Monday, 13 January 2014

S1x11 - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Magical Place

Aired 07/01/2014 on ABC

Happy New Year! The clock struck twelve and brought us the brand spanking new 2014, and with it came a new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. When we last saw the team, Coulson had been captured by Centipede, Ward had been shot and Mike Peterson was killed in a fire. We pick up thirty six hours later and see that Ward is fine and the team become a single unit to take down Vanchat, a man who could possibly lead them to the people holding Coulson captive, plus the plane is overrun with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as they bumble around in a flurry of activity under the watchful eye of Agent Hand.

One thing that is guaranteed when a situation like this crops up on a TV show is that the people in charge, who are leading the efforts to find whoever it is they’re trying to find, always come off as a hard-ass who you kind of hate, and the team that you’ve been following since the shows conception take off on their own and prove the big agency wrong by finding the target themselves. This is exactly what happened this episode and it was Skye’s time to shine as the hacker she is, and to be fair to her, she did pretty well.

Hand decided that Skye, who is not a proper agent, had no business being there and ordered her to be taken off the plane and have her technology stopping bracelet be increased in power. When Ward protested, Hand asked for May’s opinion who said that Skye was better off the plane (we found out later she was just being a badass by getting Skye somewhere with no agents to make it easier), so Ward set her off into the big bad world with a few presents from FitzSimmons and a twelve hour head start from the agents meant to be taking her.

She went to various internet cafés to try and hack into Vanchat’s bank account to find a trail leading back to Centipede, but her pesky bracelet was now so sensitive that it kept causing everything to be locked down by S.H.I.E.L.D. So she decided to try hacking life instead as she conned her way into a rich guy’s house and cosplayed as an agent in order to get him to access his off shore bank accounts so she could hack into Vanchat’s. This kind of stuff would never work in real life, but considering we’re watching a world where Norse Gods who are really aliens occasionally visit, it didn’t bother me that much, and Skye did actually play a pretty convincing agent.

Under her directions, they were able to follow the trail back to find out that Centipede had purchased a small place recently, so she rang the team and they set off to find Coulson against Agent Hand’s wishes, who instead went off to investigate a ‘better’ lead. She was of course wrong, and our little team found the place where Coulson was being kept, which was an old nuclear testing place that was honestly the creepiest place on Earth, as mannequins were dotted around acting out happy family scenes.

This is where the revelation we waited for these past few months comes in as we see Coulson be interrogated for information on what happened to him after he died. Po, the marine guy who was broken out of jail, was using a cattle prod to get him to co-operate with them and let them use a machine that would help him remember things he had forgotten. Funnily enough, it wasn’t working out too great. Apparently the mysterious Clairvoyant thought so too and killed Po, handing the reigns over to Raina, the lady in the flower dress.

She was much nicer to Coulson; giving him a drink, talking to him like a human being. Coulson was still reluctant to use the machine, but Raina is actually really persuasive. She told him a bunch of personal things she shouldn’t know and said that the Clairvoyant ‘saw’ them, but what he can’t see is what happened to Coulson after he died. Centipede wants to recreate this so they can bring their super soldiers back from the dead too.

Eventually, her persuasion and Coulson’s own curiosity won out and he used the machine to remember. At first we saw the familiar scenes of a beach in Tahiti, but the memory changed into Coulson in an operating room with his head cut open and a machine playing with his brain.

Turns out the big secret that is Coulson, is not that he is a clone or a robot, but that he was actually dead for days before Fury decided to use any means necessary to bring him back. When Coulson confronted one of the doctors he remembered being there (yay Shepherd Book!), he said that he went through numerous surgeries and was in intense pain but they didn’t stop. Coulson was actually pleading for them to let him die to no effect, but they altered his brain so he was less ‘I have no will to live’ and more ‘Tahiti is a magical place.’

Although this is insanely creepy, it wasn’t exactly the most startling revelation I’ve ever heard. It was basically a really elaborate way to say they brought him back to life using advanced (possibly alien) technology and they made him forget. I could have told you that in the first episode. Considering the amount of hinting and build up we’ve had, it wasn’t much of a pay-off. But we still don’t know why S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone to all this effort to make sure he doesn’t remember, and that could be where the main interest lies. Or it could be wishful thinking, either one.

Overall I wouldn’t say it was a particularly bad episode, but if you look at it as the return from the mid-season finale it falls flat. The team are all back together again and I’m sure this issue with Coulson will be a running theme from now on, but honestly I want to know more about Raina. She had some crafty little lines and looks with Coulson that made me want to know who she is and why she always wears flowers on her dress. She may have been taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. but somehow I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking too.

The final revelation of the episode was the fact that Mike Peterson didn’t die in the explosion and is in fact alive. He woke up in a room, burns covering his arms and part of his face, and minus one leg, but he was alive. For a moment I thought S.H.I.E.L.D. had pulled a Coulson and brought him back, but then we saw a message pop up from his point of view telling him to wait for instructions. He now sports one of the camera eyes that could kill him in an instant if he doesn’t do what it says. Looks like Centipede have got themselves one more soldier...