Warning: this episode has not yet broadcast in the UK! Spoilers follow, as usual…
Writers: Paul Zbyszewski and Brent Fletcher
Director: Kevin Hooks
THE ONE WHERE Thanks to Centipede’s interrogation of Coulson, we find out that he wasn’t in Tahiti at all – because SHIELD are creepy brain botherers. Skye gets booted off the Bus and goes rogue, helping track down the Centipede base so that SHIELD can raid it.
VERDICT Set 36 hours after Phil Coulson was snatched, this episode ought to be better. It’s not stand-alone, it plugs into Marvel continuity, it promises action and combat and character development, and teases a big reveal about the central mystery of Coulson’s resurrection. It just about delivers on this, but not with enough decisiveness. It just should be more fun than this, more energetic. The actual taking out of Centipede’s operations was basically done in the background by Victoria Hand’s team, while more mystery was added to the arc story instead of a truly healthy resolution.
The two best things about it are: Skye masquerading as Melinda May; and the startling, grizzly image of that spidery machine digging into Coulson’s brain. Apart from that, the episode feels like it chugs, and although there’s warmth as our field agents start to stick up for Skye, the team still don’t banter convincingly. Where are the wisecracks that made us love Avengers Assemble?
In fairness, Clark Gregg is acting his government-issue socks off. Coulson is squeezed hard – giving in to Centipede’s torture even, because he wants to know what his own secret is – and Gregg is excellent, even if his pained gurns are a little comical. And we learn a little more about him: the loss of a father at a young age, his pain at how SHIELD broke his cellist girlfriend’s heart by telling her he was dead. It has depth. But it feels so rushed, and it’s hard to believe that Coulson is worth so much to SHIELD. “I’ve been on the phone with Director Fury… everybody wants an update. No single agent is worth this,” we’re told and we can believe that – why is everybody trying so hard to keep this character alive? The show is desperate to make us think Coulson is a Marvel icon. Talking of which…
COULSON’S RESURRECTION Not what I was expecting at all, still very vague, and nowhere near as fun as making him a Life Model Decoy or something. Apparently Coulson was dead for several days, that Fury gave instructions to use experimental and probably illegal “procedures” to bring him back, that the process messed up his mind and they had to use some kind of spidery robot thing to implant fake memories of Tahiti on top of all the agony. The scene with the bot performing brain surgery is chilling. But why does Fury think Coulson is worth all this, why is his resurrection kept so secret from all but the highest levels of SHIELD, and what procedures exactly are we talking about here? Let’s hope there is more detail to come because this felt undercooked.
DID YOU SPOT? The baddies pointedly don’t use a gender for the Clairvoyant, saying just “the Clairvoyant” and not using pronouns. Coulson says “he” but perhaps he’s just making assumptions.
GOOD COP BAD COP Is it really okay for our agents to torture the British prisoner by opening the cell to the outside air? (Note: depending on altitude, the mere depressurisation and loss of air could have killed them both). It was a great special effect and it moved on the plot, but these “unique interrogation skills”, these by-any-means-necessary approaches, seem to show our “heroes” at their worst.
TRIVIA This episode’s director Kevin Hooks is best known as a regular director on TV’s Prison Break. He was also an actor, for instance in the 1978-1981 series The White Shadow.
REFERENCES Looks like Coulson is being held in the nuclear testing town out of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Meanwhile, Simmons calls Skye “Dr Nugent” on the phone by way of a disguise – there is a Dr Nugent in the Marvel universe, a colleague of Hank “Ant-Man” Pym who eventually becomes Doctor Spectrum. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but worth a mention.
IT’S WOSSISNAME! Saffron Burrows plays SHIELD’s Victoria Hand again this episode. Plus of course you will have seen Firefly‘s Ron Glass playing Dr Streiten, Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury (briefly, silently) and right at the end J August Richards as Mike Peterson… who now has a missing leg and one of the Centipede implants in his eye. Ah well, at least he’s not dead like we feared at the end of the last episode.
• Episodes of Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD will be returning to Channel 4 in the UK in March. We will resume our episode reviews then.
• Read our previous coverage of Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD.
• There’s an Agents Of SHIELD feature in our amazing superheroes bookazine!
• Famous SHIELD agents Nick Fury and Black Widow come under our microscope in the very next edition of Comic Heroes magazine, on sale from Friday 17 January.