Tuesday, April 8, 2014

REVIEW: 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' - Coulson and the Team Battle The Clairvoyant and Hydra in 'Turn, Turn, Turn'

ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Episode 1.17 Turn, Turn, Turn

Coulson and his team find themselves without anyone they can trust, only to discover that they are trapped with a traitor in their midst.

All season long we've been waiting for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to become as exciting as the Marvel films it shares a universe with. The show still hasn't quite reached that level of entertainment but "Turn, Turn, Turn" is the most enjoyable and exciting episode of the drama yet. And yet, all of the excitement this hour elicits comes solely because of the shocking twist that happened in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The films operate under their own mythology and the TV show operates under a different one. That film made the decision to expose Hydra agents working within S.H.I.E.L.D. and the ABC drama simply had to react to it in order to stay relevant. It's not the vision Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen probably had planned when mapping out the season. But they have to obey their Marvel overlords. They are writers steering the ship for a film medium. And that's fine when the drama produces episodes like this one.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has struggled establishing mood, tension and plot propulsion. It has been awkward in its narrative. We all chucked it up to the show finding itself. "Turn, Turn, Turn" is the prime example of what the show wants to be on a weekly basis. And yet, it's gonna be very difficult to copy the success of this episode across several episodes. It does set up a wonderful arc for the final episodes of the first season. But where does this go in Season 2?

Lately, the show has difficulty with the follow-through of its episode ending twists. There's been big reveals in the last three episodes - May reporting to someone on the outside, Hand being The Clairvoyant, Ward being a Hydra agent. The first two were disproved rather quickly in the episode's since. So, they're simply red herrings to create shocking moments to surprise the audience and make us "question everything we thought we knew about said character." Thusly, I give it 5 minutes into the next episode before it's revealed that Ward killed Hand in order to become a mole for S.H.I.E.L.D. within Garrett's Hydra organization. That's what we have come to expect. A moment to shock us and then the show reaffirming that they are never going to get ride of that character or change up the foundation of the show. If the Ward twist sticks, good for the show on proving me wrong. However, that Ward-Skye scene where they agree to a drink and kissed (which was probably two minutes too long) as well as the tag scene closing in on his face only make it seem that much more likely that I'm correct in how this story is going to play out. The show's used this trick too frequently lately. So instead of me applauding them on an hour well done, I've spent most of this review discussing how the twist won't stick long-term.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Turn, Turn, Turn" was written by Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen and directed by Vincent Misiano.
  • For a TV show with a TV budget, that opening flight sequence sure looked good.
  • But also working against my theory about Ward is his killing of the guy veiled as The Clairvoyant. The show says he did it because of Skye. But I just don't believe in their "love" strong enough to fully believe in that motivation. Him being Hydra and working with Garrett? That totally works.
  • Fitz was forced into finally shooting a weapon and his reaction of dropping it was pretty great.
  • Not a lot of Simmons in this episode but I didn't really enjoy the mood her few scenes were going for. Yes, I get that we don't know who to trust. But that tension in her environment wasn't that well built to me.
  • I didn't go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier this past weekend. The Hydra-S.H.I.E.L.D. twist was spoiled for me but this episode would have done that anyway.
  • So now, Coulson is in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. That seems very promising.