‘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. The end tag with them playing poker.. well.. they messed it up..

    He was like ” i call, and raise you ” which you cant do in poker, its knowed as a string bet, you have to say call or raise, not both..

    other than that, okay ep, look forward to next week

  2. SHIELD is (finally) getting real.

    • Getting real?

      It’s a youth group not a government agency of the world’s finest agents.

      This was the first episode worth a watch but they better give the show some gravitas or it is going to sink.

      Two kids performing eye surgery getting creeped out by performing the surgery, How juvenile was that.

  3. Agents of Shield continues to get better with each passing episode, they should have all the bugs worked out by the end of the season. Great episode last night!

  4. Show is definitely picking up. The little fight scene with May and Amador was better fight scenes than we’ve scene out of the entire show so far. The whole how did Coulson thing isn’t bothering me, but they don’t need to mention it every episode. Anybody catch the whole mutants don’t exist line? Although, we’ve already known that, it’s just unfortunate that we won’t be seeing mutants in this universe.

    • I missed that line. But of course there are “mutants”, though they’ll call them something else probably….how else will they explain all this. It can’t all be Extremis and Super Soldier Serum and bionic implants…

      • Should just call them Homo Superior instead of mutants.

    • Isn’t it supposed to be Sunfire in next week’s episode?

      • Probably not due to the X-Men connection.

        • Probably Firebrand

  5. Strongest episode by far, and judging by the promo things will only get better. I personally enjoy the Skye character so I’m interested to see how this plays out.

  6. One thing I’m beginning to not enjoy is how in four forty minute episodes we’ve had:
    a superhuman that appears to rival cap
    a german/alien super weapon
    a new element that turns a guy into a super villain
    a robotic eye that seems to rival stark tech

    it just seems like the movie cinematic universe is comparatively tight believability wise,
    a lot of technologies are connected and “make sense” in the world,
    where as these just seem a little cheap because we’re not really given room or time
    to believe in anything that’s happened cos they move so quickly onto the next thing with
    zero attempted explanation.

    • A) I saw no indication that Mike Peterson could rival Cap. Potentially in terms of sheer strength, but in the pre-AoS MCU, Cap wasn’t THAT strong anyways. Every major hero (Iron man, Hulk, Thor) and every villain (Loki, Red Skull, Iron Monger, Whiplash, Abomination, Killian, Extremis soldiers) were at least as strong as him, if not stronger. Although he is stronger than regular people, Rogers’ real power and value isn’t his super strength or agility. His real power is his intelligence (e.g. getting the flag off the pole in boot camp), his willpower (e.g. never giving up/willingness to sacrifice himself to save others), and his leadership (e.g. uniting the Avengers to fight the Chitauri).
      B) It was a HYDRA weapon left over from WWII… those have already been clearly established in the MCU.
      C) It was my interpretation that the gravitonium is extremely, extremely rare. I accepted that into the MCU just as readily as the 30 second explanation we got for Cap’s Vibranium shield. As long as it isn’t everywhere, it doesn’t upset the universal balance of power. Also, there’s no telling how powerful Graviton will be if/when he reappears. No telling what that stuff could do to him.
      D) Stark Tech has already been rivaled, and even surpassed in some occasions. While they aren’t necessarily the only other players out there, it’s my hope that AIM is behind the latest episode as they’ve been shown to have extremely advanced tech.

      • All of your points make a lot of sense, I actually agree with all of them.

        With point a) I should have explained myself better, I’m more talking about the way the super serum
        was this epic thing that everybody desperately wanted and nobody could remake, and when bruce
        banner, one of the most intelligent scientists tried to do something similar, there were horrible side effects.

        and then with this all you have to do is glue a metal centipede to your arm and you’re good

        with point c) I have the same kind of problem, we’ve got this jokey, cover of time magazine, baddie
        who’s come out of nowhere with access to this crazy powerful element.

        I think my main criticism which still applies even after your points is still that in my opinion
        that the show is firing from one wildly different and epic invention/artifact every episode, like these
        things are just everywhere, which makes them seem less impressive, less like a big deal, less stakes.

        • I agree with you Beau. I wish they would stick with a plot devise (A thru D) for more than an episode so that they could be more fleshed out. Otherwise, I’m enjoying the show.

        • I do agree it seems to deflate the other landmarks of the MCU especially since you can reasonably conclude that Coulson’s team isn’t the ONLY “bus” out there in all of SHIELD, although they may be the only ones that hand-pick their missions. So while they might be getting the best and most interesting, it’s safe to say weird things are happening everywhere, which is a very slippery slope for me.

          I guess Nick Fury wasn’t kidding when he said the world was filling up with people that can’t be controlled.

          However, I do disagree with you on one thing: Erskine’s super-soldier serum has yet to be matched. Bruce Banners attempt was effective in creating the Hulk, but, as we’ve seen, that’s not necessarily a good thing and it’s almost entirely uncontrollable. Likewise, both Extremis and Project: Centipede, although effective, are extremely unstable. Extremis soldiers tend to get a bit… explodey… and I found Centipede even less effective. Not only do they tend to pop, it clearly causes mental and emotional instability. All of which are things you don’t want in your army. Cap is still the world’s only truly successful attempt at a super soldier.

          • Until we meet the Winter Soldier, at least. :D

          • “Cap is still the world’s only truly successful attempt at a super soldier.”

            Maybe because he was the only one who got those Vita Rays by Howard Stark. Johann Schmidt “burned” (as he called it), Bruce Banner used gamma rays and became the Hulk, and Emil Blonsky became the Abomination. So I guess it´s Stark´s rays that prevents those unwanted transformations.

  7. much better ep

  8. Did any one catch the line about miniaturization?

    • ANT MAN

    • I didn’t- what was the line!? :D

  9. What “photo on the wall” are you taking about?

    • I think the writer meant what was on the chalk board, the weird looking script that a photo of was taken by ward. Right before he leaves the compound.

  10. Perhaps Amador actually saw a change in Coulson with her X-Ray eye…

    • That is exactly what i thought as well…maybe she sees like his bionic inners…lol

  11. Coulson says something to the affect, “We don’t let our kind” or “We don’t let one of us” Then May, I think, responds, “She isn’t one of us..”

    I might be grasping at straws but maybe thats a hint that Coulson and Akela are “the same kind” meaning both are part bionic or robotic…

    • I took it as Coulson still referring to her as a SHIELD agent while May was pointing out that she isn’t anymore.

    • Yes, you’re grasping at straws.

    • LMD, Life Model Decoy.

  12. Much better episode. Actually cared about the characters, although Fitz/Simmons annoy me. Also, unnecessarily icky with the needle in the eye – there are local anasthetic eyedrops to use…

    Loved the start. Being from Sweden, it was fun to see Stockholm, but mostly the guys in the red masks were appropriately creepy, more like what I’ve been expecting from this show.

    Here’s hoping it keeps getting better.

  13. Better show, but not there yet…….can we just answer the whole “how did Coulson comeback” question, once and for all?

  14. Best episode yet. I’m glad the guys in red masks had only a minor part. The way they kept popping up in the early promotions for the show, you would have thought they were something bigger. I’m actually relieved they weren’t.

    Anyone else look at Amador with the “eye-strainer” patch looking thing and immediately think of Fury?

    • I thought of fury the moment we knew her eye would be removed and kind of expected (rather hoped) for another Fury post credits scene with some clever banter between the two cyclops’. I know Sam Jack is a busy man, but he could’ve showed up to pick her up for her trial maybe?

  15. Definitely better episode. They just might be finding their stride. But they should eventually bring Amador on board in the future. She bought a better foundation to the story. Still not great but getting there. And the silly tech team is still quite annoying, but if the stories are really strong, maybe over time we will not care about them so much.

  16. Much better, they have me for a couple more weeks as long as they continue to improve.

  17. So as of right now we have Graviton, the people with Extremis(possibly aim), the people who wanted the chalk board writing, and the rising tide. I know the Extremis and chalk board people might be one in the same, I’m just hoping we don’t get over loaded with bad guys Spider-Man 3 style and they actually get a bigger plot that goes most of the season. This show is definitely heading in the right direction and if they keep this up we might be looking at one of the best comic book based tv shows of all time.

  18. can’t really watch it where I live… LOL.

    I thought it was great. Much better than the previous 3 shows. hope it continues to grow in this direction. It’s getting progressively better and better. hope it gets the run it deserves… unlike most J.Dub shows, They always seemed to get brilliant right after the were cut from a network.

  19. Flaming guy with firey mitts looks promising. This series is pretty entertaining, and I will continue watching it.

  20. Surprisingly good episode.

  21. So into the show but UH! the mutants reference made me want to punch Stan Lee in the face for selling the X-men franchise in the first place. Looking forward to the Graviton story though!

    • Stan Lee had nothing to do with selling the X-Men movie rights to Fox. Marvel did that in the late 80s, when they were bankrupt. And those were the times where no one guessed that Marvel will ever have a successfull movie studio someday.

  22. Coulson will eventually become Vision. I think she saw that they changed him by doing something to him to save him. I’m interested in seeing how much he gets injured. He probably will develop some kind of relationship with scarlet witch in avengers 2 and be a full blown vision by Ant-Man or Avengers 3. Just my thoughts. If he is not already an android he will be changed to one. Now give me Black Panther, Wasp, and Ms. Marvel and I’m good to go for avengers 3. Great time to be a marvel fan!!!!!!

    • Totally agree…

  23. Everything´s going swell.

    Just 2 requests:

    1.- Where is Maria Hill? Bring her back Whedon.I want her to be explored. (as a character I mean, hee…)

    2.- No more extended time to the “Coulson resurrection” mystery.

  24. Best episode yet, they’re definitely on the right track. Hopefully we see many of these characters again later on in the series, I think Akela Amador would make a great agent down the road.

  25. This may have been a trick my ears played on me, but when the agents are looking at Akela’s bionic eye feed and May says she’ll take the first turn of watch, there’s a faint but distinctly mechanical sound synchronized with her batting her eyelids. It may be that she’s a Life Model Decoy herself and doesn’t know.

    • That would explain her wooden acting.

  26. What’s with the “(GTA V)”? I hope this isn’t a new trend, video game work?

  27. I agree, leave the epilogue scenes on the cutting room floor if this was any indication. Weak.

    Only thing I’m finding intriguing now is who was pulling the strings on the eyes.

  28. Hi Screenrant I like the story tag… S.H.I.E.L.D takes a detour for an agent that has gone rouge… I think you mean Rogue. Anyway just thought I’d point it out… : )

    • Thanks!

  29. They really mined Mission Impossible 3 a lot with this episode. It wasn’t only the failsafe with the exploding eye, but also how the mission in the building with the “superagent” (still don’t remember his name) played out, especially the exit.