Now that was intense.
Who would have thought that Agents of SHIELD was just biding its time through the inaugural season, giving us serial episodes and peeks into the known Marvel Universe, all while waiting for the premiere of a blockbuster movie to really blow the doors off the joint and let all hell break loose.
I have not yet seen Captain America: The Winter Solider, but it is clear that what transpires in the film is the driving force behind the events of “Turn, Turn, Turn” and the rest of the first season.
I was a bit concerned about how the plot twists would be worked into the in-show “Uprising” event, seeing as how the Captain America sequel has been in theaters all of five days as of showtime. But it manages to continue on with the storyline without giving too much away. Still, if you don’t mind movie spoilers and want to see how it all plays together, click here.
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Don’t Fear the Reaper
So SHIELD, aka the entire premise of the show, has been utterly compromised by the resurgence of HYDRA, because everyone loves a pretend acronym. But for real, rogue agents of the Nazi agency supposedly defeated after WWII have been entrenched for decades, and after head honcho Nick Fury uncovers the plot, it’s time for him to pretend-die and for them to come out of the shadows and make themselves known.
The real question, and it continues the main theme from last week, is who can you trust? And in this instance, the answer is pretty much no one. Agent Victoria Hand, her allegiance presently unknown, is tracking down all the top level SHIELD agents who may be playing both sides. And that includes Coulson, et al, and Agent John Garrett (Bill Paxton).
Garrett was my popular choice for the true identity of the mysterious Clairvoyant, and just like I learned during four years of college, your first impression of someone is usually correct. Though I have to say they do a spectacular job of throwing suspicion onto Hand and my second favorite suspect and now just awesome good guy Agent Triplett, particularly when Garrett is dodging drone missiles while blaring Blue Oyster Cult to kick off the show.
The Encoded Message That Changed It All
While Agent Hand’s circle of trust remains tight-knit, Coulson’s is all over the place. He seems to be sure about Fitz, Simmons and Skye, but May is a total question mark after the discovery of the secret encrypted line. And who knows about Ward after he murdered the decoy Clairvoyant.
But regardless of loyalties, they’re all going to have to work together if they want to stay alive after Hand brings them all to the Hub. Around the same time Skye manages to decode the secret message coursing through the ranks of SHIELD — “Out of the Shadows and Into the Light … HYDRA” — to shed light on what’s going on, Simmons and Triplett sneak off to do more tests on Skye’s GH325 blood.
Simmons contacts her old professor at the SHIELD Academy to ask for help, but instead of answers she gets a cryptic message to trust no one and do her best to stay alive, because they have no idea how long HYDRA has been in control. Triplett pulls a knife, confirming my suspicions that he is evil, but really he’s just handing the weapon to Simmons to prove that he’s trustworthy, while also giving her the opportunity to attack him and thus proving she is as well.
Which Side Are You On, Anyway?
Simmons and Tripplett are captured by Hand, who gives them the offer of joining HYDRA’s coming-out party or die, thus confirming my suspicions that she is evil. But really, it’s just a test that they pass by attempting to kill one of her guards rather than swear allegiance to HYDRA.
Meanwhile, as the Bus lands at the Hub, Garrett convinces Coulson to let May and Ward out of holding, as they need all the help they can get. (Man, so much of this fits together perfectly once you know who is bad!) Coulson tells May to use her now-repaired direct line to call Fury and get all this sorted out, and Hand’s troops wait just long enough to open fire for the voice on the other end to confirm that Fury is “dead.”
With big Nick out of the picture, May finally comes clean that not only has she been reporting on Coulson all along, she was also responsible for putting together this SHIELD team. Fitz uses a handy new device to cut a hole in the plane and sneak them out, and it’s time to rescue Simmons and Triplett and retake the Hub.
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The Shocking Foreshadow
Three events take place that ultimately predict the huge shock to come at the end of the episode, and they only make sense in hindsight. First, before they flee the Bus, Ward points out that all the data on the plane would be devastating in HYDRA’s hands. They could even weaponize Gravitonium. Gravitonium! So Skye wipes the hard drives clean after making a duplicate on a flash drive. Ward holds this for safe keeping.
Second, while Skye and Ward head to the processing center to hack/destroy it, they get ambushed by a group of 12 guards. After sharing a touching moment and a kiss, Ward takes on the entire dozen while promising to use only icers. He’s getting his ass beaten when he picks up a knife, and then he somehow wins the fight (even though we don’t see it). I was troubled by this and even backed it up to watch again.
Finally, after Garrett is revealed to be the Clairvoyant and is neutralized (in no small part to Ward and Skye blowing up the processing center), vindicating Coulson despite his extensive rap sheet of transgressions, both Ward and Triplett feel betrayed by their friend and SO. So much so that Ward convinces Hand to let him accompany Garrett to his future holding cell.
Still, I didn’t see it coming.
Agent Ward Revealed
Hand, now believed to be the highest ranking living SHIELD agent with Coulson, gives Ward the opportunity to bury Garrett “a bit deeper” than in the Fridge. Instead, he shoots the two guards and her (three times!) before nodding to Garrett. Hail HYDRA!
A power grab is underway, as SHIELD and HYDRA fight for control of the facilities and the resources contained within them. And with SHIELD no longer in organized existence, everyone is on his or her own. The mission now is simply to survive.
It certainly doesn’t help them much that Ward now has a hard drive with all their alien technology and likely control of the Fridge and all the evil supervillains trapped inside. But what it does do is set the stage for some spectacular possibilities down the stretch.
Using the Captain America tie-in was a brilliant strategy, as such a TV-film crossover has never been done in such a quick manner, if ever. And the timelines associated with the order of the movies worked out perfectly, as the Steve Rogers story is one of the few that offers a syndicate organization like HYDRA that has always been lingering in the background.
It breathes new life into a series that barely needed it after a string of increasingly entertaining episodes, and I, for one, applaud Marvel Studios for pulling it off. Even if Bill Paxton is the Clairvoyant.
You can watch Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)