Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Begin to Hit its Stride in the Midseason Finale?

by Joshua Kaye

Where we left off: Skye apparently is really good at reading people (could that be her purpose for being in S.H.I.E.L.D.?); the gang encountered a ghost of sorts who is stuck between Earth and Hell who they thought was haunting a woman but was instead protecting her; some brief information into May’s past has come out and she seems to finally be opening up…slowly; we still know nothing about Coulson and what he is or isn’t.

With this week’s episode titled The Bridge, Mike Peterson will be returning after his introduction in the pilot episode of Agents of SHIELD. Peterson was one of the best parts of the episode, struggling with his humanity in a world that’s being overtaken by Gods and superheroes and aliens. What is the extent of Peterson’s stint with SHIELD? Well…not so sure. All I know going in to the episode is the fact that they’ve called for his help due to his super strength (Project Centipede…what are you?)…so it should be interesting to see what happens in The Bridge as it seems like Project Centipede will play a role.

Turns out, Project Centipede didn’t just play a role in this week’s episode, but was the source of the primary storyline. A lot of questions surrounding Centipede are still unanswered, but what we do know now makes the first half of the season have a different sort of feel. The people behind Centipede, which all we know right now includes Raina (“The Girl in the Flower Dress”) and a shadowy man known as Edison Po, a former marine who is an expert in tactics and rapid response. What we discover in this episode is that Centipede isn’t just trying to create a new Super Soldier, but they created the prosthetic eye with the bomb fail-safe from earlier in the series.

The episode begins with Centipede breaking Po out of Prison, as it’s clear he’ll play an important role in the organization’s future against SHIELD. While that happens, Skye is trying to discover who her mother is by figuring out which SHIELD agent dropped her off at the orphanage. Coulson lets Skye know that May is on the case to help her out, but Coulson and May seem to already know the truth and they’re “protecting” Skye from it. While the Skye’s mother storyline feels forced in a way, there’s something interesting behind it all. With May and Coulson wanting so much to hide the truth from Skye, could it have been May who rescued Skye and put her at the orphanage?

Coulson and the Gang review the footage of the prison break where they discover Centipede was behind it and it’s up to them to figure out why. SHIELD is sending in some extra help in the form of Mike Peterson, a former Centipede recruit. Peterson seems intent on working hard and making amends for his previous actions and adds some heart and emotion to a show that seemed to be lacking it for quite a while. No one seems to be fully on board with the idea of adding Peterson to the crew, but he seems to win them over quickly with his earnestness and his desire to be a better man.

The gang is able to find a lead when their face scanner recognizes that of Brian Hayward. The only way to trace him is by his sister who lives in Cleveland, so Coulson and Ward come up with a cover story to get her to call him and to track him down.

There’s one scene that should be talked about here: while Coulson and Ward are talking during their drive to question her, they bond a bit over the subject of past loves, where we hear more about Coulson’s cellist ex-girlfriend in Oregon (Avengers tie-in), and it’s actually kind of sweet and romantic…yet a bit sad. When asked if he knows where she lives, Coulson responds, “Of course.” With everyone (The Avengers, his ex-girlfriend) believing he’s dead, he can’t let her know he’s alive, something we tend to forget as the season has worn on.

Skye and May look through footage of Po’s previous visitors in prison, only to see that Raina is the only one who met with him. The one problem is they’re not completely sure who she is — until Mike comes in and says she’s the one who recruited him to Centipede. SHIELD traces Heyward to Oakland in an abandoned factory, with May, Ward, Coulson, and Peterson investigating the scene. The place looks empty, but the Centipede soldiers are hiding in crates. A fight scene ensues which ends with Peterson getting stabbed with a pipe in the gut and a Centipede soldier being left behind. Coulson asks who’s behind Centipede…only for the soldiers eye to go boom, leaving him dead. It’s at this moment where SHIELD realizes what they’re dealing with and just how much resources and influence these people have. Raina, looking through the eye of the dead soldier, discovers that Peterson is still alive.

Back on the plane, Skye encounters May after she and Ward get into it briefly. Skye knows that May wants no part in Skye’s search for her mother, and May all but confirms that. May gets in her face, letting her know that her search for clues about her mother is getting in the way of Skye’s work on the mission. On the other end of the plane, Peterson and Coulson talk about Peterson’s son and how he hasn’t gone to see him since the events in the first episode. Coulson tells Mike that he has to make a choice…if he wants to stay with SHIELD or stick with his family. The people of SHIELD have made their choice since they don’t really have anyone else…Mike has his son to think about.

It seems like Mike has made a choice, making a call to his son to let him know he’ll be visiting soon. His son, Ace, tells him that a friend of his is visiting — Raina. Raina gives terms to Mike — trade himself to Centipede and his son will live, or stay with SHIELD and his son will die. Obviously, he agrees to make the trade. The whole group drives to the bridge, which is chosen as the drop point for the trade. Mike has asked Coulson to accompany him to retrieve his son. On the other end, Raina and one of her soldiers are walking to meet them halfway. Ward is perched high somewhere, looking out on the exchange. Only problem is his vantage point is being blocked by an oil truck.

As the trade is about to be made, Raina reveals that trading Ace for Mike wasn’t part of the deal. Mike had agreed to trade Coulson to Centipede for his son. Coulson agrees, allowing himself to be taken as he understands Mike didn’t have any other choice. Ace runs over to his father and Mike picks him up while Coulson is injected with some sort of serum that knocks him out. Coulson is dragged away by the soldiers while Mike runs to the SHIELD agents with his son. Wanting to do what’s right, Mike drops his son off with Skye and makes a run for Coulson. At that moment, the oil truck explodes and destroys everything in the middle of the bridge…including Mike.

May gets out of the truck, only to see the car Coulson and Raina were in explode as well. A few moments later, a helicopter takes off, shooting at Ward and apparently hitting him. Coulson is revealed to be in the helicopter with Raina, and is none too happy about being taken, saying, “I won’t give you what you want.”. Raina responds, “You will. And what we want is simple. We want you to tell us about the day after you died.”

What we’re left with at this point is the Agents of SHIELD team in disarray…Coulson has been taken by Centipede, Peterson seems to have been killed, and no one really knows what to do next.

Being the mid-season finale, it really seems like Agents of SHIELD may finally be gaining some traction. Using Centipede as a rivaling force against SHIELD has worked out and it was a nice twist to see that Centipede has been lurking the whole time. The drama in the series seems to have ramped up as well which is what a show like this needs.

It’s one thing to live off of the Marvel name, but it’s another thing to actually create a consistent show with a solid story. One of the best parts of this episode was the work of J. August Richards as Mike Peterson. A part of me hopes he wasn’t killed in the blast but it’d be pretty damn hard to survive that. Richards has been one of the bright spots of both episodes he was in and brought such a high level of intensity and emotion to his character. He really could have been a great part of the series if given a chance to join the team, but we’ll have to wait and see.

One of the great things about Joss Whedon shows is that there’s always a “Big Bad”. With Buffy there was a villain of the season, with Angel we had Wolfram & Hart, and with Dollhouse you had Rossum. With SHIELD nothing was really all that clear, but Centipede seems to have emerged and could have a larger impact in the next half of the season. The show has to do a better job of utilizing all of its characters…while Fitz, Simmons, and Skye could be solid supporting characters, sometimes they just have nothing to do. For the show to be successful in the next half of the season, showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen has to give FitzSimmons and Skye a little bit more to do.

All in all, the first half of Agents of SHIELD was a mixed bag that got bigger and better towards the final few episodes. Hopefully what we’re seeing is a show hitting it’s stride and really getting ready to break out. For the next 12 episodes, the stakes are heightened with the abduction of Agent Coulson. Teasers indicate we’ll see Agent Victoria Hand return which should make things interesting. But, more importantly, it seems like we’ll finally get some answers to the mystery surrounding Coulson’s death.

Agents of SHIELD will be returning in January.

Joshua Kaye (@JKaye57) is a recent college grad with a BA in Cinema Studies. A Queens, NY native, Josh hopes to one day rule all of New York, then the United States, then the world. But after he writes an Oscar winning screenplay.

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