TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Episode 13
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EPISODE 13: "T.R.A.C.K.S."
SYNOPSIS: Hot on the trail of the Clairvoyant, Coulson and his team board a mystery train that seems to be headed for certain death
BREAKDOWN: (The following column contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I don't recommend reading this if you haven't watched this episode).
When we last left AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., there were two major reveals: Coulson had undergone hellish surgeries to bring him back from death and that Skye was rescued by the agency and has some sort of latent superpowers. We also learned that bad guy Ian Quinn is involved with the mysterious villain called The Clairivoyant who seems to have a stake in S.H.I.E.L.D. operations, specifically Coulson's team. Using intel regarding a mysterious train, it is everyone's favorite spy/cop episode cliche: everyone goes undercover!
The team members are paired up: Ward and May with tactical, Skye and Fitz posing as an American couple to gain access to a room for operations, and Coulson and Simmons pretending to be a father and daughter. Simmons over the top character illicits a comment from none other than Stan Lee himself as some sort of a Hugh Hefner-esque passenger who scolds Coulson's undercover character. It is an okay cameo, but nothing more than what Lee usually does for Marvel films. Ward and Coulson end up jumping from the train as their cover is blown and the villainous Italian they are tracking throws some sort of device that makes the entire train disappear.
Ward and Coulson are left solo and return to The Bus to try and track the missing train. A regional S.H.I.E.L.D. agent calls them, letting them know his team was killed, leaving the duo to work on finding the train on their own. I realized during this sequence that Ward and Coulson have had little screen time on their own which is a shame as they are very similar characters at different phases in their careers. I would like to see how the events coming in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER will play into the Ward-Coulson dynamic. As they ready to meet the local agent, he is killed by a bloodied May who readies the plan for take-off.
The next scene flashes back to the events from the episode start but from May's perspective. After the first break, when the opening replayed from Ward's point of view, I figured it was a quick refresher, but now I realized that the writers of this episode actually concocted something creative and are giving us angles on the same event. After a dozen episodes, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally doing something a little innovative. This time, we see May escape via parachute from the train before stumbling upon Ward and Coulson frozen in time. As she tries to find help, the same Italian S.H.I.E.L.D. agent takes May and reveals he is working for the bad guys. After busting out and kicking ass, May reunites with Ward and Coulson.
S.H.I.E.L.D. locates the train, abandoned in the Italian countryside. Ward, May, and Coulson arrive to find no trace of Fitz, Simmons, or Skye. Boarding the train, they discover Simmons hiding in a closet with no idea where the rest of the team is. The next sequence gives us Skye and Fitz's perspective as the op goes south. The trio are attached and Simmons takes the same toxin that took out Ward and Coulson in the gut, knocking her out. Fitz deduces the toxin is the same compound in the Nite-Nite gun he built, except airborne. Skye and Fitz decide to follow the target on their own, stumbling onto a mansion owned by, you guessed it, Ian Quinn.
Now here is where things get really interesting. As Skye enters Quinn's house, she goes into the basement and finds a cryogenic pod. As she looks into it, she sees...Mike Peterson. That's right, Mike survived as we saw briefly a few episodes back and is in some sort of statis. Quinn apprehends Skye and pulls Mike out of the tube. The item the team had been tracking on the train turns out to be a high tech prosthesis for Mike that replaces his amputated leg. Quinn cites orders that Mike has been given which originate from The Clairivoyant. Mike refuses to kill Skye when Quinn asks and leaves, saying his orders are to kill someone else. After walking out, Quinn shoots Skye right in the stomach, twice, saying they were his orders.
At this point, I am expecting Skye's recently discovered superpowers to kick in. Instead, she is still bleeding out as Mike begins to take everyone at Quinn's compound out. Ward arrives with the team and captures Quinn. Mike is given orders not to engage S.H.I.E.L.D.. Coulson finds Skye and is noticeably affected by her injury. Despite not finding a pulse, the team puts Skye into Mike's vacant hyperbaric chamber, barely saving her life. The team is all broken down at this point as they contend with what is happening to their friend and teammate. I am a bit surprised that they seem to be more affected by Skye getting shot than Coulson being kidnapped. The episode looks to be leaving us hanging here with Skye's fate uncertain and likely to be resolved next week.
The final scene of the episode shows the scarred Mike Peterson visiting the playground his son frequented in previous episodes. He writes a note, asking if he can see his son, to which The Clairvoyant says "not yet". The episode ends with a zoom onto Mike's prosthetic leg that shows the name Project: Deathlok.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES:
A reference to Asgard and, of course, the introduction of another well known comic character in Deathlok.
"If it really is just sex, Ward, you should get more comfortable using the word." - Coulson, in reference to May and Ward's relationship
The best scene was actually Ward and Coulson struggling to turn on the holo-table, showing that while they can definitely kick ass in the field, they really are not good with technology.
DO WE (REALLY) KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO COULSON YET? OR WHAT SKYE'S POWER IS? OR WHO THE CLAIRVOYANT IS?
Coulson and Skye's stories are not mentioned, but we did learn that The Clairvoyant is the source of the eyeball messages seen at times through the season.
EPISODE CLEARANCE LEVEL: 9/10
This was a hell of a step up from previous episodes and one of the best of the season. Maybe it was because the joking, Whedon-esque tone was almost gone this week and replaced by an actually unique storytelling format, an intriguing selection of plot twists, and some good character interaction from the team. It was nice to see characters working together that haven't had much one on one time this season (Ward and Coulson, Fitz and Skye) plus the further development of Mike Peterson into Deathlok, something that appears to have been planned from the very beginning. AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. may have lost a lot of fans over the last few months, but this was the type of episode everyone has been waiting for.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:
February 11, 2014 - Skye is clinging to life after having been shot. Agent Coulson searches for any type of treatment that may be able to save her. When the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. go on a mission to find a cure, an even deadlier mystery is revealed. Bill Paxton begins his arc as Agent John Garrett.
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