‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Mid-Season Premiere Review: Dead on Arrival

Published 1 year ago by

agents of shield coulson death operation Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Mid Season Premiere Review: Dead on Arrival

[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS (like the one above).]

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back from hiatus and takes the Coulson (Clark Gregg) mystery head-on… kind of (not really). But hey – at least Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are now thoroughly entertaining and pleasant to watch onscreen.

In “The Magical Place,” written by the newly paired Paul Zbyszewski (Day Break) & Brent Fletcher (Spartacus: War of the Damned), Coulson, still separated from his S.H.I.E.L.D. group, is exposed to poking and prodding by Project Centipede’s Po (Cullen Douglas) and Raina (Ruth Negga) under the direction of the mysterious Clairvoyant to find out the secret of his resurrection.

Meanwhile with Coulson missing, Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) steps in as the new team leader, which results in the group separating itself from its junior member Skye (Chloe Bennet), forcing her to find alternative methods to track down her missing superior.

How did Coulson come back?” is the question that fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe have been asking themselves since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was first announced. After the first few episodes aired, however, many fans decided to step away from Marvel’s TV experiment indefinitely. These brilliant many may have made the correct decision all along, as it turns out, because there’s not much that’s contained within this episode – explanation included – to truly justify the investment of time required in order for Whedon and co. to right this upended series.

agents of shield season 1 episode 11 skye Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Mid Season Premiere Review: Dead on Arrival

This week’s episode is a curious one, and not just because of everything that happened (or didn’t), or because Coulson’s resurrection reveal was less than revealing. For the first time since the series began, two solo writers, Zbyszewski and Fletcher, were paired up for the mid-season premiere following the winter hiatus.

Pairing up writers isn’t particular strange (though it is unusual); however, one of the writers created a cult TV show and wrote the first thoroughly entertaining episode of the series (“F.Z.Z.T.“), while the other wrote a poor episode which introduced Scorch, Raina and Project Centipede (“Girl in the Flower Dress”). With a bit of Captain Planet logic likely behind the decision to team up writers, the “with your powers combined” idea unfortunately falls apart early on, leaving audiences with a story of two minds – neither of which are all that competent or worthwhile.

For the majority of the episode, Coulson is away from his team, and with it, we were finally able to see what the series would be if Coulson isn’t present to help smooth out the series’ rough spots with his charm. As it turns out, the series without Coulson’s direct involvement is much like the S.H.I.E.L.D. team in this episode: awkward, chaotic and… unfortunate.

Without Coulson, or the fond feelings that many terrific Marvel films instilled, the team aspect essentially falls away under Hand’s control, and two unnecessary tales – one with Skye, the other with the team – pop up to help fill time until the non-revelation ruse is unveiled to all those watching. Neither story is really all that in-depth or unique, and the same end result could be attained with a more streamlined adventure.

agents of shield season 1 episode 11 grant ward Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Mid Season Premiere Review: Dead on Arrival

Coulson, too, had a bit of difficulty handling what this episode threw at him. Agent Coulson is a character with established behaviors and settings, and it’s within these familiar confines that audiences’ fondness grew. Now outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, strapped to a mind-reading device and forced to relive the pain of leaving love behind, this relatively two-dimensional man is forced to heavily emote and respond to reflections of a life and time that audiences were never truly aware of.

As much pain and heartbreak that Clark Gregg is able to convey in this episode, there’s no doubt that it would have been more impact if he wasn’t secluded in the “town that the bomb forgot,” or if audiences were able to meet him halfway, emotionally, and not require him to carry such weighty stories – not to mention the future of the series – on his own.

No matter what, there was a reveal, as promised. Coulson’s Tahiti charade turned out to be anything but vacation, as he was strapped to a gurney, dead for days and going through multiple operations throughout his getaway. How did Coulson come back? A machine poking at his exposed brain is the answer, apparently.

This is as much of a reveal as viewers get right now, and you’ve got to give them credit for believing that fans will tune in for the next chapter of this unnecessarily complex mystery. Will Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever get that chance? The numerous powerful entities involved makes it too difficult to tell.

If the ratings continue to follow in the path of No Ordinary Family, then Michael Chiklis and J. August Richards will be able to agree on at least one thing: it’s not easy being a superhero on ABC.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with “Seeds” @8pm on ABC.

Follow Anthony Ocasio on Twitter @anthonyocasio
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  1. I don’t believe the writers revealed HOW he’s still alive. All we know is that somehow, someway, SHIELD was able to revive Coulson after a week of being dead. Last night was just a taste of the mystery.

    Speaking of taste, Chloe Bennent is quite the feast for the eyes. She needs more face time to satisfy my appetite.

  2. Ok…for one thing, I think this episode was really good and to imply it was not, is an insult. You obviously do not like the show….I like the show and enjoy watching it. I thought the reveal about Colson was dead on. I was hoping it was not going to be something like a clone thing or an android. So I am happy with the episode. I was surprised that he was supposedly dead as long as he was and that Fury did everything that he wanted to make sure Colson did not die. I am pretty sure there was some sort of alien technology involved to make sure he came back. The Asgards must have helped. Whatever happened, I am happy with the reveal. As for the team…I think they have hit their stride…I liked what happened and all in the episode. The ending was a surprise and I want to see more. So for those who are critical…..if you don’t like the show, don’t watch. I for one like the show and look forward to watching. And if ABC cancels it in the distant future, I will be sad, but I will not be heartbroken.

    • well said. I thought this episode was one of the strongest yet.

      • Thirded. I thought it was one of, if not the, best episode yet. I feel like the reviewer and I aren’t even watching the same show when I read these reviews.

    • This is only a piece of the whole story. I think there’s more to it than that. Unlike the Cape and Heroes, I think that the show should keep going for those who do like it, and keep going for them. I like the show, and I want to know more about Coulson, and more about what lies ahead for the team.

    • The Asgards must have helped?

      How so? They haven’t had any contact with Thor since the Avengers, who’s only visit to Earth (with no SHIELD contact, mind you) since then was in The Dark World through a portal because Odin wasn’t keen on sending him back with his own power. If that is the case, he certainly wouldn’t have “mustered up” the amount of power needed to send some random Asgardian to help bring back to life someone he didn’t know, had no connection to, and likely isn’t even aware died.

      The only other Asgardian they’ve come across was within the show long after Coulson’s return.

      Given the heavy handed constant references back to the films, I’d be more willing to put money on something of Chautari origin than Asgardian, given the doctor’s comment about not letting him turn into “one of them”.

      • Of course the Asgardians have that type of technology and somehow used it to revive a mid-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but they let Frigga die. Makes about as much sense as anything else on the show at this point so why not. I think that is what some people like about this show, they really just leave so much up to the imagination fans can choose their own adventure and just entertain themselves.

        • After tonight’s episode, I’d say Asguardian is off the table and it’s something a little more cosmic oriented like I figured.

    • yeah im with u ,love the show ,great ep…because it started slow all the haters are just going to keep putting it down ,greg clack did a great job this week….nothing wrong with the team either .their cool now ..i like them all ….

    • I agree with you, this was the first time i actually enjoy it and there was some suspense that carries on for me to keep watching what happens next. Whats funny the person who did this review did not obviously pay attention to what they were watching. The “thingy” messing with his brain did not bring him back to life, if the reviewer were paying any attention the doctor clarifies that when Coulson ask him that very question. The “thingy” messing with his brain was only suppressing his memory of the pain and trauma he went through when he was brought back to life and replacing it with pleasant memories. I love this episode and it carries on to the next. Now we have something to look forward to, something ungodly and heaven and earth had to be moved by Fury to bring Coulson back to life.

    • Why do fanboys say – “if you don’t like it, don’t watch?”
      You do know that when they accept your ultimatum, it decreases viewership of a show that you like, and ultimately ends in its demise (which is exactly what’s going on here, this show is complete garbage, this episode sealed it). Fanboys are so illogical.

      Anthony nailed it – this show relies heavily on a character that was never meant to carry his own show. Coulson was a 2D construct used in capacity as a means to an end, to show up and generate buzz for SHIELD throughout Phase 1 of the MCU. He was light comic relief. Now, he is being used improperly in a show that is horribly, poorly written and conceived. In my opinion this has really hurt The Avengers as a film, and since this show has started repeat viewings really cheapen the whole Coulson vs. Loki arc.

      In better news, Justified returned!

  3. I think this episode was soft reboot. We in effect got rid two boring villains (Raina & Po). And set up a more mysterious and interesting villain (The Clairvoyant). We also got some stronger sci-fi elements introduced. I think this will be part of the effort to make the show feel more like a “Comic Book” type series. I really wish Whedon would dig deep into himself and put in some of the elements that made Buffy such a great series. I don’t hate the show at all… but I want more. This episode gave me hope that we’re seeing a change in direction for the better.

    • Yeap, I definitely felt the “comicbook” vibe when watching this episode, especially during Coulson’s scenes where Raina mentioned the Cellist from Portland. It felt like there was a lot of backstory where we’re not aware of, and I think it further establishes Coulson as a “character” than simply a two-dimensional,”means to an ends” kind of guy that we used to think of him. Isn’t that how reading comics is, for the most part? Coming across something already established and unfamiliar? It’s a double-edged sword, I admit: the good thing is that it makes the world feel bigger, more eventful and “alive”, but it can also confuse those who are less patient with these things.

      Still. Great episode.

  4. I feel like the reviews are getting steadily more critical as the show steadily improves. There are definitely better shows out there, but this is finally shaping into a good show.

    I would say that this episode is was the pilot should have been, but there’s a sort of data dump of world building that the other episodes did that was also needed. They could have just springboarded more from the rest of the MCU, but then we have way to much homework required for the casual viewer.

    I’ve been convinced to stick around and see what’s up. Which I feel is an appropriate grade of the show as a whole. Just enough for me to come back for more, not enough for me to sing its praises.

  5. Some episodes of AoS have been bland and deserving of criticism. This was not one of those episodes! Anthony Ocasio, are you just jumping on a bash Shield bandwagon?

    • Actually, Anthony has been leading that bandwagon since before the show aired. Listen to some of last summer’s SR Underground podcasts ;)

  6. I hated this show to start but I think the last two episodes have been a definite improvement over the majority of the first half. I’m going to give it the rest of the season.

  7. I like the show, It’s entertaining and quite frankly i don’t need it to be more than that. It has the Whedon quality and i am planning on sticking with it. And for those who may have missed it, May pulled a “Crazy Ivan” when turning the plane, nice nod to Firefly. Not to mention Ron Glass making a nice appearance in this episode.
    No complaints here.

  8. Hey everyone look, Skye bought a leather suit, now without doubt she’s an Agent of Shield.

    This show is absolutely appalling, I’ve watched every episode simply out of curiosity for how Coulson survived. So a robot thing messed about with his brain, this is what I get after 11 episodes. I’m out, Best of luck to everyone who continues to watch.

    • Right. I think we all knew(or at least I did) what happened with Coulson but didn’t know the specifics. Now we know and it was a huge letdown. Again, as stated by numerous sites, lazy writing with no imagination. It makes me sad that a series as dull and horrible as this can stay alive just because it’s called Marvel but a show with real vision, great writing, storytelling, and some improving imagination like Almost Human can be considered for cancelation, even though they both have around the same ratings.

      • “Lazy writing with no imagination”

        Actually, apparently the both of you are on the wrong boards: Arrow is —>

        • How is it the wrong board? AOS and Arrow will forever be compared because of its Marvel/DC brand. All I am saying is that right now, DC is winning the TV war because Arrow provided a better product 11 episodes into season 1. Did it have its flaws? Yes, but the overall consensus was that it was liked more than disliked which is not something that is happening with AOS. There is more negativity towards the series than there ever was with Arrow 11 episodes in and this being a show from the “doomed” CW station. I love Marvel but as of right now when it comes to the TV product, I am more on board with the Arrow then AOS. I hope it changes but right now it’s not a series in which I would consider “Must See TV” like Arrow is IMO

    • I happen to like this show and I find it interesting that S.H.E.I.L.D had the technology to actually open up Agent Phil Coulson’s brain and repair, not only his heart (which had been ripped to shreds when Loki stabbed him through the heart in The Avengers), but be able to manipulate and change his memories. I am, however, disappointed about how MUCH information we got. I assure you that if you keep watching, you’ll get answers. Also, if you didn’t know, the episode after this was extremely interesting. You find out a big secret about Skye’s past. Suggestion: watch.

  9. At least for once they spent some money on special fx. The “operating” scene was well done.

    It does amaze me how I see MUCH better visuals in other SciFi shows. You’d think with Disney money they could spend some more on better FX and get away from cheesy green screen. I really didn’t buy the bad guy almost getting sucked out of the plane.

    Honestly I’ve defended this show in the past and wanted to give it more time, but I am really bored watching it. I forgot it was even on last night. I was watching Iron Man on DVD and forgot about it so I missed the first 10 minutes. My first thought was, “I probably didn’t miss much.”

  10. Show keeps improving. Show keeps me tuning in. I’m glad the show didn’t start off with it’s best episodes and slowly degrade…like some other fall TV programs.

  11. I was really, really looking forward to this show, but it let me down massively for one bloody reason: Skye. I realise you have to have a relatable character, but Christ Almighty, if people don’t get what Shield is by now it must be time to pack in. Here you have a team of trained government personnel who are shown up at every turn by an untrained “sassy” computer hacker. Why bother with a team of agents, when one of your characters can disable alarms with her phone, take down bad guys with no training, and be cleverer than everyone else on screen? I’m a big fan of strong female characters, but just like strong male characters, they need flaws. The girl playing her has all the emotional range of a haddock, is a crap actress and the character itself is presented as completely and utterly infallible. The only reason I can think of is that someone has gone “we need this girl to have a bigger part” and they’ve over egged the pudding. The Coulson mystery is an intriguing one, but stretched out to the extent of trolling, and honestly now, the only way anyone’s going to be surprised is if he’s NOT The Vision or an LMD.

  12. If (God help us), this gets renewed for a second season, it would be far better to get some lower level heroes and villains like Moon Knight, Punisher, Elektra, Taskmaster, Bullesye etc, who wouldn’t require massive CGI or effects to do, and integrate them into the Marvel On Screen Universe. Hell, maybe even introduce a Thunderbolts team in opposition – just something to take it away from the boring storylines and the odious Skye.

  13. I have to agree with various posters over the months, SR really does not seem to like this show

    …I know that ep 11 did not reveal as much as everyone would have like but gave just enough…and really i believe some of us have stayed with the show more for the overall idea of the series than the much vaunted coulson’s rebirth subplot.

    I really thought this was one of their better episodes…maybe even their best,the direction and overall feel was great and when i was watching it did not feel like some b level production like so many other AOS episodes

    …they truly only have had 3 or so eps that did not feel low production(CW like)…or if you will planning epic scenarios they just have no resources to depict(supernatural seasons 7-8…maybe 9)

    I think they may start to change for the better…i started watching this together with the goldbergs and trophy wife(like all 3) ,at the time i thought the weakest of the 3 was AOS and it still is overall, but for the first time AOS felt like it’s title and not some rag tag group wannabe agents

    • Sorry but the series that the CW has been putting out lately has been great. Arrow Season 1 is leaps and bounds ahead of what AOS has done thus far. You now throw in series like The Originals along with The Tomorrow People and the CW is starting to have themselves a pretty nice series line up. I give each series about 12-13 episodes to see if they have some kind of direction or improvements and with Arrow, I saw a huge improvement from episode 8-12. I saw a direction and an overall storyline. With AOS, I only consider 2 episodes that are good. It has had some okay episodes then it would follow with a lousy one. That has been their pattern lately and they really need to step it up. I will give it a couple more episodes but so far I am not impressed like I was with a show like Arrow or The Originals or even a show like The Tomorrow People(which delivered on their midseason finale). Yes, some other their production might not be the greatest but at least they focus on storytelling

      • if you notice in my first post i mentioned AOS only had about 3 episodes I did not consider B material

        arrow doing well may be because they don’t aim for more than they can provide with what they got to work with…just talking about what they put on screen not the writing as I can’t comment on that as I only saw a few EPs of season 1

  14. This is ridiculous. There must be something wrong with this site because the people on ComicbookMovie.com, who hate AoS with a passion, loved this episode. Everyone’s saying that Coulsons reveal was underwhelming and letting that eclipse the fantastic performance Gregg gave, the great handling of characters and one of the most chilling scenes on television. Your a fool if you thought they would reveal everything in this episode. It would be like finding out Slade was behind Brother Blood in the first episode of season 2 in Arrow.

    • right on about gregs proformance….i really want the bashing of this show to stop ,,glad alot of other people see how good this show is and is going to be ….

    • “There must be something wrong with this site because the people on ComicbookMovie.com, who hate AoS with a passion, loved this episode.”

      Quick; someone file a complaint to the opinion police.

      • LOL, right

  15. Anyway rant over. For the people who weren’t blinded by hate against this episode, do you think Mike Peterson will become Deathlok?

    • As speculation goes, I like yours. Deathlok would be a good television show character and since they’ve already gone the route of reanimating a dead human with Coulson’s story, it could be done pretty easily throughout the rest of this season.

      Then, the writers could use this cybernetics story and easily transfer into the robotics and artificial intelligence realm which lead us to the creation of the most powerful android ever known…Ultron. And since Ultron’s shell cannot be made of adamantium (because of the whole FoX-Men Universe vs. the MCU). His shell will be molded out of the next best thing, Vibranium. Then, Phase Three has a Black Panther movie. BLAMO! (I’m still working on my Champ Kind WHAMMY phrase) GADZOOKS! (I’ll keep working on it)

  16. Best show to date!

  17. Where does SHIELD get these devices? I enjoyed this episode immensely, and am becoming more of a Coulson fan, being one since he first appeared in the Marvel films. I wonder that they never mention it was Loki who killed him, just that he was killed. And they say NYC but wasn’t he on the helicarrier when it happened?

    Hope it makes it for another season.

  18. Uhm… there wasn’t any reveal, whatsoever. So SHIELD had performed a number of operations on Coulson to resurrect him and give him fake memories… duh. Didn’t we already assumed that from the get-go?

    • I mean, obviously in a real world, if someone suffers from severe trauma, they will go through one or several operations to survive it. That’s how it works. And clearly Coulson have had fake memories implanted on him. So this episode didn’t actually reveal anything, but confirmed what at the very least was the reasonable assumption to be made after they show Coulson alive in the pilot. There was no need for an 10 episode build up. No reveal, whatsoever.

      • I think they used a safety net on this whole reveal and showed viewers something so that if the plug gets pulled they can say they did not leave any loose ends. If this does not go over well and the ratings continue to slide they can still back track and throw another scenario out there and see if it spikes ratings and interest.

  19. Zbyszewski?? dude, get some vogals… how the hell do you say this?

  20. Terrible review.

  21. Let’s get this out of the way right now. Saffron Burrows can’t act her way out of a wet paper bag. The way she enunciates every single word is like she is reading it phonetically because she doesn’t understand English. It was the same in Deep Blue Sea, the only other thing I can remember her from. And Coulson’s non-reveal was also disappointing. Wow, he was dead and they brought him back and it gave him excruciating pain, so they blocked it out with happy thoughts. I would have been happier with a life model decoy or hell, Dr. Strange bringing him back with magic. That would have been a heck of an intro or at least another easter egg that would actually have been cool.
    Maybe Coulson’s death and resurrection is what brings on the Marvel Zombie Apocalypse. Anything to bring something outside the box and liven things up. I only watch this show each week because I’m a fan of the movies and hope the show will get better. And who didn’t see Emerson coming back? Of course he wasn’t dead. But I do admit, I liked the message in his eye at the end. That was a nice touch to an otherwise run of the mill autopilot episode.

  22. I thought this was an outstanding eppy! Very possibly the best one so far. I could actually understand what Fitz and Simmons were saying this time! The team is starting to grow on me, I must say. They actually feel like a little family. The machine and brain scene really creeped me out! And poor Peterson! NOW what?? I’m looking forward to the next eppy! Tuesday night can’t arrive fast enough!

  23. This was a great episode especially at the end where coulson was screaming let me die let me die then sky comes along and tries to wake him up. You see the emotion of all the actors there when sky cried and let’s be honest we didn’t expect the two main villains to first be killed by the clairvoyant and then the lady dressed with the flower get caught so comparing it to no ordinary family is just absurd.

  24. I think that Ultron is the clairvoyant, cooperating with AIM. He has the abilities to hack every gov computer, satellites, etc and “see” what’s happening everywhere. The rumors is that Tony Stark’s building Ultron (somewhere after iron man 3), and whole AoS show is happening after IM 3, and shield just doesn’t know that Ultron is a threat since he and Stark helped bring Coulson into the Vision. Or something like that…

    Or the “brain machine” is Kree tech. Cap Mar Vell is Kree liaison with Shield and helped them with Coulson. He came to earth and seeking alliances becauce of the big threat Thanos has become to the Kree empire. This set’s up for an upcoming ms Marvel movie?

  25. The blue serum they gaved Coulson… what if it’s kree blood or kree serum stuff. Ronan the accuser (kree) is to be in the Guardians of the galaxy movie, right? Rumors is that movie is a big “fight/war”, maybe kree/chitauri war? Coulson is cap Mar-Vell, or the real cap Mar-Vell helped shield bring back Coulson with Kree tech. Shield is full of classified secrets. What if Nick Fury is the one and only who know about the Kree liaison cap Mar-Vell?

    • DUDE! did you see tonight’s episode? you might be on to something!

  26. Like that last comment a bunch.

  27. Fan of the show – but probably biased because of my love of everything marvel; I like where the show is headed. I appreciated an addition of a team member. I appreciate the “isolation” the shield team has from the big picture shield operations. I like the extremity of Coulson’s backstory. NOW that being said, I hate the guy on the team – every time he talks it is just the farthest thing from reasonable lines. Every time he opens his mouth it is very apparent he is acting – I can’t relate to him at all. Another thing needed? More cameos. I know stan lee is set for one, possibly Fury again, but lets get one of Black Widow or Hawkeye – one of the insane good shield agents it would really bring the whole picture together and connect some dots – hopefully around Winter Soldier time something like that might happen.

  28. What a cop out.i feel so let down and led on to believe they were finnally gonna be an explanation and its was bollocks.the back end of this first season better be amazing or ive had it it.so not lived up to the promise and the hype.there are so many other shows doing it better.

  29. When in the world will Hollywood stop with the old people getting sucked out of the plane deal. You do not get sucked out of planes. Sure there is the split second where you can get blown out, but once the air pressure is equalized you will have jump out of the plane. If you don’t believe me, Mythbusters did an episode on it. This show has to stop with it, it was real bad when they used an inflatable raft to plug the hole in the side of the plane. It is things like that annoy me about this show. I think the story is coming along.