Plot: Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been kidnapped by Centipede. Now his team lead by Hub director Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) must do everything they can to find Coulson before deep secrets are revealed.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended with quite a huge cliffhanger almost a month ago. Centipede has captured Coulson with the intent to learn how he survived his shocking death during the Battle of New York. His survival has been one of the biggest mysteries of the show so the prospect of finally lifting the veil was enough to make me interested. Is Coulson a clone? Is he a robot/life model decoy? “The Bridge” basically set up that we’d finally get our answer in “The Magical Place”. Thankfully last night’s episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually delivered on that front while also providing an exciting return to this series after the holiday hiatus.
“The Magical Place” was rightfully all about Coulson. He has been captured and it is now top priority to find him as soon as possible. It is the events surrounding his imprisonment and the search for him that took up the bulk of this episode. On the S.H.I.E.L.D. front, the team butts heads with by-the-book Victoria Hand. This basically meant there was a lot of rule breaking on the team’s part to actually find out where their fearless leader is. The arguments between Hand and the team, especially Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), were as stereotypical as they come with Hand being upset with their refusal to listen to orders. Obviously the team was going to be right all along.
What was great about the S.H.I.E.L.D. centered scenes was how the team acted like a well-oiled machine. The team wasn’t the bickering filled group we’ve seen prior. It was basically Coulson’s team on a united front versus everyone else on their plane from S.H.I.E.L.D. It was fun watching Agents Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) order around other agents for a change, and Ward breaking ethics to get answers was great as always. Even Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) had her own moments undercutting Hand to accomplish her goal which was a nice change-up.
It was Skye (Chloe Bennet) who really shined though during these scenes. She spent most of the episode on her own but that was necessary for her to track down Coulson. I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes when Skye’s separate subplot started because it had all the signs of the typical “I’m valuable too!” story we’ve seen so often, and yet it was actually really fun. Skye basically improvised her way to the truth including impersonating May (for no discernible reason outside of her probably thinking it would be enjoyable) and kicking some ass of her own. She even successfully interrogated a major financial bigwig named Lloyd Rathman, played well by Children’s Hospital’s Rob Huebel. It’s cool watching Skye actually become a capable field agent.
The other side of the episode focused mainly on Coulson and his interactions with Edison Po (Cullen Douglas) and Raina (Ruth Negga) of Centipede. As I mentioned before, Centipede wants to know how Coulson survived being stabbed in the heart by an Asgardian spear. They believe this is something they can use to bring back dead Centipede agents. This entire story worked mainly because of how awesome Clark Gregg is as an actor. He expertly sold Coulson’s inner battle between his desire to find the truth and to follow the system. This was especially evident when Raina used Coulson’s personal history (that she obtained through the Clairvoyant) to get the answers she wants. We still don’t know who the Clairvoyant is but at least we have a greater understanding of his abilities along with one of the most dramatic scene’s to date.
The big reveal at the end of exactly how Coulson is still alive was both awesome and anti-climactic. I was fully expecting only more hints and not an actual answer so it was great to get the latter. It turns out that Coulson was dead for several days, was brought back to life after more than seven operations ordered by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and that Tahiti was a lie to cover up painful memories. There was even this ridiculous scene where a robot was poking at Colson’s brain, restoring it after several days of dead decay. It was shocking but in a good way.
Yet despite knowing how, we still don’t know why Coulson was so important that Fury had to break countless ethical laws. This is something Hand questioned repeatedly during the episode but was never actually stated. Is there really something so special about Coulson that Fury has to venture far and wide to find a solution to reverse death itself? Apparently. I was also a little disappointed at how Coulson didn’t turn out to be a clone or a robot, but that’s probably the fan in me looking for a more outrageous answer. I can’t deny how underwhelmed I felt at the explanation though. It was built up so much and the answer was so simple. But even though there are still some big questions, huge progress was finally made, and I look forward to seeing this explored as the season continues.
“The Magical Place” ended on a real high note. Remember Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) who got caught in an explosion in “The Bridge”? Well he’s actually alive! Woohoo! Yet now he’s being controlled by Centipede which is clearly still going strong after being busted by S.H.I.E.L.D. How this will play out for the team will be explored later but it should lead to some really interesting stuff. Let’s just hope he won’t disappear from the show for a long stretch of time like so many other special guests.