Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.…well, it’s been awhile, mostly because ABC’s scheduling has been a little crazy. But starting tonight, we’re back with a handful of episodes all in a row, no breaks required. Rejoice!
I don’t know about you, but in the past few weeks, I’ve felt like the show is finally starting to find its feet and become the series it was supposed to be when it first premiered. Those thoughts were validated in tonight’s episode, which gave us a solid mix of action, plot development, and reveal. And finally, we get to see some real agents other than Coulson getting their hands dirty! Be still, my Marvel-loving heart.
We start off the episode in Sydney, Australia, where I was happy to see the return of Bill Paxton’s Agent Garrett, along with Agent Tripplett (B.J. Britt) as they arrived at safe house. They’re supposed to be helping Coulson look for The Clairvoyant, but instead they’re greeted with Deathlok. (Not exactly the welcome wagon you’d want.) Shooting does next to nothing, and after he escapes through the ceiling, the incident causes Coulson to call a meeting of agents — including Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), Agent Blake (Titus Welliver), Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Herandez.) I think it was this part of the episode where I actually felt excited by something other than a guest star, because to me, these are the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And personally, I’d pay to watch a show about Coulson and Sitwell, and Hand’s nefarious ways, but that’s beside the point.
Coulson explains that he brought everyone together as a precaution against The Clairvoyant. Since it can read minds, it’s pretty much assumed that in higher altitude, there’s less of a chance of that. According to Blake and Hand, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s stand on psychics is that they don’t exist. Coulson begs to differ, following his personal experience with Lorelei in the last episode. At this point, Hand verbally offers Deathlok’s identity, and says that they’ve been tracking him themselves.
So how does one go about finding The Clairvoyant? Coulson suggests taking a look at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s gifted index, a.k.a. rejects who had psychic powers who were not allowed into the organization because of said prejudice. The information returns a list of 13 candidates, and the plan is to have the agents break out into pairs, each following a different lead, while someone feeds them back-up. Hand is dubious on who’s going to take that responsibility if all agents with clearance are in the field, but Coulson has the answer — and it’s none other than Skye (who gets brought into the conversation after being pulled out of the medical bay.) After suggesting that they go in double blind so that no one person has the key to their mission, Coulson bestows upon her “Agent” status.
Yep, that’s right. Tonight, the hacker once accused of cosplaying around Stark Tower finally got her official badge and became a real life S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Naturally, she’s shocked, though Coulson promises she’s passed every test with flying colors (“for a level one agent,” Hands makes sure to point out.) There’s a really cute Simmons/Skye hug in the middle of all of this, but Ward just looks uncomfortable. When she thanks him later for his help, he tells her, “I’m no Clairvoyant, but I do believe some things are meant to be.” (I’m no Clairvoyant, either, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about her new badge…)
We cut to Deathlok getting orders from The Clairvoyant. He hears a knock on the door followed by the arrival of a package and don’t say I never gave you anything. There’s a new cyber implant inside that he attaches to his arm, which gives him some pretty awesome weaponry. Why did The Clairvoyant gift him with such a fun little addition? He (or she) knows that the team is coming. Not only that, “it’s time” for them to meet for real.
Right before the agents are about to start their mission, in a nice little tie-in to the upcoming Winter Soldier film, Hand tells Sitwell he has orders to report, thus relieving him of his duties. Meanwhile, Garrett and Skye have a nice little chat as they talk about her recent shooting and trade battle scars. Garrett tells her how much of an impact she’s had on Ward, and this whole conversation seems to be about making it very clear that the show is trying to get back aboard this particular relationship train.
While Fitz is talking tech with May, Simmons waltzes in running her mouth about Skye’s blood, which she’s still obsessed with wanting to research. In a move that both seem to find a little disconcerting, May suddenly asks if either Coulson or Skye have exhibited any strange behaviors or side effects from the GH325. She then tells them that if they do, she should be the first one contacted. We know that May’s providing information to someone shady, so this conversation doesn’t sit well with me at all.
The agents scatter and depart for their mission. Tripplett and Ward visit a prison in the UK looking for a man named Elijah Fordham, while Garrett and Coulson are sent to Indiana, and Blake and May are sent to find someone named Thomas Nash, who is supposedly in a coma. It’s kind of like Charles Xavier and Magneto going to collect their gifted recruits, except, you know, this is S.H.I.E.L.D. and not Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. (Both franchises are Marvel-owned though, so I guess they have that in common.)
While Blake tries to get chummy with May (who is having none of it), Deathlok takes them both by surprise. No one’s apparently learned that shooting at him does nothing, and he almost kills Blake, putting him out of commission even as he tries to plead with Deathlok, appealing to any humanity he might have left as Mike Peterson. May narrowly escapes, while Tripplett and Ward find their location abandoned, and Coulson and Garrett encounter their own roadblocks (literally). Back on the bus, the agents gather again and discuss how The Clairvoyant knew they were coming. Hand wants the team to know exactly what Deathlok is capable of, and they eventually deduce that while Nash is a cover-up, he’s also a suspect — which means they can continue to search for him to try to find out his connection to The Clairvoyant.
While Simmons prepares to go off to the Hub with Tripplett, Skye talks with May and Coulson about Nash (nice reference to the secret program being referred to as “Department H” in this conversation.) Coulson realizes the entire catatonic story was really just to throw S.H.I.E.L.D. off their trail, and then that Blake hit Deathlok with a tag round, which means they should be able to track him down pretty easily.
In Florida at Deathlok’s compound, the agents secure the perimeter while Ward makes Skye stay in the van to track on her computer. While the boys release drones to help find Deathlok and storm the location, Skye gets a look at Deathlok on her computer, seeing what they really did to her skin (it’s worth noting that the image Skye sees on her computer looks more like the comics than anything we’ve seen so far). They’re immediately attacked, with Ward almost being taken out as May and Coulson give a chase, eventually ending up in the basement where they meet up with Garrett. They realize that Fitz’s drones reveal someone else is in the room with them, and when they look around, they see a paralyzed man surrounded by monitors: Thomas Nash (or, if you’re so inclined, Brad Dourif, who uses his amazingly creepy character actor work to his advantage here.)
Nash tells Coulson and company that he surrenders, and then reveals himself as The Clairvoyant. It’s almost too easy, but everyone seems to believe him anyway, especially once he starts goading Coulson about his non-death and reminding him of his guilt over Skye’s own near-death experience. Besides, he seems to fit the bill — he’s acting through a computer, he’s seemingly giving orders, and he’s locked up in a hidden room. Coulson wants to put him away, and Nash says that while he’ll go to prison, it won’t stop him from seeing. He starts to hit at every one of Coulson’s emotional buttons, ominously ending with the warning that a force is coming after them, that Skye has something they want, and she’ll die giving it to them. (What are you, Skye?!)
At this point, Ward has had enough and shoots Nash in the chest, effectively killing him. What should make everyone feel better just makes them feel worse, as Coulson is unsettled by Nash’s words, even after May tells him Director Fury is back and waiting, so he can finally talk about what’s been bothering him. (A little convenient, no?) Meanwhile, Skye visits Ward in the holding room, where he’s trying to justify his actions in killing Nash so carelessly when that wasn’t even the mission. He goes on a rant about how he wasn’t going to let her get killed, even if it means that he’ll face punishment for his actions. “I don’t care what they do as long as you’re safe. You and the rest of the team,” he adds, though really, we all know at this point he’s just talking about Skye.
Skye goes to see Coulson, who says he’s worried about the fact that Ward killed the wrong man since the fact that he spoke through a computer screen meant he could’ve been controlled from technically anywhere. Also, the fact that The Clairvoyant is “supposedly” dead basically closes the case where S.H.I.E.L.D. is concerned. When Skye mentions Coulson’s father’s death and how S.H.I.E.L.D. files are more surveillance than psychiatric records, they determine The Clairvoyant isn’t so much psychic as he’s most likely one of their own (this would also explain why he couldn’t “see” Coulson after Loki killed him, because Fury had those files locked up.) Of note — Skye being a full-fledged agent means that she’s now also in the system, which means that there’s access to her files, as well. Could it have been a plot to get Skye into S.H.I.E.L.D. from the beginning, given her “0-8-4” status, for this reason?
Coulson immediately goes to Ward and starts to question him, believing that he might be compromised and that the call to kill The Clairvoyant was ordered by someone else. Meanwhile, Fitz calls Simmons to tell her about Ward, and when the line gets choppy, an attempt to fix it leads him to realize that there’s a tap on the phone line. While investigating, May comes down and catches him. He manages to talk his way out of the situation, but runs into Skye, and after he tells her what happened, Skye orders him to cut the line. He does, stopping May’s call just as she’s about to make another log. Seriously — don’t make Melinda May angry, okay? Because she’ll come after you with a gun and be really, really pissed about it.
May chases Fitz through the Bus, until Coulson shows up and pulls a gun on her, with Skye close behind. May says she can explain, just “not here,” which doesn’t really win her a lot of points. Coulson has more questions, though. He wants to know who she answers to, who she’s been talking to, and if she knows who the real Clairvoyant is. (I love that we’re getting all these follow-ups to the mysteries that were only given in the last episode!) While May continues to plead the fifth, the plane starts to suddenly move on its own, surprising everyone.
So who is controlling the Bus? None other than Victoria Hand, who is staring at a map and giving an order to kill everyone on the plane when it lands — everyone except for Coulson. She’s probably not the true Clairvoyant, because that’s also too easy, but she’s definitely got her own agenda and has no problem working against the team, all of which makes for a compelling dynamic and a lot of potential conflict. It’s an interesting place to leave the episode, as the next hour is supposed to be a direct tie-in to Captain America: Winter Soldier, which opens Friday and in which S.H.I.E.L.D. is featured rather prominently. (Speaking of Captain America, how about that awesome exclusive footage, which was our tag at the end of the episode?)
What did you think of End of the Beginning? Are you excited for the remaining episodes of the season?