Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Tries to Set The Stage for Captain America

4/02/2014 Unknown 0 Comments

I don't know what to say about this show anymore.  I'm realizing that I never know what context I should be evaluating it in.  Do I compare it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe it dabbles in, do I compare it to the rest of the shows on television, or do I compare it against itself?

The show has grown by leaps and bounds, no doubt.  I think it has definitely gotten over the burden of world building they had to grind through for so much of the first half of the season, but I have yet to get the feeling it's in full stride.  Every episode that I anticipate will really blow the world open ends up delaying the promise of opening the throttle for another week.

To be honest, this week was a solid episode.  One of the best actually.  I think they've finally fixed the stuttered pacing of the show and put together a solid string of episodes.  But where does this fit?  I think it was a great installment as far as the show goes and I can see some ways in which it leads in to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which takes place between this episode and the next—In real time (for the US release) and MCU time—but this episode felt more like it was trying to shuffle around to get out of the shadow of Captain America so as to avoid crossover instead of encouraging it.

As always, it's worth watching.  Watch it, definitely go see Captain America this weekend, then watch next week's episode.  I hate to push the "does this shared universe model work?" question off another week, again, but hopefully this episode makes sense as a Captain America: The Winter Soldier prologue and the remainder of the season works as an epilogue (hopefully with some Guardians of the Galaxy tie-ins).

[Spoilers from here on out]

I don't mean to trash the shared universe model too much.  There are some good shared moments in this show, and this episode demonstrated that.  As Coulson brings a team together to track down the Clairvoyant, we get to see a congregation of various S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, such as Jasper Sitwell (seen in Thor, The Consultant one-shot, and The Avengers), Felix Blake (seen in the Item 47 one-shot), Victoria Hand (seen exclusively in AoS), and Jonathan Garrett (seen exclusively in AoS).

This sort of meeting of the minds goes a long way to elevate the version S.H.I.E.L.D in the TV show to the level of competency we see in the Marvel movies.  There was no Nick Fury or Maria Hill, but things made sense for once.  They also took "The Bus" and landed it on an aircraft carrier that I can only imagine was actually a helecarrier.  I found that to be a smart way for the show to showcase S.H.I.E.L.D without the mega budget needed to have a helecarrier transform and fly.

Deathlok gets the update we've all been waiting to see.  He looks ok.  The TV budget definitely shows through, but a little battle damage on his suit will go a long way to making him look a little more authentic.  We can already see where a bullet ricocheted off the metal plate under his face, tearing some skin away.  A little more of that and some additional armor damage to take away the Power Rangers factor and he'll look great.  He could also use some more personality.  He does say "Michael Peterson is dead," so it makes sense, but he's a little to robotic of a killing machine to find very compelling.

So all the agents pair off to go snag a potential Clairvoyant candidate, which requires them to make Skye an official agent so she'll have proper security clearance.  It was a little contrived, but it needed to happen, so I'll buy it.

Of the named Clairvoyant candidates, the only person that resembled an existing Marvel Character is "Rico Santo," who is supposed to be a brilliant mind a la Rico, the son (or grandson?) of Reed Richards.  The show refers to Rico as a female and his ties are under the Fantastic 4/X-Men umbrella, which is owned by Fox, so it's likely not a reference.  However, Coulson does reference "Department H," which is almost a Canadian S.H.I.E.L.D of sorts, but also traditionally an X-Men property, so who knows.  Maybe the properties aren't so cleanly divided as usually indicated (as evidenced by Quicksilver appearing in Fox's X-Men Days of Future Past and Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron).

Early on, Agent Sitwell get called back to The Hub (likely due to developments related to Captain America) and Agent hand also leaves so she can run support operations.  Simmons (who is still trying to identify GH325 in Skye's blood) goes with to have access to a better lab.

After tracking Deathlok leads them to a catatonic Thomas Nash, who is being posed as the Clairvoyant, Ward is apparently manipulated into killing Nash in order to cover the Clairvoyant's trail.

The last 5 minutes of the show is when most of the interesting parts happen.  Skye and Coulson discover that the Clairvoyant may not actually be psychic, and is actually an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D and that's why he/she/it doesn't know what happened to Coulson, since all those files were completely classified.

Unfortunately, this scenario would rule out most of my possible identities for the Clairvoyant, but could line up with The Winter Soldier plot from the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.  If that turns out to be the case, Robert Redford's character, Alexander Pierce, could actually be the Red Skull.  He was merely teleported away at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, so this is entirely possible.

Fitz also discovers Agent May's secure line out, which she has been using to report on the team to someone unknown.  This leads to Coulson accusing May of working with the Clairvoyant, which immediately results in "The Bus" going into autopilot and changing course.

The episode ends with Agent Hand instructing her agents to kill everyone aboard once the plane lands, but to "leave Coulson" for her.  She herself is likely not the Clairvoyant, but she is probably working for Alexander Pierce.  At the end we get a clip from Captain America: The Winter Soldier that we've seen in the trailer where Fury's SUV is flipped by The Winter Soldier, teasing the tie in.

It's extremely unlikely we'll see any major AoS appearances in Captain America, other than maybe Agent Sitwell.  It would be cool to see something stronger, but it would be difficult to pull off without feeling out of place.  Elements from the movie crossing over into next week's episode, though?  That remains to be seen.

With all the remaining episodes airing without a break we can hopefully expect to get more of the escalation we've seen on the recent episodes.  The tension is building, but how many more episodes will we have to wait for it to break?  Next week will be a pivotal episode for this show, so lets hope they nail it.

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