ABC‘s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. End of the Beginning TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 16: ‘End of the Beginning’ officially kicked off ‘Uprising,’ likely to be the most important story arc of the series, thus far.
After Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Triplett (B.J. Britt) fended off an attack by Deathlok (J. August Richards), who got the drop on them at one of their own safehouses, Garrett called for a mini-summit of the series’ most accessible higher ups. Garrett proposed that the Clairvoyant, however well informed on the agency’s every move, was acting out because they were getting too close; that it might be time for one last big push to close the ring.
Team Coulson (Clark Gregg) hosted this summit on the ‘Bus,’ which included Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández), and Agent Blake (Titus Welliver). Once it was accepted that their quarry may be someone the agency had already crossed paths with (off that infamous “list” of theirs), and a number of suspects drawn up, the elephant in the room became the question of how do you close in on someone that can see you coming. To that end, Team Coulson’s best data sifter got duly deputized. Skye (Chloe Bennet) was now officially an agent, and went about earning her ‘stripes,’ with a plan straight out of the film Push.
I’ll just take a moment to state that Agent Hand going along with Skye’s induction got the old “Spidey sense” tingling. It’s really hard not to notice her every move – she just towers over everyone, in size & presence (she’s downright… Asgardian).
The Push plan paired up a number of operatives, leading to some decent conversational moments. Ward (Brett Dalton) and Trip touched on the matter of payback (with Ward, having nearly lost Skye, keeping Trip, having actually having lost a partner, on mission, regarding “capture only”). Even when not in “rock & roll” mode, Paxton elevates every scene he’s in. His back-and-forth with Coulson, on the way to their objective (and what seemed to be shaping into an “obvious” ambush) was an episode highlight. May (Ming-Na Wen) got saddled with Blake; but when their pairing drew the magic ticket, in the form of an up-armoried Deathlok, Blake actually delivered a useful sacrificial play (leaving him very much down, but not altogether out). May got away with a stern warning.
I’ll just take a moment to state that Titus Welliver has had a history of being cast as the heavy, for better or worse, so I just have a hard time accepting him as purely on the side of the angels.
While near the subject, I gotta say that Deathlok looked ridiculous – more Lazer Tag skirmisher than cyborg. The upside being that A: he’s a work in progress, and B: an x-ray view revealed the spitting image of the source character underneath. As morbid as it may sound, we could be one explosion/ fire/ bad chemical bath away from a more convincing looking Deathlok (sorry, Mikey). Well the Lazer Tag version was still a force to reckon with, and made good his escape, seemingly abandoning his post, and practically having led the team to his controller.
The Clairvoyant was Thomas Nash (Brad Dourif), a man who supposedly faked his way off the agency’s radar with a failing health condition. Well his condition had not improved by much – he was completely paralyzed, confined to a chair, and only able to communicate by computer. He was apparently all for giving himself up, just so he could get into Coulson’s head, ahead of what lay in store for both Coulson and Skye. Well, Ward wasn’t having it.
This would have been a really convenient way to wrap up the Centipede arc, that I wouldn’t buy with a counterfeit mint at my disposal. To the show’s credit, however, neither did Coulson and the team B roll. Ward made for a decent fall guy, but not nobody puts May in the corner.
When you have a devious mind, you are compelled to treat the biggest assets as the biggest threats (I grew up watching cartoons where the good guys would have to take down their leader/ best – at least once per series). I figured Coulson would go rogue, eventually, but marveled at the prospects of the team going up against May. When Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) stumbled upon May’s personal outside line, all the pieces fell into place for Coulson, and I never feared more for Fitz’s well-being (not so much because I care about Fitz – I just didn’t want to see May cross the line, by killing the little guy with a stern look). A much better fake out attempt, with points given for the double ruse (the stuff that spy shows should be made of). More points for Agents getting ahead of/ leading into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, instead of riding the coat tails of its success, after the fact.
Personally, I don’t think you have to wait for Winter Soldier to get a sense for what the ‘Uprising’ arc has in store. I haven’t seen Soldier, which leaves me free to speculate in only potentially spoiler fashion, I think. On the other hand, I do know something about the WS story, and how it affected the larger Marvel Universe; so I may still be subject to spoiler rules; so never mind. All I can say is that the red herring shoal hasn’t completely gone by, yet, and keep all pointing fingers to your person, until the ride ends.
‘Uprising’ stands to redeem Agents of its slow, light-touch beginnings, and if handled well, would leave the series in much better shape, for future seasons, than its first half seemed to warrant. I’ve always said the cast would benefit from a good shake-up, and having something to do. Well, Coulson and Skye provided something of a shake up, and retrieving/ saving those two gave the team something to do: so far, so good. Encouragingly enough, the series has moved on to having the team added to the agency’s to do list, and I, for one, am looking forward to the evolutionary fallout.