Deathlok: A Review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 16 “End of the Beginning”

Posted: April 2, 2014 in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Reviews, TV
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After another three week hiatus, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned tonight with plenty of unanswered questions, and the continuation of the much-hyped Uprising storyline. To this point, it hasn’t exactly been clear when they’re going to initiate this uprising, but as it is supposed to be tied to the upcoming theatrical release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in three days, they’re going to have to get going on it pretty soon. The big reveal regarding Agent May from the last episode (which I’ll discuss in detail after the break) certainly points in that direction, but there’s no guarantee that her actions are tied to the potential split within S.H.I.E.L.D. at all. So does tonight see the real beginning of Uprising? Click through after the break for my episode recap and review.

<<Spoiler Alert: This review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E16 – “End of the Beginning” – will discuss major plot points and events in the episode; read at your own risk!>>

The cold opening sees Agents Garett and Triplett going into a safehouse in Sydney. Just as Garrett is getting comfortable, they receive an intruder alert, and the door is smashed in by Mike Peterson. He’s in full Deathlok mode now, and although they shoot him several times as well as tasering him (one of the bullets even hits him in the head, exposing a metal plate beneath his skin), he’s able to resist their attacks. Seeing that they have automatic weapons at the ready, he leaps through the ceiling and to safety.

We cut to the Bus, which is landing on an aircraft carrier. Pretty much every auxiliary agent we’ve seen in the series so far is on board to greet Coulson’s team: Agents Garett and Triplett, Hand and Blake, as well as Agent Sitwell, the man Simmons shot with a Night-Night gun back in Episode 107, “The Hub.” They all go aboard the Bus, where they go to the briefing room. Coulson fills them in on what they know about the Clairvoyant, and has some ideas on how to get him. They also discuss Mike Peterson’s transformation into Deathlok, and how he’s becoming a real danger to agents in the field at this point. Garett goes over how they hope to find Deathlok’s boss. They’ve gone over all the files of individuals listed as “gifted” in the S.H.I.E.L.D. records, and have narrowed it down to a few likely candidates. Coulson wants to get Skye to come up with a way of coordinating their teams and approaches to the candidates, but Hand points out that the kind of access he’s describing can only be given to an agent. He tells her he knows.

We cut to the prodigal daughter (metaphorically, in any case), who is down in the lab with Fitz and Simmons. Skye is complaining that they’re taking far too much blood from her, but it’s rather half-hearted and meant more as good-natured grumbling. Simmons voices her concerns from the last episode, when she said she wanted to send samples to the Hub for further analysis, but Fitz reminds her that Coulson has told them to keep this work in-house. Simmons appeals to Skye, but Skye backs up Coulson on this. Simmons is a little surprised – Skye following the rules? – but before she can follow that line further, Ward pops his head in the door – Skye is wanted upstairs.

Skye hears the initial idea for the coordinated approach to finding the Clairvoyant, and she enthuses about a double-blind approach, where one agent has the target’s name, and the other the location, the information only shared at the last possible moment. She realizes, however, that she can’t access all the files. This is a sop to the fact that Hand and other senior agents are present. In the past, Skye would have simply hacked her way into the system and done the requisite work; but here, she’s trying to at least appear to follow the rules. Coulson tells her he knows she needs greater access, and opens a box carrying a S.H.I.E.L.D. badge. “Welcome to S.H.I.E.L.D., Skye” he says, as he hands it to her. She hesitates, but he points out that she’s passed all the tests required, to which Hand adds in a snide voice, “For a level one agent.” Okay, as people who have been following my reviews this season will know, I’m not the biggest fan of Skye. But for some reason, Hand’s pettiness here really rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was the way she was so willing to discard Fitz and Ward back in Episode 107, when she didn’t bother to develop an exit plan for the two agents, or maybe it’s the way she always questions Coulson’s plans, but I just don’t like her at all (and it turns out that this dislike isn’t entirely misplaced, as we will see later in the episode).

We cut to Mike Peterson/Deathlok, who is in a small, dingy apartment. He’s looking in a mirror at the wound on his forehead; he seems surprised that there’s a metal plate beneath the skin. He’s obviously had more than one surgery, and his cybernetic and robotic enhancements go far beyond the leg we saw given to him in Episode 113, “T.R.A.C.K.S.” There’s a knock at his door, and he’s given the message, “Don’t say I never give you anything.” He scans the door – he has x-ray version, or near enough to it, and sees no one outside. He opens the door, and brings a small parcel inside. He opens it – there’s a new cybernetic enhancement, this time for his arm. He puts it on, and it immediately and painfully, integrates with his arm. More on this latest enhancement below. We leave Peterson as the Clairvoyant eyeball texts him once more: “They’re coming for me. It’s time we met.”

Back on the bus, Sitwell and Coulson are discussing the mission, and Hand expresses her doubts. She doesn’t think Coulson’s plan is sound, nor does she think it’s safe to be sending agents out without backup. We cut to Skye and Agent Garett. They begin by discussing war wounds – Garett tells her he’s been shot twice before as well, but that the worst was a burn he received on his chest. This is an interesting dynamic building between the two, and we get an idea where it’s going when he mentions that Ward’s different than he remembers. He tells Skye that Ward’s always been a loner, but that he sees that he’s changed. It’s the “Difference between fighting against something, and fighting for something.” Garett clearly indicates that this something is Skye herself, but then withdraws a bit and includes the rest of Coulson’s team. So that little conversation between Lorelei and Agent May in the last episode regarding whom Ward cares about? Garett certainly seems to think it’s Skye. I sincerely hope not; the writers haven’t locked themselves into this choice yet, and I think it would be a) too obvious to go with Skye, and b) hurt any gains she has made in the eyes of viewers by not being the entire center of attention over the last several episodes. Is Garett just falling into the “everyone loves Skye but doesn’t know why” trap that Simmons admitted to? Unless her 0-8-4 status has something to do with a certain je ne sais quoi charisma that isn’t translating through the screen (and even if that’s what all this is), it’s going to be pretty hard to stomach otherwise seasoned veterans like Garett just taking a shine to her. Now, if Garett were obviously trying to bed our heroine, it would make a ton more narrative sense despite the ick factor it would introduce. But the fact that he goes from showing her his scars and commiserating/admiring her, to openly talking about how much Ward digs her, says that this isn’t his tack. Come on, Paxton – use your clout to encourage the writers to write more honestly!

Down in the lab, Fitz and Simmons are discussing the GH-325 compound, and what to do about Skye’s blood samples. Although this is becoming a bit repetitive, I think it does serve to show how even those closest and most loyal to Coulson are beginning to question his judgement. Speaking of loyalty, May conveniently pokes her head in at this point, and joins the conversation. She asks the two if they’ve seen any odd behavior out of Coulson or Skye, to which they shake their heads; she further asks that if they do, they come to her first with the report.

Upstairs, Skye is giving Coulson his data for the assignment. Coulson reiterates how valuable Skye is to the team, and asks her to use her special skill-set to continue investigating potential Clairvoyant candidates while the teams are on the ground – Coulson wants her to try to find his weakness by examining the files.

The team now disperses into two-agent units: Ward and Triplett to Milton Keynes, UK, to investigate a suspect in the local prison; May and Blake to an assisted living facility in Macon, Georgia; and Coulson and Garett to a university in Muncie, Indiana. How all three teams manage to get to these places simultaneously is not explained, which I found a bit jarring – there’s literally no transition, or even a suggestion of time passing. Something, even planes taking off (we do see one transport leaving from the rooftop dock on the Bus, but just one), would have added only a few seconds of airtime, but would have explained this and made the transitions smoother. We get quick cuts between all three teams at this point.

We begin with Ward and Trip who are walking toward the prison entrance, Ward suggesting that he wants payback for what the Clairvoyant did to Skye (more hints about his prospective interests), but Trip ups the ante: he lost a partner to the Clairvoyant, and he reminds Ward that he’s not the only one with an ax to grind; jump to May and Blake – Blake is very leery of the efficacy of trying to find the Clairvoyant in a care facility; we move to Coulson and Garett. Garett’s just related a story, and wonders if Coulson’s familiar with it – “I was there,” Coulson replies, and mildly admonishes Garett for embellishment – small but effective establishing piece between them to further show their history and friendship. They come across some roadwork – very convenient, they both realize, as they take the detour; inside the care facility, May tells Blake to find the patient’s room, while she seeks out the facility’s director; Ward and Trip are buzzed into the prison, only to find the reception area recently abandoned, a hot cup of tea (I’m assuming here) sitting behind the caged entry; Coulson is driving up an alley, when a large truck is backed out in front of them, blocking them off. Garett takes his gun out of his pocket, and wonders if this will make another good story one day.

In the care facility, we see Blake, who is flipping through a patient book at the empty reception desk. Suddenly, Deathlok is there beside him. He grabs Blake and throws him against the far wall. Blake goes for his pistol, getting off three shots directly into Deathlok’s chest, allowing Blake to scramble around a desk for cover. He fires twice more, and then changes out his magazine, getting a final shot before Deathlok grabs him again, lifting him and choking him. Blake manages to struggle out, “You don’t need to do this, Michael. You have a son.” But Deathlok shakes his head. “Mike Peterson’s dead,” he says, throwing Blake to the ground and stomping him on the chest, just as May rounds the corner. She calls in to the team that Blake is down, and back at the Hub, Hand informs the other teams, saying “We have an agent down, repeat, Agent Blake is down.” We cut to Coulson and Garett, who back their SUV out of the detour, and take off, while at the prison, Ward and Trip exit the prison quickly on foot. May confronts Deathlok. She gets off a couple of shots, while he raises his newly placed arm prosthetic. It opens up, and a pair of small missiles on a launcher appears. We see May from his perspective, and he locks on – he fires, and she dives out of the way, the missile narrowly missing her as the concussion knocks down part of the wall and ceiling. Deathlok takes off.

We cut to the Hub at an indeterminate future time – long enough that all the teams are together there. Blake is wheeled by them on a gurney – he’s still alive, but in critical condition. May reports that the suspect they were looking for – Thomas Nash – was not at the care facility; he’s, in her words, a “ghost.” Hand arrives, and she is angry. “This shouldn’t have happened,” she says, “Back-up should have been there.” Garett disagrees – the presence of large teams would have tipped off the Clairvoyant, but she points out that this seemed to happen with small teams in any case. He calls her “Vic,” and she tells him he’s being condescending. There’s definitely no love lost between these two.

On the Bus, Simmons is getting her things together – she’s been ordered to stay at the Hub, as she and Fitz are considered the top two experts on the Deathlok program. She’s a bit more excited about the opportunity than Fitz is entirely comfortable with, and he suggests its because she’ll have access to better equipment. She is grabbing samples of Skye’s blood as he says this, so it’s pretty clear where they’re going with this. Fitz tells her that she still needs him, although she’s not entirely certain she does. Still, he tells her he’ll set up a secure line so that they can continue to work together in private. At this point, Trip shows up – he’s here to escort Simmons to her new berth, and she gets nervous and coy upon seeing him. He looks pretty happy to see her as well, but Fitz is distinctly uncomfortable. I don’t know that Fitz has romantic feelings for Simmons, or that even if he did he’d recognize them, but he’s very proprietary of their partnership, and he sees Trip as a threat, one way or the other.

Upstairs, Coulson, May, and Skye are discussing Nash. Skye has found that before his accident (the one that placed him in the care facility), he was a very successful bond trader in Canada – almost too successful, which was what brought him to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attention in the first place. He admitted to being able to almost see what people were going to do, but not to having actual psychic powers; now, with all the pieces coming together, they’re highly suspicious over whether he was telling the truth or not. Coulson is going over Blake’s equipment. He asks May to clarify – did she hear Blake take six shots? She’s certain of it. Coulson notes that there are only five shells gone from the clip – he then checks the other, and sees that Blake switched out and fired one more. The second clip contains tag rounds – they now have the ability to trace Deathlok. Coulson is impressed with Blake’s quick thinking, and won’t let his actions go to waste.

We jump to an abandoned horse racing track. Fitz reassures Coulson that there is a 90% chance that Deathlok is inside, based on the trace. First Ward, and then Coulson, order some of the S.H.I.E.L.D. back-up team to protect Skye while the rest of them go inside. Skye resists when Ward suggests it, but accepts it when Coulson backs him up. Ward asks Garett if he plans to knock or ring the bell. “Knock, of course,” Garett replies, and then we see the entry doors being blown off their hinges, as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents storm inside. Garett gets all the best lines when he’s on the show, but that’s a pretty solid use of Paxton’s ability to exude boyish charm with a hint of iron beneath the surface. Everything he says is with the same lopsided grin, as though the whole thing is just one giant hoot for him. I like this use of him and his character – definitely good casting, and a character written around the actor they’re using.

Once inside, Fitz opens a small briefcase, and dials up some tiny drone sensors. They shoot off in different directions, trying to localize the tracers leading to Deathlok. Skye is watching from her station, seeing through the eyes of the drones. One comes upon Deathlok, his back turned to it. She activates an x-ray camera, and sees that most of Peterson’s skeleton has been replaced with metal and cybernetic enhancements. She relays the info, and as she’s talking, Peterson/Deathlok turns and sees the drone, smashing it. Fitz notes the sudden loss of one of the drones, and Coulson orders him back outside to the van.

Deathlok turns a corner and sees S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with Ward – he fires off a missile, and Ward reports that two men are down. Deathlok runs back, and jumps down an enormous stairwell, falling at least sixty feet and landing on his prosthetic leg in a kneeling position, absorbing the shock of the fall. Still, he grimaces in pain – although Deathlok is largely robotic at this point, enough of Peterson remains that he’s still prone to pain and injury. Coulson sees him, and pursues him alone. He approaches a T-junction, and raises his gun – but it’s Garett coming from the other direction. Deathlok shows up behind them, and they open fire. Seeing himself temporarily outgunned, Deathlok takes off again, this time through an opening into an underground sewer. Fitz is reporting this, when he notes something on his sensors. “Sir,” he says, “there’s someone else down there.” Cautiously, Coulson and Garett round the corner. They see a room filled with monitors, a lone electric wheelchair in the middle with tubes and and wires coming from it. They carefully circle the chair. There’s a very pale and sickly looking man sitting on it, moving nothing but his eyes, a tube taped to his mouth. A voice speaks, the words mimicked on one of the monitors. “Agent Coulson, Agent Garett, I surrender.” On an aside, it was really cool to see Brad Dourif cast as Nash here – you may know him better for his roles in Dune (as the House Harkonnen mentat Piter de Vries), Alien: Resurrection (as the scientist who took pleasure in hurting the captive aliens – and paid a price), or The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (where he played Grima Wormtongue) – a true geek’s actor if there ever was one.

May and Ward arrive in the room. The man in the chair identifies himself as Thomas Nash. They’re wondering where Deathlok is, but he tells them that “Mr. Peterson is gone.” His voice, created by the computers around him, is eerily monotone, lending everything he says a certain sense of inevitability. He and Coulson argue – he tells Coulson that he now understands why he couldn’t see Coulson after he came back – Coulson is broken, and can’t even see himself. He continues with a vague but sinister warning: “Something is coming for you. You will die, you and Skye. She has something we want, and she will die giving it to us. I have seen it.” Before he can reveal what else he has seen, however, a shot rings out. Ward shoots him right in the heart, and he dies immediately. May turns her gun on Ward, and relieves him of his weapon. Outside, we see him trundled into a waiting SUV; he looks stunned, staring off into space. Garett asks Coulson to go easy on him, but Coulson is both confused and angry about Ward’s actions. Garett points out that Ward still has some rough edges, but that Coulson has obviously had a good effect on him; in fact, he suggests that Ward’s actions may have come from his sense of loyalty to Coulson’s team. Garett parts ways with Coulson, telling him he has to continue the hunt for Deathlok. There’s a bit of a disconnect here, however; if the team was able to use the tracer Blake shot Deathlok with to find him here, why doesn’t Garett grab Fitz and simply follow the tracer a bit more? Unless Deathlok has removed the tracer – something that should be actually mentioned by pertinent characters in the show when it happens – we must assume that the tracer is still on him, and thus that he is traceable. Sometimes in this show, it’s as though they have a cool item or technology that they want to showcase, but once it’s served it’s narrative purpose, they forget all about it – but the audience doesn’t. They should begin to learn from some of these mistakes, or suspending disbelief is going to grow impossible. As Garett leaves, May arrives, telling Coulson that Director Fury has returned, and wants to see Coulson at The Triskelion. This is an interesting tie-in to the comics, as The Triskelion is the secret island base of S.H.I.E.L.D., more important than even the Hub, which we have already seen (and which was actually mentioned in Episode 107, “The Hub,” as being a place that would impress Skye even more).

In the containment room on board the Bus, Ward sits alone when the door shushes open. It’s Skye, and she’s bringing him a bottle of water. She asks him why he did it, and he replies, “I lost it. I got angry.” He mentions that the Clairvoyant pushed all of his buttons, that he seemed to know exactly what triggers would anger Ward – it was almost as though he wanted Ward to shoot him. Skye asks him what happens next, and he tells her that he’ll face a review board, but that he has no regrets about his actions – Skye’s safety is paramount to him. He then catches himself, and says the team’s safety is paramount, but his sympathies are all too apparent. It really seems as though the writers are going to choose to go down this, frankly, inadvisable path and make Skye the love interest. I’d love to see a bit more courage on the part of the writers – try something unorthodox. But they seem to be committed to going in this direction. I hope I’m wrong.

Meanwhile, Fitz is busily setting up his encrypted hard line to Simmons. He gets things sets, and calls her. She answers, and says his name. “Don’t say my name, Gemma,” he says, contradicting himself in typically absent-minded Fitz manner. Her voice is breaking in and out, so he tells her to keep talking while he tries to fine tune the reception. She asks what’s happened, and he tells her about Ward shooting the Clairvoyant, and how it took them all by surprise. She tells him that “There’s been a great deal of commotion on this end.” Just then, Fitz finds something odd: a yellow wire clamped onto the hardline. Someone else is tapping into communications on the Bus. Simmons, breaking up, says, “Wait, Fitz, I think something’s happening. There’s agents rushing through the Situation Room.” The line goes dead. He goes around the corner, and starts to trace the yellow wire to its source.

We go to Coulson’s office. He and Skye are discussing what happened at the racetrack. Coulson is concerned – how do they know they got the right guy? Could Nash have been a decoy? After all, as he points out, they never saw Nash speak – it all appeared on the monitors and over digitized voice. Anyone could have been doing that from a remote location. She asks: “You’re saying Nash…could have been pretending to be the Clairvoyant?” He replies, “I’m saying Nash could have been a prop.” He’s concerned that the Clairvoyant “could still be out there, in our heads.” Skye suddenly makes a connection: “Or in our files,” she says. She connects Coulson’s edict to look through the psych evaluations of the suspects with Ward’s talk about the Clairvoyant pushing all his buttons. Coulson says that Raina did that to him, as well. Skye asks if Raina mentioned his father’s death; his psych evaluation called it “a defining moment.” Coulson goes grey. Skye continues: “These aren’t just personality tests. They’re surveillance on every agent. Pictures. Stats. Where you were stationed, who you liked to visit, where you like to eat.” Coulson’s jaw sets in a grim line. “Dinners at the Richmond,” he says, remembering another detail Raina had received from the Clairvoyant. They realize together that the only reason the Clairvoyant hasn’t been able to see Coulson since his death, is because “Director Fury wouldn’t release that file to anyone.” Coulson says what they’re both thinking: “The Clairvoyant doesn’t have abilities. He has security clearance. He’s an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Coulson takes off – he’s going to confront Ward.

He yells at Ward, asking if he was ordered to kill the Clairvoyant. Meanwhile, Fitz is still following the yellow wire. It takes him into May’s berth beside the cockpit. where he finds another encrypted line, just like he was trying to set up with Simmons. Of course, May chooses this moment to enter the room. She asks Fitz what he’s doing, and he makes up some techno-garble as he nervously edges his way around her and out of the room. While May has no reason to suspect Fitz at this point of anything nefarious, I found her willingness to just let him walk away a bit unbelievable. Outside, Fitz runs into Skye, and quickly fills her in on what he’s found. She tells him to cut the line immediately, and she runs to find Coulson.

Inside her berth, May uses her thumbscanner to activate the line, and begins to speak. “Agent Melinda May, update log 95,” she says. Downstairs, Fitz cuts the line, and she hears the dead air on her end. She frowns, and realizes her mistake in allowing Fitz to leave. She grabs her gun, and leaves her room.

In containment, Ward and Coulson are arguing, Coulson accusing him of being a spy, Ward vehemently denying it. Skye crashes through the door. “We have a problem,” she says. Down in the lab, May is looking for Fitz. She enters the hanger, checking Lola and the SUV parked there. A noise behind her snaps her to attention, and she fires off two rounds, both of which hit the glass in front of Fitz, who is standing inside the lab. The sound of the bullets clearly indicate it’s a Night-Night gun, as it has a sort of electrical discharge as she fires – at least she’s not trying to kill Fitz, which is a good sign. She does, however, look disappointed that she didn’t hit him. From above, we hear Coulson: “Put it down, May.” He’s standing on the gallery, gun pointed at her. “It’s not what you think, Coulson,” she says, “it’s just an ICER,” but he replies that his isn’t, and she needs to put down the gun. Skye comes out from a side door, also holding a gun on May. May holds her hands up, and begins to put the gun down. She says, “Look. I can explain everything. But not here.” He asks her who she calls on the line, but she tells him she can’t say. Coulson accuses her of either being the Clairvoyant, or at least working for him – her look of confusion and surprise seems pretty honest, so I think Coulson’s barking up the wrong tree here. Suddenly, they’re almost knocked off their feet as the Bus begins to change direction. “What are you doing, May?” Coulson asks, but she denies any knowledge of what’s happening. Coulson shouts, “If you’re not doing this, who is?”

We cut to the Hub, where we see Agent Hand looking at some monitors. She says to unseen listeners, “When that plane touches down, take out everyone on board. Except Coulson.” She turns toward the camera. “He’s mine.”

Bonus: There was no real stinger at the end of tonight’s episode, but there was this clip released from the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier – it was shown on some affiliates at the end of the episode. It features Director Fury in trouble, and suggests where we might be going following the release of the movie, and with next week’s episode. Click here to see the exclusive video over at ComicBookMovie.

So, it does indeed appear that the Uprising is beginning. The commotion that Simmons told Fitz about just before the line was cut was likely Hand moving her agents into position to take over the Hub. And the question now becomes: is Agent Hand the Clairvoyant? What are her motives? And will S.H.I.E.L.D. survive her insurrection?

This was an excellent episode on many levels. While I did point out some minor quibbles (the teams sudden dispersal and then return), and I’m worried about the Skye/Ward storyline from a purely I’ve-been-force-fed-Skye-enough perspective, I thought the episode itself did a fine job of upping the ante for our heroes, and creating chaos and commotion in a positive way. There’s massive dissension within the ranks of our team – Coulson’s distrust of his most loyal teammate and oldest friend in May is wonderfully done, Simmons is away, Ward is under suspicion, and May won’t tell what she knows. S.H.I.E.L.D. itself is under attack from within. Hand is either a double-agent for someone else – Centipede? – or she’s gone rogue in the most heinous way possible. It could be that she simply thinks she knows what’s best for S.H.I.E.L.D., but the fact that she is basically ordering Coulson’s team killed says that her motivations are anything but noble. Director Fury’s return may have forced Hand’s, well, hand, explaining why it is now that she’s acting to take control of the Hub. Taking out Coulson’s team makes sense if she’s opposed to Fury, as Coulson is really Fury’s pet project and favorite agent.

To top everything, we finally had a real villain with real powers – and we know he isn’t even the one in control, suggesting that the confrontation with the Clairvoyant will be quite the showdown. Deathlok/Mike Peterson was integrated into the show seamlessly, showing how those without super-powers have to find ways to cope with those that have them, cybernetic or otherwise. The fact that he took out Blake and several other operatives shows just how dangerous he is; his removal from the scene – presumably on the orders of the Clairvoyant – show how valuable he is, and promises that he’ll be back for more action in the future.

The show, having way too many hiatuses over the first season run which led to a lack of continuity and, at times, direction, is now going into a run of seven straight weeks of episodes leading into the season finale. This should allow the writing team to pick up some steam and give us a good ride through to the end. The Uprising story arc looks to see some fundamental changes to our understanding of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the question becomes: will S.H.I.E.L.D. survive this civil war? At least for now, it looks like the question of whatthe Clairvoyant is has been answered, but we still need to find out who (my money is that it isn’t the obvious: Agent Hand. She doesn’t look like she’d take orders too well, but her judgement has at times been skewed, suggesting there’s someone else behind her, issuing the orders after all). The series has, to this point, managed to wrap up most of the underlying questions from the first half of the season, opening the door for some new mysteries and excitement as we move forward. Hopefully, the writers will continue to use Skye in the role she’s best at: support, with solid contributions to the group based on her skill set. I hope that the writers don’t go down the path of a Ward/Skye romance, but I think even that would be palatable if it were done as a side note, rather than a main focus of the show.

For now, the team has to deal with two major issues: how do they get control of the Bus back, and how do they deal with their own fractured team. May denies knowledge of what’s happening, but won’t tell Coulson who she’s working for. It’s hard to trust when there’s no openness. Ward is under suspicion for his actions, and Coulson, knowing that Ward and May have been sleeping together, may further suspect them as being in collusion. Fitz is guaranteed to be preoccupied by Simmons’ last broken message, and may not be as effective. Skye and Coulson are targets, and they don’t know why. The thing is, the only people on board who can actually fly the Bus are May and Ward; Coulson will have to find it within himself to trust one or both of them early in the next episode, or they’re basically flying into Hand’s trap. The team will need to solve it’s own internal issues before they can deal with the larger, external problems.

This Friday, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is coming to theaters. There will definitely be tie-ins with what is happening in Agents, and much will be revealed about Hand’s motivations, and perhaps even a suggestion of who, if anyone, she is working for. Agent Hand is also a character in the Marvel Comic Universe, so readers of those books may already have some ideas as to who and what – but I won’t go into those details, sticking rather to what we see on the screens, both small and big. For this first time this season, I’m actively anticipating the next episode of Agents. I didn’t even realize that this was missing until I felt it – it’s a good feeling to have.

Steve’s Grade: A-
A strong episode that ups the ante in every conceivable manner, with the survival of the team and of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself in the offing. The Clairvoyant exposed for what he/she really is, and Deathlok coming into his own as a true super-powered villain. Agents may just be finding it’s groove – finally.

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