Closes” didn't address most of my concerns from last week, or about Coulson's team in general, but it was a much smarter and tougher version of the show than we've gotten of late.
Some other thoughts:
* So the cabin Skye was at was set up as a retreat for Bruce Banner to go to when he's at risk of Hulking out, eh? Has that cabin appeared in one of the movies before and I've forgotten?
* Last week, I assumed Real SHIELD was operating a helicarrier, mainly because the scene was very darkly lit and it looked like the thing had the kind of turbine hover engines that the helicarriers do. But it appears it's just the Iliad aircraft carrier, recovered by Bobbi and the others.
* Any theories on which “enhanced” bad guy Hydra sicced on Agent Weaver when they attacked the Academy?
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com