And we are back with 111: “The Magical Place”. With a title like that, you know that we’re going into interesting places. Can Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D inject some new life after the break, and stall those crashing ratings? Can this be a suitable conclusion to “The Bridge”? Will it implement any of my proposed changes? Thoughts:
-I liked the opening fight scene. Quick, to the point, an action opener. More importantly, everybody had their defined roles, even if squashing Fitz and Simmons into one character in this context is still rather annoying. Still, some teamwork being shown off, in an episode that is all about that.
-And Saffron Burrows is back as Victoria Hand, though it seemed more of a matter of course here, as opposed to some actual character development over what we saw of her in “The Hub”. You’d assume they’ll follow the comic book hand’s general plot line, but they should start hinting towards bits of it by now.
-One of the most unnecessary parts of “The Bridge” was Ward getting shot right at the end, so suddenly as to preclude any emotional investment from the audience. As we come back, 36 hours later, Ward isn’t even remotely slowed by the fact that he’s carrying a gunshot wound around. It was a dumb choice, and that seems to have been realised.
-“We find CENTIPEDE, we find Coulson.” I really hate this “Part Two” summation stuff. The “Previously on…” bit covered this.
-Just in case I thought Skye might stop annoying me as a character, her initial involvement here is to try and hack the S.H.I.E.L.D servers (AGAIN) and, when discovered, to have the most smarmy, arrogant, haughty look on her face, as she casually demands to be freed of her electronic tag (remember, she got that for aiding and abetting a wanted fugitive and lying to a government agency repeatedly). The most irritating character on television (that I’m watching anyway).
-Gratifying then for Hand to essentially tell her to pack her bags, followed by a sudden volte face from Skye, suddenly full of pleading and puppy dog eyes. I wish more people would be a hardass to her.
-Of course, the team smuggle Skye out because she’s proved herself a valuable asset or something (she hasn’t). This needs to be half a Skye episode though, so off she goes.
–Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D features a surprising Assassins Creed crossover in “The Magical Place”, as Coulson is interrogated with a device that is basically an Animus.
-Weird namedrop of Coulson’s father by Po. I assume that will come up more as we move forward.
-More summations of the plot in that first conversation between Coulson and Po. Totally unnecessary.
-Skye is on the case anyway, starting off with a clever ruse to steal the targets car. If I have to say something nice about Skye in “The Magical Place”, at least she comes off as more capable than before.
-Ward’s “interrogation” of the Chitauri fence was a bit overblown (no pun intended) but showed off another feature of the plane.
-I suppose it would only make sense for Skye to impersonate May, seeing as how she’s the one who’s putting her in her place the most. But, the set-up here was basically just for a lame joke near the conclusion.
-Ward’s answer to Hand that “Coulson is (worth it)” is all well and good, but I’ve never thought enough has been done to really show us why Coulson is so incredibly important to S.H.I.E.L.D over other agents.
-The little bit of torture we actually see Coulson go through is quite short, which is fine. But the sense of Coulson being a broken man – and more susceptible to Raina’s prodding – wasn’t really created for me.
-I really did like the callback to Iron Man with the device that kills Po, the same that Obadiah Stane used on the Ten Rings terrorists and Stark. It had a purpose and tied into the rest of the universe, as opposed to just namedropping Thor or Captain America.
-And it turns out May is in on the whole thing with Skye! What a shocking twist!
-We get an extended glimpse of the plane stopping dead in air and turning for some reason. Maybe they had some extra money in the budget or something, I don’t know, a very unnecessary shot.
-So Skye breaks into a guys house, finds out all sorts of interesting info on him, blackmails the guy successfully, stops two security guards from getting to her and does some more hacking. A good day for her, to be sure, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D at pains to show her as capable by the end of the episode.
-More repeating of things with Coulson as Raina, again, just sums up what they want from him like the audience hasn’t heard it five times already.
-Coulson initially rebuffs Raina, naturally, placing his trust in “the system” as he had before. But “the system” has sort of screwed Coulson over repeatedly, so that excuse is wearing a little thin.
-Another namedrop of “the cellist” that Coulson was involved with pre-Avengers. Seems to be the sort of thing that the production team wants to turn into a major issue. Of course she’s going to turn up at some point, it’s too good a plot point to ignore.
-And poor Coulson apparently breaks, which is not what I expected. It might be tempting to say that he’s faking it, but I really don’t think so. It was the most surprising part of the episode, seeing Coulson just give up after some persuasive talk from Raina, and Gregg did well (for once).
-Calling attention to the dress again, a strange plot point. I’ve heard decent theories that Raina herself is “the clairvoyant”, and it would explain some things, like her wistfulness.
-Decent fight scene as the climax, from both Ward and May, Ward more so. Still nothing too spectacular though.
-And so we get the truth about Coulson and….it’s very underwhelming. Some fancy surgeries brought him back, and the trauma was covered up with replaced memories. The surgery scenes are horrific, and its clear Coulson went through a terrifying experience, but I didn’t like it at all. As an explanation, it’s very humdrum – no magic, no clones, no robots, just surgery – and brings up a gaping plot hole for any future death S.H.I.E.L.D or anyone else important suffers: the organisation has the means to reverse brain death, days after the event. What?
-Anyway Coulson is rescued and all’s well that ends well. The obligatory “Thank you” scenes were well done, and a sense of a happy family was crated. And hey, even Skye gets a deserved pat on the back this time.
-Time for one last awesome scene, between Coulson and Ron Glass. Glass is appropriately mournful of his part in Coulson’s resurrection, and it remains unclear as to whether the knowledge will be enough to give Coulson a measure of peace. More to do with that plot line.
-And wait, there’s more. Turns out Mike Peterson’s alive (the old rule applies: no body, no death), even if he’s much the worse for wear. And CENTIPEDE have their hooks in him again. It’s a good set-up, as long as they actually do something interesting with it. I got the feeling that Peterson wouldn’t just let himself be led around by the nose like this anymore, so another carrot has to be dangled.
Overall, I liked the episode. I thought it did a good job resolving the issues from “The Bridge”, had some good action moments and showed us a little something about Coulson and Skye. The reveal for Coulson was a disappointment, but some stuff has been set-up for future episodes that sure to be worth watching.
Ratings wise, the news is not so good, with only a very slight increase on the mid-season finale. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D’s ratings are actually still relatively high – there’s three times what Arrow, a somewhat similar show, are right now – but the difference is that Arrow’s are stable and have been for a while. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D have dropped by over 50% from the pilot. If the show manages to stay in its current range, it’ll be fine, but the next episodes ratings will be very telling.
To read my thoughts on other episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, click here to go to the index.