‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ – What Have They Done to Coulson?

Published 2 years ago by , Updated October 17th, 2013 at 6:36 am,

Agents of SHIELD season 1 episode 4 Reviews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.   What Have They Done to Coulson?

This is a Review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 episode 4. It contains SPOILERS.


As fans continue to track the progress of Marvel’s TV universe experiment, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provided us with further evidence that the showrunners are aware of major flaws in the early episodes, and are gradually tweaking those flaws, thereby creating a better balance to the show. There were fewer Disney overtures in the soundtrack; better implementations of humor (the “Seduce Him” scene with Agent Ward? Priceless.), and a more mature storyline that actually justified and sold the world our S.H.I.E.L.D. team inhabits.

Could Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. be turning into another Marvel success story after all? The studio is already working on four new TV projects and a miniseries, which at least suggests some sort of confidence in the season 1 progression of their flagship show.

“Eye-spy” started off with a nice bit of mystery (and darker, more adult-style action), teasing us with the question of whether or not Akela Amador (Pascale Armand) was some sort of superhuman threat. Things quickly took a turn for the cliche (it seemed) when it was then revealed that Amador was that proverbial Red Hood of the AoS universe (i.e., former protege, thought dead, returns as a villain); however, in a rather nice development, the whole spy-gone-bad trope is turned on its head when we learn of the  twisted manner in which some unseen puppeteer is stringing along former intelligence agents, using them as flesh-and-blood avatars to do his bidding.

Akela Amador Pascale Armand in Agents of SHIELD Episode 4 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.   What Have They Done to Coulson?

Akela Amador (Pascale Armand) in ‘Agents of SHIELD’ Episode 4

 Despite “borrowing” a bit heavily from Mission: Impossible III (brain-bomb FTW), the addition of the cybernetic eye was a nice touch – though not without its fair share of hokey tech-related plot holes (I’m sure they’ll be pointed out in the comments). Also nice was the way the writers actually turned the situation with Akela into legitimate means for further probing and developing the central cast. Agent May had her hardened cynicism challenged on the topic of teamwork; Skye continues to get real motivation for changing her ways (surrogate daddy Coulson); Grant’s wooden personality was actually utilized for a good laugh; and even Fitz/Simmons got some nice Bones-style banter over a half-removed eye. The characters are being filled out and developed in ways that are much less cheesy and fluffy than we initially saw, and hopefully that upward trend continues.

As always, Clark Gregg helped sell the entire thing. Thankfully, this episode in particular let Coulson be something more than comic relief, instead giving him a strong but grounded dramatic angle to play. Gregg nailed it, as you would suspect he would, and Armand (GTA V) was a pretty strong guest star, helping inject some equally powerful (but carefully restrained) emotion into the long-suffering Agent Amador.

Agent May and Amador in Agents of SHIELD episode 4 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.   What Have They Done to Coulson?

Meanwhile, the brief exchange between May and Amador at the end of the episode was meant to once again cheerlead the mystery of Coulson’s resurrection – which ironically stands as the least intriguing element of the show, despite being positioned as the primary mystery. We’re getting to the point where the characters are developed enough that learning how Coulson came back isn’t nearly as interesting as seeing how that eventual revelation affects the team – and Coulson himself. Hopefully the showrunners won’t be milking this thing for much longer.

Personally speaking, the most telling thing in that May/Amador exchange at the end wasn’t Amador’s “What did they do to him?” comment, it was the look in Amador’s eyes when she realized that the perplexed Agent May doesn’t really know Coulson well enough to distinguish the difference. In THAT, my friends, lies potential drama to come.

Fitz Simmons in Agents of SHIELD episode 4 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.   What Have They Done to Coulson?

Of course this is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. we’re talking about, so there once again HAD to be some needlessly silly elements thrown into the mix. Forgetting the bungled dynamics of a cybernetic eye kill switch – if the final scene between Skye, Ward and Fitz is any indication, maybe we don’t need an epilogue scene with EVERY episode. Just saying: Graviton teases? Yes. X-ray vision cliches? No thanks.

By the way: What was that super-secret diagram that Ward found? On to to our next big non-intriguing mystery…


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next week with episode 5, “Girl in the Flower Dress”.  You can watch a preview below:

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  1. I´ve mentioned it before, but what if Tahiti isn´t really Tahiti, but SHIELD´s codename for Asgard? I heard it´s a magical place…

    • Good one!

  2. Okay, the popular guess is that Coulson’s an LMD, and I’m not saying that that’s wrong — although, if he is, he’s an LMD that’s had Coulson’s actual mind and memories downloaded into it — but I’d like to offer an alternate theory:

    In Captain America: The First Avenger, the WWII precursor to S.H.I.E.L.D. captured Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) — who is, in Marvel’s canon, a phenomenally talented geneticist — remember, in the comics, he’s now a genetic construct with no head, and a face in the middle of his belly — who has mastered cloning. Is Phil Coulson — who still bruises and bleeds — a clone of himself, his mind –perhaps even his brain — transplanted into a body grown by Zola?

    I think that’s an interesting possibility.

  3. The Red Masks to me are something of a giveaway that the ultimate person who robbed in the first scene might be a the Red Skull which begs the question who was Akela Amador working for. Could she have been a tool of a rogue force competing with forces like the Red Skull or a competitor? Also, a cybernetic agent being manipulated sounds like prep work for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Fun episode.

  4. I’ve mentioned it several times but I will this article is about Coulson so here it goes again. He was supposedly dating the Scarlet Witch (who is well versed in her reality-altering magic) and Tahiti is a “magical” place. I say either she resurrected him or he is an LMD and she will make him into the Vision or whatever the movie equivalent of that would be. I think somehow Wanda Maximoff (SW) is tied to all of this.

  5. the show is started to get good! I enjoyed this episode

  6. I suspect Akila’s confusion at the end about Coulson stemmed from something she physically saw inside him using her backscatter “Vision.” (See what I did there?)

  7. I’ve enjoyed the show from the beginning and I agree that with each episode it gets better. I’m excited to see next weeks episode, which looks to finally have a legitimate superhuman in it. bring on the supers!!!

  8. Skye and Ward need to bang already.

  9. Pascale Armand did a great job in this episode and made me wish that she’d become a regular on the show. In my opinion, this is the best episode yet, but it still has issues. Only one thing could save this show…..

    Hail HYDRA!

    • Seriously. HYDRA or AIM or some other big terrorist organization needs to be competing with SHIELD in this show. I don’t know. maybe they are leading up to that, but in the end, some large organization needs to have its “hand” in it

  10. I wish they would get rid of Ward. He so stiff, which makes it hard to beleive he is a good fighter. And they chop up the fighting sceens so much that you cant tell how he fights his opponents or what he did lol. I guess they trying to mask his lack of talent.

    • +1, Lol – Ward is Agent Boring, May is Special Agent Stiff.

  11. “Kofi Outlaw” learned the word “trope”.

  12. Now I’m not comparing the quality of the two shoes, but did anybody else get an “Alias” like vibe for the first act of this episode? Personally, I think if the writers and directors could set AoS’s tone and story structure (self-contained episodes and a larger meta-arch) to resemble “Alias,” it would improve by leaps and bounds (ha ha).

    • “shows”

  13. I just watched this episode for the 2nd time and where this might mean absolutely nothing due to the fact that it wasn’t mentioned in the article, and these folks here at Screen Rant are genuinely thorough when it comes to this stuff (especially reviews), nor has anyone in the comments said anything about it… But at the beginning of the episode when Coulson enters the cockpit of the plane and he’s talking to Agent May about how he wants to “learn how to fly”, “the freedom” he says… And wile there are (almost) too many nods to his resurrection, there are also some subtle ones that are more welcoming as well. With the above quote possibly one of them..? But what I’m trying to get at is, Can The Vision fly?…. This is a serious question. I’m not too knowledgeable when it come to that dude…

  14. Yeah, The Vision can fly, and Phil Coulson isnt him.

    • Yet.

    • I see…

  15. I try to ignore all the different theories on Coulson’s resurrection because honestly it’s too hard to tell any of them right now. But one guy above said something about Zola’s brilliant mind being able to come up with incredible things that I found to be, well, incredible.

    Okay now for some random personal input into my feelings for the show, welcome or unwelcome, I’m going to talk anyway. Feel free to scroll over me. First off, this is a good show, but to me it doesn’t feel Whedonesque. Visually it does (he loves blue lights and silver tech), but writing wise not at all. I love the cast, but they are horribly developed and I wish there was a single solid lead for the cast to richocet off of, Ward would’ve been an excellent choice if he wasn’t so generic and familiar. This episode he got better, but I would’ve rather seen his past explored in flashbacks in the pilot, effectively making him the main character etc. etc.

    Now an arguement could be made that Skye could’ve (and sortof is) the main character because she’s the newbie to the whole SHIELD thing, but she too has a mysterious background worth exploring. The other factor though is that Chloe Bennet’s performance is so quirky and fun and well, perfect really, that we don’t care anymore. Instead of doing something interesting and keeping her mysterious with an “agenda”, Whedon has forgone that for making her more of a relatable wise-cracking everyman. Is that good? Could be, but the first episode she was so interesting, I’m still holding onto that mystery that has since been ignored. For the record though, her banter with Coulson and Ward is excellent.

    Then there’s Coulson. His role in SHIELD has always been infuriatingly vague to me;
    in Iron Man 1 and 2 he was a low level agent, (you know, back when SHIELD had nothing to do).
    Then in Thor he was like Noah Vosen in the Bourne Ultimatum,
    Then he joined what I found to be a surprisingly small amount of basically red shirt SHIELD agents on a flying base I didn’t care abt (loved Avengers, just sayin), who wears sunglasses at night and then gets Washed (serenity), which now means virtually nothing. Like I mean I love Coulson and everything, but really, “Wow, Phil died? he had so much character development because we know his whole life story. I’m devastated, let’s stop Loki.” Yeah, that doesn’t even make sense. Haters can hate, I’m not complaining, I thought it was a great sacrifice, but motivation-wise, if he’s like a higher up, I get why everyone would be pissed, but he kinda acted like just some agent the whole time, not like Black Widow who for some reason is considered high ranking.

    AND NOW he’s like Ethan Hunt only less physical, and honestly I thought his role in this episode was poorly written. Not dissing Gregg though, he nails pretty much everything he does. Has anyone seen “Choke”? That’s a fantastic movie.

    Has anyone ever noticed how in a MARVEL studios movie the characters rarely if ever fire and gun at the villains? It doesn’t happen, almost at all. Maybe in the tunnel chase at the beginning of Avengers, maybe, but besides Iron Man, (lasers), almost not projectiles are fired at the villains. Just an observation, and in this episode, Ward shot all those guys through the wall and I was like YES.

    Eye idea, really good! I wonder who the big boss is.

    Still loved the episode though! More FitzSimmons please!

  16. Just another point about the ‘new’ Coulson (apologies if someone already spotted this) but re-watching Ep1 when the van door exploded off towards the agents, Coulson almost super-humanly dodged it, rapid reflexes, moving/bending just enough to not get hit.

  17. I actually enjoy this series so far, and it is something different than the normal television fare. I enjoy the “silly” Whedon-esque banter between the characters, the character development and the subplots that keep the narrative moving along with the story of the week. I am not sure why the Screenrant team seems to have such obvious disdain for this program. Sometimes reading these reviews is no better than suffering the nitpicking troll comments down here in the comments section. There is a Marvel property on television, and it is a fun hour of entertainment, plot holes and all. I am still in!

    • I wouldn’t say that most people, or the Screenrant team, has disdain for the show. I think it has its high points, like the dialouge, but we were expecting such a wow factor after Whedon delivered that during the Avengers. I really expected something great that would open the door to the rest of the Marvel universe. I thought we would have episodes including some street level heroes. I thought maybe we would have more Easter eggs or whatever. Not really much of that has happened. The only real mystery is what happened to Coulson, and that will get annoying if they drag it out for too long.

      • Personally, I think Agents Of SHIELD and The Avengers are exactly the same in that a lot of people on this site get excited over them and talk about how much they enjoyed them but I sit there when the credits roll thinking “So…what am I missing out on here?”

        Seriously, I avoided this article until I had chance to watch the episode myself (recorded it Friday night, watched it last night) and after 4 episodes, it’s still an extremely dull show with one dimensional characters and I’m even starting to get bored of Coulson now.

        I’ll keep watching in case it’s just a slow start (although the many shows I’ve liked over the years have wowed me at episodes 1 or 2 at the latest) and to see where it goes next but I’m still totally underwhelmed.

        I saw Downton Abbey for the first time these last few weeks and Agents is just like that show. Characters I don’t have an interest in and basically an hour of nothing much happening.

  18. “As always, Clark Gregg helped sell the entire thing” -Kofi Outlaw
    Clark Gregg is pretty great, but that’s the problem. Nothing else is. It’s all just bland. None of the dialogue is particularly funny, which is odd for a Whedon production, it’s overly light when it should be serious (like IM3), and none of the characters beside Coulson are remotely interesting. The acting for Fitz, Simmons, and Ward is pretty bad, and the plot is too procedural for any real character development. I think the show lost me after the van scene. I watched for about 5 more minutes, then just shut it off. I hope it gets better, then I’ll catch it on Netflix.

    Also, is anyone else bothered by the fact that Fitz and Simmons are British? The choice honestly just doesn’t make sense to me. It feels like ABC and Disney said, “Oh, don’t those quirky hipster kids love British stuff? Let’s throw that in there!”

    • Haha, it pains me to say that I agree with everything you say. I will continue to watch because I have waited so long for a show like this. Actually, I waited for what it could have been/could be.

      Did the fame taint Whedon? I really think his insistence on not using actual Marvel heroes is hurting him. Not because of some fanboy crap, but because those characters are almost all a hell of a lot more interesting than this lame group. Man, just give us a Luke Cage at least. The Extremis crap was the main problem with IM3. Stupid fire people.

  19. I don’t think Amador’s revelation at the end is that Agent May doesn’t know him well enough to distinguish the difference – it’s already established that they have history and she’s NOTICED that he’s different already. I think it’s referring to the fact that Amador looked at him with her BackScatter and saw something that will be revealed to us later. If you look at her expression when she first sees him face to face, it kind of corroborates that (in retrospect). All will be revealed later, I’m sure, but I think it’s less of a drama thing than a “woah, no wonder he got brought back to life” thing. Perhaps being stabbed in the heart with an Asgardian weapon powered by the mega-alien warlords has that effect on humans…