Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Providence

"This means something! This has to mean something!"

What sort of show is this going to be now? Old Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a procedural show set in a superhero universe. It had its moments, but it was a disappointingly routine series, not the sort of thing we’d come to expect from a Mutant Enemy production. I’m not sure yet exactly what type of show new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to be, I only know that I like it a lot more than old Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division is in tatters and no one really knows what to do next. No one, that is, except the bag guys. Ward and Garrett were a pair of busy little bees in this episode. While the team was endlessly trudging through the snow, grumbling about Coulson’s leadership, these two were getting shit done. After breaking out Raina (who was disappointed to discover she wasn’t working for someone with actual powers of premonition) and setting up shop in sunny Cuba, they attacked the Fridge, breaking out all the prisoners and stealing all the cool toys for themselves, including many of this season’s McGuffins (the way Ward was almost lovingly holding the Berserker Staff was suitably creepy).

We got confirmation that Ward really is HYDRA and has been from the very start. He’s not being coerced, hasn’t been brainwashed and sure as hell isn’t working undercover for Coulson. Ward was put on the plane by Garrett to find out everything he could about Coulson’s resurrection. The Grant Ward we thought we knew was merely fabrication. Good. That Grant Ward was a bore. This Grant Ward, with his cocky “I’m everyone’s type” swagger, is much more fun and Brett Dalton is clearly having a blast playing him.

The only thing that seemed to be genuine about the old Grant Ward was his soft spot for Skye. Ward has been killing S.H.I.E.L.D. agents willy-nilly since he came out of the HYDRA closest, and yet he made it perfectly clear to Garrett that he wasn’t happy that he'd had Skye shot. He cares about her and Garrett can see that. If it comes down to a choice between Garrett and Skye, which way will Ward go? For the moment, Garrett wants Skye alive, no doubt for dissection since her blood contains the miracle cure. Does he also know that she’s an 0-8-4? Ward was spilling all of the team’s secrets to Garrett, including Coulson’s familiar looking cellist, but I can’t remember if Skye shared that info with him.

What is Garrett’s ultimate endgame? After we learned the truth about him last week, I started to wonder if his work as the Clairvoyant was official HYDRA business or a side project that he was running himself. By his own admission, Garrett is no true believer. He joined HYDRA because he thought they were the winning team. That brief glimpse under his turtleneck revealed that he has some form of cybernetic implant. Is it an enchantment or a treatment for an injury? If it’s the former, that would explain his obsession with learning how Coulson survived. He is looking for a way to heal, and possibly improve, himself.

In good guy land, Coulson was desperately trying to hold it altogether. Over the last few weeks his entire world has come crashing down around him and he’s now teetering on the edge of a full blown emotional breakdown. The only thing that kept him going was the hope that Fury was still alive. Coulson needed to believe that some semblance of the S.H.I.E.L.D. he knew had survived. He needed to know that he wasn’t an agent of N.O.T.H.I.N.G., that he was still agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. He needed a reason to keep on going, otherwise he might as well have just given up and surrendered to Adrian Pasdar’s moustache.

It was painful seeing Coulson this broken that I actually breathed a sigh of relief when his blind faith was ultimately rewarded, ironically thanks to the destruction of his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge. So where do we go from here? Coulson, and only Coulson, knows that Fury is still alive, but he has no idea where he is or what he wants him to do. The team have a new secret base to hide out in, but no real mission other than avoid the ‘tache. What is the purpose of ‘Providence’ anyway? We didn’t see much of the base, but it must be pretty large if it has room for the flying boat. If Fury sent them there it had to be for a reason, a reason besides playing video games with Patton Oswalt all day.

Intel and Assets

--Gold acting stars for Clark Gregg and Brett Dalton.

--Since this is the second Joss Whedon project Patton Oswalt has appeared in (he guest starred in Dollhouse), he is now just one more away from being an official a member of the unofficial Whedon theatre company. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are the leaders having appeared in five projects each.

--Simmons and Skye were obviously having a contest to see who as wearing the cutest beanie. For my money, Simmons won.

--May said that Fury wasn’t in charge of T.A.H.I.T.I. and is worried Coulson could be a HYDRA sleeper agent and not know it. A reasonable assumption, but if HYDRA had someone involved with the project there would have been no need for Garrett to kidnap Coulson in the first place.

--Triplett has taken Ward’s place as the team’s resident blandroid. He’s even getting the same jealous looks from Fitz that Ward used to get.

--Loved the overenthusiastic HYDRA lackey. They really should’ve called him Bob.

Agent Koenig: "My bad. Fury's not dead."

Garrett: "This is the bottom floor. I've seen the blueprints with my own eyes."
Ward: "Care to make it interesting?"
Garret: "Loser buys dinner."
Ward: "Perfect. I'm so sick of the crap we ate on that plane."

Coulson: "Skye, please, tell me something good?"
Skye: "WE have internet."
Coulson: "Yay. And boy, have I lowered my expectations."

Three out of four prison cells smaller than a shoe closet.


sunbunny said...

LOVED it. Loved Agent Koenig. Oh, my bad, Fury's not dead. It looks like Ward really is a straight up black hat. For a second when he took the gun thing from Garrett I thought it was a triple cross, but no.

If Coulson was a sleeper agent, wouldn't they have wanted him active for their big takeover? Seems logical.

Oh and, now that it's painful, I'm climbing aboard the Skyeward ship.

Billie Doux said...

Yeah, what sunbunny said. I'll admit I was sort of shocked that Ward really is a bad guy. I was clinging to the possibility that he was faking it, but nooooo.

Jess Lynde said...

I'm the opposite. I'm still terrified they are going to turn it back around, when Ward as an actual bad guy is so much more interesting. Don't ruin this by having it all be another fake out, writers!

The entire sequence with the team wandering around in the "cold" was driving me absolutely nuts because you couldn't see anyone's breath. If it was even remotely as cold as they were pretending, people should have been breathing frosty clouds! It completely took me out of the scenes and seriously undermined Coulson's big breakdown for me. Try harder, production team!

Patrick said...

My biggest worry at this point is what their long-term plan is for this show. This being the Whedon family, I'm willing to extend a little faith. Especially since they apparently knew from the beginning that this is what they'd be doing. But as of right now there's a part of me that's worried this could turn out to be like one of those times JJ Abrams turned Alias on its head only for it to become clear he didn't really have a plan beyond the next half-dozen episodes or so. I mean, if I had to guess, the rest of the season will involve Coulson's team trying to convince Talbot and the US Government that HYDRA's the real bad guy, not what's left of SHIELD, and that the world still needs SHIELD, leading to its eventual rebuilding in future seasons. I can't see them being a totally renegade team for multiple seasons. That plane is a tad conspicuous when it's flying around the world.

drnanamom said...

Loved this episode as well. I think that if they planned far enough ahead to know they were doing this and have tied the show in with a movie or two then I have faith that the show is going somewhere interesting. I have no idea what that interesting might be but I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it. I am sad that Ward is bad but it is very Whedon that the usual "good" guy ie. James Bond type is actually not so good.

sunbunny said...

Have to agree with Doc. I feel like this was the episode was the "Oh! THAT'S what they're doing" episode. I just worry it's come too late in the season. Even I was on the verge of quitting and I would jump off a bridge if Joss Whedon told me too. Dollhouse had a similar problem to my thinking. It had an excellent long game plan, but they took too long to get there and ratings suffered. I know Joss loves to lull us into complacency and then pull out the rug from under us, but the pattern isn't the greatest for new shows that need to gain an audience. Still, I think Agents of SHIELD has decent chances, even if ratings aren't the awesomest. The fact that it's so heavily tied in with the cash cow that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe should help, I hope.

CrazyCris said...

I do hope they renew this and let it continue growing, 'cause these past two episodes have been brilliant! And tehre are just a couple left... I love this "new" version. :o)

mazephoenix said...

Ward's really a bad guy, huh? His acting is better now that's for sure.
And we get to meet the mystery cellist soon..yay.
Triplett's ok, and I'm sure he'll improve. Just don't kill him in the finale ok, Joss?