Agents of HYDRA
This review contains spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Turn, Turn, Turn may be the first ever episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to feel like something other than the extraneous baggage of a larger, better story. The entire premise of the show is that it takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which recently became the most financially successful film franchise in history). Previous episodes have made much of the connection between the show and the Thor movies, seemingly desperate to convince its audience that what happens in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is relevant to the larger franchise that it’s connected to. Until this episode, it has never been entirely convincing that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shares any meaningful connection with the more important Marvel movies. However, Turn, Turn, Turn changes this and in so doing becomes the best episode of the show by a significant margin. The episode is connected intimately to the events of 2014’s Captain American: The Winter Soldier, a superhero film that focuses strongly on the S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation and its place in the world. Audiences who have seen The Winter Soldier are now aware that S.H.I.E.L.D. has long been manipulated by the Nazi science cult, Hydra. Far from being a bastion of peace, the organisation that the protagonists of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. belong to is a hub of dangerous terrorists (one could compare the importance of this revelation to discovering that the CIA has been secretly controlled by a still-existing Gestapo since its inception).
Obviously, an important revelation about the S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation in a popular film has to trickle down into the narrative of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. However, unlike the previous “Marvel-centric” episodes of the show, the connection made between this episode and the events of Captain America feel utterly suitable. Perhaps most surprising and important is the fact that for the first time, watching an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will actually improve the experience of watching it’s cinematic cousin. The episode expands upon the revelations of Captain America; the writers have built upon the foundation that the film has laid to create an exciting and engaging episode with a real sense of scope and grandiosity.
As the episode begins, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team are unsure of who to trust. Both Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) have demonstrated potentially traitorous behaviour, and now nobody is sure who is friend or foe. Soon, Coulson’s team is joined by Garrett (Bill Paxton), who arrives aboard their plane with the shocking revelation that their long-time antagonist, “The Clairvoyant”, is a one of the show’s recurring characters. The team then returns to the Hub (the S.H.I.E.L.D. base that was introduced in a previous episode) in order to rescue Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and to finally get answers on who has been behind their troubles since the pilot episode. Turn, Turn, Turn has a real sense of drama and despair that has been sorely lacking in the show thus far. Until now, the agents and the world they inhabited felt very safe. When Skye (Chloe Bennett) was shot in the stomach, few viewers would be fooled into thinking that she was in danger of dying. The tone of the show was always too light and positive for any sense of tension to be successfully built. That changes in this episode, as the team encounters traitors from without and within. A brief scene reveals that the S.H.I.E.L.D. academy from a previous episode is being attacked by Hydra forces. Ward shares a brief moment with Skye before he charges off the face his death. The normally comedic Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) breaks down and cries as his world is essentially collapsing around him (in all honesty, this moment is a little over-the-top but welcomed all the same).
Even the affirmative and comedic quips of the characters are made suddenly appropriate by this episode. Until now, the barrage of witty banter has felt extraneous and useless. In this episode, Simmons is told that it is through such “cutesy” fraternisation that Hydra infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.: a Hydra agent will do their utmost to befriend those around them in order to gain their trust. It is suddenly apparent why the monolithic and powerful S.H.I.E.L.D. has been constantly presented as a big happy family in which everybody is a really nice person. This episode justifies Skye’s journey from liberal “hacktivist” to an agent of “big brother”- it is because of the twist that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been harbouring neo-Nazi terrorists all along. Had S.H.I.E.L.D. always been presented as a slightly dubious organisation existing in the moral gray (as this reviewer long wished for), this big reveal would have lacked the necessary punch. All of these revelations eventually lead to a shocking climax and a massive twist that will utterly reshape the show, should it get a second season. It is likely that it will never be known how many of the big reveals in this episode were planned out ahead of time, but it seems likely that the creators knew the Captain America plot twist for some time prior to writing this episode, and built their plans around it. In other words, Captain America may have just saved Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
Image from Marvel-movies.wikia.com
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