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

"Let me die, please. Please, I’m begging you, let me die. Please, let me die.”

In my review of ‘The Bridge’ I speculated that in this episode we would see A) the bad guys torturing Coulson for information B) the S.H.I.E.L.D. higher ups being less than willing to save him C) the entire team telling them where to stick it and going rogue to rescue him and D) not face any serious consequences or losing their jobs as a result. So how much did I get right?

The Hand That Rocks the Bus

With Coulson missing, S.H.I.E.L.D. threw everything they had in to the search with Agent Victoria Highlights Hand leading the charge. This meant more agents on the bus, more red tape (to match her highlights) and no bullshit. Being the big picture seer that she is, Hand didn’t understand why so much effort was being made for just one agent. Which is why she was probably more focused on bringing down Centipede, with rescuing Coulson as a secondary priority.

You Can’t Keep the Skye From Doing What She Wants To Do

Lacking Coulson’s “I’m not a regular agent, I’m a cool agent” approach to leadership, Hand quickly banished Skye from and the Bus with May’s “support” (come on, how obvious was it what she was doing?). Luckily, with the help of her other teammates, Skye was able to escape from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground, where, still wanted by the government, she survives as a soldier of – no, wait, that’s the A- Team. Skye slipped on some ray bans so she could intimidate a guy so stupid he accepted a screen on a phone as a badge ("You wanna see my badge? No problem, I've got an app for that").

To be honest, I found this scene really tiresome. Although she doesn’t annoy me as much as she used to, Skye is still proving to be a character I struggle to like or become invested in. And surely an organisation like S.H.I.E.L.D., with all its vast resources, could’ve got hold of these records themselves with ease?

Take Your Job And Stuff It

Teidious as it was, Skye's misadventure in the world of freelance espionage did prove fruitful. She was able to locate Coulson thanks to the bad guys uncharacteristically leaving a paper trail (when did they get so careless?). Not only that but it turns out that they set up shop in a creepy, unused nuclear test site that was conveniently within driving distance of both where Skye was and where Hand was leading her raid. With this new intel, the team told Hand to go swivel. She didn’t seem to bothered about them going rogue. She already had a team of agents at her command, so it was no lose. She didn’t even seem bothered that May had manipulated her. So to recap, the team disobeyed orders and went off on their own, but Hand was okay with it so it’s unlikely that anyone will be facing any disciplinary action.

Information. We want information.

While everyone was running around trying to find him, Coulson was being tortured by Po to find out how he died so they could use that to make their super-soldiers extra invincible. This wasn’t working so the mysterious Clairvoyant had Po liquidated (life of a minion) and charge of Coulson’s interrogation was handed to Raina. Po tried to get the information they wanted by breaking Coulson. Raina, however, sees that Coulson is already broken and offers to help fix him.

Raina prefers manipulation to brute force. She gets people to do what she wants by appealing to their wants and desires. Mike wanted to be a hero. Magic guy wanted to be famous. Coulson? He wants to understand what was really done to him after he died. Coulson is a true believer, a loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. He has literally given his life for the organisation. He can’t believe they would do something to him without his knowledge. But he’s been questioning the official story of his survival for some time now. He has to know what happened to him. He has to know why he keeps calling Tahiti “a magical place”. If his superiors won’t give him those answers, he will have to get them from his enemies.

So how was Coulson brought back from the dead? I have no idea. We’re given some vague talk about a series of operations and nothing more. I can’t help but feel a little cheated about that. Is this all we are going to get?While what was done to fix Coulson’s mind post-resurrection was horrific, we’re still none the wiser about how exactly he was revived. What were these operations? Did they involve alien tech? Did they call in Doctor Strange? More importantly, why did they go through all this trouble in the first place? Is Coulson really such an invaluable asset that S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't bear to be without him? Why did Fury allow this to be done to one of his best agents? How could he? How could he listen to that poor man's screams, a man who gave his life for the team, and just stand back and do nothing?

Intel and Assets

--Gold acting star for Clark Gregg, who gave his best performance to date in this episode.

--I’m no expert on American road laws, but I'm almost certain you can’t have an accident like that without the police wanting to have a word with you and administer some sort of breath based test.

--Super Gunn Lives! But he’s missing one leg and is not the Clairvoyant’s latest pet. Poor guy just can’t catch a break.

Skye: "Remember our safeword?"
Simmons: "Manscaping? Oh, I shouldn't have said that."
--I'm sure that gave Skye/Simmons shippers plenty to chew on.

Simmons: “Those soldiers are just men…”
Fitz: “… who could crack open your skull with a single punch.”

Skye: "Don't touch Lola."

Two and a half out of four apps for that.

6 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

Definitely feeling cheated on the Coulson reveal. Of course, I'm not surprised that they left us with a vague handful of nothing. We actually got more than I expected (towards the end I was actively rooting for the team not to find him, so that we (and he) would have time to get some answers). So, yea?

Skye's adventures off the grid were, indeed, ridiculous --- and the result of a very obvious ploy by May, as you note --- but I still like her. Sometimes. I think I mostly like her dynamic with Coulson. I was genuinely moved by the scene when she found him and he was still begging to die. His agony and her distress got to me. I also liked the later scene between the two of them on the Bus. This episode really reinforced for me that Skye and Coulson have similar "family-less" backgrounds that draw them to each other, in their pseudo father-daughter dynamic. Not a lot on this show is working for me these days, but their relationship does.

At first, I thought Skye's "phone badge" routine was pretty silly, too. But then it occurred to me that maybe what she actually did was lockdown his phone through her bracelet, bringing up the "SHIELD lockdown" symbol, and she then pretended she had the authority to do that through the code nonsense she had mumbled into it. It was a "Don't believe me? Would I be able to do this if I wasn't who I said I was?" play. Not really a badge.

sunbunny said...

I acknowledge and appreciate your Mean Girls reference.

I actually really liked Skye this week. I like how her alias was as the scariest, most badass person she could think of. May, naturally.

I think the Clairvoyant works for Wolfram and Hart.

I can't believe Shepherd Book would be so heartless with Coulson. No seriously, that scene where he was begging to die was extremely upsetting.

Billie Doux said...

I admit that the plot was as predictable as Mark noted in his opening paragraph, but I noticed that this was the first episode in which I was entirely engaged. I take that to mean that I've grown to care about Coulson. That scene where he was begging to die was effective.

Patrick said...

Some parts of this episode were frustrating, but overall I thought it was very effective, and it made me like both Skye and Ward quite a bit more than I have up until now.

Jess, I think you're right. I don't think Skye was trying to dummy up a virtual badge. I think she was pretending to use a Super-Secret-Command-Code to prove that she had Super-Secret-Spy Access. It was a show of force, thankfully her mark was an idiot.

I know a lot of people were frustrated that we didn't ACTUALLY learn how Coulson was brought back to life, and I am too. Clark Gregg's tweets seem to indicate we'll be getting more info on this front before too long.

At first I thought that we DID learn the most important part of the "how", that this is in fact the actual Coulson and not some sort of Life Model Decoy or other replicant. And that the rest of the "how" will just be some sci-fi contrivance that won't end up mattering in the long run. But then I thought some more about it, and came back to Agent Hand's question. Why was SHIELD going all-out for one Level 8 Agent? Some of it probably has to do with the other big "why" we're left with. Why did SHIELD go to so much trouble to bring Coulson back in the first place? But their massive rescue mission could also be about trying to keep anyone else from learning the secret about how they brought him back. In which case, the rest of the "how" could be very interesting indeed.

Mark, I hear what you're saying about Our Heroes not facing disciplinary action for going rogue like they did. But wasn't the whole point of SHIELD's big effort to rescue Coulson in the first place? Agent Hand specifically mentioned SHIELD going to such lengths for one Agent, and yet she's the one who seemed to ignore that priority to focus on dismantling Centipede.

I'm glad Skye's bracelet is gone, she definitely proved herself in this episode. And I'm also glad that she didn't get bitchy with May, seems like she understands what May did.

Mike's back, yay! Kinda figured we'd see him again. It's a sci-fi show and we hadn't seen a corpse, after all. And it looks like he's been outfitted with an eye-cam. Should be interesting to see how that all plays out. Someone on Twitter brought up Deathlok, and there are certainly some similarities between the characters.

Marianna said...

I suspect Agent Hand is actually an evil agent working for some other organization, which is why she doesn't seem to care about the lives of any agents, even Coulson. I think punishing them for doing what she was supposed to be doing would have drawn attention to the fact that they actually did her job for her.

Another good quote:
"Disengage bracelet."
"Seriously?"
"I thought you'd like that."

migmit said...

I have to disagree. How on Earth can you describe what was done to Coulson as "horrific"?

Nick Fury saved Coulson's life, for crying out loud. I would certainly WANT someone like Fury to bring me back after I die, and if the price is a few days of agony (which I won't even remember afterwards), I'm willing to pay. I can even tolerate saying "magical place" each time anyone mentions Tahiti.

As to how Fury did that... well, let's remind ourselves that we've seen this before. In another Joss Whedon show. And the rules there were quite simple: those who die from magic can come back; those who die from natural causes, stay dead forever. Now, this is a different show, and Coulson wasn't killed by magic, he was killed by the "pointy thing" going through his body. But one thing amuses me: both the weapon that killed him (Loki's septer) and the weapon that he was wielding himself (Phase 2 prototype) were powered by the Tesseract. Could that be somewhere near the answer?