[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episode 17, "Turn, Turn, Turn"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios
So... Sitwell really wasn't the Clairvoyant.

This week, SHIELD finally accomplished what was meant to be the point of the series from the start, with a fully integrated episode with the larger MCU. It coexisted alongside The Winter Soldier, adding depth and explanation to the aspects of the film that the film needed to gloss over in favour of maintaining it's pace. The purpose, as it was sold to us, of this series was to do just that. To be able to take the time and examine the finer details of the MCU. The series was meant to be the fine sword to the film's blunt hammer. And we got that here, in an episode that managed to balance it's own growing story lines with the dramatic revelations of the film. The characters were invested and engaging, some of them for the first time, and the twists were genuinely earned. For the first time in it's run, the show approached being good. And not just good-for-SHIELD, but good in general.

Hit the jump for the the review, which contains spoilers for this episode, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

If this episode rested on anything, it was the shoulders of Clark Gregg. There is a reason that this minor and innocuous character struck such a cord with fans of the films, and that is because of Gregg. He deserved to have the role of Coulson expanded on, and he deserved better than to be killed off for the sake of an emotional twinge, and he deserves a better show of his own. Should SHIELD fold after one season, he sure as hell deserves to be added back into the films. This episode showcased everything that makes Coulson the breakout character that he is, and little of it had to do with him being awesome, it was down to Gregg being impressive. His performance here, which ranged from scared and paranoid, to ruthless, to hurt but resilient, was a encapsulated advertisement for Coulson as a character. The scenes between him and May, and later him and Garrett were particularly effective at showing the two sides of his anguish. Faced with betrayals, one was a reaction of anger and fear, the other resigned acceptance.

Many on the internet are blaming the poor scheduling from ABC and the poor pacing of the series on the Marvel higher ups, but that isn't fair. As Kevin Feige revealed, Whedon and company knew about the plot of Winter Soldier from the series pitch meeting. This was, from the start, what the series was working towards, which makes the failures all the more glaring. Knowing exactly when and where they had to end up should have allowed them a ridged framework to work within. That the series has been as disjointed and the characters have been as underdeveloped for this long is a larger editorial failure on the part of the show's producers and writers. If the series gets cancelled, the blame cannot be levied towards the "unrealistic expectations of fans", as Whedon and Tancharoen have been insinuating in interviews, but can be directed squarely at them. As show runners, they mismanaged this series from the start. Only now, in the eleventh hour, when only the diehards and desperates (like myself) have stuck with them, have they shown their promise.

This episode picked up where the last left off, and about half way through Winter Soldier, with the broad-wave going out, calling all covert Hydra agents into the light. And to it's credit, the series answered many of the lingering questions I had about the level of infiltration into the SHIELD system. Seems that nearly all the higher level agents were Hydra, with only a random assortment of the foot soldiers and field agents in on the scheme. By the end, only Coulson and (presumably) Blake are left of the SHIELD hierarchy. It also illustrated that the Widow's internet dump and a few congressional hearings are a tidy end to the once massive intelligence system. With a multitude of SHIELD bases around the globe, Hydra is not so much on the run as they enduring an occupation. Some facilities are far enough off the grid, like the Fridge, that they become part of a free for all. Some, like the Hub, are secured. Others, like presumably the facility glimpsed in the Winter Soldier's post credits scene, are under full Hydra control. Moving forward, the show's dynamic actually promises to be interesting, with the few remaining SHIELD faithful on the run from both the US government and from now exposed Hydra operatives.

Perhaps my favourite part of this episode was Victoria Hand. Off the back of last week's cliffhanger, and half an episode's worth of presumptions here, we're lead to believe that she is one of the many heads of the Hydra. In truth, she was a Fury loyalist (way to use the character's comic origins to play against expectations) who suspected Coulson of being a high-level Hydra agent. And proceeding to list all of the stupid ass things Coulson has done this season as proof, not to mention his previous chumminess with Sitwell. I was sad that the writers chose to kill her off by episode's end. SHIELD agents apparently don't have that long a shelf life, in either the films or the series, but a suggestion of longevity might have been nice. I wonder if it was a sign on the writers part, in their lack of confidence of having any longevity in which to bring her back. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into that.

I walked out of the Winter Soldier not really understanding what Hydra hoped to gain in their plan. Murdering 20 million people from the sky (including Steven Strange!) that posed direct threats to their operations, but I guess they assumed that the rest of the 7 billion people left on the planet would just accept that action, and cower to Hydra rule? In the same way, I don't understand what the Clairvoyant's plan has been. When they introduced Centipede, you could understand the logic: a terrorist organization attempting to create a super soldier to combat the growing number of super heroes. If Garrett isn't 100% Hydra, as he suggests, was he creating the Deathlok program as insurance against Hydra? Or, is it a Hydra project, and if so, why? They already have access to all SHIELD resources? Why the needlessly complex system of subterfuge? I assume we'll learn more about the motivations in the coming episodes, though that might be giving the series more credit that it deserves. Revealing Garrett to be the Clairvoyant was a great twist, and revealing Ward to be Hydra was fantastic, if only because it gives the character a degree of characterization, and because it washed away the memories of what was easily the worst scene of the series, when Ward confessed his feelings to Skye and it just wouldn't end.

As good as the episode was, it wouldn't have been a SHIELD episode without incredibly obvious flaws: Simmons does essentially nothing on her end of the plot. The aforementioned scene between Ward and Skye just kept going, and was cringe worthy for its entire length. But, it improved in so many areas that the flaws were less noticeable. This episode had a richer infusion of humour that actually worked than most (Coulson shooting May, and Ward's explosion not being that big were the best laughs of the night). The characters that had something to do worked, and the main stars were on equal footing with the guests, for once. Now the challenge of the series becomes maintaining that through their final stretch of five episodes. With Coulson's team damaged emotionally and physically, and Garrett assembling his own Hydra Squad, things should at least be interesting from here on out.
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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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