TV Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Episode 18
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EPISODE 18: "Providence"
SYNOPSIS: With Colonel Glenn Talbot now on their trail, Coulson and his team seek refuge in the last place anyone would look, where they begin to uncover S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most dangerous secrets—secrets that could destroy them...
BREAKDOWN: (The following column contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I don't recommend reading this if you haven't watched this episode).
Now that the HYDRA within S.H.I.E.L.D. threat is out of the bag, we get to see the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. operate in the format many of us expected this series to take from the very beginning. But, does it make for a better show? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is we will need to wait and see, but "Providence" is a good starting point.
We were left last week with Agent John Garrett (Bill Paxton) being revealed as The Clairvoyant and a HYDRA sleeper, Coulson and his team forced to go off the grid to defend their hobbled agency, and Ward may or may not be a member of HYDRA himself as he shot Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) and gave Garrett a knowing nod. Tonight picks up with Ward, now obviously a bad guy based on his black t-shirt, leather jacket, and stubble, as he breaks Reina out of prison and gifts her a new flower dress courtesy of The Clairvoyant.
At The Hub, Coulson watches the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER's concluding battle as Skye informs him that three secure S.H.I.E.L.D. bases remain operational. Coulson vows to use his team to fight HYDRA, which seems like the direction the series will go in from now on. Meanwhile, Ward and Reina arrive in Havana where she finally gets to meet The Clairvoyant. Garrett is also now in full bad guy mode as evidenced by his black turtleneck. I get that this is inspired by Marvel Comics, but these costumes are a bit on the nose, people.
Coulson and his crew are greeted via video-message from Colonel Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) who informs him that an Air Force peace-keeping force will be coming to take over S.H.I.E.L.D. operations in light of the fact that the spy agency is now considered a terrorist threat. Coulson and the team decide to get the hell out of there and Agent Triplett asks to join the crew. The plane is in disrepair, fuel line busted, no cloaking technology, limited food rations, and the only informational technology accessible is the Internet.
Ward receives a call from Skye checking up on his delivery of Garrett to The Fridge and he plays along. After the call, Garrett teases Ward about his cover with the team and it is revealed that Ward's mission was to infiltrate Coulson's team from the very beginning. Ward expresses his anger at Skye being shot, indicating his feelings for her were not fake. Garrett and Ward then provide Reina with all of the resources she needs to investigate the serum that resurrected Coulson while they go to raid The Fridge for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resources.
As Coulson gathers everyone's badges, Skye notices his is glowing. There are coordinates leading to the Canadian wilderness and Coulson believes they came directly from the presumed dead Nick Fury. Ward and Reina have a moment where she asks about how he tricked the team. Brett Dalton does a good job of selling this as Ward. I was skeptical that he may have been a double agent for S.H.I.E.L.D., but now I am not so sure. I would rather him be a straight bad guy as it makes the dynamic much more interesting.
Back on the plane, May requests Coulson's sidearm and the two have an argument. Coulson thinks Fury is alive and May thinks HYDRA may have implanted false information during The T.A.H.I.T.I. Project, to which she also reveals Nick Fury was not in charge. Arriving in Canada, the team sets out to find the source of the coordinates which turns out to be a secret base, code named Providence by the agent in charge, Eric Koenig (Patton Oswalt). Koenig reveals Fury is in fact dead and that The Fridge has fallen to HYDRA. In secret, Koenig tells Coulson that Fury is alive but only he can know on Fury's orders.
At The Fridge, Garrett and Ward find multiple items include a plasma cannon found in Peru, the Asgardian staff from earlier this season, and a secret hidden beneath the lowest floor. Garrett also releases all the prisoners housed at the facility saying they "should keep Coulson busy for a while". Reina also reveals that the hard drive they needed has been encoded by Skye which means Ward will need to go back undercover. Garrett, while changing his shirt, also reveals some sort of metallic implant on his lower back. Ward then arrives at Providence, prepared to get Skye's password by any means necessary.
The closing episode features Ian Quinn ripping apart Garrett for imprisoning him. Garrett then reveals the Gravitonium from earlier this season.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES:
More references to the closing events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Adrian Pasdar's portrayal of Glenn Talbot marks the second appearance of the character, the first being in Ang Lee's HULK where the character was played by Josh Lucas. Garrett references Black Widow in reference to Ward's undercover skills. The Chitauri invasion in THE AVENGERS is name-checked.
"Nick Fury gave me this badge. When he did, I swore an oath. We all did. To serve when everything else fails. To be humanity's last line of defense. To be The Shield. These coordinates mean something, I am sure of it. Fury also gave me this Planet. If anyone wants off, chutes are in the bay. Help yourself." - Phil Coulson to the team.
A very solid episode, but Garrett and Ward infiltrating The Fridge, including Ward coldly shooting two guards in the face, has got to be the best scene.
DO WE (REALLY) KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO COULSON YET? OR WHAT SKYE'S POWER IS?
OR WHO THE CLAIRVOYANT IS?
May revealed that Fury was not in charge of the project that resurrected Coulson, but does not know who was.
EPISODE CLEARANCE LEVEL: 10/10
Another very solid episode that proved that not only was last week not a fluke but that this series has squandered it's potential for the first dozen episodes this season. Bill Paxton is even better as a bad guy on this show, as is Brett Dalton as Ward. Patton Oswalt added some much needed comic relief that wasn't painful to listen to while Clark Gregg knocked it out of the park this week. The subplots from earlier this season are all coming together which is a nice pay-off for those who have stuck with the series from day one, but if there was a time to start watching the show, it is now. I cannot wait to see how the final four episodes shake out.
NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:
Episode 20 "The Only Light in the Darkness" airs April 22th - With their world turned upside down, Coulson races to save the life of his one true love as the mystery of 'The Cellist,' which began in Marvel's THE AVENGERS is finally revealed.
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