[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episode 14, "T.A.H.I.T.I."

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
Is ABC disappointed in Agents of SHIELD's performance? Yes, you better believe it. If they hadn't gotten a full season order straight out of the gate, based on the rating I doubt they'd have gotten much past 13. How do we know ABC is disappointed in the show? Well, aside from the fact that they came out and said so, all you have to do is look at how they've treated the show. In the early days, they gave the show every opportunity to find it's footing. They advertised the show loudly, and allowed it the consistency of broadcast so that viewers could find it. The writing let the network down, and viewers left the show in droves. So, it's a shame that as the writing had begun to pick up that the network has become apathetic. Five episodes have aired in the last three months.

Granted, there was the standard Christmas break in there, and even taking into account the ridiculous time off for the Olympics (if new episodes had aired while NBC was botching that broadcast, SHIELD's rating would have skyrocketed if only because nothing else new was on), they came back for two episodes in January and one in February. It's been a month since Skye's cliffhanger confrontation with Quinn, and viewers would not be held accountable for forgetting exactly how things have transpired since the turn of the calendar. This episode picked up on the lingering plot, and took Coulson's mystery into a genuinely interesting direction. It was lacking in a lot of places, but at this point I was just happy for a new episode.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are not so magical.

So, let's cut to the chase and talk about the big blue guy in a cryo-tube. 'Cause there was a big blue guy in a cryo-tube. Coulson's discovery of the real source of his recovery will be what this episode is remembered for. Back a couple episodes, when Coulson dug through his memories and discovered how they brought him back, I said that it was very underwhelming. And, there was still plenty about it that was unexplained. This episode took a solid step towards filling more of the gaps, and might have opened up a new corner of the MCU in the process. The running theory is that said blue man, beyond looking like the aliens from Prometheus and drudging up all those bad memories, is probably a Kree, the most prominent blue skinned aliens in the Marvel Universe. Getting a glimpse of one now might be build up to an appearance in Guardians. It also opens up future use of Captain Marvel (hopefully the Carol Danvers version) and a pile more characters that get their powers from Kree technology, which might also be the origins of the weird mind probe that was doing work on Coulson's brain.

The whole episode was a drive to discover exactly what happened to Coulson, in order to save Skye, who spends the episode in a med lab, and is considerably less annoying than usual. And the biggest problem with that was how easily everything went for them. There was plenty of manufactured drama (the LOST-like hatch attendants and the explosives being the most obvious), but any time there was the possibility of SHIELD's job being hard, it was over come in seconds. Garrett''s team is hostile, until they get talked into helping. Fitz has all the SHIELD paperwork, which they dig through with the flick of a hand, and SHIELD apparently hides the location of secret bases in 3D renderings using digital code. And Quinn, still in custody, reveals pretty quickly that this was all part of the plan, because the mysterious (and increasingly annoyingly absent) Clairvoyant has no idea how SHIELD brought Coulson back, and that freaks him the hell out. They still ahven't sorted out exactly how this Clairvoyant works, because if he can read minds then it stands to reason that as soon as Coulson and co. entered the Guest House that he would have been able to read their minds, and know that it was the blood of half a space alien that done the deed. That's the problem with an absent antagonist: the writers can literally make up anything they want, and contradict or be as inconsistent as they want right up until they reveal them.

The episode also introduced John Garrett, as played by Bill Paxton, in what is billed as a recurring role (though we've heard that before about other characters). Garrett has more charm and is a better defined character than most of Coulson's team, which has actually been the norm for the guest stars. His team, of which we only get to see one other member, but used to include Grant, has also been hunting Quinn, but manages to avoid the question of whether Coulson's team are the only ones hunting Centipede. You'd think that a threat this large would have multiple teams working different aspects of it, but Garrett seemed in the dark about some details. However, he was aware of Project Deathlok, which Coulson wasn't on account of Skye getting shot. The organizational consistency is another structural problem the show has. Though, the Triskelion got another mention, ahead of it's Winter Solider debut. The show has never really felt like part of the MCU. It's been filled with references to Tony Stark and the Hulk and plenty of stuff about Thor, but it never really felt integrated. This episode felt more like a commercial for what will be coming up in the MCU rather than just being part of the universe.

Jeffrey Bell wrote some of the most arc-heavy episodes of Angel's later run, including most of the material about The Beast, arguably the most successful aspect of season 4. So, it stands to reason that this episode would be fairly arc heavy. It did contribute a lot to Coulson's on-going mystery, and to Skye's (she might be Kree?) But the flaws of the larger show bare down so heavily on each episode, it takes a lot of work for individual episodes to rise above them. The best thing about this episode was the noticeable increase in budget for the CG. The docking scene with the Bus, and the explosion at the end looked better than anything else the show has done to this point, and I wonder why now? Was ABC looking to make a splash for their return? If so, that is a pretty paltry way of doing so. But if the writing doesn't get better across the board soon, being pretty looking is about all the show will have going for it.

Next week, as they spent an extended stinger setting up, Asgard comes to Migard, and part of me thinks that if they wanted to give the show a more serialized feel, they should have been using the stingers to tease the next episode all along. It was effectively next week's cold open. And that might have been an effective tactic to keep viewers coming back, week after week.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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