All season long, ABC’s promo department and Agents of SHIELD fanboys have been heralding another episode every few weeks as the episode of SHIELD we’ve all been waiting for. I don’t know how many times I’ve read passionate comments swearing up and down that SHIELD is a much better show than when it started and witnessed bewildered frustration from fanboys who don’t understand why everyone is hating on it.
Well, I’m not gonna pile on much more than I have in the past, but Agents of SHIELD has been a colossal disappointment on every level. Ratings-wise, it’s pulling in a fraction of what I’m sure ABC was hoping for and creatively speaking, it’s a bland, forgettable insult to the Marvel universe that has consistently released a number of really entertaining movies. The characters were unimpressive from the get go and that never really changed, but what’s possibly even worse is that the more complex mythology it tried to weave into its universe failed to connect either. The execution of the Clairvoyant mystery (until last night’s resolution) always seemed tedious and far less intriguing than I’m sure they were hoping for and Coulson’s Tahiti revelations (followed by Skye’s near-death experience) never resonated with me emotionally. It’s just been a hokey, very cookie-cutter show that would likely have been cancelled by now if it didn’t carry the Marvel name with it.
So you understand my perspective coming into this and it is with a certain amount of hesitation I finally proclaim, this week’s episode may have actually been the episode we’ve been waiting for.
“Turn, Turn, Turn” responds to the game-changing events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (SPOILERS for both the movie and show from here on out) in a way that fundamentally transforms the premise of the series and benefits each and every character on the show in a pretty substantial way. Really, the improvement was seen to a lesser degree in last week’s outing that concluded with May’s secret communication being uncovered and loyalty being questioned. That set up a lot of the tension for this episode that played nicely with the revelation that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD and through much of the episode, I genuinely didn’t know who to trust.
Coulson has been a real disappointment for me because as good as he was in the films, Clark Gregg has just not been the leading man a show like this needs. However, this hour he was very good from beginning to end and the new dynamic could be just what his character needed. The same could be said of everyone from May (now an outsider) Fitz and Simmons (suddenly fighting in a war unlike anything they probably dreamed they’d be a part of) and, of course, Ward. We’ll get to him in a minute….
It’s kind of interesting that what could actually end up saving this series is a plot point from a movie rather than anything that grew organically from the show, but that’s okay. The whole purpose of this show was to integrate with the Marvel films and universe in a pretty innovative way, but thus far has not been able to independently produce anything that justifies its existence. If the events of The Winter Soldier can change that, then so be it. Earlier in the season, the show tried to incorporate a Thor 2 tie-in which just felt forced and the episode itself was boring, so to see both worlds collide like this in such a tremendous way was pretty awesome, I must admit.
Truth be told, this is really one of the more interesting endeavors ever attempted on television and to see the events of The Winter Soldier worked into an Agents of SHIELD storyline just days after it opened in theaters was pretty unique. On one hand, it’s interesting that Marvel would even seek to launch an Agents of SHIELD series knowing what lied ahead in the films, but if this week’s episode doesn’t prove to be an exception before reverting back to the underwhelming norm, it could be really compelling to watch how SHIELD agents would endure in the midst of a Hydra takeover.
Speaking of Hydra, it turns out that they didn’t just cast Bill Paxton for no good reason. I’ve found his Garrett character pretty uninspired so I was kind of curious why he chose to take the part, but the reveal of him being the Clairvoyant with an allegiance to Hydra was likely worth it; fun scene and it was a twist that never felt telegraphed.
In fact, “Turn, Turn, Turn” did an excellent job of keeping me on my toes right until the very last second. The one scene of the episode I hated was the forced chemistry between Ward and Skye and I thought we’d have to drudge through more of that in the coming weeks, but instead, the closing scene finds Ward taking advantage of Victoria Hand’s trust and killing her and her two men, freeing his former S.O./ current out and proud Hydra member, John Garrett.
When Agents of SHIELD was first spoken of, I think we all hoped they’d find a cool way to bring a little of the Marvel movie magic to TV and so the first two-thirds of this season has been a humongous letdown. “Turn, Turn, Turn” previews a better, smarter version of Agents of SHIELD and it marks the first time an episode has ended with me really clamoring for the next one (more often than not, it usually ended with me breathing a sigh of relief). I hope they have the guts to make Ward a true villain (because the tag DID raise some doubts…) and not some brainwashed pawn or triple-agent or anything silly like that. I hope they can successfully create gripping stories about the Hydra/SHIELD conflict and continue to strengthen its core characters as they face this crisis. One strong episode doesn’t change everything, but it’s given me a bit of hope that the Agents of SHIELD we imagined is still possible.