Agents of SHIELDAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review - Episode 17: Turn, Turn, TurnAgents of SHIELD - RSS 2.0
Alright, let's get this out of the way:
It is not possible to continue writing proper recaps of the remaining seven episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. without also spoiling major plot points (as in: the ending) of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was always part of the deal that this TV series would be tied-in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but anyone whose kept up with the show and took in the most recent movie can now attest that the ties are actually stronger than anticipated. Several of the show's running subplots now appear to have been parallel lead-ins to the events of The First Avenger's blockbuster sequel, and this season-ending Uprising story arc is now (thus far) taking-place parallel to the film - which, in case you hadn't heard, ends in such a way as to guarantee that if Agents gets a second season, it will have to return as a rather different animal than it is now.
The show is poised to spoil the movie, and so a recap column is going to do the same thing. Consider that a warning for the rest of the season.
So, then, here's where we are. A running theme of the series has been that something isn't totally right with S.H.I.E.L.D. Certain Agents exhibit strange behaviors, Nick Fury has been away for an extended period and Agent Coulson was for some reason lied to (on multiple levels) about the circumstances of his post-Avengers survival. While Winter Soldier doesn't quite turn over every stone, it does pull back the curtain on the root of the problem - S.H.I.E.L.D. is rotten at the core, and (alarmingly) always has been.
It's been known since Iron Man 2 that The Agency was founded after WWII by Howard Stark, Peggy Carter and other members of the secret unit behind the Captain America project. What was not widely known was that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s founding fathers included Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), The Red Skull's mad-scientist lackey and a member of the Nazi-subsect HYDRA. He was spirited away from war-crimes prosecution via Operation Paperclip (a real thing - that's how the U.S. got German rocket-scientists to help found our space program) to put his technical-wizardry to use for the good guys.
As it turns out, that was a bad idea.
In CA: TWS, Zola (still "alive," his brain having been transferred into a massive HVAC-era supercomputer in the 60s) reveals that, through him, HYDRA has lived on as secret society within S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, using The Agency to shape world events and set the stage for a global coup all this time. In the present, Zola's parasite has now overwhelmed it's host. The Agency is lousy with HYDRA zealots from bottom to top, and Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill and The Falcon are only able to thwart their master plans by completely destroying and dismantling S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. In the present-tense of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. has ceased to exist.
So, at the very least, Team Coulson might have to change their name in a second season (or, more likely, operate on their own as a kind of mini S.H.I.E.L.D. tribute band) assuming, of course, that none of them turn out to have been HYDRA all along. But that's not the only potential long-term effect on the series. Coulson and company have spent most of the season fighting a shadowy organization called CENTIPEDE whose enigmatic leader claimed to be psychic and called himself "The Clairvoyant." In the previous episode,
"End of The Beginning", Skye and Coulson thought they'd solved the mystery of his powers (actual psychics having not yet been proven to exist in the MCU.) His "vision" is really just access to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s massive intelligence databases.
So... wait. "What if it's just somebody reading our personnel files?" wasn't the first possibility they looked into? Yikes. With that kind of follow through, it's kind of amazing they've only killed one red herring this whole time (Ward murdered the most recent suspect, believing he'd made a threat on Skye's life.)
Now, obviously, my first thought was "Oh, so Arnim Zola is The Clairvoyant," especially since HYDRA's gambit in the film involved him having turned the ubiquity of minable-data in the 21st Century into a way to predict (parts of) the future via mathematically. But, then, since the reveal of the show was that The Clairvoyant was just a dirty S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent while the reveal of the film was that "dirty S.H.I.E.L.D Agent" is kind of a widely-held title... does it really need to be anybody? Especially since having the answer to a mystery be the reveal of a new mystery is the series' raison d'etre at this point?
So. How do things actually fit together? Let's find out:
We open with a needle drop (that's when you stop a movie or TV show's standard music score to play a piece of popular music) of "Don't Fear The Reaper" as Agent Garrett's (Bill Paxton) fighter jet comes under attack by a pair of S.H.I.E.L.D. drones. He radios for help from The Bus, but they're a little preoccupied with the Mexican standoff between Coulson, May, Skye and Fitz that ended last week's episode.