“Yep, vanished, which I might add, not easy.”
So, after another, seemingly random hiatus, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back, and looking to maintain it’s run of actually somewhat meeting expectations! Did the break kill all of the momentum that they were finally starting to build, or is the show finally turning into something worth watching?
This week, Coulson and his crew are going undercover, hunting for that rich playboy asshole, Ian Quinn (David Conrad), who was revealed last week to have ties with the Clairvoyant. Being the team’s only lead, they’re tracking an object that they believe is being delivered directly to Quinn. Starting off with the usual S.H.I.E.L.D. briefing, intermixing with a montage of the team boarding the train in their undercover aliases, it seemed as though this would be an average episode. Once the team is made, however, we’re thrown into a Memento like sequence. After Ward (Brett Dalton) and Coulson (Clark Gregg) jump from the train, which curiously disappears, we’re taken back to each character, and where they were before everything went down, to find out just what exactly went down.
In our first flashback, we’re given a pairing that we haven’t much of yet in Ward and Coulson, which was really quite refreshing. It’s obvious that these two are something of mirror images of each other, and while I hadn’t really noticed it before, these similarities have them set on a collision course. These two badass agents aren’t ready to face certain obstacles alone, like the Holo-Table (a clever way of showing the need for the team’s other members), and in a lot of ways, are just too similar to work as an effective unit. They’re both natural leaders, and have father-son dynamic starting to develop, especially when it comes to Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). While Coulson questions Ward on his decision to have a relationship with May, Ward is also beginning to question Coulson’s judgment, which, I hope, will lead to a major blow up between these two.
When you see May for the first time since the train “disappears,” she comes and kills a supposed ally of Coulson’s, without so much as an explanation, and you’re left scratching your head. She’s beaten, bloody, and extremely pissed off, and I couldn’t understand how so much could have happened to her, until they show her finding Coulson and Ward frozen. When we see how she got to the point of meeting up with the guys, it’s sort of hard not to start liking her, if only a little. She completely kicked ass, and it hardly felt forced. I can definitely see a place for her character now, but they’ve got to keep building the emotional, human side of her for it to work. Hot-wiring the car for Coulson and Ward, showing genuine concern for Skye toward the end of the episode; these are all steps in the right direction. I’m not sure what sort of tactical advantage wearing heels gives May, though.
While Ward and May are teamed up early on, we don’t get to see them together much after that. Unfortunately, we only get the normal teases; Ward says something that could be referring to their relationship, May acting like she doesn’t care at all. I see what their getting at, but I’m just kind of sick of it. Yes, these two are cold, unfeeling field operatives, but you’ve already established that they have real, human emotion for each other. Why can’t we see just a sliver more of that so that we can relate to it? The “all business” front that they have is fine, but just let us know that isn’t all there is to it. One thing that I picked up on, and I’m not sure what the point of it was, was when Ward is fighting that blonde chick in the beginning, and he delivers the final blow to her chest rather than the head. Is this supposed to play off of his wanting to protect May, so he’s going to treat every woman like they’re more fragile than the guys are (one of which, he turned around and kneed so hard in the face, that he actually flew through the air)? I really hope not.
One of the main things I’m taking away from last night’s episode was how much we really got to learn about Simmon’s (Elizabeth Henstridge) character. While she’s only given a small bit in the beginning that was fun; berating Coulson– while in the character of his daughter, of course– for the horrible treatment of her mother and his “prostitutes.” This is right about when we get our cameo, in the middle of her rant, when none other than Stan Lee interrupts her! I was definitely taken by surprise by how quickly he makes his appearance (before even the opening title screen), but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It wasn’t much, and it may have even been lessened by Stan Lee’s appearance, but it did show how seriously Simmons takes every situation, and it’s interesting to see what choices she makes given how serious they are to her. After Ward and Coulson figure out that time has been lapsed, they find the train, with a startled Simmons inside. As we see in the Fitz and Skye flashback, Simmons, not knowing what those weird blue grenades do, sacrificed herself to save Skye and Fitz. Luckily, it wasn’t anything fatal, but I think this speaks volumes about her character who, in just about the only other character development we’ve seen from her yet, was ready to throw herself from the plane in order to save the team.
In the final flashback, we see Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Skye (Chloe Bennet) who, in the present time, are still lost. They discover, after Simmons’ sacrifice, that the grenade is an evolved form of the “night-night gun”; how Cybertek’s people got their hands on it, we still have yet to find out. After subduing one of the baddies, they follow the Cybertek people from the train, leading them right to Quinn. Although it has been hinted at before, Skye and Fitz have a certain chemistry that was nice to see more here. Fitz, being his oddball self, and Skye, finally understanding what she is, I think that there is room for something to happen between this unlikely pairing. There’s a sense of affection from Fitz, and admiration from Skye, that just seems natural, and they’d be silly not to capitalize on that. Plus, who doesn’t want to see the nerd get the girl? Depending on the fate of Skye following tonight’s episode, that’s something I’d like to see moving forward, as I think both characters would benefit from it, instead of doing basically nothing like they’ve been.
After hearing the Cybertek guys talking, we hear that Quinn’s “purchase is downstairs.” Turns out, not only the box that they were chasing is down there, but perhaps something even more important— Michael Peterson (J. August Richards)… well, what’s left of him, anyway. Looks like he’s back, and all cyborg-ed up for his role as Deathlok (confirmed by a sort of silly little marking on his new robotic leg). After wiping out the Cybertek guys, we see that the Clairvoyant is in full control, and doesn’t want him to engage S.H.I.E.L.D., for some odd reason. I guess the idea is that, when they find out that he thinks the Clairvoyant has his son, they’ll just tell him the truth, but couldn’t the Clairvoyant threaten him into not even mentioning anything about how he’s being manipulated? Maybe I’m missing something, but it’s obviously only a matter of time until they tell him the truth and he joins back up with S.H.I.E.L.D.
The episode ends with a bang, and in a huge twist of events, we’re put in a sink or swim situation with Skye. After being shot (twice) by Quinn, we’re left wondering just what was so special about Skye when she was found by S.H.I.E.L.D., and if that something special is going to save her life. If she’s a 0-8-4, does that mean she isn’t human? Is she some sort of mutant, or could she gain some sort of regenerating powers? While that remains to be seen, we do see the whole team come together to save her. Rifts are sent through the team, and we see that the previews weren’t lying when they said the team would be changed forever.
All in all, ‘T.R.A.C.K.S.” is another solid offering from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in terms of character and story development, but more than that, it was actually engaging television. I was genuinely entertained watching the story unfold, and, from beginning to end, I actually had that excitement of wondering what would happen next. It’s surely not perfect yet, but this episode is a sign that it’s on its way of becoming the show that it was supposed to be, which is more than just a show that does little else than reference The Avengers.