They finally got it right! I’ve been wracking my brain for the past 48 hours, trying to determine how best to articulate just what was so right with this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but in truth, I’m still at a bit of a loss.
Was it the action? The character development? Further expansion of the plot? The return of Cobie Smulders’ Agent Maria Hill? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
Now that we know Ward is Hydra and has spirited Skye away under the auspices of decoding the hard drive, it was up to Coulson’s intrepid team to put the pieces together. Luckily, it didn’t take them long to discover May’s desertion and Ward’s duplicity. Simmons’ quick autopsy of Agent Koenig’s body is the final proof the team needs to confirm that only Ward would have been able to kill him.
This sends each agent into his or her own sort of tailspin. Fitz, who no doubt felt he had developed somewhat of a brotherly bond with Ward is the one who appears the most upset. Early in the season, I thought that Simmons would act as the show’s emotional center, but as the season has progressed, I’m beginning to think it’s actually Fitz who will be the emotional touchstone. He is the one who “wears his heart on his sleeve,” and has done so consistently since episode two. In contrast, Simmons has been able to maintain a very business-like demeanor, even with all the hell that’s swirling around her. This is further proven when she is the one who helps to ground Fitz while the team is stranded at their makeshift home base, trying to wrap their minds around what they’ll do next.
Coulson feels the most betrayed and probably the most responsible for Ward’s treachery, although his guilt is evenly matched by Agent Hill’s, who reminds us soon after she appears that she vetted Ward. I think we can all agree that the last thing you want to do is piss off Maria Hill. Ward is officially on her sh*t list.
At first, Hill appears to be an antagonist for Coulson, apparently leading hard-nosed Colonel Talbot to Providence base and offering up him and his team as sacrificial lambs. It becomes pretty obvious though that she will back Coulson’s play and his vendetta against Ward, but even she is limited in the resources she can offer. Of course, now that she’s working for Tony Stark, I’m thinking there’s got to be some toys he’d be willing to share.
One thing that bumped me throughout the episode was the fact that Hill kept up the illusion that Fury is actually dead. While the rest of his team doesn’t know, Coulson was entrusted with the truth. It seemed somewhat silly for Hill and Coulson to talk as though he’s actually dead when they were speaking alone. I also wonder what the pay-off of Fury’s death will be. Obviously, it keeps him off the government’s radar, but I’m imagining he’s going to be needed sooner rather than later. We really need to understand the end game if we’re going to keep pretending that Fury is dead.
Of course, the episode’s real revelation came towards the end, when May returns and shares with Coulson data she dug out of his fake grave. Surprisingly, it is a recording of Coulson, resigning from his position with the T.A.H.I.T.I. project. What?!?!?
So, the very program that saved Coulson’s life and he has been struggling to remember all season, was actually under Coulson’s stewardship? And his recommendation to Fury was to terminate the program due to the side effects including the unfortunate occurrence of psychosis in its patients.
Oh yeah, that’s great. Apparently, the only way to counteract the psychosis is to erase the patient’s memories, hence the reason Coulson has no memory of his miraculous return. However, this is information they did not have when they used the medicine on Skye a few weeks ago,. We can assume that should S.H.I.E.L.D. get a second season Skye’s possible craziness and her status as a 0-8-4 will keep everyone busy.
If the rest of the season is like this week’s episode, S.H.I.E.L.D. will finish strong. Is it too little too late? Possibly. There’s also the danger that the show cannot keep up this level of quality when the stakes aren’t as high. They’re going to have to learn how to do all types of episodes, even ones that don’t involve the fate of the free world.