Friday, July 10, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 14, "T.A.H.I.T.I." RETRO-REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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At this point, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really starts to pick up steam as it pushes onward toward the impending season finale and the tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  We finally get to meet our villain for the season, and practically every line of dialogue from him is a nefarious hint at what’s coming—even though at the time it sounds completely innocent.  This is also the first episode to use the “post-credits button” to tease the following week’s episode, something which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fully embraced in season 2, where just about every episode ended with a teaser for the following one.

Warning:  Retro-Reviews contain spoilers for all of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. through season 2.

The episode picks up with Coulson and Simmons wheeling the hyperbaric chamber with Skye in it into the S.H.I.E.L.D. hospital in Switzerland.  The doctors take over her care, bring her body temperature back up, and start working to repair the damage caused by the bullets.  However, it is too extensive, with her stomach and intestines having been torn apart—they can’t do anything for her.  All that they can do is keep her on life support.

Meanwhile, the team is sitting in the waiting room.  Coulson tries calling Fury for information about the procedure that brought him back to life.  Fitz and Ward start playing the blame game, with each of them taking a share of the blame for putting Skye in the position to enter the compound on her own.  May, meanwhile, tells them to focus all their anger on the one who actually shot Skye:  Ian Quinn, who is still in their Interrogation cell on the Bus.  When the doctor comes in and tells them that they can’t do anything for Skye, May immediately goes to the cell and starts beating on Quinn, leaving his face bloodied and one of his eyes bruised shut.  Fortunately, Coulson comes in and stops May before she actually kills Quinn.

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Coulson decides that they need to take Skye to Bethesda, the hospital where his medical file claims that he was brought back to life.  He gives the file to Fitz and Simmons and instructs them to make sense of it and find a way to use that knowledge to save Skye.  However, they discover that Dr. Streiten (the physician Coulson confronted at the end of “The Magical Place” (1x11)) has disappeared off the radar.  Worse, there are no records of Coulson ever having been treated at Bethesda and none of the doctors there were involved with the procedure.  They seem to be stuck.  And things get worse for them when S.H.I.E.L.D. orders them to hand over Quinn for transportation to the Fridge for interrogation and sends a team to board the Bus and take custody of Quinn.  The agents in question are John Garrett and Antoine Triplett.  Garrett was Ward’s S.O., and Trip is his new specialist.  Though Garrett initially intended to take Quinn and leave, he convinced HQ to allow him to keep Quinn on the Bus while the group tried to track down the location where Coulson was brought back to life so they could save Skye.

Fortunately, Fitz and Simmons were able to decipher enough of Coulson’s file to figure out that the drug “GH-325” was the key to his miraculous recovery, though they couldn’t figure out where it came from.  Eventually Fitz used the Triskelion database to find a file simply labeled “Guest House,” which turned out to be a digital map of the location of the Guest House, a collapsed World War II bunker.  The team goes to the Guest House, where Coulson, Ward, Garrett, and Fitz enter it, find the GH-325, and get it out in time to save Skye, though they are forced to kill the guards, who activated a self-destruct bomb.  Simmons injects Skye with the drug, her body starts seizing up and her heart starts pounding at an alarming rate, and her body suddenly starts stabilizing.  In the end, Skye is recovering, but Coulson is left deeply disturbed and troubled.

That’s the episode in a nutshell, but there is a lot more that happens, particularly with the way that it develops some of the characters and the intrigue of the season.  May’s response to the news that Skye would not recover was fascinating in how unexpected it was.  May very rarely loses her cool.  Even when the Bus was being “haunted” by a man trapped between dimensions in “Repairs” (1x09), May did not lose her cool.  She came close in “T.R.A.C.K.S.” (1x13) when Russo captured her, strung her up in a barn, and stabber her in the shoulder, but she was still in control.  This time, however, it is different.  She is reacting on a purely emotional level.  She isn’t using pain and punishment to get information out of Quinn; she just wants him to suffer for what he did.  That’s a side of May that we don’t see very often, and it really fleshes out her character.  She clearly cares for Skye, despite how tough she always is on her.

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The other character who gets a lot of development in this episode is Coulson.  It’s been clear all season that Coulson has a soft spot for Skye—Quinn calls her his “pet project” in “T.R.A.C.K.S.”  However, Coulson does not react to Skye’s injury in the same way as May.  He stares at her on the monitor (which would be creepy under normal circumstances), he sits by her bed, he follows Fury’s example by trying to “move heaven and earth” to save her life.  But he never gives up, even when Fitz and Simmons tell him that there’s no way for them to replicate the miracles that brought him back to life.  From the moment the doctors say they can’t save her until he sees the alien at the end of the episode, he is hell-bent on saving her, and will not take “no” for an answer.

And then Coulson discovers that the serum which brought him back to life—which he was going to give to Skye—came out of the body of a blue alien.  And Coulson goes into shock.  I think this is the moment when he finally realizes that they have been playing with powers they can’t hope to understand or control, and that it can all blow up in their faces.  He tells May that he is afraid that Skye will suffer the same way he did, but I think it’s more than that.  He doesn’t know the risks associated with this procedure, and he is genuinely afraid of what it might do.  From absolutely certain to totally in shock is a very sudden shift, and not something we see from Coulson very often.  But we are going to see is at least a few more times.

We also get to see the team’s reactions to learning about Coulson’s “recovery.”  Fitz and Simmons are both scared of the consequences—Simmons describes the procedures used as “diabolical.”  May agrees with them to a certain extent, but she is (a bit surprisingly) on board with Coulson’s determination to save Skye no matter the cost.  At the same time, she is the only one who sees that by pursuing this they might be giving the Clairvoyant exactly what he wants.

However, I think the star of the episode is easily Agent Garrett, who really steals the show with every scene.  He is a smooth-talker, but there’s a serious darkness to him.  When he grabs Quinn’s tongue and threatens to rip it out, he really makes you believe that he means it.  And yet, he displays great loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. and care for those he is with.  His relationship with Ward is an interesting one, though this episode does not explore it fully.  He clearly has a long history with Coulson, which he alludes to at the end.  The fact that Garrett turns out to be not only the Clairvoyant but also a Hydra mole is a huge punch in the gut to Coulson.  And it comes across as a shock to the audience precisely because he was introduced as a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who had a lot of close connections with Coulson.  At the same time, I think it might have been more effective if we had met Garrett a little earlier in the game—perhaps during “The Hub” (1x07) when we got a good look behind the curtain at the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I get that Ward filled that role—and his betrayal was a huge shock—but there was only 1 Hydra agent that we really got to know over the course of the season.  If we had also gotten to know Garrett more also, I think it would have made the season better.

I like all the subtle nods that Garrett fits in.  While talking to Coulson, Ward, and Trip, he comments that “You wouldn’t believe what I could talk this son-of-a-gun into” (referring of course to Ward).  At the time it’s just a funny in-joke, but after the fact we know just what Garrett is referring to, and it is a shock how much Ward would do for Garrett.  When Quinn tells them in the interrogation that the goal was to force Coulson’s hand and lead the Clairvoyant to the procedure that brought him back to life, Garrett reacts with a little more surprise than expected when he finds out that Coulson does not know what they did to him.  When they blow the lab doors to escape, Garrett comments that “I guess we don’t need to worry about the Clairvoyant finding this place.”  At the time it’s funny because the facility is about to get blown up; in reality, the Clairvoyant has already found it because he is there.  I think the funniest thing he says is when he tells Quinn that the Clairvoyant hasn’t predicted the future at all, but he’s just proven that “If you tell a rich, entitled dirtbag he’s gonna get away with murder, he’ll believe it.”  Funny enough, the Clairvoyant really can’t see the future!

The end of the episode is pretty fun because it teases the following episode:  Lorelei appears on Earth.  Can’t wait for that episode!

I really enjoyed this episode.  It introduced a couple more fun characters, provided some good development for May and Coulson, and introduced us to one of the enduring mysteries for the end of season 1 and beginning of season 2:  just who was that blue guy?

What did you think of this episode?  What were your theories about the alien at the time?  Do you wish we had seen more of Garrett earlier in the season?  Let me know in the comments!

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1 comment:

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