We were off to a breakneck pace in this Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, which began with a young man with no eyes teleporting around a sealed-off room. If this is any indication, it’s proof that the show is going to delve much deeper into the super-powered pool moving forward. Meanwhile, on the S.H.I.E.L.D. side of things, the team is reeling from the death of Agent Trip. This was one of the more powerful moments of the episode, as Coulson’s narrative about the recent casualty transitions into scenes of each member dealing with the death in their own way. In this brief scene, I think we gained a deeper look into each of the characters than we have been able to in entire episodes prior. This managed a greater “less is more” approach which I appreciate, as subtlety has never been Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s strongest point.
Overall, this episode felt like the darkest venture into Coulson & crew’s side of the world, as a lot of really heavy subject matter was explored. From scenes of carting away the statuesque, shattered corpse of their fallen comrade, to agents having their throats ripped out by a rampaging Inhuman, to murderous power plays, to straight up suicide attempts — there are a lot of things here that almost seem like too much, but I think the show is made better for it. S.H.I.E.L.D. is an organization that lives in the world of “cloak and dagger” so it should be portrayed as something more akin to, say, 24 and MI-5. Coulson having to deliver the news to Trip’s mother that he had fallen in action was a good way to hit home the fact that the character is truly gone, and that has significant meaning. It was a good send off to a character who didn’t have much pull this season.
As is the usual M.O. with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the best scenes came straight from the villains, specifically with Raina catching up to Cal, following her transformation. Raina’s makeup (as she is now sporting a more feline appearance, with the thorns similar to that of a porcupine strewn across her body) is quite good, and it’s nice to see that they didn’t keep her hidden for too long due to budgetary constraints or some later reveal. Cal’s reaction to the news that Skye had undergone a similar transformation, bouncing across the shipping yard with a childish glee, really helped to show Kyle MacLachlan‘s comfort in acting insane, his prior role in Twin Peaks I’m sure helping him out with this (Editor’s Note: BOB is always with us, and the owls are not what they seem). It also created a great moment where Raina, desperate for help in no longer being a monster, and stating that she “couldn’t live like this,” is given nothing more than a callous “then don’t” by Cal. Quite the gut punch. On the Hydra side of things, the power struggle with Whitehall’s absence was a nice and brutal finale. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see Hydra taking a step back for a little while, which I’d be ok with, as we already have a slew of players on the board as it stands.
Onto the weaker aspects of this episode (and this is one that threw me for a loop, as I usually consider him to be one of the best parts of the show): Coulson himself. I feel like we’ve been down this road too many times before, with character’s claiming to “never have seen Coulson act this way before” or “Wow, Coulson’s really acting violent this time!” except we have seen it quite a bit. I feel like nearly every other episode Phil flips out for one reason or another, so it seems like old news. While Coulson does have a pleasant demeanor in general, I feel like we’ve actually been given far too many facets of his character. From untrustworthy shadow player to potentially crazed alien victim to happy go-lucky buddy, I think that you can’t run all the bases and score a home run on this one. Coulson’s take on ruthlessness had me laughing when he delivered the line, “I WILL CRUSH THEM” for example. It didn’t sound natural, and probably should have been dropped entirely. I think if you want to tackle his rage, it needs to be restrained and it needs to be bubbling under the surface. Having him stomp his feet and bare his fangs just doesn’t have as much impact as, say, delivering a message to the dying heads of Hydra with a grin on his face or stern look.
I also thought that the show sometimes falls into the trap of simply trying to do too much with the time it is given. More meat could have been put on the bones of Cal’s insane ramblings, Raina’s dealing with her new body, and Skye coming to grips with her powers, rather than the hare-brained scheme of getting Bakshi back to Hydra to learn their location. It ultimately just didn’t seem like something that needed much time devoted to it, aside from the eventual clean-up. The revelation of Mack and Bobbi apparently working for someone outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. made me groan, as this has already mined, and mined well I might add, with the Hydra reveal at the end of Season 1. Sometimes the show sets up a few too many bombs that they’re looking to drop later on, like for example Fitz hiding Skye’s powers. Regardless of how well he tries to hide it, Skye is causing earthquakes when she freaks out … I’m pretty sure folks will put two and two together pretty quickly!
Ultimately though, the good outweighed the bad, and I’m anxious to see where the season goes moving forward, as most of the new elements introduced have been compelling, minus a stumble here and there.
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good — Proceed with cautious optimism
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– I love the fact that Skye suggest calling the Avengers at one point in the episode. I mean, obviously we know that the Avengers won’t be leaping in to save the day, but it’s a good moment where the characters can realize that the shit is hitting the fan and maybe they should think about calling the team with a green giant and a thunder god.
– I thought it was a little odd that no one seemed to notice that the light originally glaring in Skye’s quarantined room — along with a ton of other things — was broken when her powers activated. Minor quibble though.
– Those effects on the Hydra leaders turning into stone was terrible. Having the Baroness simply poisoned and the other victim shot would have been much more effective, and left less evidence. Can’t imagine what the coroners will think when they have to investigate that one.
-That was a very cool last beat with Reader/Gordon teleporting in to save Raina. Kudos to Marvel for introducing this aspect so early on. With the X-Men not being a part of Marvel Studios proper, it’s nice to have an element that can dive into “superpowers being a curse”.
– Bobbi: “Leper? I think you’re a rock star.”
– Hunter: “Just coming down from the worst acid trip of all time.”
– May: “I count four left, you know what that means.”
Coulson: “No, I don’t!”
– May: “You’ll never take us alive? Really? A bit over the top, wouldn’t you say?”
– Cal: “You always did like flowers.”
– Hunter: “That’s a pretty big fence for protecting some grapes.”
– Skye: “That’s very fast.”
Fitz: “No, that’s Inhuman.”
– Fitz: “You’re just different now, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
– Skye: “We’re going to laugh a lot less, that’s for sure.”