Agents of SHIELD Season 1 Ep 18 (TV Show Review)
Last week we saw how Marvel’s latest cinematic release, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, affected the status of the characters on Agents of SHIELD. The movie initiated some very, very big changes and that in turn meant that the show has done a complete about turn. The tensions have ratcheted up significantly and loyalties have really been redefined. It goes without saying that some characters have turned out to be not who we believed they were, and that was kind of like a gut-punch in the last episode. Very surprising.
Since last week’s episode, I’ve read a fair few reactions to the episode and to the movie of course, and supposedly the showrunners have known from the start that this change would happen and that they constructed the show around that. Well, it certainly never felt like that, but as this episode shows, things have indeed been in development around it. This is an episode that has me really conflicted because I’m not sure whether or not I like it. It had some really good parts, but it also had parts that I’m not a hundred percent about.
Note: Because of the nature of this episode and its tie-in to the new movie, this review contains spoilers about what happens in this episode, the new Captain America movie and last week’s episode as well.
The new episode begins with us getting a sense of how things have changed for SHIELD and for Team Coulson. There is an extremely brief recap of the ending of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier in which we see the fallout of HYDRA’s attack on SHIELD’s headquarters the Triskelion in Washington DC. Then, while Coulson is in the middle of reorganising remaining SHIELD assets, he gets a message from a certain Colonel Glenn Talbot, who informs him that a peacekeeping force of troops is on its way to take charge of the base. This is all in response to the senate/congressional hearings that happened in the epilogue of the movie. SHIELD can no longer be trusted because the world now knows that HYDRA had infiltrated the spy agency at its highest levels.
All of this necessitates that Coulson, his team and all remaining loyal SHIELD agents evacuate The Hub and head for parts unknown before the army troops get there. Coulson believes in the idea and spirit of the agency he gave his life for once already, and he’ll be damned before he lets it all disappear in a bureaucratic blur.
The episode then takes away to the rest of the team as they prepare to leave The Hub and their new adventures ensue. Along the way, we also get to touch base again with Agents Garrett and Ward who have both been exposed as HYDRA agents, although only the former’s true loyalties are a matter of public record for SHIELD. And this is where I feel the most conflicted. The way that the closing moments of the previous episode were setup, I was all prepared for Ward’s turn of loyalties to be an act, but this episode shows that it was no such thing. Ward was a traitor from the beginning and this is not a direction that I am uncomfortable with.
The subplot for the HYDRA forces is all about getting the edge on the leftovers of SHIELD facilities across the group. Now that the secret about HYDRA is out in the open, the bad guys need all the resources they can get and some of SHIELD’s secure bases like The Cube and The Fridge are home to some of the most dangerous weapons and artifacts on the entire planet. This is where the ruthlessness of Agents Garrett and Ward comes to the fore, which was something that I liked despite my inner conflict over the above point about Ward’s loyalties.
Welcome enough is the fact that Bill Paxton and Brett Dalton both deliver some really good performances here, especially the former who is all suave and charming even though he is the bad guy now. His performance as Garrett has been one of the best things about the show in recent times, and he continues that here. Brett Dalton on the other hand has begun to finally step out of his shell. His performance has been all over the place since the show started, so I’m hoping that the upswing in his performance in this episode isn’t a fluke like it has been before.
When it comes to Team Coulson, they are busy tracking down a lead about Fury, and this is where Agent Coulson really becomes a strong character in his own right. He has been a mainstay of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man, and the show has done well in adding to his character. That continued this week. There aren’t a lot of times on the show when Coulson has lost his cool and gotten angry. Or when he has struggled with his loyalties and beliefs. All of that happens. His whole world has been torn down by HYDRA and he is struggling to make sense of it all, even if it means following the slimmest of chances that the man he believed in all these years is still alive and has a message for him.
Worth a shot right?
In addition to introducing the fantastic Adrian Pasdar as Colonel Glenn Talbot, this episode also introduced Patton Oswalt as Agent Eric Koenig. In the comics-verse, Koenig used to be a member of the Howling Commandos, an elite special ops unit formed during World War II by Nick Fury (if I remember it right). Obviously the show reinvents the origins of some characters, and Koenig doesn’t seem to be different from that. But it is a nice callback to the alternate history for Nick Fury and also subtly tie-in Fury and Koenig to Captain America, for obvious reasons. This isn’t something that we are going to see play out on the show of course since the direction the characters have gone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is completely different, but I liked this bit of an easter egg, sort of.
Patton Oswalt might well be the best thing about this episode. His performance as Koenig is absolutely wonderful and does wonders at breaking the tension that has been a mainstay of the show for the last few episodes. The show could definitely use more of it. Koenig is the connecting point between the show and the MCU because of how he ties in what happens to Nick Fury and Maria Hill at the end of the new movie to Team Coulson. Thankfully, the show doesn’t keep us in the dark about Fury’s status, since last episode we learned that he was dead, when in fact he isn’t. He has gone dark and silent to evade his enemies. He works best behind the scenes and with a cadre of people he trusts implicitly.
This in turns plays into the trust issues that Coulson has had since as far as his team knows Fury is dead, but he knows that this is not the case. How the show approaches that going forward remains to be seen, but it opens up some endless possibilities and I can’t wait to see how everything gels together as the first season begins to draw to a close.
One final thing I should mention, one that I didn’t like, is the romance between Skye and Ward. We saw it bloom in the last episode but the epilogue totally wiped it away in me estimation. And what is happening right now doesn’t help matters either, because there is clearly a very big trust issue here. I just don’t like that the characters are being used so subversively here, when it comes to the story. But it seems that the writers and the showrunners are going to put Team Coulson through hell before things get better.
God help them all.
Overall though, like I said, some good parts and some not so good parts. But still, this is one of the strongest episodes of the season because the meta-story demonstrably moves forward. Some lies are exposed, such as the truth about Operation Slingshot (see the ending of episode 2, “0-8-4“), and some villains from previous episodes return as well, such as Codename: Flowers. So the show is finally starting to cash in on the characters that have been introduced and developed before. It is coming late, but it is coming. And another thing is that by finally showing us locations like The Fridge, and mentioning others like The Cube, and Garrett talking about this one guy who replaced his hands with tiger claws the show is also starting to make some forays into connecting with the wider Marvel comics-verse.
More Agents of SHIELD reviews can be found here. I’ve reviewed every episode so far.
Posted on April 16, 2014, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged Adrian Pasdar, Agent Antoine Triplett, Agent Grant Ward, Agent Jemma Simmons, Agent John Garrett, Agent Leo Fitz, Agent Melinda May, Agent Phil Coulson, Agent Sitwell, Agent Skye, Agent Victoria Hand, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Avengers, B. J. Britt, Betrayal, Bill Paxton, Brett Dalton, Captain America, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, Chloe Bennet, Clark Gregg, Comics, Comics Tie-In, David Conrad, Double Agent, Elizabeth Henstridge, Eric Koenig, Espionage, Glenn Talbot, Howling Commandos, Hydra, Ian de Caestecker, Ian Quinn, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Comics, Marvel Studios, Maurissa Tancharoen, MCU, Ming-Na Wen, Movie Tie-In, Nick Fury, Patton Oswalt, Providence, Raina, Resurrection, Review, Review Central, Ruth Negga, S.H.I.E.L.D, Saffron Burrows, Spy, Supervillains, The Clairvoyant, Treachery, TV Show, TV Show Reviews, Vincent Misiano, Winter Soldier. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.