And, we’re back! Last we saw on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the team had lost its leader, and the group is left in disarray after the explosion on the bridge. We’ve been teased about it all through the show’s winter hiatus, and we are FINALLY going to find out just how Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) came back to life after being stabbed to death by Loki in The Avengers!
This week, we see the return of some familiar faces, with the lovely folks from Centipede, who’ve been interrogating Coulson since his capture, and Saffron Burrows returning as Victoria Hand to help conduct the search for Coulson, at the behest of Director Fury. We keep hearing that “it’s all connected,” but after watching this episode, I’m wondering if anyone would really care that any of it’s connected.
In one of the high points of the episode, and the series, we finally know the answer to the question “What really happened to Coulson?” Of all of the theories I’ve heard, and of all that I thought would or could actually happen, I never pictured them going with something so… dark. While I try to avoid them in my reviews, we need to discuss Coulson’s revival, so…
****SPOILERS ARE FOLLOWING****
Okay, so, we now know that Coulson actually died, and not just for a few seconds, as we were originally told. He died, and he was dead for a few days! After many experiments and testing, and in one of the darkest things I’ve seen, we see S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors working on Coulson, who is begging them to let him die. The whole thing was really disturbing, and kinda made me feel sick to my stomach. Despite that, it’s a testament to Clark Gregg’s acting, and was definitely a solid reveal that lived up to its hype. This opens up a lot of doors for the character of Phil Coulson, and really changes just how he looks at S.H.I.E.L.D. from this point forward. Will he work to take down the organization from the inside? Or at least take down the people that did this to him? It’s just about the only things I want to see from this show at this point.
****END OF SPOILERS****
Clearly, the series has been built around this reveal for Coulson, so it’s no surprise that we learn much more of his backstory than we ever did before. While it felt a little too tailored for the story, learning about Coulson witnessing the death of his father was an interesting little surprise, although he obviously still would have been able to relate to Michael’s death without having had something similar happen in his own life, so it felt a little unnecessary in that respect. Finding out that he lost his mother as well, and more about his relationship with the girl he mentioned in the previous episode were all welcome developments, however. Some of Coulson’s best scenes in the series have been when he talks about this woman who, if we’re lucky, will have some sort of run-in with Coulson at some point in the series.
Speaking of unnecessary, the Edison Poe (Cullen Douglas) character turned out to be a complete waste of every minute he was on my screen, and literally served no purpose whatsoever, which was really disappointing. Not that Douglas did a bad job in his portrayal, as he absolutely added a creepy presence to the show, but was there any reason to even get him involved when Raina (Ruth Negga) was already acting on part of The Clairvoyant? I understand that it was to show the ruthlessness of this Clairvoyant person, but it didn’t really hold much weight, considering how little he actually got to do.
Skye (Chloe Bennet) gets to play a major role in Coulson’s rescue and, like her character or not, it was a fun little way of showing what she’s learned in her time working with S.H.I.E.L.D., and showing how they’ve grown as a team. Skye uses a combination of the skills she’s learned and what she originally brought to the table to trick Lloyd Rathman (Rob Huebel) into helping her find out where Centipede is hiding Coulson. It was pretty corny, sure, but it was one of the more entertaining parts that she’s had in the show. Her scene with Coulson during the rescue was easily her best yet, but that was mostly due to how great Gregg was. The bond between the two, while it won’t save the character for me, could definitely play a major part in Coulson’s development from this point forward.
Ward (Brett Dalton), May (Ming-Na Wen), Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are all barely more than background noise in this episode, and just basically show up to kick some ass and take care of all the technicalities that needed to be handled for the action sequences to make sense throughout the story. They really had no chance to shine in the episode, and if anything, came out of the episode much worse off than before. I mean, even with Coulson missing, they only managed to do- with all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s resources, I might add- what Skye was able to do in less time on her own! It’s a reflection of the show when their characters consistently have nothing to do, and aren’t really needed for the show to continue. That’s truly a shame, as each of them have potential as individual characters, as well as with the relationships between them, and while I don’t get the feeling that I should care about them at all, they don’t even get enough screen time to ALLOW me to care about them.
Well, it doesn’t seem like the hiatus did much in the way of improving a show with so much potential. The reveal of Coulson’s “magical place” was just about the only thing that worked in the episode, while the rest of the characters and relationships were swept under the rug yet again. There isn’t much more to say than that if they don’t build up the rest of these characters, each episode will continue to be a disappointment, which is far less than it should be.