[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 17. There will be SPOILERS.]
The uprising has begun, and this week Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivers a thoroughly enjoyable Captain America: The Winter Solider tie-in episode which manages to not only completely justify its synergistic world and movie prerequisite, but it also makes terrific use of the momentum of Captain’s America's most recent adventure to dare everyone watching - network executives, fans, etc. - to try and let go of this now blossoming series.
In this week’s episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” written by Jed and Maurissa Tancharoen, Coulson (Clark Gregg) and co. take a one-way flight to the HYDRA-infested Hub, where Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Triplett (B.J. Britt) continue to investigate Skye’s blood sample. After Agent Hand (Saffron Burrows) takes control of the Hub, and Coulson and co. make their move to bring down the HYDRA threat, allegiances are broken, friends are lost and traitors are revealed.
Experimentation in any medium can be dangerous; on network television, specifically, it can quickly become disastrous. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s launch, while not perfect, was met with more than enough missteps to allow fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to step away without feeling as if they were missing something. After this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., however, it’s fair to say that they’re missing quite a bit.
In this week’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in episode, which reveals Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Ward (Brett Dalton) as HYDRA agents, among many others, a new, energetic soul is breathed into the continuously evolving series. It may not technically be on-par with Marvel’s theatrical endeavors, but what it does do, surprisingly, is reignite the feeling you get in the theater, from being immersed in 70+ years of comic book characters and tales just waiting to be revealed. Most importantly, it makes you want to earnestly tune in next week and the week after that.
Even with a visual budget pushed to the limits of what television can afford, and a string of action scenes which will get the heart pumping, this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. never allows Captain America: The Winter Soldier to redefine what the series is at its core; instead, it provides the characters with the perfect setting to show their full range, while also making sure to include enough humor to make its viewing as entertaining as it is enthralling.
Coulson is now in charge, against all odds, and it truly feels like he’s actually the leader of a team that is ready to take on the world and HYDRA. All of the supporting characters - Skye (Chloe Bennet) included - are much stronger than they were before, and their ability to maintain such believable roles throughout the episode is pleasantly surprising, and hopefully a sign of things to come. Such a drastic shift in quality, at first, is very disconcerting, as if they've just recently realized that Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) can successfully deliver more than a few words of dialogue; however, the tone and execution of this episode - as well as a few recent revelations - leads one to believe that Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. has finally found its voice.
Series co-creators Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen recently revealed that, after the series was picked up, they were then made aware of what’s going to occur in Captain America: The Winter Solider, which meant they had no option but to stay afloat until S.H.I.E.L.D.’s doomsday arrived. Sure, previous episodes could have been filled with alternative filler, but with the weight of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe hanging over their heads - and 16hrs of time to fill - there’s not much room to adequately envision a series which will essentially be changing toward the end of its first season run.
Fans will have to tune in next week and see whether or not Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues upon its new path and maintains its newfound energy. Either way, no matter what happens next, the strength of this episode is proof that Marvel’s experiment in synergy, when executed correctly, delivers a viewing experience you won’t find on any other network.
Perhaps now it’s time to talk about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with "Providence" @8pm on ABC. You can check out a preview of next week's episode below: