'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Midseason Finale Review: "The Bridge"

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Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its tenth episode in midseason finale “The Bridge,” as the team enlists Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) to take the fight to Centipede, though the battle costs them one of their own in the process.

Previous ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “Repairs” saw mysterious telekinetic events surrounding a young woman put the team in jeopardy, while Skye attempted to uncover Melinda May’s past as “The Cavalry," so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series keep us marveling at its inaugural season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s tenth episode, “The Bridge!”

Inside a maximum security prison, Edison Po quietly eats lunch at an empty table, before a number of Centipede-infused super-soldiers emerge through a hole in the ceiling, quickly overpowering the guards and liberating Edison. Meanwhile on the bus, Skye researches past S.H.I.E.L.D. agents for who could potentially be her mother, before Coulson calls her to the briefing about the breakout. In order to combat the new super-soldier threat, they’ll need to fight fire with fire: recruiting S.H.I.E.L.D. trainee Mike Peterson!

Despite the team’s reservations, Peterson arrives to the plane and quickly assures Coulson he understands the privileges of his gifts, unlike last time. With few other leads, the team opts to focus their investigation of one of the soldier’s sisters at college, while Coulson orders Mike to remain behind on the plane for further testing. Fitz and Simmons learn that the night-night gun caused Mike’s stability, while Coulson and Ward drive to the University of Ohio, with Coulson reminiscing about the cellist he left behind.

May, Skye and Mike identify Raina from prison security tapes as the woman who recruited Mike, while Raina herself asks Po to consult “The Clairvoyant” for their next target, given that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s advances and the missions take a major toll on their soldiers. Meanwhile, Ward approaches the soldier’s sister, Laura, on her campus claiming to be a lottery agent looking for her brother. Knowing the claim to be suspicious, the girl phones her brother, giving the team a location in California for Centipede’s base.

After suiting up Mike in his vitals-monitoring S.H.I.E.L.D. suit, the field agents infiltrate the California warehouse to find it empty, at least until the soldiers reveal themselves from shipping crates. After a brutal fight between the team and the soldiers, which nearly kills Mike for his exertion, one soldier is left behind alive, at least until Raina and Po detonate his eye implant. Noting that Mike has his abilities without regular injections, Po shows Raina that Mike could be the key to “stage 3.”

While the team wonders why “The Clairvoyant” manages to stay ahead of them with their technology, Raina too asks Po about the figure, though Po insists no one can know anything about him. May grows upset with Ward for seemingly shielding her during the battle, though Ward points out that it was a tactical decision, not one based out of affection. Skye overhears the exchange, before May tersely suggests Skye focus on the mission, rather than continually ask for help in the search for her parents, leading Skye to break down and rip up her research.

Noting that Mike hasn’t been to see his son, Coulson suggests that Mike decide what kind of life he wants for himself, rather than worry about what happened the last time he saw his son. Mike then calls the boy, only to find that Raina has arrived at the house, waiting for Mike’s call. Raina proposes a trade, which Mike finds he has no choice but to accept, while Fitz and Simmons prep a tracking device.

Coulson and Mike arrive at an abandoned bridge to make the exchange, though Raina quickly reveals that she made a deal with Mike to deliver Coulson in exchange for Mike’s son. Coulson reluctantly accepts Mike’s actions, before Raina drugs him and carries him off. Mike returns his son to the waiting agents, before rushing back make to make things right, until a series of explosions destroy the bridge. A helicopter flies away, wounding Ward in the process, as Raina explains to Coulson that they want to know what happened the day after he died.

OUR REVIEW:

It's been an interesting road for Marvel's 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' quickly emerging as one of the more anticipated pilots in years, largely delivering on the excitement inherent to its premise, before quickly falling to TV's most picked-on program of the season. Invariably, 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' could never have held up against the intense scrutiny its pedigree awarded, thought some criticisms were certainly more deserved than others.

Even then, "midseason finale" has emerged in recent years as a relatively new concept of an increasingly serialized medium, one which "The Bridge" technically shouldn't qualify for, as the 10th of an initial 13 episode order. Still, airing as the last of 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s 2013 run, ending in cliffhanger fashion and strongly relying on the good will established by the super-powered premise of the pilot, "The Bridge" has little choice but to face a similar scrutiny. Does it live up to the task, and finally set the course for the series?

A resounding, and elemental "no." You see, 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' worked with the mystery in its pilot episode, alluding to a number of larger concepts and ideas that 22 episodes could easily have been made to explore, in however measured a fashion, with the added spice of decades of Marvel continuity to call on. Utilizing those same pieces by the tenth episode could only work if they align to form something new, or at least of larger significance to the puzzle itself. They're all there, from Mike Peterson, to the mystery of Skye's origins, to Coulson's resurrection and a shadowy organization producing super-soldiers, though not one of them achieves any real development by the first hour of an apparent "two-part" installment.

In fact, "The Bridge" seems strangely reticent to play with, or further define intriguing concepts introduced beyond the pilot, like "The Clairvoyant," or how Ward's ongoing relationship with May affects Skye. We can draw an emotional through-line here and there, as May takes out her frustration with developing personal attachments on Skye, though she rightly has a point in ordering Skye to focus on the task at hand, rather than draw admittedly baseless conclusions about her potential parents, not to mention that Skye's character development has consistently proven the weakest among 'S.H.I.E.L.D.''s efforts at serialization. The same goes for Fitz and Simmons, who despite an intriguing bond formed in earlier episodes, seem utterly uninvolved beyond Simmons’ giggling attraction to Mike Peterson.

Of course, it isn’t all bad, as we can’t deny the thrill of seeing super-soldiers in action either in the opening sequence, or in a later battle with Mike and the team. ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ understandably has to make do with its action sequences falling short of the films, and however choppily edited, what we saw tonight proves a thrilling prospect for future adventures to come. There’s even a bit of natural world building, as we gain a stronger sense of how “big S.H.I.E.L.D.” only steps in when the little guys can’t handle matters, a similar sentiment earlier applied to Coulson’s reasons for avoiding his beloved cellist by clearance issues.

Again, most of the pieces are there, though by the time we’ve reached that old familiar set piece of a surprise double-cross and mysterious explosion teasing one or more character deaths, it becomes clear that the lacking stakes have robbed the scenes of any real emotional impact. Should we really express any trepidation at Raina's demand that Coulson tell her about the day he died, considering that he, and by association the show itself have no actual information to divulge?

We’re not abandoning the show just yet, as there always lies the hope for future improvement among a shaky first season, but by the promise, and ultimate pitfall of “The Bridge,” it’s safe to say we’ve given up on defending its weaknesses.

Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest outing “The Bridge” take the series to new heights?  Will the mystery of Coulson's resurrection finally be revealed? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again in January for another all-new recap of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest episode on ABC!

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