We’re now on the last run of episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with no more scheduled breaks, and a story that will most definitely coincide with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Was it worth tuning in to see how the beginning of this so-so story ends?
The episode kicks off with the team hunting—or being hunted by—the cyborg formerly known as Michael Peterson. Agent John Garrett and Antoine Tripplet return, and are immediately embroiled in a battle with the newly christened Deathlok. With The Clairvoyant having his new toy on attack mode, Coulson decides that it’s best that his team keeps an eye on some of the key S.H.I.E.L.D. members (giving us hands down the highest number of special guests in one episode), while Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) stays at The Hub to run things behind-the-scenes as they narrow down suspects behind The Clairvoyant’s identity.
Skye (Chloe Bennet) is still recovering, and Coulson has her recognized as an official S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, which I just now realized hadn’t happened yet. What was she training for before, if she wasn’t officially a part of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Ward was her SO, but she wasn’t even a member, so what authority would he really have over her? What are the criteria for having an SO? I’m not a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.; do I have a SO in the organization? Anyway, with that little stupid bump aside, Skye’s main purpose is giving Coulson someone to play off of, and coming up with some convoluted way of basically mixing the team up so that we can get more insight on Ward and Coulson’s backgrounds, but she does get a short scene that shows how far her character has come, which was kind of nice.
Agent Grant Ward’s (Brett Dalton) character takes a turn in this episode, much like May’s did last week. After butting heads with Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt), he goes completely of his leash and kills the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s only lead on who The Clairvoyant might be, for no apparent reason. Seemingly having been compromised, Coulson is left to wonder just who could have ordered Ward to kill their only chance at finding the truth. Were May and Ward on this path from the beginning? I’d say it’s a long shot, despite the fact that these folks are supposed to be members of a secret organization, and their leader is a man brought back from the dead. Instead, it feels like some sort of cheap swerve, and is totally unlike the character as he’s been shown to us.
Melinda May’s (Ming-Na Wen) character has taken on a darker side, since last week’s secret call to S.H.I.E.L.D., during which she informs whoever that “Coulson knows.” Agent Felix Blake (Titus Welliver) and May are teamed up, with their target being a man in a coma, named Thomas Nash, who claimed to be psychic in the past. Fortunately, this leads them right into a battle with Deathlok, in which Blake is critically injured (Wow, when Deathlok throws Blake, the stunt guy doesn’t even have the same color hair), and May is left basically unharmed. While this gets called into question later, I’d make the argument that Deathlok never actually hits anyone with his new arm cannon, but the only other person at whom the weapon was aimed, was Agent Grant Ward. The issue with her character being shown in this traitorous light is that, in the past few episodes, she’s been shown not only as a hero, but even more so as someone who is loyal. While it’s surprising, it completely goes against the character that they’ve built her into. She’s gone to such great length to save the members of her team, and has shown emotional attachments to them even in moments of privacy, but was ready to turn on them all along?
Deathlok (J. August Richards) (and his silly costume) is the centerpiece to this week’s episode, but, with that being said, we get hardly any character development from him whatsoever. He’s very much a monster in the shadows who just attacks the agents once they get close enough to him, and who leads the group to “The Clairvoyant.” Personally, I was a bit confused as to why the hell his metallic faceplates are underneath the part of his face that isn’t horrible scarred? Wouldn’t it make loads more sense if it were reversed?
Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) finally gets his chance to be something of a hero, as he discovers May’s secret line when he tries to communicate with Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who was transferred to The Hub with Agent Triplett. While he doesn’t really do much, he does give Coulson and Skye the drop on the team’s traitors, giving them the upper hand. I’d still like more from these two, and I think that having Fitz and Simmons, along with Skye, as the only agents that Coulson can trust, we could get a chance to see that.
After tracking Deathlok to an abandoned racetrack, Coulson (Clark Gregg) finally meets “The Clairvoyant”. To his surprise, it’s a man who’s completely paralyzed, can only communicate through computer software, and immediately surrenders to the pair of Agent Coulson and Agent Garrett. The Clairvoyant, or Thomas Nash (Brad Dourif) as reveals his name to be, teases that something is coming for Coulson and Skye, just before Agent Ward shoots him. Coulson begins to think that the man that Ward killed wasn’t The Clairvoyant, but a decoy, given that they never actually see the man talk, but only the computer generate voice, which could have come from anywhere. He then realizes, as the majority of us already have, that The Clairvoyant is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that he can no longer trust anyone—not even his own team. We are really at a point where Coulson has come full circle; he’s gone from trusting the system, to having a slight doubt, which has now blossomed into such distrust, that the entire organization is threatening to collapse in on itself.
In a huge twist, we find that Victoria Hand is the one calling the shots, and the episode ends with her ordering that everyone onboard Coulson’s plane is to be killed, but to save Coulson for herself. This weeks ending clip, oddly enough, is a scene taken from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which we see Director Fury’s car blown up by The Winter Soldier. We are promised then, that everything changes this Friday, when the movie hits theaters.
As we end this episode, and are just days away from the release of the Captain America sequel’s release, we’re left with as much doubt and worry as Coulson has. Where do we go from here? Can the show recover, given a shift in format? Personally, I hope Ward and May are revealed to have been a part of this all along, and are then handled by Coulson and his remaining crewmembers. Surely, there will be huge changes for the show after this episode, and the events of The Winter Soldier, but what will be this season’s (or series’) endgame? More importantly, will S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson, his team, and the viewers be able to survive it?