This week’s episode is a continuation of the show’s “Uprising” television event, as well as a continuation from the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As S.H.I.E.L.D. threatens to crumble beneath the feet of Coulson and his team, who can be trusted, and who is working for the enemy?
After last week’s crazy turn of events, the show is at an all-time high, and for the first time since it’s debut, I was excited to watch. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed. This was EASILY the best episode from the show yet, and it was a friggen awesome show. Constant twists, heavy action, and great character development fills this episode out, and shows us that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can still be the show that we always wanted it to be.
John Garrett (Bill Paxton) returns once again, and is immediately attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D. fighter jets, showing that no one in the organization is safe. Victoria Hand’s mission to destroy those who oppose her group continues, and links up squarely with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As boring as the Thor: The Dark World crossover was, this one makes perfect sense, and goes behind the scenes of S.H.I.E.L.D. during a story in which we actually want to know what’s going on behind the scenes.
The scene between Coulson, Skye, Fitz and May is by far the most intense, most enjoyable scene that’s been on the show up to this point. The tension felt so true, with the calm, collected Coulson just moments away from putting a bullet in one of his closest confidants. As the aircraft is being rerouted to Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), Coulson has to find out who’s turned on them, and find a way to override the system before they reach their destination. Before he can do that, however, Skye deciphers a signal from S.H.I.E.L.D., revealing Hydra has roots inside of the organization. Before they are able to figure out who’s the traitor, Garrett reminds Coulson that in order to survive, they may have to rely on the entire team, including May and Ward.
Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is such a wild card in this episode, and I think that was something the rest of the story benefitted greatly from. As someone who’s so close to Coulson, but was also reporting to someone on a mysterious phone line, can she be trusted? When she comes clean about reporting to Director Fury (or so she says), is she being truthful about everything else? Not knowing, and even somewhat not understanding, her morality as a spy is one of my favorite parts of this arc. At what point does the person end, and the spy begin? She eventually lets us in on the true reason for her phone line, and the fact that she was the one who really assembled this team, despite what Coulson thought, which has not only betrayed him as a team member, but as a friend.
Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) hasn’t really done much in quite some time, aside from shooting Thomas Nash last week, but that sure turned picked up tonight. Honestly, this is the best performance from Brett Daulton I’ve seen, especially when he confronts May about reporting on them behind their backs. I don’t know if the man has been taking acting lessons or what, but he was more believable in everything he did in this episode. Even seeing his relationship with Skye (Chloe Bennet) take a step further was fun, and it didn’t feel forced as it did before. It made me care about the both of them, even if just for a short time. Not to mention, the fight scene between he and the strike team was amazing. His true moment, however, came later on in the episode, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Working with Agent Triplett (B.J. Britt) at The Hub in her quest to figure out what GH-325 is, Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) has one of the biggest roles that she’s had yet. Both characters get to stretch their legs here, and we really get to see Trip actually have something to say for the first time. He’s definitely a fun pair with Simmons, but they don’t seem to have the chemistry that she has with Fitz (Iain De Caestecker). They stay mostly in the role of “damsel in distress,” but they do play a big part in one of the episode’s main twists.
Phil Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) character takes a leap here that we haven’t seen since finding out about Tahiti. Throughout everything, from the first moment we met Phil, he’s had S.H.I.E.L.D. at his back, and a team that he relied on around him. For the first time, he’s alone, and it’s refreshing to see how he reacts in this situation. Gone is the Coulson who goes by the book, or gives the benefit of the doubt to the one’s he trusts; he’s surviving. Everything he knew and stood for is gone, and it’s just he and his team, trying to make it out alive, making for a much more exciting Coulson.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
In the episode’s biggest twists, as well as the resolve to the Clairvoyant storyline, we now know just who that person is: Bill Paxton’s John Garrett. Sure, some may have seen it coming, but it was slyly worked in so as to not be too obvious. Who’d expect someone like him, from what we’ve seen? And just as soon as I was done writing about the turn of John Garrett, yet another HUGE twist hits us— thus fulfilling the “Turn, Turn, Turn” name of this episode— as Ward reveals himself to be working alongside Garrett all along, (presumably) killing Victoria Hand (one of the two highest ranking members of S.H.I.E.L.D. left alongside Phil Coulson) and the other S.H.I.E.L.D. security on the plane, before giving a smirk to his SO Garrett. This swerve for Ward is a good move, and really opens the door for him. I’ve felt for a while that he was underutilized on the team, and this change should send ripples through the relationships he had with Skye and May, especially.
In essence, this is exactly what an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover should always be. While we didn’t see any special character cameos from Cap 2, we got a full on tie-in, following the exact story from the film, but from the perspective of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. It’s not one minor element from the film being carried over. From the death of Fury, to the revelation of Hydra—hell, we even got that neat little gadget that cuts through the floor! – we are seeing everything that took place in the movie through a different set of eyes, and seeing how it affects those faceless agents that we saw in the background of the original telling. On top of that, they didn’t completely ignore the characters as they did in the previous crossover, instead using the tie-in to boost everyone to a whole new level. It really felt like an extension of the movie, and 100% carried the quality of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with it, and leaves me as excited and hopeful for the future of this show than ever.