ABC’s Agents of SHIELD continues to improve with each episode, turning lukewarm fans fiery hot for the comic book based television series, which honestly, got off to a rocky start. Many initial opinions of the show when it first aired last year was that it was cheesy, the acting was wooden and stiff, and the story seemed to be a bit disjointed. All of that has changed, as the show completely reinvented itself by tying its own plot into that of the latest Marvel Studios box office blockbuster, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now, with SHIELD taken over by Hydra, Coulson and the other former agents on his team find themselves being hunted by both Hydra and the government, and it seems they can only be saved by an act of Providence.
Tuesday night’s episode clears up a lot of confusion and ties up a couple of loose ends that left fans of the show scratching their heads. Last week it was revealed that the mysterious bad guy known as the Clairvoyant was none other than Agent Garrett, but viewers were still skeptical, thinking he might just be another decoy sent to protect the Clairvoyant’s true identity. This episode shoots more holes through this theory than Ward at a SHIELD agent shooting gallery. Not only is it confirmed that Garrett was the Clairvoyant, but also that Agent Ward really is a bad guy, not a hero in deep cover trying to infiltrate Hydra and take them down from the inside.
While The Grant Ward Fanclub, consisting primarily of gum chewing, hair twirling teenage girls, might be disappointed by the fact that their favorite specialist is a card-toting member of Hydra, this is probably one of the best moves the SHIELD series writers have made so far. One of the irritating aspects of the series was how fake the Ward character felt. He seemed like a cheap knock off of the typical “loner” antihero, the bad boy with a heart of gold who finally learns to play well with others and put their needs above his own. At first, it seemed this was the result of bad acting, but now, after finding out that Ward is Hydra and loyal only to Garrett, the reason it seemed like bad acting is because that is exactly what it was, though not performed by the actor, but the character attempting to blend in with Coulson’s team and earn their trust.
As the episode progresses audiences get a glimpse of just how ruthless Ward really is, as he dispatches two SHIELD agents without a second thought. He explains to Raina, known for wearing colorful, flowery dresses, that he gained their trust by rescuing Simmons, making it seem as if he would give his life to save theirs. Even Ward’s bedroom intimacy with Agent May was simply a rouse to keep her close, since she was the biggest threat to him in the group. He truly is a master of all things dastardly.
One of the best performances from the episode definitely came from Clark Gregg, who poured a lot of heart and soul into his portrayal of a seemingly lost Agent Coulson. Coulson dedicated his life to SHIELD, and to watch his life’s work instantly be wiped out in a moment’s time is taking its toll on him emotionally. After a threatening message from the federal government, Coulson decides that in order for the team to survive, they need to disappear. He orders Skye to wipe out the identity of every team member, effectively making it as though they never existed.
Upon finding his badge with coordinates he assumes were sent by Nick Fury, the team heads deep into the Canadian wilderness. Coulson believes Fury is still alive, while the rest of the team thinks he is losing his marbles. Once they arrive at the coordinates, only to seeming find nothing but snow and trees, Coulson delivers a powerful, impassioned speech. The former agents, along with Coulson, soon discover that the coordinates have led them to a secret SHIELD base called Providence, that provides them a brief respite from the turmoil and danger going on around them. The secret base is headed up by Agent Eric Koenig, played brilliantly by Patton Oswalt.
Koenig adds an excellent touch of legitimate humor to the show that was missing previously, as most of the funny moments in episodes past seemed canned or forced. Koenig pulls Coulson aside and informs him that his suspicions are correct and that Nick Fury is still alive. While the news seems to make Coulson happy, Koenig warns him that he is under orders by Fury to keep his team in the dark about the former director’s fate. Coulson is not too keen on keeping secrets, but Koenig insists, saying that only a select few, including Captain America, know Fury made it out of D.C. The rest of the team takes a bit of solace knowing they are safe inside Providence. At least for the moment.
Ward and Garrett raid the “Fridge,” SHIELD’s secret prison and storage facility, releasing some nasty baddies back into the wild, all while securing a ton of weapons and gadgets that the intelligence agency has kept hidden, including the substance that will eventually become the villain, Graviton. Ward discovers that in order to get information off of a restricted drive, he will need to meet back up with the team, as Skye holds the key to accessing the drive. The episode ends with Ward getting beat to a pulp (on purpose) by Garrett in order to look like he fought his way through Hydra at the Fridge. He meets up with Skye and the gang at Providence, where everyone will have to wait until next week to see how Skye reacts to finding out the man she is falling for is a traitor to the team.
The episode was strong, featuring some decent acting and great dialogue. Oswalt stole the show with his overly ambitious, yet hilariously lovable Agent Koenig, providing some relief from the dark tension built up over the first half of the episode. The pacing was solid and seems to be building things up to a fever pitch for the season finale that is rapidly approaching. It seems that next week’s episode will feature the reveal of Agent Ward as a Hydra agent to Coulson’s team. For now, it seems that Agent Coulson and his team have been saved by Providence, but the comfort will come to an end on next week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell
Follow Michael on Twitter