The Marvel Universe is a mess in these troubling times, with lines blurred between good and evil and only a handful of SHIELD agents left to clean it all up. The latest episode of Agents of SHIELD isn’t heavy on the action after last week’s game-changing intense-a-thon, but the developments are just as significant.

“Providence” is two stories that stay separate until they have to converge — about two organizations moving in different directions — and it focuses more on how everyone is dealing with the state of affairs. Who is giving up and who stays the course? Who is trustworthy and who needs to be monitored? There are so many questions and so few answers that you can only look forward and wonder what’s in store for the remainder of the inaugural season.

A HIMYM Star and Samuel L. Jackson Returning to Agents of SHIELD >>>

A Quickie Recap

The actual events that transpired in this 18th episode are so few that it is quite easy to recap in just a couple of paragraphs. So here’s the important stuff you missed if you didn’t catch it.

With SHIELD compromised and HYDRA large and in charge, the US government is pretty pissed and orders a military higher-up named Talbott to take over operations at the Hub, which is one of only four facilities (with the newly re-captured Cube) still in good hands. Coulson is like, To hell with that, so they fix up the Bus and take off in search of coordinates that showed up on Coulson’s badge. He’s convinced they are from supposedly-deceased Nick Fury. The rest of the team is skeptical. 

John “Don’t call me the Clairvoyant” Garrett and Ward break Raina out of prison, give her a nice flower dress and take her to an underground facility in Cuba. There, she is to resume Operation Centipede by performing tests with all the serums Garrett snatched from the Guest House, trying to figure out which one saved Skye and Coulson. Then they bust into the Fridge and steal all the locked-up alien and special equipment and free all the prisoners. 

Coulson and Co. arrive at the coordinates to find a secret SHIELD base run by Doug’s buddy Spence (Patton Oswalt is Agent Eric Koenig), a Level 6 agent who breaks the news to Coulson only that Fury is still alive. Though HYDRA has the hard drive from the Bus, Skye put an unbreakable encryption on it, so Ward will have to rejoin the group and romance Skye into giving him the information. The episode ends with Ward walking into the base, while elsewhere, Garrett reintroduces Quinn to his Gravitonium. Done and done.

Diving into the Dirty Details

As I said earlier, this one deals more with how people are coping with their world falling apart, as doubt abounds and nearly everyone is putting themselves in a position to screw up. And it doesn’t help that we don’t know who is trustworthy and who isn’t.

Fitz is putting his blind faith in Coulson, because in times of trouble, you get behind who you believe in. Still, he is skeptical about the potential relationship forming between Simmons and Triplett. He doesn’t want anything to change, and Simmons tells him it’s too late for that.

Simmons is still my number one candidate for another HYDRA infiltrator, though she vehemently backs up Triplett being allowed to join when Coulson makes it known he doesn’t trust Garrett’s right-hand man. I’m still hoping she’s on our side, but she hasn’t proven it beyond a reasonable doubt yet.

Agents of SHIELD Mission Debrief: A Small Man Comes Up Big >>>

Coulson and May and Skye, Oh My

The de facto SHIELD leader’s relationships with these two women are the real focal point, because leading up to these events, if Coulson was the father, May was the mother and Skye the daughter. But after May’s well-intentioned and Fury-ordered betrayal, she is proving to be more of a concerned problem than a solution.

She even tries to take Coulson’s gun when he insists they travel to the badge coordinates, coming clean that while Fury ordered Coulson’s surgery, he wasn’t behind T.A.H.I.T.I., and the unknown individual who was may be HYDRA. Though I just realized as I typed that sentence that this is highly unlikely, otherwise they would already know all the secrets they are searching for in regard to his resurrection. 

Still, May doubles down on the point that Fury is dead and Coulson could be under foreign control. While I understand the skepticism, it seems like a bit of a devolution for May to suddenly think that Fury might not be clever enough to have any tricks up his sleeve. What organization has she been working for all these years?

Skye, meanwhile, is taking the transition to off-the-grid ghost the hardest, because she’s had her SHIELD badge for about four days and finally felt like she was a part of something that’s no longer in existence. But it’s her relationship with Ward that poses the most problems. Everyone still trusts him, even though the Fridge fell while he was present. 

It’s a very good thing that Koenig kept the team in the dark, because Skye surely would’ve fed that info directly to HYDRA. It’s bad enough she divulged where the secret base is. Fury’s last words to Captain America (I finally saw the sequel) were “Trust no one,” and boy is that accurate.

Coulson’s Unwavering Belief in SHIELD

It is this reason and this reason alone that we still have something to watch. The team is full of doubting Thomases (Easter reference!) all ready to drag the us down, but Coulson is making sure there are still people willing to stand and fight. 

All the negative Nellies try to convince him that taking the fuel-leaking and supply-deprived Bus to the snowy forests of Providence (I’m assuming not Rhode Island) is a fool’s errand, probably a HYDRA trap even, but Coulson is determined. His impassioned speech about the label Agent of SHIELD still meaning something is lost on the team and almost on him as well, as he breaks down before tossing his badge into the air and triggering the welcome gun. 

He may not have put this team together like he thought, but he’s certainly the one keeping them together.

Agents of SHIELD Interviews: Cast and EP Tease “Emotional Explosions” to Come >>>

The Evolution of Ward

While it’s somewhat disappointing to see Ward go, he shines so much brighter as a villain than he ever did as a good guy. As a SHIELD agent, he is one-dimensional and bland, outside of a decent one-liner or action sequence. 

But as a HYDRA agent, with vanilla-flavored Ward all but a ruse, he becomes a deliciously evil and even multifaceted character who calculatingly manipulated everyone who got in his way to meet his objectives.

Who knows if he has real feelings for Skye, but he certainly makes it clear that he was not happy that part of the plan involved shooting her. Garrett knows she is a weak spot for him, but it remains to be seen if that will interfere with him completing his mission.

Moving Forward

With HYDRA now aided by all the locked-away technology (the so-called “slingshot” that sent it all to space was also a ruse) and captured supervillains, things are looking particularly grim for SHIELD. Even if Coulson and Co. can come out of the shadows to start rounding them up (an easy way to reintroduce standalone serial episodes), they now have the US government and military to deal with as well. 

Do you like the direction the story has taken, and are you excited about what’s to come in the remaining few episodes? Have we identified all the HYDRA traitors in our midst, or is the enemy among us (eh hem … Simmons)? What are your predictions for the rest of the season, and what impact do you think they will have on the larger Marvel Universe? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, and tune in next week to find out if Ward is revealed!

You can watch Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday at 8pm on ABC. 

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order