To the show’s credit, it appears that the events of last week’s so-called “game-changer” episode of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ (as well as the latest ‘Captain America’ movie) will indeed have some lasting impact. I half expected everything to be tidily swept up in an episode or two. Maybe that will still happen, but for now, things look pretty dire for our cast of characters, who spend this week picking up the pieces from their recent disaster.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is in ruins. Including the Hub, only three bases remain active – though a fourth will be reclaimed shortly. The U.S. government has declared it a terrorist organization. (How that makes any sense isn’t exactly clear to me, but we’ll go with it.) An Air Force colonel named Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) announces that a peacekeeping force is en route to take over operations. Coulson sees the writing on the wall and declares “Odyssey Protocol,” which is basically the same thing as “Ghost Protocol” from the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies. His team (plus Agent Triplett, whom Coulson doesn’t trust yet) hop on their plane and high-tail it out of there before the Air Force arrives. They’re going dark, going rogue, scrubbing their identities, yadda yadda… You get the idea.
No one knows that Ward killed Agent Hand or set Garrett free yet. As it turns out, Ward really is evil. Speculation that he was working an angle to go undercover in HYDRA is shot down when we learn that he and Garrett go way back, and he’d been working as a HYRDA mole in S.H.I.E.L.D. all along. (Again, this seems totally inconsistent with everything he’s done previously in the series, but illogical double-crosses are par for the course with comic book plotting.)
As a first order of business, Garrett and Ward bust Raina out of prison. She’s disappointed to learn that the Clairvoyant isn’t really clairvoyant, and seems surprised to find out that he works for HYDRA. I suspect that she may eventually switch sides and help the good guys.
Next, they stage a raid on the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility called “The Fridge,” set free a bunch of other prisoners (Garrett intends them to be a distraction for Coulson), and steal a bunch of nifty toys from storage, including some featured in previous episodes. Garrett reveals to Ward that the “Slingshot” program, in which dangerous captured tech was put on a rocket and launched into space, was a total fake. Director Fury had been keeping everything hidden away for himself. Before they leave, they let evil billionaire Ian Quinn out and give him back his gravitonium. I’m sure that he and Garrett have nefarious purposes in mind for that.
Meanwhile, on the plane known as “The Bus,” Coulson discovers a secret message with map coordinates hidden in his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge. He’s convinced that Director Fury is still alive and sent it. Everyone else is skeptical. May worries that HYDRA may have messed with Coulson’s head during the “Tahiti” project.
The coordinates lead them to a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base in the Canadian wilderness manned solely by a guy named Agent Koenig (nerd icon Patton Oswalt). Koenig informs them that Director Fury really is dead, but then pulls Coulson aside and tells him differently. Because they don’t know whom they can trust, Coulson isn’t allowed to tell anyone else.
The secrecy of their new base of operations is compromised almost instantly when Skye calls Ward and tells him where they are. Because Raina was unable to decrypt the S.H.I.E.L.D. hard drive that Skye gave Ward last week, Garrett sends Ward back undercover to rejoin Coulson’s team.
All things considered, this is a decent enough episode of the series, even though it doesn’t have anywhere near the action or excitement of the previous week. (I didn’t really expect it to.) Unfortunately, the helicopter attack on the Fridge looks terrible and is just about the cheesiest thing the show has ever done – which is saying a lot.
I think the storyline has enough potential to keep me interested for a while longer. I’ve stuck with the show this long. I might as well hang in there until the end of the season. However, I feel that the length of the season is really working against it. If the series is renewed (and I assume it will be), I think it would be in everyone’s best interest to reduce next year to a shorter 12-episode half season with tighter plotting and more focused storytelling.