“Not agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., just agents of… nothing”
With last week’s episode showing that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can hold the weight of being the MCU tie-in that we all wanted it to be, this episode asked the question of “Can they keep it up?” While the answer to that may have been obvious to most viewers, we’ve definitely got an idea of what we can expect from here on out.
After last week’s huge turn around (pun somewhat intended), we are flung into “Providence” with a ton of momentum, and a pantload of questions. Ward’s shocking turn, Garrett’s reveal as The Clairvoyant, the death of Agent Hand, and the uncertainty of just who Coulson and his team can trust, all hanging in the air as we went into this episode. Not only did they manage to tease these stories out even further, but they are even adding some exciting new elements to the mix, and aren’t overusing existing ones, like Deathlok, which was a main worry of mine.
Firmly aligned alongside his old SO, Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) has now revealed himself to be fighting on the side of Hydra. Brett Daulton’s portrayal in the double agent Grant Ward role is easily the most thrilling thing he’s done all season, but I think it’s up there as one of the best parts of this show presently. This new side to his character is definitely a nicer fit for him, let alone the wrinkles it adds to the storyline. The fact that his whole team still doesn’t know the truth about him is great, and really leaves the show open for something big as the finale approaches. Skye (Chloe Bennet) and her relationship with Ward feels like it’s going to be built as the climax, once she learns of Ward’s turn, and they are really playing to that end in every interaction they have. While it seems like he’s just finding his place on the show, I’m beginning to think I had just misinterpreted what he was supposed to be.
With S.H.I.E.L.D. disbanded, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is dead set on ensuring the survival of his team, which gives us a Coulson that we’ve never seen before. After having Skye wipe any record of the team’s existence, he decides that their only option is to vanish, but not before finding hidden coordinates on his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge, leaving him with one last shred of hope. The character of Phil Coulson, as well as the distrust of everything he used to believe in, continues to grow even more, and that’s never been more showcased than here. From realizing he can’t trust Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), his closest confidant, to learning that Nick Fury wasn’t in charge of the “Tahiti Project,” and that only the Director himself knows who was, Phil is being broken down further with every secret they reveal. Does that mean Coulson’s being influence by Hydra, or that he could be down the road? He really begins to lose it as the team starts questioning him, as he’s following the last thing he feels he can believe in; his badge. Will Coulson’s faith in the system ever be rewarded, or will he have to place his faith in something else?
The big guest star heading into tonight’s episode was Patton Oswalt as Eric Koenig, who the team discovers just as Coulson begins to lose faith. After thinking that Fury has been dead all of this time, Koenig explains to Coulson that, as one of the few people to know this, Nick is still alive, and that no one other than Coulson can know. It seems as though this character was introduced just in time, to represent hope, for Coulson and for S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m not sure how much of a role Oswalt will be playing in upcoming episodes, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy his work, and it was great to see him on the show. Even though he didn’t do much other than let Coulson in on that very important piece of information, and possibly restoring a bit of his hope, I can only hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him.
Another character that I’ve been enjoying on the show, as of late, is Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). While she herself isn’t shown doing much, she does serve as a common bond for a bunch of the show’s characters. One of the trends that are becoming more noticeable on the show is the constant head butting of Simmons and Coulson, much in the way that Jack Shephard and John Locke did on Lost. While Simmons doesn’t get nearly as much screen-time as I’d like to see, she has managed to develop this science vs. faith dynamic with Coulson, as well as an interesting love triangle of sorts with Triplett (B.J. Britt) and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker). She’s becoming the glue between many of the team’s members, and it works to make the little bit we do see her that much more valuable.
One thing that really rubbed me the wrong way about tonight’s episode, though, was the cookie cutter villainy that John Garrett (Bill Paxton) has now adopted. The dark lair, and the campy dialogue to match; it feels like he’s completely bailed on the established character in favor of a clichéd bad guy. Frankly, it was a let down, and I’d have loved to see him resemble his old character, with maybe only a slightly darker edge. His relationship with Ward, on the other hand, is really fun, in a twisted sort of way. They do a wonderful job of showing Ward’s dedication to him, and that’s driven home in the scene where Garrett helps him to get back into his “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” character. Although I was really caught off guard by the lackluster change in his character, I think there’s a chance he could redeem himself in coming episodes.
“Providence” is yet another great episode, even if it’s not nearly as exciting as “Turn, Turn, Turn” was. Sure, in the wake of last week, it was slow at times, but the direction and development is really beginning to find it’s place on this show, and it’s staying on track. This episode managed to be chockfull of references to the comics and MCU films, developed the characters and storyline at a decent pace, and even introduced new guest characters successfully. With the ending tease revealing that Garrett is in possession of the Gravitonium, and the preview for next week showing some super-powered baddies that were let out of The Fridge wreaking havoc, the show is truly taking the form that us fans have always wanted. Now is the time to watch, folks!