Soon, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes a short break, gone for the holiday season, and into January. Will we miss it? Perhaps this week’s “mid-season cliffhanger” will determine that answer! Now, without further preamble, let’s discuss it.
But what’s this? We are greeted by a hitherto unused pre-episode “Previously on…” segment! Ah, I see what they did there, they’re reminding us that there are some ongoing plots in this show! I remember some of them! Something tells me that this episode could be connected to such disparate elements as “Project Centipede” and its beautiful evil lady doctors, Coulson’s fate during “The Avengers”, and also Skye is a character we see occasionally!
Cold open? Yes, please!
A middle aged man (Cullen Douglas) is eating a meal in the corner of the prison cafeteria. It is peaceful. But not for long! Danger men explode through the roof, dropping on lines! Also they have super powers, and easily overcome the guards! During the action, we note that one of them has the characteristic implant that both grants super powers and has traditionally turned people into living explosives. Also, it is vaguely reminiscent of a centipede! Our middle aged man continues to eat his meal during the action sequence, then is approached by one of these dangermen! “Time to go, sir,” is quipped. Ruh-roh. Soon, the whole party evacuates via helicopter, and our episode can truly begin.
Aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane, Skye is trying to research the identities of her parents. It seems like she has a lot of data to sift through. She asks Coulson to remove her tracking bracelet and give her access to some more restricted files, but he refuses. Instead, he has asked Agent May to look into some top secret stuff on Skye’s behalf. Meanwhile, May and Ward are brawling. May wins, then Ward awkwardly references their sexual escapades, which annoys May. I can tell because she looked slightly more disapproving than usual, and said something abrupt. Okay, so it’s not that compelling. Still, I think she was annoyed!
In the mission briefing, the team is super unexcited to learn that Project Centipede’s guys now number at least three super soldiers, and that no matter how many Centipede labs they blow up, the group keeps re-emerging. The middle aged man they broke out of prison is named Poe. He’s ex-military, a total psychopath, but also an expert on strategy and tactics. This is also a problem, in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s estimation. Luckily, Coulson says, they have backup! It is not a team, it is one guy! It is someone we’ve met before! …. It is Mike Peterson (J. August Richards)! Some will remember him from the pilot episode of the series, when he gained super powers and went amok with them. He’s reformed, since then, and has been training with S.H.I.E.L.D. to become an agent. Does everyone want to join these days? Skye had kind of a moment where she realized that working for S.H.I.E.L.D. was exactly what she had wanted to do with her life somehow (of course, because her characterization is so inconsistent, we have no idea if this was ever true, or just a heat of the moment thing) and Mike Peterson really sees the light now! He wants to do better things and be a better man and… Agent May is not thrilled to see him when he boards the plane. Coulson explains that it’s probably because Peterson threw her into a wall during their last meeting. Peterson seems bummed by that recollection, but also seems open to confronting what happened. So that’s good, I guess. Well-adjusted people are always welcome. Coulson says that everyone deserves a second chance, but that Peterson will not get a third!
Upstairs, Ward, Fitz-Simmons, and Skye are discussing the Mike Peterson situation. Ward is elucidating his concerns about Mike Peterson when Peterson and Coulson arrive. Remember how Mike tried to kill the whole team off in the pilot? If you didn’t know before, you know now! It’s nice that all of the story you need is rehashed here in this episode, so even if you didn’t see the pilot, you won’t be confused! Hooray television! Skye liked Mike all along. She thinks he’s a good guy, and asks about his son. Mike admits that he has left his son in the care of his sister while he does his thing. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this later. No luck locating Poe yet, but Simmons has a possible lead on one of the Centipede soldiers, who has a living relative, a sister at the University of Ohio. Coulson and Ward decide to go talk to her.
In the lab, Simmons is taking Peterson’s measurements, and openly admiring his lean physique. Fitz is jealous, and acting like a weirdo. Peterson explains that it was the weapon developed by Fitz-Simmons which pacified the Extremis virus (I do not remember what this is! It feels like an important plot point!) in his Centipede implant and prevented him from literally becoming a human bomb. So I guess he’s not going to explode on the plane. This is also probably good news for everyone involved.
Coulson and Ward are driving to the University of Ohio in… a red convertible! Good job on avoiding the “inconspicuous” black Actionmobile, guys! Coulson tells the story of his lady friend, the cellist (who he referenced in, at least, The Avengers, if not other films) from the Portland symphony. It’s yet another thing that Coulson lost when he died, and was forced to maintain the charade of his death for months afterwards. It’s kind of a downer moment.
Aboard the plane, May and Skye meet. Skye thanks May for helping with the whole “identity of her parents” thing. May is impatient, they’re on a mission, blah blah. Skye has something related to that, too. She went through Poe’s prison record and found that he only had one visitor, a pretty girl. The girl never looks at the camera, but using S.H.I.E.L.D.’s handy-dandy lip reading program, Skye was able to reconstruct one sentence from Poe: “The clairvoyant does not like to be touched”. Whatever that means. Anyway, Skye doesn’t know who the girl is, but the timely arrival of Mike Peterson soon straightens that out: The girl’s name is Raina. She was the eponymous Girl in the Flower Dress from episode 5, and she came to Mike too, offering to change his life. That’s how he got involved in Project Centipede to begin with! Ah-hah! The game’s afoot! The pieces are falling into place!
Meanwhile, at the abandoned warehouse headquarters of Project Centipede, our man Poe is enjoying a meal. Raina shows up, they walk, they talk. The Clairvoyant cannot help them find the man Raina needs, a man who ostensibly has the key to ‘stage 3’. You know, whatever that is. She does imply that they’ve managed to stabilize the Centipede serum on their own, which is good I guess. You know, for everyone involved. Using the serum has unbelievably draining effects on their super soldiers, though, who are drinking “Gatorade” and looking completely miserable in what amounts to a full hospital setup. Raina says that they require regular injections of the serum, and that everything is made more difficult when they have to constantly run from S.H.I.E.L.D.. Poe’s solution? Let’s stop running. Also, apparently their new super soldiers have a bunch of Centipede devices, unlike the single one on Mike’s arm. This revelation is accompanied by ominous music! Let us not underestimate its meaning!
At OU, Ward approaches the sister claiming to be from the Ohio State Gaming commission, and pitches a ridiculous lottery story. Coulson explains that this is because they don’t care about the sister per se, they just want her to call her brother. She obligingly does, and gives them a location in Oakland, California. Back to the plane!
On the plane, Skye checks in on Mike, to talk about his son. They’re really playing up this ‘son’ thing. I wonder if that means it’s going to come up later in the episode? Hmm… Coulson arrives, says the time for Mike to get his second shot has now arrived! Mike suits up, in the supersuit that Fitz-Simmons sized him out for. Coulson has a plan. It involves going in quietly, two agents from either side of the facility. This time, they don’t want to just roll in and blow the place up…this time, Coulson wants answers. Of course, when the team arrives, the place is deserted. Or is it? No, it’s an ambush of course, of course! Three super soldiers against Mike Peterson, and agents Coulson, May, and Ward. Coulson manages to pop one of them with the weapon they used to take Peterson down in the pilot, but it has a minimal effect. Ward and May are outmatched by their opponent’s physical strength, though not necessarily his technique. Peterson gets a side full of metal rod, but manages to rally and downs one of the three enemy combatants, the famous (infamous? no-no-no-notorious?) Brian Hayward. With Ward and May still in fighting shape and Mike still on his feet, the other two super soldiers flee. The famous (and now, also, luckless) Hayward is executed by his masters at Project Centipede.
Speaking of Centipede, they’re looking out what was apparently a camera in Hayward’s eye. They get a blurry image of Coulson and Peterson. Poe says that the man they’re looking at is the key to the mysterious ‘stage 3’.
Aboard the plane, the gang is talking things over. Peterson is intrigued, but horrified, at the idea that the super soldiers are being controlled by Project Centipede through their ocular implants. Coulson clarifies that they were getting orders, which is why they fell back when they did. They’ve seen this eye technology before, in a former Agent named Akela Amadour (the subject of Episode 4). So the eye implant isn’t mind control, per se, just a remote execution device. Great. Coulson wants to track the eyeball tech, but Skye says that it has been refined, and the signal is now untraceable. Of course it is!
Poe and Raina are in the car. Raina wants to know more about the Clairvoyant, and Poe makes a bunch of generic threats. It adds to the running time.
Aboard the plane, Ward and May argue. She’s mad because she thinks Ward deliberately took a punch for her. He admits that while that’s true, he did it because she is faster than him, and given the physical strength of the enemy combatants, that means she needs to be up and on her feet more than he does. She reluctantly accedes to this explanation. Ward is flippant, then bounces! Skye arrives. May doesn’t feel like talking about her parents, and feels like Skye shouldn’t waste time thinking about them either. Also, she admits that Coulson doesn’t want Skye to learn ‘the truth’. Don’t worry, there’s no chance that plot is getting resolved in this episode! Skye is still upset after the encounter. Probably because May was a total bitch to her. Coulson was going to drop by for a chat, but thinks better of it when he hears sobs.
Instead, Coulson is talking to Mike Peterson, who is wounded, and says he’s going to be out of the action for a while. Coulson is concerned that Mike won’t take time out of his training even to see his son. Mike obviously is still working through some stuff from the whole ‘homicidal rampage’ incident. He wants to be able to look his son in the eye and not feel ashamed, etc. Wow, we sure are talking a lot about Mike’s son, aren’t we? Mike suggests his boy might be better off without him. Coulson disagrees. He explains that he, and others, have made the hard choice, to be part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and never have a normal life… but for Mike, it’s different. He already has a son. Man, still about the son! That’s weird.
Mike calls home to talk to his son. Raina is there!? Ominous music! How unexpected! I didn’t see this coming at all!
The bad guys have set up a meet. The trade is for Mike, in exchange for his son. They’re going to murder the boy if the team makes even one misstep, which includes armed backup, hostage rescue teams, or electronic surveillance. Fitz has a non-electronic pheromone thing or something that will let them track Mike without giving themselves away. They’re going to make the exchange as planned, and hope Mike can hang on until they come to save him.
At the meet, May wants to escort Peterson to the rendezvous. Coulson says that Mike asked him to do it, and he’s agreed. May doesn’t like it. Coulson and his desire to be on the front lines of things! Ward’s on overwatch with a high powered sniper rifle. Everyone else is in kind of a holding pattern.
At the meet, Raina tries to make small talk. For some reason, nobody likes her. Also, it turns out the arrangement was actually to trade Mike’s son Ace for Coulson. Mike decides to make a new deal. He’s got Raina by the throat, but she explains that her employer doesn’t care about her any more than about Ace. If she dies, the son dies, and they’ll have gained nothing. Coulson advises Mike not to kill her, and that he’ll go along with the trade. Mike is raw with emotions. He doesn’t know how he can look his son in the eye, etc. etc. He apologies to Coulson. The baddies stun Coulson and begin dragging him off. It’s about this time that the rest of the team starts to think something weird might be going on. May orders Ward not to take the shot, in case they simply execute Coulson in retaliation. Once Ace is safely back with the team, Mike decides to go back for Coulson. Unfortunately, as soon as he starts running back, the bridge explodes, apparently killing Mike. Well, that’s… that’s not good.
The bad guys make an exit by helicopter, firing a few shots at Agent Ward just for good measure. It’s pretty much like The Empire Strikes Back, guys.
Coda: Raina and her masters want to talk to Coulson about the day after he died. Whoa, crazy, crazy! I promise, show writers, you don’t need to be so obvious with all of your foreshadowing! Members of the audience can put things together sometimes! Many of us would not be offended!
Anyway, that’s a wrap for the first ever half-season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! It has been finger-breaking work to constantly type out that acronym. I tried using some copy/paste shenanigans, but it proved to be less of a time-saver than I hoped. However, I have truly enjoyed recapping this season for you, esteemed reader. Obviously, this series is on hiatus until the show returns. Hopefully you will consent to join me on an odyssey of discovery, as we gobble up tiny bits of information about what really happened to Agent Coulson after Loki stabbed him, about the parentage of our beloved Agent Skye, and about the lifeless but technically precise sex being enjoyed by Agents May and Ward! Also Fitz-Simmons will probably be involved! Til then, Happy Holidays, esteemed readers.