TV Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ‘T.A.H.I.T.I.’

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Plot: After getting shot twice in the stomach by Ian Quinn (David Conrad), Skye (Chloe Bennet) is on the brink of death. Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) puts it upon himself to do whatever he can to save her life by using his own rebirth as a guide. He’s convinced that he know’s everything about his survival as well. Is there more he has yet to discover?

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a straight month off for the Winter Olympics. While the reasons behind this are sound, the Olympics are always big ratings grabbers after all, it was upsetting to get this spontaneous break right when the show was improving. The last three episodes have been definitive high points but the big spacing between each episode has given big hits to the momentum. That’s bound to happen when you spread these events across a span of eight freaking weeks. So now the show is back, hopefully for good until the season ends, and we’re jumping right into it with an episode focused solely on saving Skye’s life. What made this episode great though was how well the writers wove together the plot of saving Skye with the further unraveling of the mysteries behind Coulson’s literally death defying experience.

Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

When you think about the rest of the characters on this show, Skye knocking on death’s door easily carries the most weight by comparison. This is a civilian that Coulson deemed important enough to stay on their top secret plane and was later accepted by the rest of the agents. Considering how she lacks the several years of combat training that her now close friends have, Skye clearly needs someone around to keep an eye on her. Sure she has gone on the field by herself on multiple occasions but that was always a risk they were willing to take. Now that she’s on her death bed, the team fully understands the ramifications of their actions. Coulson especially feels the brunt of it all because he’s the one who vouched for her to Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). If Skye were to die, it would mean that Coulson was responsible for the death of an innocent civilian. An agent dying on the field is one thing, especially since they know the risks from experience, but a civilian under the S.H.I.E.L.D. banner is much worse.

Yet “T.A.H.I.T.I.” wouldn’t have been as exciting if it was just a “Save Skye!” story. That would have been too simple for a show with an endless vault of mythology at its disposal. Plus there is still a lot of mystery surrounding how exactly Coulson came back to life way back when. This made it feel perfectly natural when Quinn revealed that he shot Skye for the sole purpose of finding out how Coulson survived. It was stated back in “The Magical Place” that the Clairvoyant has no idea how Coulson returned from the dead. The Clairvoyant knew that Coulson would do everything he can to save one of his own, so Skye was shot basically as a means to bait the truth. It was a tough situation for Coulson too because either he took the bait and learned even more dark secrets, or he didn’t take it and lets a civilian die on his watch. Talk about high stakes!

Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal
Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

The quest to save Skye got some well needed assistance in the form of Agent John Garrett, played wonderfully by Bill Paxton. Garrett was a major S.H.I.E.L.D. agent within the comics for many years so his inclusion was a nice touch on the part of the writers. Clearly not a big enough character to have a major role in a movie, but the perfect size to fit within the context of this show. The hints at his history with Coulson too was nice touch considering how the two are senior members. Garrett’s introduction to the show is also a great continuation of already established extra characters coming onto the show. Last episode we had the introduction of Deathlok (J. August Richards’ Mike Peterson) and next week Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) herself is coming by to stop Lorelei (Elena Satine). It’s amazing to watch the people behind this show willingly dig into the history available to them.

The best part of night was obviously near the end and it naturally revolved around Coulson learning more about what really happened to him. As Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) dig deeper into Coulson’s files, they come across this item known only as GH-325. Nothing is revealed about GH-325 outside of it playing a major factor is healing Coulson’s split heart but the team decides they must obtain it as soon as possible for this reason alone. This brings them to the very same facility that brought Coulson back to life, which was a cool on its own, but the actual revelation of what GH-325 really is was truly shocking. Turns out GH-325 is the blood from this blue creature hidden deep within a mountain. Absolutely nothing is revealed about the creature (is it an alien? A Kree perhaps? Is Captain Marvel coming soon?) but it clearly serves of the purpose of being a massive mind boggling mystery. What effects does its blood have on normal people like Coulson and Skye? Skye already has a hugely secretive background. What will this blood do now that it’s coursing through her veins? I really have no idea but it’s these types of questions that make viewers want to come back for more.

Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

However, I couldn’t get out of my mind how much of this episode relied on the writers taking some big creative liberties. Everything that transpired just felt way too coincidental to feel natural. I get it, the team had to save Skye in one single episode. Not exactly a lot of time to get bogged down with trivialities. But Fitz having access to a top secret database of every S.H.I.E.L.D. file in existence felt like such a stretch. The fact that him and Simmons were able to locate the one single file they wanted out of billions was even more unlikely, though it was fun to watch the graphics fly across the room like in Tony Stark’s mansion. Then we have the top secret facility that was only guarded by two men. They’re literally protecting something that can bring people back from the dead. Why is it so simple for a team of four to break in and steal a vial? And our team just so happens to find the exact room they needed in this seemingly huge facility within a 10 minute window before a bunch of bombs exploded. Despite the intriguing mystery, Skye coming back from a single vial of super blood felt like too simple of a solution. Again, I’m happy the story is moving at a fast pace, but it’s hard not to notice these things.

During the Academy Awards over the weekend, the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began bearing the moniker of “Uprising” with a not so subtle nod to Captain America’s shield. The events from tonight were part of that commercial. Considering how there was the hashtag #itsallconnected tagged on, its safe to say the events from tonight will start a slow roll into next month’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I gotta say, I’m excited, and not just because I’m a fan of the show. The diverging plot lines from before are coming together, the answers to questions are even better than the mysteries, and it really looks like this show is coming into its own within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If the powers that be can keep this momentum going into The Winter Soldier and beyond, the people who discounted this show last year will have some serious rethinking to do.

Rating: 8/10

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