Agents of SHIELD
is back after a week off with an all-new episode and a temporary addition to the team, just because Skye is now firmly entrenched and we need someone whose loyalty needs questioning.
And man, does Joss Whedon know how to pack a lot into a mid-season finale! There's a healthy balance of action, emotion and storyline, as well as a cliffhanger that won't be answered until next year (but it's only like a month, so let's not get overly dramatic about it).
A Super (Risky) Addition
I had a lot of questions when I read that Mike Peterson was joining the team to help battle Centipede's super soldiers, namely how is he still alive and has superpowers. Here's what I wrote in advance of "The Bridge":
"And speaking of the return of Mike Peterson, who we initially met in the pilot when the agents stopped him from spontaneously combusting, how has he not exploded and yet still has superpowers? He was a normal guy who was down on his luck when he was approached by Dr. Debbie and injected with the Centipede serum, which is partly made up of unstable Extremis technology.
"He developed special abilities but was about to blow up because of the combustibility issue Raina needed Scorch's fire-resistant platelets to fix. Then Ward used the night-night gun to shoot Mike in the face with the Extremis antidote that FitzSimmons developed. So either the anitdote cures a person of the entire effects of the serum, or it leaves the superpowers and just stabilizes the combustibility, which is what Centipede was searching for all along, before they found Scorch!
"Was it really that easy to develop? Wouldn't Centipede have known SHIELD found what they were desperately looking for the second Mike didn't devastate a stretch of LA city blocks? I hope the episode explains this."
Well, it does offer an explanation, but I can't say it answers all my questions.
A Centipede-ian Prison Break
The episode opens with three super soldiers bursting into Havenworth Federal Penitentiary to bust out Edison Po, who was the guy Raina visited at the end of "The Girl in the Flower Dress" and whose only special ability seems to be that he is super creepy. Like Hannibal Lecter creepy, for some reason always eating steak in a super creepy way.
He reunites with Raina, who tells him that even though they fixed the combustion problem, now there is a maintenance problem because the super soldiers are super drained after each mission and need constant injections and replenishment. She also laments about getting SHIELD off their backs, because the pesky agents have already ruined two labs. Now, they are forced to relocate every few days.
The Return of Mike Peterson
After recognizing that Centipede super soldiers are involved in the breakout (Simmons is very excited to learn they've solved the combustion problem), Coulson enlists Mike to add some punch to the good-guy side of the mission, much to May's dismay. Mike is apparently working out at a SHIELD training facility 24/7 and constantly comparing his event times to Captain America because he wants to be the best!
While FitzSimmons run lab tests, they learn that Mike gets tired easily, needs lots of food to recover and, oh yeah, it was FitzSimmons' concoction that stabilized him, because it struck at the exact moment he was about to explode and allowed his body to absorb the serum.
Hallelujah, it looks like our geniuses are accidentally better than Centipede's! And they solve the problem without draining the blood of an innocent fire-conjuring mutant! Still doesn't explain everything I asked, though.
A Super (Lame?) Battle
The team is able to identify one of the super soldiers from the prison video as Brian Heyward, so Ward pretends to be a lottery agent and tells Heyward's sister that her brother has won the lottery. She doesn't buy it, lies about talking to him and then immediately calls. The phone is traced to Oakland, California.
Meanwhile, Skye finds the video of Po and Raina's jailhouse meeting, but the only sentence the auto-lip reader gets is a mention of "the Clairvoyant." Mike IDs Raina as the girl who recruited him, and they surmise former military missions expert Po is to lead the soldiers while the Clairvoyant may be the money behind the operation. ("If I could tell the future, the first place I'd go is Las Vegas.")
They head to the warehouse in Oakland with Mike Peterson in tow on his first mission, and the three super soldiers jump out of shipping containers in a planned ambush. May and Ward unsuccessfully fight one, with Ward jumping in front of a punch meant for May, while another knocks Coulson out. Mike takes on all three and, despite getting stabbed with something, somehow manages to temporarily incapacitate one of them.
Here is where the fight loses me. Even if one of them is knocked down, the super soldiers still have the upper hand on an already wounded Mike. And the other agents are pieces of cake. But instead, two of the soldiers get new orders to run away. And Heyward, lying on the ground blubbering how he won't divulge any information, gets the fatal eye liquid bomb we saw in the Akela Amador episode.
A Dastardly Deal
Raina and Po recognize Mike on Heyward's eye cam, but they can't figure out how he still has his powers despite not getting the regular injections the super soldiers need. Po says the video is the key to unlocking Stage 3 of the Centipede project.
They kidnap Mike's son Ace and make a deal to trade the kid for his dad. Coulson agrees to facilitate the swap on a bridge closed for construction, with Ward sniping things out and the rest of the team at a distance. May, as usual, does not approve.
It turns out to be a double-cross, of course, with Raina actually hatching a plot to get Coulson, whose resurrection is somehow the key to Stage 3. Mike apologizes for the stab in the back, saying he had no choice, then delivers Ace to the rest of the team and runs back for Coulson. But a construction vehicle on the bridge explodes, possibly killing Mike (doubtful), followed by Raina's car blowing up. They all fly off in a helicopter, shooting Ward and possibly killing him (also doubtful), while now-in-charge May scrambles to call for backup.
Emotional Side Plot Notes
-- Skye is still scouring the SHIELD files for her parents' identities, and Coulson tells her May will help with some of the more classified stuff. But they've already agreed to keep the full extent of events a secret, so May yells at Skye on two occasions about focusing on the mission and determining the reason she is there. May also lets it slip that Coulson is keeping the truth from her, so she locks herself in her room and tears up her research. Coulson is about to talk to her when he hears her crying, so he leaves her alone.
-- May and Ward are sparring/flirting when May tells him to stop and shoots down any public aspect of their romance. Later, she rips into him for taking the punch meant for her, because she can take care of herself. But he insists it was a tactical decision, because she's faster than him. May is just pissed off a lot this episode. It would appear her pranking days are short-lived, especially considering she is now the de facto leader.
-- Coulson reveals to Ward that he had a lady friend he used to visit before he died, but his recovery took so long that he decided to leave her be. Coulson also warns that inter-office relationships are trouble.
-- Both Skye and Coulson talk to Mike about his relationship with his son. Skye connects over the fact that Mike would do anything for his son, offering the type of love she so desperately craves. Coulson points out that Mike hasn't visited his son since the train station incident, and says he needs to stop trying to figure out how to repair the relationship and just start doing it. The conversation prompts the call home, which is how Mike figures out Raina has Ace. No word on the condition of Mike's sister, with whom Ace was staying.
So What's It All Mean?
Apparently, Mike's continued superpowers are not the key to better super soldiers, which makes the answers to my initial questions even fuzzier. If FitzSimmons had the cure for combustibility all along, why didn't Centipede realize it? And if Mike is sustainable, why does no one seem interested?
Hopefully, the mystery surrounding Coulson's return from the dead will answer all, but it looks like we won't find out until 2014.
What did you think of "The Bridge"? Did you have the same questions as me? What other answers are you looking for? And how do you think Coulson is the key to Stage 3? As for the first half of the season as a whole, were you satisfied with what you got? The producers promise the second half will feel more "Marvel-y." We'll find out next year.
Agents of SHIELD
returns Tuesday, January 7, at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)