Well, like I ever doubted that. I liked the episode ‘0-8-4’ for crying out loud.
But to the question of people who didn’t have the patience to watch beyond three episodes, the show’s quality has indeed spiked since the episode ‘FZZT.’ Fans of Dollhouse will recognize that episode 6 turning point since that’s objectively when the series “got good.”
I already recapped ‘FZZT,’ but since I have a job, holiday obligations and a cold, it has made doing full recaps kind of hard. Plus, Hulu doesn’t have some of these episodes anymore for me to look back over, so let’s do the Reader’s Digest recap of each episode, shall we?
The Hub (1×07)
This is the first episode we really get to see how S.H.I.E.L.D. works as a whole and how it doesn’t really jive with how the team does what they do.
The team gets an assignment to come to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, which is also known as The Hub, that’s highly classified. Everyone else kind of rolls with it cause they’re all used to the level tier system at S.H.I.E.L.D, but Skye the Former Anon is not having any of that. Unfortunately, her protests fall on deaf ears since she isn’t even level 1 yet and she’s still on probation for the Miles Incident. But maybe this is a perfect opportunity for her to convince Phil to use his clearance level to find information on her parents maybe? Well, she has admitted she joined The Rising Tide to find out what happened to her parents, so I don’t blame her for trying to use this visit to the Hub to further her own goals.
At the Hub, Agent Victoria Hand (played by Saffron Burrows) hands down the mission to sneak into South Ossentia and disable a giant weapon known as Overkill. Ward thinks that it will be him and May on assignment, but it turns out that she doesn’t have the technical knowledge to disable it. So who is on assignment with Ward?
Yep, it’s Fitz. I smell shenanigans!
Okay, to be fair, it isn’t as shenanigan-y as it could have been. Fitz may have been inexperienced in the field (like bringing the sandwich Simmons made for him while they’re being chased by dogs), but he manages to hold his own and keeps Ward from being all sad masculine hero. Not to mention where his technical knowhow doesn’t just save the day with Overkill, but keeps the mission from ending before it starts by restoring power in the middle of a soccer game to some very killer bar owners. I do love seeing Ward bonding with the science team too, which happens a lot in this set of episodes.
Back at the Hub, Skye has the wiggins about this mission and is determined to find out what’s going on, probation be damned! Coming up with a masking program for her computer, she recruits Simmons to help her get the files on the mission. Which goes as well as you would think until Simmons tazes Agent Sitwell as he’s calling in backup, then it gets worse.
Still, she can’t dwell on it too long, so Skye gets a cracking to try and find out what’s going on with the mission. Which she nearly compromises by trying to break into files about her past, but she quickly gets back to the task at hand and sees that there is no extraction plan for Fitz and Ward. Which is right when Coulson catches her. The two get into an argument about trusting the system versus looking out for the team which is when Skye asks him if he knew that they weren’t getting an extraction. He says that’s classified, but the next scene is him yelling at Hand about it. So that’s a no then. But Hand seems to confirm that Hawkeye and Black Widow are still working for S.H.I.E.L.D. in this scene cause she uses them as an example of needing no extraction? Which I sort of assumed that Black Widow was at least according to the trailers for The Winter Soldier, but I thought that Clint might be having crazy adventures in Bed-Stuy much like his solo comic title.
(Actually, cast a Kate Bishop and I would totally watch a movie version of the Fraction comic.)
After a brief moral debate that he takes to May while she’s practicing Tai Chi, Coulson says “screw it” and brings the Bus to extract Fitz and Ward, who had seemed to accept their fate. Everyone is relieved, especially Simmons who has been especially stressed after her brush with death and even more so after knocking out Sitwell. Which she seems to proudly brag about to Fitz, by the way.
Hand doesn’t seem surprised that Coulson pulled that move. In fact, she seemed to expect it. HMMMMM. I may have to scratch a certain theory I had about the Big Bad. Is this a good time to mention that Victoria Hand was evil in the comics? Yeah, just mull on that for a bit going into the second half of the season and hope that my new theory goes in the direction of correct before I share it.
The episode isn’t over yet though. In fact, we get two “their secrets have secrets” to take you home. One is that Coulson knows that something horrible happened to Skye’s parents, but doesn’t tell her what he actually found out and asks May to help him find out more while keeping their true fates a secret from Skye and the audience. The second is that Coulson’s death and rehabilitation is classified, even from his level 8 status. If he wants to know more, he’d have to appeal directly to Director Fury. Which does not sound appealing. I smell a defect coming later this season, yes I do…
The Well (1×08)
This is the big Thor: The Dark World tie in episode directed by Jonathan Frakes, so I hope you’ve seen the movie or read Therese’s review. Well, it’s not super spoiler filled as an episode and is just marginally tied into the episode, so you might be okay. It starts with the team at the Greenwich Library, having to clean up the mess and look for potentially alien tech or organisms since it’s pretty obvious now that other dimensions exist as well as alien worlds. That’s going to be the big repercussion machine until The Winter Soldier comes out. But hey, there’s also a really cute discussion about how dreamy Thor is. Not handsome… dreamy… I kind of wish he had made an appearance, but who knows how long it is between when he left Earth and returned after being fooled by Odin!Loki.
Meanwhile in Norway, a couple find their way into a national forest and destroy a tree to pull out a piece of Asgardian technology, which proceeds to make the woman completely Hulk out on the park rangers. Which makes me wonder if “Hulk out” has become a major piece of slang in the MCU post Battle of New York, but I digress.
So Director Fury tells Coulson that Thor is “off the grid” (read: totally taking time to mack on Jane) for this case and that they’re on their own to take on a Pagan hate group that is looking for a staff that makes them rage out. Aww Thor. Needing to know more about the case without any actual Asgardians around, the team turns to Dr. Elliot Randolph, an expert on Norse mythology and/or history. He tells them that the tech is a piece of a Bezerker staff, which once belonged to an Asgardian warrior that came to Earth, decided to stay, and split the staff into three pieces while leaving clues about where they were. Whoever wields all the pieces of the staff will be able to full access their rage to have the full power of the Bezerker soldier. Well, more so than now.
The team tries to find the second piece of the staff to beat the angry rage pagans (not to be confused with hippie pagans, pagans who fill you with mead or the Burners who run the Thunderdome), but find Dr. Randolph trying to abscond with it. Ward chases him down, but accidentally touches the staff and is knocked out by the rage that overcomes him. Specifically, a memory of his brothers that involves a well which he later describes as the first time he really felt hatred.
Randolph nearly gets away, but the rage pagans find him and steal the second piece of the staff. Highly unamused by what has transpired, the team takes Randolph into custody to make sure he isn’t in league with the rage pagans. Ward is just completely raged filled and being a dick to everyone because of it, which is just sad considering all the bonding that was happening in the past few episodes. He helped Simmons up the fallen tree to analyze where the staff came from even! But I guess this truly reveals Ward’s Asshole Potential that he has to keep in check because of his manpain though. Hey, Coulson trusts him enough though since Ward recognizes how much of a dick to the point where he insists that he shouldn’t be on the case until it subsides versus… well… not…
Coulson has a hypothesis about Randolph and uses Ward’s current rage state to prove it: Randolph is Asgardian. In fact, he’s the warrior in the story of the Bezerker staff. Using his firsthand knowledge of where he left the pieces of the staff, the team makes him lead them to the final place. Which is where he’s rammed through by one of the rage pagans. Deciding to not listen to Skye or May, Ward fights through his manpain to take on the rage pagans with the Bezerker staff while the rest of the team works on their knowledge of Asgardian biology to save Randolph. During the fight, we see the memory that has bothered Ward so much: when he was younger, his asshole of an older brother threw their youngest brother down the well and tried to stop Ward from saving him. I feel like there is more to this memory that we might see later, but we cut back to a distressed Ward standing above some knocked out rage pagans. May comes to him and offers to fight off the last one and he finally accepts. Which is when May takes all three pieces, allowing the staff to repair itself and May to be a complete badass and knock blonde rage pagan on her ass. Ward later asks May how she managed to hold all three pieces of the staff without completely Hulking out, and she says it’s because she lives with what she did every day.
So the episode ends happily with Simmons finally calling her distressed parents back, Randolph relocating to Portland, the staff being in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, and Ward sleeping with… May?! Huh… was not expecting that, but good whiskey can seduce me over actually talking out my problems sometimes. Still, I did not expect Ward and May over Ward and Skye, but shows what I know.
This episode… is sort of dumb. Like, Buffy season 4 filler episode dumb.
There’s a woman named Hannah in a small religious town that is at fault for the deaths of three people at a Particle Accelerator Complex. They believe that it might be telekinesis, but she denies it because of a belief that God is punishing her and Coulson denies it because there are no telekinetics on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Index. As much as this has been brought up in the past few episodes, I’m predicting that this will be proven wrong by the end of the season. Especially if our mysterious Moriarty-esque big bad is called “The Clairvoyant.”
I guess apropos with May and Ward hooking up that everyone is just talking about May’s reputation to Skye. FitzSimmons tell this ridiculous story from the Academy about May riding in on horseback to save over a hundred S.H.I.E.L.D. agents behind enemy lines. Ward’s story is less ridiculous, but still plenty out there. I’m surprised he didn’t ask for confirmation with how close he got, but whatever. Coulson finally tells Skye the truth in that it was a mission with one person that May had to kill that somehow changed her from being warm and personable to cold and distant, and that he’s hoping to find that person still exists within her.
Alright, so back to the dumb storyline. The team takes the woman into custody for her own protection, which Skye protests to because she’s clearly freaked out and keeps asking to talk to the woman and be less S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and more regular human being. Which they do finally acquiesce to that which leads to a very touching moment that shows what Skye is really made of.
The team begins to analyze the blast and the events leading up to it, and realize that the accelerator tore a hole in space time and is leading to another dimension. Which some guy who worked at the factory that was obsessed with Hannah is phasing in and out of, kind of sort of making him a ghost and making him responsible for all the things that have made Hannah look telekinetic as well as the accident everyone blames Hannah for.
I told you this episode was kind of stupid.
The plane makes an emergency landing after the ghost dude (named Tobias cause that’s small city and religious enough) knocks out power on the plane. This leads to some vaguely creepy scenes as the team tries to escape Tobias and the angry ghost who thinks he’s being dragged to Hell (maybe Hel?) defeating Ward. Not ready to take it anymore, May drags Hannah off the plane and into a barn where Tobias manifests and confesses to everything that happened. He begs for Hannah’s forgiveness, but she says that only God can forgive him. May coldly cuts in with that he won’t and that Tobias needs to take responsibility for what he did and let Hannah go if he really cares about her. It’s actually a really great speech and I saw an interesting critique on the episode that sees this as a message to creepy guys obsessed with particular women to let them go and move on. Which would be in line with comic book metaphors.
Coulson asks May what she told Tobias, and she replies that it was exactly what he told her after the incident that made her The Calvary. He then also compliments Skye on her ability to connect with people and figure them out, which is really awesome to see.
There’s also a whole plotline about Fitz and Simmons pulling pranks on Skye to give her the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy experience. It kind of adds to the episode’s dumbness, but it is also super cute and has May secretly pulling the shaving cream prank on Fitz, so I’m conflicted. Eh, I guess cute wins over dumb for me always.
The Bridge (1×10)
OH JESUS, THIS EPISODE. WHAT A FREAKING MIDSEASON FINALE.
Okay, so remember the creepy guy from the end of ‘The Girl With The Flower Dress’? Yeah, well, his name is Edison Po and he’s a former military strategist who stabbed someone in the eyes a few years back. And he’s just been busted out of prison by a bunch of Centipede Soldiers. Yeah, expect this episode to go as well as you would think.
Knowing this much, Coulson decides to recruit Mike Peterson – y’know, the guy from the pilot? – to help them with the case. Yeah, it turns out that he’s been training to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent now and has left his son Ace to live with his sister out of being busy and fear that Ace will be afraid of his dad since the last time he saw him, he was Extremis-raging. Also, the Night-Night Gun has some sort of strange neutralizing agent that has stopped him from frying up in the inside even though they can’t take the Centipede off of him.
And Simmons totally has the hots for him, which is legit. Have you seen J. August Richards? Like damn.
Is it obvious yet that I’m trying to do this from memory? Cause if not, it’s going to be obvious starting now once the revelation train begins.
So the team starts their search for Po by looking for a former soldier named Brian Hayward that was seen on the security camera footage breaking him out. Their search leads to a warehouse where the team is ambushed, Mike takes a heavy hit, and Ward ends up taking a hit for May. When the team catches up with Hayward, he begs for his life before something clicks and he dies. Yeah, guess who has the same eye camera as Akela Amandour? Which probably means whoever was paying for that project is pouring money into Centipede. And at some point, Mike recognizes Raina on the security footage as the one who approached him for the project and the team realizes that she’s tied to it as well.
Back on the Bus, May berates Ward for getting personal in the field, but Ward insists that he knew what he was doing and that taking a hit for her gave her more time to get back at her attacker. May seems thrown off by this and Skye walks into the wrong part of the conversation after previously asking May for help in finding her parents. May chews her out, nearly telling her the fate of her parents, but quickly switches gears to telling Skye that she needs to decide who and what she is there for. This gets Skye upset and she runs off to her room to cry.
After urging from Coulson to stop being afraid of his son, Mike gives Ace a call to let him know he’s coming to visit soon. Ace is ecstatic and tells his dad that he can’t wait to introduce him to his new friend. Which is Raina. While you’re muttering “oh shit, oh shit,” she’s letting Mike know that Ace will be in danger if he doesn’t comply with what she’s about to ask. Which I guess is something with Centipede since he’s apparently somehow the step to whatever Phase 3 of the project is.
And she somehow has a thing for Po or wants to be recognized by the Clairvoyant or something? It’s weird and not explained. And the Clairvoyant might be a dude, but Elementary has taught me use of male pronouns doesn’t mean shit. Let’s move on.
Mike tells the team what happened and he’s been told to go in without S.H.I.E.L.D. assistance minus Coulson as an escort for the switch. If he has noticeable S.H.I.E.L.D. assistance, Ace will be killed. The team quickly comes up with a plan to track Mike’s location after he’s been taken and have Ward with a sniper rifle just in case it goes awry. When the exchange comes though, Raina reveals that she’s there for Coulson instead. Mike apologizes for what he’s done because he was already on thin ice with Coulson’s team for nearly killing them, but Coulson understands that Mike did what he had to do to protect Ace. Coulson is knocked out and the team begins to freak out over their leader being taken. And I’m freaking out because WHY IS COULSON BEING KIDNAPPED?
Mike gives Ace over to Skye, telling him that there’s something he needs to do. He goes running after the car, which then promptly explodes and Mike disappears in the flames. Which just causes everyone to freak out more as a helicopter flies by as they ask for S.H.I.E.L.D. assistance and shoots Ward. Cue me screaming because IS EVERYONE DEAD? PLEASE DON’T TELL ME MIKE IS DEAD. I WAS JUST GETTING TO LIKE WARD TOO. I CAN’T LIVE THROUGH COULSON DYING AGAIN.
Except the stinger reveals that Coulson isn’t dead, which is what is intriguing Raina. She doesn’t want information on S.H.I.E.L.D. She just wants to know what happened the day after Phil Coulson died. Cue the most beautiful ‘Oh shit’ look on Phil’s face as the mid-season finale fades out.
Okay, that’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. up until this point. It still has some season one growing pains like any halfway decent show, but it is starting to live up to the potential I always knew was there. Even the worst of the batch still has some good moments, and it is nice to see the team starting to unite, especially now in the face of their leader being kidnapped.
The season resumes on January 7 with the episode ‘The Magical Place,’ which sees the return of Victoria Hand and confirmation that yes, Ward is alive. No idea about Mike though. Not yet.
What have you thought of the episodes since ‘FZZT’? Are you excited for the show to return?