Review: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D – “Providence”

We are well and truly in the endgame now (or, so I expect). “Providence” reintroduces some old threats and see’s the existing team deal with the aftermath of “Turn, Turn, Turn” and all the events therein. Aftermath episodes, those that follow explosive revelations and action-packed moments of great significance, can easily be a bit of a downer, and with the ratings continuing their fall, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D could really do with avoiding that. Did they? Thoughts:

-Our intro showcases Raina, that is the “Girl In The Flower Dress”, here given a new one by a dishevelled looking Ward. She was always going to make another appearance since “The Magical Place” and it starts a trend of Garrett getting all of his people onboard.

-Coulson and Skye observe the aftermath of The Winter Soldier/”Turn, Turn Turn”. S.H.I.E.L.D sites all over the world are becoming battlegrounds and it isn’t clear who is winning, a decent set-up for the rest of the season. As Coulson says, it’s the beginning of a war.

-Raina gets introduced to Garrett, operating out of a Cuban barbers for some reason. He’s getting a shave, inverting the usual “Beards = evil” thing. Paxton somehow manages to look creepier with a clean face.

-Raina is a little taken aback when she finds out that Garrett is no “Clairvoyant”. But he’s something better: an “artist” or at least a very good con-artist. Paxton is clearly having a ball here, positively glorying in the villain role he gets to play.

-Fitz and Simmons talk about the aftermath of last week. S.H.I.E.L.D has apparently been declared a terrorist organisation, and has lost any form of mandate it once hand. Uncharted territory, and it’s nice to see someone like Simmons panicking a bit over what this all implies.

-“TURN IT OFF”. Fitz sure can screech.

-Adrian Pasdar, who most of us last saw as Nathan Petrelli in Heroes I suppose, turns up briefly as Colonel Glenn Talbot, apparently in charge of a clean-up operation at the Hub. Talbot has traditionally been a Hulk antagonist, a sort of lesser Thunderbolt Ross, and it’ll be interesting to see how he is used in future episodes.

-“Sounds good…this doesn’t sound good”. See, this is the more small scale verbal humour I can get behind. It fits.

-Coulson and the team are taking off, with a brief delay as Coulson decides whether to ditch Triplett or bring him along. There are natural suspicions about Trip, but it’s unlikely he’s in cahoots with Garrett too, it would just be a bit too much. I imagine this is leading to the Triplett character replacing Ward permanently.

-The team is on the run, and suddenly they have to worry about fuel, food and all the little bits and pieces. It’s good to acknowledge that kind of thing, and how there are no more safe ports of call.

-“Agents of nothing” is a pretty good term to describe where the team is at right now I suppose. Like so much in The Winter Soldier, “Providence” seems to be about finding a purpose and a direction when your original one is taken away.

-Ward and Skye have an interesting conversation on the phone. It’s neat that they’ve kept Ward’s allegiance an unknown thing, and it adds a little something to this blossoming relationship that could yet see Ward redeemed.

-Garrett, turning more and more into a standard villain, has a secret underground lair and a swivel chair. We’re rapidly approaching the point where it all gets too much, but for the moment I really love it.

-A brief name drop of “the cellist” again, who will be turning up in the next episode, played by accomplished Whedon alumni Amy Acker. Obviously she’s going to be put in danger, which will bring Coulson out of hiding to save her.

-As Garrett prances around his base and flips between joking to lethally serious, you can’t but think about how much a certain Heath Ledger has influenced the behaviour of screen villains since The Dark Knight. Garrett isn’t at that level, but he’s fun to watch nonetheless.

-Garrett still has this hang up about finding out how Coulson was resurrected. This is standard bad guy stuff, especially in comics, where the mastery of death is seen as the ultimate goal. Hell, that’s Thanos’ whole bag, and he’s probably going to end up as the “Big Bad” for the entire MCU.

-But in the short term, Garrett is heading to “the Fridge”. I see a plot coming together. Last week was the crisis point of the second act of the first season, now we’re getting the rising tension of the third.

-Amid all of this there are concerns over the status of Nick Fury. Coulson reminisces about being hired straight out of high school by Fury, a nice moment.

-As Coulson finds a direction for his stricken plane to go, he reminds the group what S.H.I.E.L.D is supposed to represent: the last line of defence. “We are the shield.” This scene seems to me to be the first step on the road to a new S.H.I.E.L.D, one that Coulson will have a major hand in creating.

-It was pure humour bait, but I loved Garrett’s reaction to the overblown “HAIL HYDRA” from the underling. “Alright, alright, put your arms down Kominsky, you look like a West Texas cheerleader at a pep rally.” And hey, is that Friday Night Lights callout?

-Of course this conversation (and a few other things) certainly makes you wonder about Garrett’s true belief in HYDRA. It really does seem like a marriage of convenience, and I think that’s for the good of the overall plot.

-Cool hearing Ward talk about his “cover” with Raina, explaining some of his previous actions in “F.Z.Z.T” and “The Well”. It’s all summed up in that line: “I’m everybody’s type”. A common criticism of the Ward character is that he’s rather dull and bland, and it’s strange to think that this might have been the whole point. Or maybe that’s giving the production team too much credit.

-It was also only around this point that I noticed there was a slight change in Ward’s voice, enough to draw attention. It’s softer and a little bit more devious, which is a nice touch.

-“Fury’s dead” says May. Yeah, about that…

-May and Coulson do share a good scene here. She’s still in hot water over her espionage, and for Coulson the revelations keep coming: it’s unknown who exactly was in charge of his surgery, or what their motivations were. Coulson’s starting to get a bit more unhinged, which is important for the episode.

-A rivalry between Fitz and Triplett is being established here, as the two verbally spar over Coulson, with Simmons literally between them as they do so. It’s better than that Ward-Skye-Fitz triangle anyway, because we’ve established better that Fitz has a thing for Simmons.

-Man, the Fridge looks weird, a skyscraper on a beach. I don’t think that’s structurally advised (or possible).

-Nice scheme to get inside from Ward and Garrett, reminding us just how capable the two really are (and how far Ward has fallen).

-Garrett mentions a man locked up in the Fridge who had lion’s paws for hands. A reference to the super villain Griffin apparently.

-The “Slingshot” project was mentioned way back in “0-8-4”, and didn’t make much sense to me then. I asked “Do they really just blast dangerous objects into space?” Turns out they don’t. It makes sense too, because Fury has a track record in this regard, as The Avengers made clear.

-This leads to a look at a few old MacGuffins, like the weird ray gun thing from “0-8-4” and the “Berserker Staff” from “The Well”. It’s good to tie in episodes like that, and show that there is a larger connection between such things: they weren’t just plot devices of the week.

-The team arrives in the wilderness of Canada. I was half-expecting a Department H crossover here, seeing as how it was mentioned in “End Of The Beginning”, but it was not to be (yet).

-Garrett, in classic supervillain style, starts breaking out his fellow miscreants. I thought he’d be incorporating them into his own army, but letting them be distractions for S.H.I.E.L.D on their own works too. I thought I’d see a few old faces here, like Blizzard from “Seeds” for example, but not yet.

-We do catch a glimpse of a threatening looking guy whom Garrett advises to “Follow his dreams”. Meet Marcus Daniels, aka “Blackout”, and he’s the bad guy for next week’s “The Only Light In The Darkness”.

-And they found something “gorgeous” in the secret level of the Fridge. Oh yes.

-“The last thing I want is for things to change.” “Fitz…it’s too late for that.” That line was more than a little heartbreaking.

-May and Skye share a terse exchange out in the snow, but at least Skye’s cattiness makes sense here.

-Coulson, at the coordinates but with nothing there, loses it a little. While Gregg didn’t do the best job, it was still a powerful moment of breakdown, as it becomes clear how much recent events have played on Coulson’s mind and left him a bit of a wreck. Losing S.H.I.E.L.D itself appears to be the last straw.

-Coulson symbolically turns his own back on S.H.I.E.L.D by throwing his badge away, but from that salvation comes. A bit of a clumsy metaphor, but I’ll forgive it.

-Patton Oswalt, also a Whedon alumni from Dollhouse, is Eric Koenig, a guy from the comics but very far removed from that here. In print he’s a German anti-Nazi member of the Howling Commandos. Here, he’s a flabby mid-level S.H.I.E.L.D agent who encapsulates a lot of the roles Oswalt tends to play: weird, nerdish, socially awkward.

-He even namedrops Call Of Duty, which might be a bit of product placement for all I know. Anyway, the character introduces the team to what I assume is its HQ for the remainder of the series (and maybe beyond).

-And one more bombshell for the road: Fury isn’t dead, though only Coulson is allowed to know. Why someone like Koenig is in this circle is a mystery, but for now this sets up the appearance that Samuel L. Jackson is supposed to be making in the final episode of the season.

-Garrett needs Skye to crack open her own encryption. Ward still has a thing for her, but seems more committed to Garrett. We have conflict and a plot for the next episode.

-Ward goes back undercover with a beating from Garrett to send him on his way, reciting a very creepy but effective mantra as it happens: “Grant Ward, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Grant Ward, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

-He enters “Providence” base, like the parasite that Zola infected S.H.I.E.L.D with decades ago. He smiles in the same creepy fashion that Garrett did at the end of “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Perfect. Ward may well turn again, but for now I’m fully onboard with his HYDRA allegiance.

-Ian Quinn makes a return from his captivity, last seen in “T.A.H.I.T.I”, as snarky and enraging as ever. Garrett really is getting all the bad guys that matter behind him, and that makes for some interesting episodes to come.

-Lo and behold, Garrett has his hands on the “Gravitonium” from “The Asset”. That episode was the first sign that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D could be better than it was, and the reappearance of the stuff here – with one Franklin Hall still trapped inside it – could well herald the arrival of Graviton before the season ends. Remember his line: “We have to live by the choices we make. And sometimes we have to die with them too.”

An excellent episode, one of the seasons very best. Character development, stakes are high, the plot is moving forward to an interesting place. And the ratings have stabilised again, so hopefully they’ll stay at that point. Four episodes to go.

To read my thoughts on other episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.Dclick here to go to the index.

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3 Responses to Review: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D – “Providence”

  1. Pingback: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D Episode Review Index | Never Felt Better

  2. Pingback: Review: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D – “The Light In The Darkness” | Never Felt Better

  3. Pingback: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D: Two Graphs | Never Felt Better

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