Agents of SHIELD Season 1 Ep 13-14 (TV Show Review)
Another two months have passed in between me doing reviews of the show. Part of that is because I’m very, very close to giving up on the show. It just doesn’t interest me so much anymore that I’m motivated to write a review. And it doesn’t help that the show keeps taking inexplicable breaks these days after every two episodes or such. The show has recently been dealing with a turnaround in material and is looking promising once again. Episodes 13 “T.R.A.C.K.S.” and 14 “T.A.H.I.T.I.” are proof of it. After the long glut of interesting stories in the show, these two episodes have shown me a glimmer of hope.
In these two episodes, we get to see more of the Clairvoyant’s manipulations with regards to businessman Ian Quinn, who has been one of the bad guys for a good while now, and also one of the most interesting thankfully. We also get to see more character drama with the entire cast of the good guys who have been our protagonists now for 12 episodes, plus these two. When things get personal, and the stakes are higher than they have ever been, that’s when you see whether a show is any good, and I think in that regard these two episodes do their job well.
A while back it was finally revealed that Mike Peterson, who started off as a villain in the premier episode but by the point of the mid-season finale had become a hero, was going to be Deathlok, a character of long standing in the Marvel universe. It was an interesting revelation. I have no prior history with the character so I don’t know anything about hi, and I suppose that it remains to be seen whether he is going to be a good guy or a bad guy. At the moment, he is straddling the line, and that’s fine with me. Having more characters on the show who come straight out of the comics and for whom the fantasy/science-fiction elements are played up, is a good thing. The show has been rather terrible on that front since it began, and this is one of the reasons why I think things are turning around. The creators are responding to the widest-held criticisms.
In TRACKS, we see how he is forced to be the bad guy, and what the future might hold for him. It is an interesting look at the character, and I really want to see more of him as the show goes on. There is plenty of time left before the season ends, and there are thus ample opportunities for the writers to really develop Mike Peterson and Deathlok as characters, whether good or bad or in between. I would prefer him to be a good guy purely because the show has a rather damning history with most of the villains so far being POC, and more do not need to be added to the mix.
The narrative style for this episode was interesting as well. It isn’t linear, but hops back and forth between all the characters. The requirements of the current mission are such that that the team is divided into either groups of two or one, and they are all split up throughout their target location. With each small team, we get to see a concurrent storyline takes place. It heightens the tension of the episode and makes things very, very interesting since you are left with puzzles at the end of each mini-story and things slowly begin to fall into place.
Towards the end of the episode, there is a pretty big twist, which sends the entire team into a tizzy, and leaves them scrambling to find solutions, none of which are immediately available. When the twist happened, I have to admit that I was quite shocked. Not since the episode where Simmons was infected with an alien virus and was near-death have I felt so moved by the story. So lets chalk TRACKS up as a win for the show. This is the kind of storytelling that I’ve been wanting to see for a while and the show finally delivered.
With TAHITI though, I confess that I am confused and frustrated yet again. The showrunners brought in Bill Paxton as John Garrett, one of SHIELD’s foremost field commanders to contrast against Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, and it proves to be a good match. But even the addition of a star like Paxton wasn’t enough to raise the show above its miserable standards, especially after getting an episode as good as TRACKS. In this episode, we finally learn some details on how and where Agent Coulson was really brought back from the dead, building on what we saw in the previous episodes where Coulson learned that Tahiti was not a magical place but something else, something dreadful. And in this episode we get the dirty lowdown on what TAHITI really is.
John Garrett’s gruff and hands-on attitude contrasts with Coulson’s easy-going and relaxed attitude, but when you really think about it, the two of them are quite similar. They both have some shared history, and this extends to Agent Ward who used to serve under Garrett at some point before coming over to Coulson’s team. This narrative move allows the writers to build on both Ward and Garrett’s characters and make them more than they appear to be, which was just fine with me, but all the same we never really get to see anything substantial with Ward. He is still the angry young man of the team and that hasn’t changed a jot for a while now. Even given the current events and current tragedy that the team is dealing with, there is something lacking in his character. I thought Garrett might fix that, but it was not to be.
One thing I liked was the addition of a minor character, Agent Antoine Triplett, one of Garrett’s subordinate agents. For one, he fixes the horrible imbalance of POC characters on the show, and two, he is pretty damn cool in his own right. He is kind of like another Ward, but infinitely cooler because he has the relaxed attitude that Ward lacks. To be honest, I’d rather have Triplett on the team rather than Ward. I find him much more interesting, going by what little we see of him in the episode.
More than all of that though, the episode was really about bringing the core team together once again. Agent May got another kickass moment, which was refreshing to see. This has been angle building up in the show for a while now, and it is good to see that the writers are committed towards that. As one of the show’s leading ladies, she deserves every minute of screentime that she gets, especially since Ming-na Wen is such an awesome actress. Seeing her as Agent May makes me think that there isn’t anyone who could pull off the role better than her. Which you can contrast against Brett Dalton’s Ward, where you replace Dalton with literally any other actor and the difference would be less than superficial.
With Agents Fitz and Simmons, we don’t get to see them do much of anything, other than some heart-warming moments here and there. Somewhat understandably, they take the back-seat for this episode, and that was disappointing. While almost the entire cast needs a lot of work in the character development, they are the most interesting of the bunch, especially given that they brought with them a shared history from day one. That already makes them infinity more complex than any of the other characters, even Coulson since we’ve already seen so much of him in the various movies.
One of the main problems I had with this episode was how stupid it makes Coulson’s entire team and two unnamed SHIELD all the way through. The gist of it the story is that to get over the current tragedy, the team basically needs to get entrance into an out-of-the-way SHIELD facility, which happens to be guarded ONLY by two SHIELD thugs, who are so stupid that it all beggars belief. I won’t go into spoilers here, but be warned that if you ever want to see the show’s stupidest moments than this is the episode to watch, given how the team gains entry into the base and what happens afterwards.
Even the climax, when Coulson learns a hard truth about his renewed existence, something even more damning than what we saw in the previous episodes, is all full of idiocy. With the place about to come around the team, Coulson heads off to an unexplored section of the facility and just stands gawping with these big eyes that show shock and fear, but just look silly.
TAHITI is, I think, one of the lowest points of this show and it does the show no favours. We can well do without episodes like this, I think.
What makes everything worse is that the show is getting lost in all these acronyms. SHIELD. TRACKS. TAHITI. FZZT. And more. We don’t really get any explanations of either acronym, other than SHIELD of course, but that’s just about it. Even if I’m misremembering and we did get explanations for TRACKS and FZZT, the point still stands that these acronyms are nothing more than dross flash to misdirect viewers and little else.
These two episodes together are a very mixed bunch. One of the best episodes, and one of the worst. We are slowly getting an expanded character base, and that’s good. We are getting a bit more character development, and that’s good too. But the sow still has a long way to go.
At the end of TAHITI, we get a setup teaser for episode 15, “Yes Men“, and it is one that made me really excited. Lorelei, the Asgardian witch who has significant history with Thor and the Avengers from the comics and other media, makes her first live-action appearance here, and as has been revealed for a while now, this is the episode which most firmly ties in the Thor movies with the show. Lady Sif, played by the awesome Jaimie Alexander, is going to be in the episode, and the setup for her appearance is good. I enjoyed seeing Lorelei, mostly because we finally are getting someone who can do actual magic on this show, and that’s pretty awesome.
More Agents of SHIELD reviews can be found here. I’ve reviewed every episode so far.
Posted on March 24, 2014, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged Agent Grant Ward, Agent Jemma Simmons, Agent John Garrett, Agent Leo Fitz, Agent Melinda May, Agent Phil Coulson, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Alien Technology, Aliens, Avengers, Brett Dalton, Centipede, Chloe Bennet, Clark Gregg, Comics, Comics Tie-In, Elizabeth Henstridge, Espionage, Ian de Caestecker, Ian Quinn, Joss Whedon, Lady Sif, Lorelei, magic, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvel Studios, Ming-Na Wen, Movie Tie-In, Resurrection, Review, Review Central, S.H.I.E.L.D, Skye, Spy, Supervillains, T.A.H.I.T.I, T.R.A.C.K.S., The Clairvoyant, Thor, TV Show, TV Show Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.