Going to Extremis
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left a little something under our Christmas trees this week and it wasn’t coal. ABC’s freshman drama instead delivered a worthy cliffhanger with a liberal number of callbacks to episodes throughout the season. And it further cemented itself as drama steeped in superhero mythology.
Our intrepid agents are once again face to face with Mike Peterson, the almost-supernova laboratory experiment from the pilot, but this time, he’s an ally, not an enemy. While May and Ward, the always dependable wet blankets of the bunch, are not happy about his inclusion on the team, Simmons seems a bit, well smitten and Fitz seems a bit, well … smitten too. Chloe and Coulson are the only ones who seem to think having Mike and all of his super powered goodness on their side is a good idea.
They need the extra brawn due to the reemergence of Raina, the girl in the flower dress who’s in charge of her own private stash of super soldiers, powered by Extremis. This week though we’re introduced to a new baddie, the “walking mugshot,” Edison Po. But it appears that the person really pulling the strings is a shadowy figure referred to as “The Clairvoyant” – and the only thing we know about him is that he doesn’t like to be touched. Yeah, that’s creepy.
After getting their brand new toy nearly killed in a brawl with Raina’s set of super soldiers, the team decides to lick their wounds and figure out another way to shut down the operation. However, they are compelled to act when Raina takes Mike’s son, Ace, hostage. Some people have no shame.
Mike makes a deal: himself for his son. As Coulson walks Mike out for the meet, it’s discovered that the trade is actually Coulson for Ace. Apparently, Coulson has captured the attention of The Clairvoyant and his merry band of renegades.
A couple explosions later and it appears Mike has perished (don’t worry, Ace is safe) and Coulson has been carted off in a helicopter as Raina’s prisoner. What does she want with our agent? Really just an answer to the same question on all of our minds, what happened to Coulson the day after he died?
Based on the preview for next new episodes, coming back after the holidays, it appears that Coulson’s miraculous resurrection will be the focal point. And that’s fine. The show has been setting up the mystery all season, so I’m more than happy for that to pay off. But I’m not sure that’s the most interesting mystery the writers left us with Tuesday night.
What I think might (or at least has the potential to be) the most intriguing is how Coulson’s dysfunctional team of misfits functions in his absence. Skye is ready to knock some sense into May, Ward appears to be falling down a romance rabbit hole, and Fitz and Simmons will continue to be FitzSimmons. Who will emerge as the leader of this bunch without Coulson’s steadying hand, and firm tone, to keep them in line?
It appears that steely-eyed agent Victoria Hand will be back, no doubt to take control, at least until Coulson can be returned to The Bus, which does not bode will for our team. She has even less patience for them than Coulson does.
While the first ten episodes have been uneven, many S.H.I.E.L.D. fans agree that the last handful of episodes has really demonstrated something different: a different tone, feel and storytelling aesthetic that many of us have come to expect from a Joss Whedon show. While kidnapping your main character in the middle of season one is a bold choice, it could pay off huge for S.H.I.E.L.D. if they take the time to really let the other characters stew in the uncertainty of his absence.
I’m not one hundred percent confident that ABC will give Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the rope to really let the characters explore. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that networks don’t have a lot of patience. Let’s hope the next couple of episodes isn’t when they decide to tug at the reins.