TV Show Review

TV Review: AGENTS Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 18: Providence [ABC]

Brett Dalton Bill Paxton Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Providence

ABC‘s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Providence TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Episode 18: ‘Providence’ seems far enough into the Uprising arc to free my tongue on various developments. In the wake of Captain America: Winter Soldier, Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) turned out to be the man behind the Clairvoyant myth, Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) turned out to be the Anakin, to Garrett’s Palpatine, and, while not quite a youngling, Agent Hand (Saffron Burrows) has become one of his victims (I’m still a little miffed about that).

With S.H.I.E.L.D. now officially in a state of civil war, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team decided to not stick around for the federal government to sort things out. When the face of the government is Col. Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), this is understandable. Thanks to Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) conveniently sharp eye, the team was given a destination to its flight, and an answer to the question of Nick Fury’s fate. That answer was provided by Agent Koenig (Patton Oswalt), but not before a new, and disturbing question was posed to Coulson. Agent May (Ming-Na Wen), outed as a Fury plant, made the case to Coulson that the circumstances of his resurrection may have left him as a HYDRA sleeper agent; so even if the how, behind Coulson’s resurrection, has been addressed, ‘Providence’ may have kept the question of why afloat.

‘Providence’ also came bearing Easter eggs, like a glimpse of Garrett’s ‘colder’ bits. Key locations, like the Fridge were utilized, and a number of jailbreaks were arranged – including Raina (Ruth Negga) and Ian Quinn (David Conrad). This allows for any number of future baddie appearances; but foremost of these regarded the installation called the Cube. The source facility was set up specifically to house Gamma irradiated threats, which pretty much made it the final destination for all Hulk villains. While previously mentioned on the series, Emil Blonsky, will likely not be making an appearance on TV. Even though noted as re-secured, the temporary loss of the Cube did allow for a possible Blonsky break-out; so even without a series appearance, ‘Providence’ could be the source for any future Abomination appearances on the big screen.

I thought it important, anyway….

Clark Gregg has reclaimed a lot of Agent Coulson’s wit and drive, from his big screen appearances, for the series. Playing off of Patton Oswalt’s take, on that subtly sinister charm, may have helped, this episode. While the leap-of-faith aspect to his character still seems a bit at odds with the job description, he has clearly hung up his hapless-dad-on-a-family-road-trip pants for a cold-warrior mode. Agent Coulson’s character had spent far too much time wallowing on the circumstances of his resurrection, and doting over Skye (ironically, on May’s shoulder) to live up to his role. While being run to ground has clearly been good for getting him back on his game, negative reinforcement, courtesy of the May reveal, did have something to do with it.

Agent May had been given her due, as the real driving force behind the team; but has been left in the dog house, now that Coulson knows about her role as his Fury appointed sitter. I’m not too worried, though; the Uprising arc effectively takes the gloves off, for everyone involved, and I, for one, am looking forward to May redeeming herself (by cutting loose on the oh so deserving, no less).

I could do without the Fitz-Simmons (Iain De Caestecker & Elizabeth Henstridge) new dance routine, now that Triplett (B.J. Britt) makes three, but Simmons at least seems intent on nipping it in the bud, and Fitz’s prickliness is still preferrable to the techno-twin babble of their earlier dynamic. Triplett, for his part, has yet to bring anything to the team; but he’s new, and hasn’t demonstrated any annoying tendencies.

As much as I appreciate the show moving on, from the Coulson/ Skye father figure dynamic, the SkyeWard rope-a-dope thing threatens to shove her into another box of whine. With only a handful of episodes left to the season, however, I’m hoping this plot device has a very short leash. Ward, for his part, has finally been given some character, but only indirectly. Dalton does better as the cocky muscle, very much aware of his role as action eye-candy, than the wounded straight arrow. By invoking Natasha Romanov’s level of metamorphic persona manipulation, Agent Ward has been reintroduced as both a highly complicated character, and an empty shell. This is convenient in so many ways; but for now, just makes him more interesting than the team’s blunt instrument.

Ruth Negga’s Raina role brought a surprising level of humanity to the rogue ranks. As a true believer, her disappointment – if not heartbreak, at finding Garrett behind the Clairvoyant’s curtain, was palpable. Her devotion to her craft may be enough to keep her on board, but her shaken faith may actually make her the wild card in the crew.

I’ll admit it: I’ve always liked Paxton more as the anti-hero, than the hero, but preferred him as a straight up douche-bag. He just always seems to have more fun in that role, and for Uprising, he’s been having a ball. Premises like Agents‘ are only as good as the villain, and decent antagonists have been at the heart of the series’ early troubles – not enough to do, no worthy adversary to keep them on the back foot. Well now the Chinese water torture, that was the Centipede/ Clairvoyant sub-plot, has been discarded for a tune everybody can dance to: HYDRA’s greatest hit. With full-force-Paxton as the MC, and rogue Romanov Ward stalking the crowd, the bad guys are the cool kids at the party – just as nature always intended. Only as good as the villain, after all.

One of the show’s early troubles came from trying to make the good guys seem cool, but succeeding in only in making them mostly annoying. Well for the time being, its been spared the trouble. We are at that point where the good guys get to have as much fun as they deserve, and that means getting over the fun the bad guys have had, at their expense, then getting even. The more fun the bad guys get (and Garrett’s been having a LOT of fun), the more satisfying the comeuppance. Fingers crossed.

Providence did have its share of problems, however. The wintery Canadian location, of Agent Koenig’s post, would have been more convincing had they at least tried to fake some winter breath, and the wave top flying of the Bus, while effective in evading radar, would leave a clear wake trail that can be seen by any satellite. The breach in protocol, at the Fridge, was a face-palmer; but at least the events of  T.A.H.I.T.I. can now be seen in a different light (a possibly compromised Coulson, under Garrett’s direct influence, performing a highly questionable action). Still, the Uprising arc brings back both the gravity and the fun of the show’s original promise (never mind the premise).

Speaking of gravity, the episode ended with a promise of further wish fulfillment: superpowers, baby. This development may present the first real clue as to how the first season ends. I’m thinking a nuclear option that gets out of everyone’s hands. Whatever the outcome, at least I’m actually looking forward to it. That, and a lot more naughty fun, as the bad guys make up for lost time.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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