‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “Turn, Turn, Turn”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its latest installment in “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as the events of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' take their toll on SHIELD, while Coulson discovers the true identity of the Clairvoyant and the mole in his team.
Previous ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “End of the Beginning” saw the pursuit of Deathlok bringing about a surprising revelation of the Clairvoyant, while other, more wintery-soldiery events began to make their presence felt, 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 seventeenth episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn!”
One night, John Garrett finds his personal plane under siege from two S.H.I.E.L.D. drones, having to narrowly evade missile fire. Meanwhile on Coulson’s plane, May insists that her hardline had only gone directly to Nick Fury, and that she has nothing to do with the Clairvoyant, or their plane mysteriously changing course. Fitz too admits to setting up his own hardline to talk to Simmons at the Hub, leading Coulson to believe Simmons might inadvertently have been the leak. At the Hub, Simmons conceals her work from Agent Tripplet, though he offers to use his own clearance to get her in touch with Agent Weaver at the academy.
Garrett radios into Coulson with his situation, and Coulson knocks May unconscious with the icer, placing her in the cell with Ward to buy time. Rerouting the plane’s weapon systems, Coulson and Fitz manage to aid Garrett in fending off the drones, which also appear to have been sent by Victoria Hand. Hand prepares her men to have their loyalties tested that day, while Garrett balks at Coulson’s theory that Hand could be the Clairvoyant. Meanwhile, Skye decodes the encrypted message that seems to have spread throughout S.H.I.E.L.D., which reads “OUT OF THE SHADOWS, INTO THE LIGHT,” as sent by HYDRA.
Garrett suggests they abandon the plane rather than walk into a HYDRA trap at the Hub, but Fitz and Coulson insist on the need to rescue Simmons and Tripplet. Meanwhile, Simmons manages to get in contact with Agent Weaver, though the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy has since been infiltrated by HYDRA and is compromised. Tripplet locks the door, alarming Simmons, though he offers her a knife in case she suspects him of being a HYDRA agent. Meanwhile, May wakes up in the hold with Ward, insisting that she hadn’t betrayed anyone. As the plane arrives to the Hub, and Hand’s men take out their guns, Coulson has May use her direct line to Fury for help, only to find a voice on the other end claiming that Director Fury is dead.
As the team arms up to fight their way out of the plane, May confesses to Coulson that Fury tasked her with keeping an eye on him after his resurrection, as well as taking her own secret initiative to put together their team, in case Coulson turned dangerous. Coulson has Skye delete records of their past missions and artifacts to prevent falling into HYDRA hands, just before agents breach the plane, and Garrett leads the team to fight their way out. Meanwhile, Hand faces down Simmons and Tripplet to explain that HYDRA has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., testing their loyalty before revealing that she remains a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Hand believes that Coulson must be HYDRA, given all the secrets he’d kept and broken protocols in the last few months, but Simmons vehemently denies it.
Ward and Skye prepare to infiltrate the Hub’s server rooms from a closet, seeing a number of guards in between, for which Ward insists he’ll have to take them on himself. Remembering Skye’s post-“The Well” offer of a drink, Ward relays how he’d like to take her up on it if they survive, to which Skye reveals that she knew about his relationship with May, but would take him up on it anyway. Skye offers him a last kiss, before Ward takes on the multiple guards, just barely managing to subdue them.
Coulson and Garrett debate whether or not to kill Victoria Hand for her laundry list of evil deeds, but Coulson realizes from Garrett’s words that he’d never actually told anyone else that Raina had been inside the memory-unlocking machine. Garrett watches as Coulson puts together that he must be the Clairvoyant, before a strike team enters the room. Invoking Sitwell’s name, Garrett invites the HYDRA-loyal operatives to take out their counterparts, as Garrett gives a hearty “Hail HYDRA.” Garrett admits to merely going with the flow of HYDRA’s dominance over S.H.I.E.L.D., preparing the men to kill Coulson and May (but not Fitz), before Skye’s bomb rattles the compound. May and Coulson use the confusion to take out the guards, finally knocking Garrett out with a concussion grenade, as Hand enters the room and reveals that she heard the truth from outside.
After taking Garrett into custody, Hand recaps that Captain America managed to take down the HYDRA helicarriers, though HYDRA remains in operation while S.H.I.E.L.D. has been decimated. Coulson urges her to lock down the remaining facilities, particularly the Fridge, as Ward insists on being the one to personally lock Garrett away. Afterward, Skye laments that S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen, while Coulson tasks her and Fitz with repairing the plane, allowing May to remain with them as they search for a new mission.
Ward accompanies Hand en route to place Garrett in the Fridge, but Hand suggests that Ward take more immediate action, shooting the right Clairvoyant this time around. Ward loads his gun, but instead takes out the protection detail, shooting Hand last, as a HYDRA logo overtakes the screen. After the credits, Ward looks at Hand’s dead body, tuning out Garrett as he tells his flare gun story.
We should get one thing straight: reviewing episodes of this nature is an exceptionally weird task. It was easy enough the first time around when “The Well” danced around the events of ‘Thor: The Dark World,’ but never before has a TV series’ ongoing narrative been so drastically affected by the events of a film that half the audience may, or may not have seen in the last few days. It speaks to the overarching scope of the series that larger events like those of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ don’t seem at all to fit organically against the backdrop of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ (sure, HYDRA netted a few mentions, but nothing to ever suggest that Garrett, the Clairvoyant, or anyone else had anything to do with it), yet we’re hard-pressed to ignore the fact that the last two episodes have proven the most exciting and momentous of the season yet. It’s impressive stuff, no doubt, and surely what we’ve wanted from the series from the beginning, but whether or not that makes for a well-crafted hour in the scope of the series’ first season itself is harder to gauge.
True to its name, “Turn, Turn, Turn” is easily the most transformative hour of the series to date, with near of every major card laid on the table, and with more than a few episodes to go as well. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Agent Garrett turns out to be the Clairvoyant pulling the strings (apart from the fact that Garrett really was the only dynamic choice, the episode’s title and photos of next week’s “Providence” pretty well gave it away), while HYDRA too wove its way into S.H.I.E.L.D. and effectively decimated the organization from the inside out. May’s hardline to Director Fury on keeping Coulson in check proves to be of relatively little consequence, but the core relationships have still been shaken to the foundation, amid a S.H.I.E.L.D. team that no longer knows of any definitive purpose to follow.
That’s quite a lot to chew on for the time being, particularly amid some of the stronger action sequences to date (both the drone dogfight and Ward’s fight scenes felt particularly well-staged), but “Turn, Turn, Turn” is predictably subject to some of ‘Agents’ worst impulses as well. It’s one thing for writers to have made the mistake of believing its audience invested in Skye, at least the way everyone in proximity seems to deify her, but its handling of Ward has been particularly clumsy of late. Not only did his cold-blooded murder last week prove exceptionally difficult to justify for an otherwise competent character, the narrative again makes the mistake of believing us to have any investment in the Ward-Skye romance, particularly at an inopportune moment with so many more exciting developments racing around the Hub.
We know, it’s TV, and TV needs a love story, but the vague triangle between Ward, Skye and May has been nothing but trouble, a glaring flaw only compounded by such clichéd character beats as Skye opting to blow up the computer, rather than “hack it,” or whatever it was they intended to do. A stronger investment in Ward would at least have helped sell interest in his closing tag turn (the HYDRA logo was pretty neat), but for as much as we’ll assume Ward is running a longer con on the side of the angels, we wouldn’t necessarily bemoan his being beyond redemption.
We never quite felt from ‘The Winter Soldier’ that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been entirely dismantled, even in the face of Cap’s prerequisite conditions or Nick Fury heading underground, but we’re glad to see ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ around to mitigate a few of the titular organization’s circumstances in between the films. The series has enough of its own threads still in play between Deathlok and the Clairvoyant that the final five episodes of the season have plenty of meat, but dynamics all over have been given a drastic shift, and ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' remains in its strongest position yet to carry on from.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- No less bizarre, but strangely impressive to have Garrett bopping around to Blue Oyster Cult in the opening sequence, the significance of which seems somewhat dubious in retrospect considering his later reveal.
- Telegraphed though Garrett's identity may have been, credit should be given for Agent Hand and Tripplet's allegiance proving far more difficult to gauge, making the confrontation with Simmons all the more tense.
- Similarly, Hand had an interesting point about some of the team's missions looking nefarious out of context.
- 'Winter Soldier' Spoilers ahead: Hopefully HYDRA can prove something of a recurring menace outside of the films, but color us confused: are Cap, Falcon, Widow and Hill the only ones to know of Fury's survival?
- R.I.P. Victoria Hand. Shame to lose either Burrows or the character.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest outing “Turn, Turn, Turn” run with 'The Winter Soldier' as successfully as we'd hoped? Where do you think the series will go from here, now that S.H.I.E.L.D. is in S.H.A.M.B.L.E.S.? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again next week for another all-new recap of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest episode, "Providence" on ABC!