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Tuesday 9:00 PM on ABC

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S01E11: "The Magical Place"


It's more than fair to say that Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't always lived up to expectations. It promised fans a small-screen adventure filled with action and mystery as seen through the eyes of a whip-smart relative outsider acting as the audience stand-in. It posed several important questions, and it had big dreams, but so far, it's largely failed to deliver any answers or achieve its ambitions. There have been adventures around the globe, and there have been fisticuffs in nearly every episode, but the series has faltered where it counts: the meaningful overarching story. 

Thankfully, now that we've reached the halfway point of the first season, the series is at least attempting to address some of the big question marks that've been looming over it like rainclouds, and "The Magical Place" was the first episode in quite awhile that really felt like a series Joss Whedon would want to be a part of.

In the pilot, we were taken under Agent Coulson's wing and granted access to S.H.I.E.L.D. that we've never had before, and that was all fine and dandy. There were cool spy gadgets, and the aforementioned "exotic" locales, but something was always missing. I've discussed before the series' problem with its stakes never feeling all that real, but that isn't its only problem. The series lacks a villain. There've been hints and references, and single-episode baddies, but until this week, there hadn't been a true villain in the comic book sense of the word. And even viewers with only a basic knowledge of the medium know that in comics, there are heroes and there are villains and the stories are then built around them.

The ongoing Centipede storyline is, for all intents and purposes, this season's Big Bad. But it has suffered for two reasons. First, it's been the focus of less than a handful of episodes. With little to no screen time, it's still largely a mystery. That in itself is annoying, but not necessarily the worst thing that could happen to the series. The real problem plaguing S.H.I.E.L.D. is that Centipede is faceless. It's hard to hate something, or fight against something, when you don't even know who or what it is that you're up against. To make matters worse, every time we've been introduced to someone involved in the Centipede operation to create super soldiers, they've dispatched within an episode or two. 


Shannon Lucio played the doctor who gave J. August Richards' Mike Peterson the Extremis serum in the pilot. She appeared briefly in "The Girl in the Flower Dress" but was killed by episode's end. Raina, that episode's titular floral-apparel fanatic, has been the face most associated with Centipede, but now she too has been dealt with (at least for the time being). She was taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody after Skye and the rest of the team rescued Coulson in this week's episode. Po, the man they'd sprung from jail only a few episodes ago, was dispatched by the Clairvoyant for being a violent asshole midway through "The Magical Place." Creating characters and then killing them off or relegating them to the sidelines makes it difficult for viewers to stay invested in the story. It makes it equally hard for fans to direct their emotions toward the right characters. It's clear now that the Clairvoyant, whoever he/she is, is the one calling the shots here, but the character remains an enigma. It's frustrating that this is where we've ended up, but that's how mysteries work, I guess. 

Anyway, after four paragraphs of complaints, please allow me to attempt to explain why it is I do believe, despite its problems, that there's still hope for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Thanks to Raina and her brain machine, we have the answer to at least one of the series' mysteries. Coulson's resurrection is no longer a secret. Or at least not as much of a secret as it was prior to this week's episode. He didn't die for eight seconds, or even 40 seconds. He died for days. Director Fury brought in several doctors to operate on and revive Coulson following the Battle of New York. Ron Glass, whose character Dr. Streiten appeared in the pilot alongside Cobie Smulders' Agent Maria Hill, was brought in on the seventh operation, but he wasn't operating on Coulson's heart, he was operating on Coulson's brain. They rewired it (in a pretty cool, if also kind of gross, scene) and gave him new memories (the Tahiti visions we've been seeing this whole time), so he wouldn't remember the fact that he had lost the will to live and begged for them to let him die. 


It's still not clear how Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. brought Coulson back, but we can at least eliminate the idea that he's a Life Model Decoy now, right? Just kidding, this isn't my first rodeo. I know better than to believe everything I'm told up front, because nothing is ever as it seems in worlds like this one. How do we know this isn't just a fail-safe? How do we know this isn't just the first layer of security to prevent Coulson (or anyone else, like, say, the Clairvoyant) from discovering the real truth? Before I get too deep into conspiracy theories, because we could be here all day, Dr. Streiten did at least appear to be sincere when he apologized for the part he'd played in Coulson's "resurrection," but let's just agree to not trust anyone right now and move on, because we've got bigger fish to fry.

Learning the truth about what happened to Coulson was only part of the story. There are always consequences to discovering the truth, which has been a recurring theme throughout the first 11 episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D.. From Skye's search for her parents to Coulson's search for the truth, there's always the notion that what we discover might not be any better than what we've always known or imagined. That's definitely true in Coulson's case, but now we must face the fallout from this discovery. Which brings me to my next point about what's been missing from the series until now: the rage against the machine theme.


Most of Whedon's work follows the less fortunate, the outsiders, the ragtag team of misfits fighting the good fight even if they're on their own. It's a trend that flows from Buffy to Angel to Firefly and beyond. Large corporations or governmental bodies have always been the enemy of Whedon's protagonists, but that hasn't been the case here. Part of the reason Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't felt like a typical Whedon production, aside from the fact that it really isn't, is that Coulson and most of his team blindly believe in the S.H.I.E.L.D. system. They don't question it. They accept it when they're told they can't do something or enter somewhere because they don't have clearance. They follow orders. The only person questioning the system in the series' first ten episodes was Skye, and that makes sense given that she's not a real agent. She's a hacker, an outsider, and as Agent Hand pointed out: She's still just a consultant, even if she has been training. 

But what Hand didn't realize (but May did) is that's exactly what S.H.I.E.L.D. needs in order to get shit done. Hand's intel on where Coulson was being held was wrong, but Skye followed her natural instincts, impersonated Agent May, kidnapped guest-star Rob Huebel, and discovered the truth. But it isn't enough for only Skye to be bucking the flawed system, because the show will never evolve if that remains the case. Skye's character, in addition to being the audience proxy, is also there to shine a light on all of the system's flaws and change the team's way of thinking. And you have to admit, she's been doing an okay job. It was fun when the rest of the team aided Skye's escape, and it's refreshing now to see Coulson also questioning his trust in S.H.I.E.L.D. They brought him back to life when all he wanted was to die, and then they implanted fake memories in his brain to cover it up. This begs a lot of questions, like the one posed by Agent Hand: Why does Coulson matter so much? Obviously S.H.I.E.L.D. invested a lot of time and resources in bringing him back to life, but why? Needing him for a TV series is beside the point, there has to be something bigger, and I hope we find out before the season ends just what that was. 


Despite how this review might come off, "The Magical Place" was actually a pretty good episode. Clark Gregg was outstanding, and the hour moved the plot forward, even if it was just a little bit. We might not have learned anything about Coulson that we didn't already know, but Coulson did, and that's what really matters. We've got momentum on both his timeline and the Centipede storyline (also, Mike survived the explosion in "The Bridge" and has been upgraded with a fancy new killer eyeball). If the series continues down this path of distrusting S.H.I.E.L.D. and letting the characters show emotion—even if it's Fitz's anger—then the series can only get better. Now that we're moving into the second half of the season, I have a feeling the series is headed for a much more serialized format, and that will also help sustain it.



DECLASSIFIED CASE FILES

– When I was downloading photos from ABC's press site before the episode, I was like, "WTF why does Skye look like she raided May's wardrobe?" Well now we know why. It was kind of funny to see her impersonation. 

– There were recognizable guest-stars all over the place this week. Saffron Burrows returned (with a better American accent?) as Agent Victoria Hand, Firefly's Ron Glass was back as Dr. Streiten, Rob Huebel (Childrens Hospital) played Lloyd Rathman, Aiden Turner (All My Children) played Vanchat, and Felisha Terrell (Teen Wolf) played Emily Deville, who clearly has never owned a Roomba in her life. 

– I doubt we'll be seeing more of Mike Peterson every week. He'll disappear until later in the season when he'll obviously return as a reluctant enemy in need of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s assistance. But I'm excited to see it. J. August Richards is always a good time.

– Just WTF is up with Raina? I mean, for real, guys. So she'd had her brain tampered with, too? I just don't like it when the enemy finds common ground with our protagonists, because it's too easy of a trope. But it did lead to Coulson distrusting S.H.I.E.L.D. and discovering the truth (even if he didn't tell Raina what he saw) so maybe I can get over it this once.

– "Bet there aren't any flower dresses where she's going." ZING! Good one, Simmons. (J/K Simmons continues to be one of my favorite characters of the season, especially when paired with Fitz: "Amen to that, sister!")

– Did you like "The Magical Place"?

thekaitling:list:agents-of-shield-what-did-you-think-of-the-magical-place/

 

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/3/2016

Season 3 : Episode 19

Next Episode

AIRS ON 5/10/2016

Season 3 : Episode 20

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I felt like the end when Coulson was talking to the Doctor is what made this episode for me. The rest of the episode was "average", though I did get a kick out of Skye impersonating May.
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Oh man! the part where he's like "No, stop. Please let me die. Please let me die." that hurt my heart
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Good episode, but the ending was hella dumb and didn't even reveal anything.
Why was Coulsin so upset he left the doc's car with no further 'real' questions?
Did I miss something here? Doesn' make any sense to me...neither did the ghost town, the interaction between Coulson & Raina, nor why Po had to die...actually, the only good thing this epi had was Sky...and FitzSimmons of course! So yeah, not a good episode! There better be some answers next week!
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He left the car b/c he got all the answered he needed. He wasn't interested in the Dr.s apology. He wasn't upset, he was surprised along with a bunch of other emotions to the fact that he was dead for a week +. & now it remembering some on the physical & mental pain he was in. When they said it was UnGodly, & no Dr. should have preformed it. They were trying to draw a line to human experimentation. Something they used to do to the jews in WWII
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Ok...that makes sense too, but still doesn't warrant the extremity surrounding the ordeal...they did save his life after all...in the end, he should just be thankful no?
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Human experimentation is just that. Experimentation. It could have just as easily ended up that they only re-booted his nervous system & he could feel the pain but not move. They had no way of knowing if it was going to work. It could have just as easily ended up that he was in extreme pain & being more or less tourtured unable to move for two weeks, Sure in the end your dead, but it would have been a slow 2 weeks.
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I liked this episode, but I hope you are wrong in your expectations. I personally don't want to see anybody, and specially not Coulson, mistrusting SHIELD , IRL, I mistrust practically every organization, In all the shows I see (but one) it's the same. Well, I want a show where people truly believes in the institution they represents, so I can have some pure fun and no problems. Like when I was a child and watched shows and trusted in the good guys vs the bad guys,
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IGN gave this episode a 7.3, I'd say that was a touch generous but basically it.

It was a fun episode but really felt like it was missing crucial info, like this was the 3rd act of the story and we never got the 2nd act. The idea that Mike Peterson is alive and nobody from SHIELD gave a shit to look for his burned-up body is kind of a dick move. And what precisely did Centipede really expect to get from Coulson's memories in this, especially when we finally do discover what was up and it helps them in NO WAY AT ALL? Why break out that one guy from prison just to kill him randomly? And The Bus has been taken over by Victoria Hand and her actual Agents of SHIELD but they are useless when it comes down to it. Then we get the Skye storyline, and as cute as it was, it felt like a sitcom storyline rather than anything from Agents of SHIELD. How did nobody get wise to her goofy fake May gag? What was the point of Rob Huebel's character and how did she find him so quickly? These little niggles all add up while watching, so a kinda-fun adventure becomes a snore.

Coulson's story was nothing, the secret still is a secret, just because Nicky Fury ordered something nigh-impossible doesn't say how it worked or what it really did, it doesn't say how it helps the enemy, and it barely touches on how it affects Agent Coulson. So we get a strong Phil Coulson story that feels like it says something but really doesn't. Coulson knows he died, there was no reason to give him new memories, he knew they operated on him, so what? Rewiring his brain made no sense and the payoff wasn't worthwhile, it only felt like it because it was a bone they threw us.

If May really believed someone needed to do what Skye did, why didn't May do it instead, or team up with Skye? Pretty thin. There wasn't much highlighting of issues here at all, and by putting Victoria Hand's face on SHIELD's bureaucracy problem bringing it down, it's taken away the systemic issue that should be there.

So, I guess I feel like the show was better at faking it than usual, but unlike your review Kaitlin I just don't think this was a "pretty good" episode, "better" yes but "pretty good" I dunno.
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why didn't May do it instead -- because she is no computer genius. What was the point of Rob Huebel's character and how did she find him so quickly? she didn't find him she found the car with onstar. she needed the car to get him home so he could be her hands in hacking the system. He could have been any rich dude. She was able to get his info to force him to help since he is not in shield security. She can hack lower level stuff.
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The problem with relying on computer stuff to justify a character is that watching someone type is boring and there's very little focus on the motivation of a scene and its goals.

Rob Huebel's character wasn't some random rich computer guy, he was a money-launderer for Centipede's buyer, it had to be him who get into the system to find where the money was going. But is it really hard to believe that May couldn't have simply slapped some folks around, or made a call to FitzSimmons to do help hack something? And the whole time she could have been making sure things were being done right instead of just hoping for the best. Nothing about the scene really felt like Skye was the only one who could run that op unless you assume that hacking is the only way to get those answers.
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Victoria Hand wasn't willing to let the others go out on their own, but was quite willing to get rid of Skye. And bank accounts are not something easily slapped or scientifically investigated. That takes a hacker or computer data expert. V Hand turned down that line of investigation.
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Tune in next time to hear Coulson say...

"Um, so yeah, sorry Skye but ur mom's dead and May killed her."

Skye: *sobs*
Me: *shrugs*
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And May IS your mom... she thinks Tahiti is a magical place...
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Personally I thought this was the best episode so far - gives me hope for the show. Better character chemistry and more movement in the serialized plot lines.
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Few questions, so does this mean Shield now has the capability to bring back practically anyone? I mean Coulson was dead for days..and still don't understand what Centipede and the Clairvoyant are trying to do like what is their end game. Terrorism/make money , take over the world? Anyway best episode of the series thus far and I 'm actually beginning not to hate Skye so much she was great in this.
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The few characters that I guess could bring a person back to life maybe someone like dr. strange or someone with mystical type powers. Maybe scarlet witch as well and using her to tie the show back to the movies? shrugs. Of course this is assuming that flashback was real and that creepy robot was operating on his brain.
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Also wanted to point out the whole "super soldier" thing is getting a bit meh too they literally don't pose a threat at all. It seems like every episode we see Ward and May take down these "super" soldiers almost single handedly in a fist fight even though these bad guys are meant to have super strength. Even in this episode we see Ward get punched in the face by one of these guys and he just shrugs it off and then we see them punch right through a solid wall so the consistency is pretty much not there .
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I agree. I mean these guys are supposed to be a little tougher than Cap is with the tech, but they may as well be regular muscle lackeys and save the budget on collapsible walls, etc. I'm still waiting for a hydra or aim type rival organization threat than this 'centepede' storyline. What's the point of 'shield' if it's just going to be in name only and cameo appearances by the key sheild personel?
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Why did they take such extreme measures to save Agent Coulson? What did I miss?
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I'd like to know WHY Coulson was brought back. He may be Fury's 'one good eye', but in reality, no one is THAT important. Makes me wonder if the Clairvoyant is someone who subcontracts to Centipede AND SHIELD.

I think part of what makes Coulson so angry is that someTHING messed with his mind. Memories were implanted, not by a person, but a machine. Was it more than one memory? And were any memories removed?

We only got a partial answer; And a whole lot more questions.
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Skye was great this ep. Will miss Raina, hard to hate a villain that hot, lol.
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This was a much anticipated episode for me, and I think it really delivered.
I loved the team recognising how important Skye is to them and how they helped her, and she amazed me with how she got around her ball and chains. That was so great to watch
Seeing that machine inside Coulson's brain was truly horrifying. Hearing him plea to let him die was absolutely gut wrenching.
I'm enjoing this show more and more as it warms up!
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I am getting fairly tired of your complainy reviews which in the end result in you admitting the episode was in fact "not that bad". Also of your presumption that everybody shares your point of view.
Maybe it's "normal" to have the attention span of a gold fish thus being unable to appreciate a slowly unfolding story arch without shallow instant gratification gambits which then result in subsequent seasons with nowhere left to go other than contrived follow ups. Or being unable to endure characters without glaring character development leaps apropos of mostly nothing.
Anyway, I think this episode was really well made. The obvious villain of the week (PO) was dispatched to reveal another longer blink at the shadowy "monster" (the clairvoyant) in the background. Really loved the way the team rose to the occasion and proceeded to grow tighter together without losing their characteristic traits in the process. Everybody shined, with Coulson and Skye taking the crown this week.
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Hear, hear.
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Had you not reminded me, I'd have completely forgotten that this is a Whedon creation. Though now that you mention it, I do see some similarities with past shows that keep me from being a Joss fanboy...I've got a hard time caring about the characters I should care about and those that I do seem to be on the outside looking in.

In 'Buffy' I had Spike and Anya, in 'Angel' I had Doyle and Lorne and here I've got FitzSimmons. At least in the former two, there were characters that I was supposed to like but didn't like Cordelia and Wesley, which would make up for the apathy towards the bad guys. At least waiting to have something bad happen to them was entertaining to pass the time until something fun happened to the secondary characters.

Clouston, May, Grant, Skye...frankly, I don't much care what happens to any of them so even if the show finds a new Big Bad, I don't have a whole lot invested in our "heroes".

I dunno...I'm just about to pull the plug I think.
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I agree that they need a villain, specifically one with a face. They don't really need to have centipede be that main villain, but there needs to be some form of cadence, where it gets mentioned frequently. It's not enough to keep it going. They also aren't linking up everything fast enough to make the stories connect. There were also some episodes and missions where there was no big bad, just a bunch of henchmen. They need at least a ringleader in each episode to somehow make the victory more exact, and not so "we survived to fight another day."
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I'm pretty much done with this show. I couldn't even bother to watch this episode, but out of sheer curiousity I decided to read the review just to find out about this "big mystery".

After the second paragraph I realized how much I really don't care, and decided to post this instead. Good bye SHIELD. I wanna say it was fun while it lasted...but I'd be lying.
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Kaitlin, Kaitlin, Kaitlin...............

"We might not have learned anything about Coulson that we didn't already know, but Coulson did, and that's what really matters."

No, no, no it isn't what matters. Coulson learning, should mean we learn. This is why the story would have him learn. Otherwise it's a condition commonly referred to as bad writing..........

Actually, I think you have identified a key reason why this show is not really working as it should. Characters are experiencing issues and mysterious that we are not being involved in (Coulson, May, and before that Sky).

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There's another possibility on who the Clairvoyant is - Could it be Ultron?
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I actually considered that possibility too, because it would explain also why Centipede's technology, as Coulson said, seems super advanced already but yet also advancing further still at an incredible rate.
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If Coulson had been dead for days with a heart torn to pieces. How was his body put back together? How did they fix his heart and get him rebooted? And why was it necessary to keep him concious the whole time? What else was done to his brain that the clairvoyant can't see?
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also, why is coulson so important? why did fury put so much into saving him?

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before i read the review, i just want to say i thought it was a great ep, but i'm surprised they shoved the rescue and the reveals all in one ep. thought they'd stretch it out 2 or 3 eps.
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also, Sky is so fine!
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Skye in that outfit sent me to a magical place, I'll tell you that much.
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This article is pretty bias and dumb. It goes off for a few paragraphs on why "the show isn't good" and the point that took 3 paragraphs to make before the real point to the article, was that the writer is upset that everything isn't laid out right in front of your faceIke some 2nd grade toy. ITS CALLED SUSPENSE AND MYSTERY. Moron.

This show has been great from the start and despite these horse blinded uneducated reviewers and fans that are only looking for one thing, even with their attempt at "positive praise," the show is still doing better than what you're writing it out to be. Your positive praise is like the maltreatment of a child; a positive comment followed by a series of complaints. If you want angel and firefly, go but them on DVD. This isn't JOSS' show man, this is JED and his wife's show. Joss just directed the pilot.

I think the problem with the show is not the show. Is the lack of creative education between who's reviewing it and who's watching it. Everything, every single detail of this show can be related to a comic book. This isn't some "Avengers" book or even a book like the old Fury, Agent of shield comic..... This is like Tales of Suspense, Marvel Mysteries. This show is the ground work for the major situations in the movies. And no one can see that because they are too busy complaining. Now if there's hundreds of henchmen that the avengers fight in avengers 2 and they are all centipede creations, you won't sit there during the movie and be like "uhhhhh what's that on the henchmans arm?"

Why are there no established bad guys? The universe is YOUNG, unestablished. HAVE YOU PEOPLE FORGOTTEN ABOUT FRANKLIN HALL? Oh wait most of you uneducated cats didn't see that episode as an origin story, but Franklin Hall, is GRAVITON.


So why is this long winded comment here? Because I do it everywhere. Uneducated critics and fans have a louder voice than those that find happiness in niche products, and that sucks. Praise the show, or shut the hell up and watch seasons of Buffy on DVD
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Very well put
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Loved this episode...Sky was awesome...!!! Coulson now we know how he got back to life...so said when he kept repeating...please let me die...please let me die..
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I'm happy Mike didn't die, but I wish we could have seen more of him with the team... I hope he doesn't just die when confronting them, that would be disappointing.

As for Coulson's secret, it was pretty weird, and I think it was more of another breadcrumb for us than a big reveal. I still have faith that the writers have got something planned down the line.
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I like the show in theory - all the check marks are ticked. On paper it is everything. But after all the episodes let just stop pretending that is enough to carry it further.
It doesn't have any real surprise moments and I honestly don't like any of the characters.
None characters have any weight, it is all only implied by storytelling. Telling me how good the characters are on screen can go only so far if they act cookie cutter and paper thin.
The show tried to make the characters too likable and pretty and ended up making them one trick ponies without depth to their character. There is not really any grit any real character that would fit to the hard situations they suppose to be facing every minute. It is like a modelling agency got on a plane.
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agreed the show needs a hard dose of "show, don't tell" and not just in the characters, this "mystery" stuff that goes nowhere is even more boring than the characters.
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I agree the series does need a main villain, Case of the Week or Villain of the Week can only work for so long
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I have one problem with the overall series...

If Coleson's revival was supposed to be top secret, why has he so often just wandered around the main headquarters.

And, why was it so important to keep it a secret, anyway? Why must his girlfriend continue to think he's dead.

If it's really that critical, they're doing a terrible job of keeping him a secret. If it's not that important, then they should just let the girl know.

One other thing is that Coulson's team is supposed to have autonomy, right? Less red tape. But, it sure looks to me they're on a pretty short leash.

As for this ep, I liked it. My only quibble is that I didn't see why Shield had to take over the Bus. Surely, they have plenty such plains, and of course, the super air ship/city from the movies. If Coulson is so important that Fury dedicated all those resources to finding him, then it seems more likely they'd have used some other Bus as their base.
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I think the short leash happens when Coulson is taken out of the equation. The autonomy only happens when he is in charge.
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Shorter leash, yes. But, Coulson, himself, has been given some annoying restrictions, too. In at least 2 episodes, he's butted heads with the buerocracy.
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Well, yes but within the limitations of a hierarchical organization like SHIELD I believe the leeway he has counts as "autonomy" :-)
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True. He does still has to toe the line but he also has the smarts to know how to get around it, just like his team proved to this time around.
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Right. But, were were talking about how they were supposed to be mostly autonomous, not how he gets around it.
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It was an improvement - however Fitz is now more annoying than Ward to me, for some reason. And it wasn't when he was bossing the other agents around, it was his interaction with Simmons.
May doing a 180 in the plane without warning anyone, except Ward kinda bugged me - I know its a little thing, but they add up.
The interrogation scene was well done - Ward was quite good in this episode.
Coulson - I wonder if those chemicals they used on him during the surgery AND that machine were Asgardian?

And the simplest explanation = COULSON IS A ZOMBIE! The brain surgery was to stop him yearning the taste of human flesh!!!
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the thought of Coulson relapsing and fighting May for her brain should be enough for me to watch this season to the finale.
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I really have no idea why everyone thinks May is Skye's mom, it would make very little sense with what came before---especially the fact that Coulson and May discussed Skye's past, in private, and never mentioned it. Surely they would have just said it, rather than danced around it, given Skye was nowhere in earshot. Plus, she said 'poor girl' in that episode, when looking through the files, so she was clearly only just learning what the big secret was.
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Did someone planted the idea of "May is Skye's mom"? The previous eps kinda hinted this and Skye's May cosplay? Now that's just plain foreshadowing. Or was this just another red herring?

Anyway, I still believe in Whedon & co
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I was thinking that was a good possibility, too.
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This episode may well be the best one so far, mainly because it sticks with the overarching storyline and a much clearer mission than usual ("Save Coulson" is much easier to relate to than "Try to find out if there's a dohickey, and what it does, and what we should do with it").
Coulson's secret sucked, so far (you think you know someone, that they're your friend, and then he stands by and lets you be tortured, yes we're looking at you, director Fury), but at least it made us more invested in the characters.

Moments of awesome: Fitz being kind of bossy and "take charge" to the influx of annoying new SHIELD agents.
And Skye, channeling May both as kickass fighter and intimidating "Cold hearted bitch in charge".
Way to go, Skye! :)
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I'm surprised a lot of people have given negative opinions of the Coulson 'answers' in this episode. If you think the series is roughly half way through the first season, it's not exactly likely you'll find out yet. If you read a novel, the big reveal would come nearer the end. I think there's more to come and they'll explore it later on. That's how the writers try to get you hooked.

This was definitely a step-up from the first half of the season. The actors and show-runners look like they're getting more comfortable with what they have to work with and Clark Gregg had some great scenes. That moment when Skye found Coulson was the first real moment of believable emotional intensity we've had so far. Hope they build on this.

As an aside, everyone beats on Skye as being annoying, but I don't find her nearly as annoying as Ward. He's too bland by comparison and his backstory doesn't seem that deep. Good to see he's over the whole rage thing in a previous episode that was supposed to affect him for years after...
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I don't want the complete answer right now but the least i want is a few minor reveals to make me interested in the full answer but unfortunately that hasn't happned, atleast not for me.
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Looks like Mike Peterson is being set up to become Deathlok, a cybernetic assassin with a punch card slot on his arm (hopefully updated to a micro SDHC slot.) He has a lot of internal voice-over ethical struggles with his programming, so J. August Richards will have plenty to work with.
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I was thinking the same thing too.
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Look, the overarching plot isn't the issue. You can have a great show with no overarching plot. You can have a great show with no plot at all.

The issue is the bland-ish characterization and the procedural elements, which mean that the people we are watching are not the ones whose problems we're dealing with. Pair that with actors that look... too nice (Coulson's Cuties!) and characters that click together too neatly and you get kinda flat stuff.

But that's a short term problem, so it can be solved short term. Coulson beaten up, dirtied up and broken down is an interesting character (and man, Clark Gregg can ACT as well as deadpan, I never knew!). Desperate, rogue Skye is an interesting character (or she will be when she's actually desperate and rogue instead of on a b-plot)... And hey, SHIELD, which is a character in itself, is also more interesting when it's doing gross-out bad things for a good reason.

That also means, unfortunately, that if next week we go back to baddie-of-the-week cases in which the guys are dealing with somebody else's problems while looking cute this will feel flabby again, but for now I had a fun hour.
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"You can have a great show with no plot at all."

Please direct me to that drama series, please.
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I didn't say "a great drama series", I said "a great show", but since you asked, you can go check out Portlandia or any other sketch show :)
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Exactly. You cannot compared sketch shows to a drama series, because they don't require the same things.

That being, said, I'm not disagreeing about the characters or the procedural issues, I've discussed both of those issues in prior reviews. The series has several issues in need of fixing.
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You're fixating on a minor statement there. The only point I was making was that you can make a compelling hour of TV just by putting pretty pictures on the screen. You don't need a season-wide plot or a plot at all. You don't need drama or fiction. You can use many strategies to keep people watching for 60 minutes. SHIELD's failures don't have to do with formula, they have to do with what's fun to watch and what isn't.
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Isn't a show without a plot just reality TV? I have yet to see a truly great one.
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Loved this episode! (even though I was disturbed by the scene where Coulson has his brain exposed and tampered with)
I mean Coulson is finally distrusting S.H.I.E.L.D. and Skye did a fine job on her own while looking like May (loved that she chose to impersonate May with the glasses, jacket and attitude)
What's the deal with the Clairvoyant? Is he some guy that has tons of expendable minions? Is he evil? Is he hot? So many questions...
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The best thing about this episode was that it gave Coulson a solid emotional moment when he decided to delve back in to his memories. I knew he would never betray SHIELD, so I'm glad they didn't make him go that route. Also, the team trusting Skye and allowing her to do her thing was the right track to take, and one I immediately knew May was in on. She's too smart to do anything else.

Okay, those were the positives. Like many of the commenters below, I agree that the episode wasn't enough after all the buildup and the break. We needed more answers, not more questions. All we now know is that Coulson wanted them to let him die and they wouldn't. This would have been amazing if they had paired it with them revealing exactly what he is now.

SHIELD has been on the right track all season. The problem is that they are moving at a snail's pace down that track. I'm not exactly sure what the series is missing at some point, but the rage against the machine theme might just do the trick.
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So, for clarification, was the whole purpose of that brain operation just to make Coulson stop being suicidal after his resurrection?? Seems like an excessive effort with no good explanation yet.
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Agreed. Seems there could be all kinds of cool reasons for digging in his brain like that. Implanting memories just feels rather mundane.
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It was a pretty decent episode of SHIELD. The mystery of Coulson is really all it has right now. I did like the back and forth between him and Raina. I actually like the character of Raina and hope she isn't imprisoned that long. Bringing back Gun was kind of expected and them putting the eye thing in him as well.

Fitz and Simmons held the episode down and still are really the only likable members of the team.

Skye didn't annoy as much as usual. Her storyline was all right. A little fast though. Not that it was easy to find Coulson or short. But the time conveyed by the show makes it seem like it was merely a few hours.

Coulson's death was expected as well. The scene with him in the lab was fun. The brain thing was really cool. But as you said, why? Why is Coulson so important? Why is this team so important? And why should we like them, aside from Fitz and Simmons.
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I'm guessing that maybe Nick Fury and the plotlines from The Winter Soldier movie will be tied into this later on. There seems to be some internal conflict inside SHIELD and maybe Fury did all of this because Coulson is one of the few agents he really trusts? Just spitballing here though.;)
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Good ideas though. I thought about the Winter Soldier thing when I saw the chemicals that they were using when reanimating Coulson. Hopefully by the time Winter Soldier comes out they will have things sorted. I still think there is a fantastic show in here somewhere.
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I think so too. I like elements of the show and the cast is very likeable. I guess they just need to find the right combination of vita rays and the super soldier serum to turn this show into a winner.;) Sorry, nerdspeak.:D I really liked the episode and the effects of Coulson's brain being worked on were quite good. I'm also wondering if they will make Fury one of the subjects of the alternatives to the original Super Soldier program. I seem to recall something called the Infinity Formula from the comics which explain why Fury has been around since the second world war, but that's not something they've talked about so far.
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Isn't it the Infinity Formula that plays a part in the ever-ongoing life of the The Winter Soldier. Maybe that is the same chemical they used and something they will start mentioning/talking about soon. I am looking forward to the Winter Soldier movie too. The Captain America sequel was the one I was least looking forward to, but the trailer blew me away. It looks amazing and Sebastian Stan looks utterly spot-on and badass in the role. As for Redford, I actually got a Baron Zemo vibe myself. Whatever the case, I think the character name he has been given will prove to be an alias.
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I was thinking the same thing, the whole resurrecting and what is essentially brainwashing seems like set-up for the kind of technology that will feature in The Winter Soldier.
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I'm really looking forward to that movie. Sebastian Stan's look as the Winter Soldier seems really faithful to the comics. But I've got the feeling that Robert Redford's character will bring a lot to the table. I kind of get the Dell Rusk vibe from him, even though that's not the name of his character.;)
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First, I agree, Simmons is awesome, and easily one of the standout characters of the show.

Second...I'm still just confused about Coulson's "ressurection". As you said, Why? And more importantly, How? And, sorry to say, the explanation was kind of a let-down...mostly because it was only a pseudo explanation. After several days of someone being dead, having a large machine stitch everything back together doesn't just magically make them wake up and be alive again. I mean, I'm not a doctor, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it works.
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I think the machine was deleting his memories and implanting new ones, but the "erase-his-suicidal-feelings" theory that marknmo mentioned is also good. Anyway, that machine wasn't "ressurecting" him ;)
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I was assuming it was also correct damage to his brain from being dead for several days. So the machine wasn't resurrecting him, but repairing him (while mucking about with his memories). But I could be wrong, who knows, it's not like they really explained it at ALL.
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The first episode where all 6 cast members clicked and contributed. Very impressed with the episode (as I thought part 1 was very patchy), and reminds me a bit of the Buffy 'Going to heaven' storyline.

I'm betting the Clairvoyant is Stan Lee

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Hahaha, tat would be epic! But I suppose Stan Lee will only appear one time and the Clairvoyand will need more than one episode to show himself/herself.
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So theories on the Clairvoyant?
  • Victoria Hand -- just using her access to the Shield database to know everything... except WHY Coulson is so important. Probably Fury's eyes only intel.
  • Somehow tied to Coulson: a clone, the remnant angy/depressed personality the Doctor discussed, etc.
  • Person from the future that knows a LOT but some secrets were too secret for even HIM/HER to know
  • Similar to above, but person instead just got info or Encyclopedia Galactica from the future
  • Advanced AI that knows "everything" similar to Person of Interest, BUT there are some things SO secret even IT can't access.
  • Alien with either incredible tech or weird powers
  • Person with actual mind-reading / future-seeing / etc. powers
  • Person with tech-interface powers. Similar to AI but it's a flesh-and-blood person.
  • etc.
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I like your suggestions but i am worried that will be something boring and not very original.
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Also, apparently another Whedon-verse staple.

May pulled a Crazy Ivan or whatever, seen in our beloved Firefly. Going straight, flipping engines on one side around, do a quick 180

Probably not really feasible in real life, but since the plan had VTOL and could hover with the engines pointing down it MIGHT be possible to do it quickly than a high-G turn.
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I think the scene with the guy holding with one hand so he wouldn't be sucked out of the plane was a "little" worse. It was the lifeboat scene all over again.
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That wasn't a "Crazy Ivan" - a technique Soviet sub skippers devised to see if their MUCH quieter American counterparts were shadowing their subs during the Old War; that was simply a VTOL-assisted fast course change. Given that the plane doesn't have jet fighter-type maneuverability, that kind of pilot action is entirely acceptable (and possible, with the US Marines' Osprey craft). That plane still has too many older structural and operational components and sections, though ..... for one thing, the cockpit is like something out of M*A*S*H*. I'd expect a much more modern-looking space than the one May works in. OTHER parts of that plane are advanced-looking; why can't they do the same with the cockpit? If that were a helicarrier, you'd see that kind of thing. It's just an inconsistency that bugs me a little bit.
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I know it's not a cray Ivan but hats what they called to in Firefly

ive seen the hunt for red October too :-)
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Come on, it's a comic! That plane is a fantasy, entirely. Besides, I see little point losing all your forward speed for a "fast" turn. Plus wasting a whole lot of fuel (hovering costs!). It's not a Harrier which could dramatically stop during a dogfight, making a pursuer overtake it involuntarily...
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I stopped watching AoS at about the 6 episode mark cause it was a total snooze fest man and mostly because Fitz/Simmons are annoying as HELL!! Sorry Kaitlin but those two dorks don't hold a candle to the charm, wit and technical genius that is Marshall Flinkman. I would like to see a nerd out between them, Marshall would smear the floor with them. I can see that I made the right decision in giving up on this crap. Man this season has blown for new dramas cause OUAT:Wonderland was laughably atrocious as well. Thankfully Game of Thrones is only two months away, Helix starts Friday and 24 back in May, w00t!!!!
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Oh now why did you have to go and bring up Marshall Flinkman? Now I need to go watch Alias for the sixth time!
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You're welcome :)
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That scene where Coulson's brain was exposed......ewwwwwww!!!!!!!!!
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Yeah, I know. It was awesome! Best scene in the series so far.
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I KNOW, right?!?! And to think that robotic surgery is starting to appear in American hospitals ..... wow. Of course, nothing on THAT level, but, still .... think I'd want someone totally human doing that kind of work on me!
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Didn't they have robots like that in Star Wars somewhere...?
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sorta when anakin becomes darth vader
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I really liked this episode. It wasn't perfect, but it definitely had a lot more of the trademark Whedon that I expected from the show coming in.

I think ABC over-hyped the "reveal" aspect of the episode. I knew we wouldn't get the whole story now but it served to get rid of several of the theories floating about (unless we want to go conspiracy route). Yeah, I want the full story too, but what is more interesting to me in the immediate future is what is Coulson going to do with all this new information. I saw a twitch in Coulson's jaw when he saw them loading Rayna up and I have a hard time believing that wasn't deliberate.

Poor Mike, he's a super soldier now. Will he be forced to act as a double agent or just be there in the shadows for awhile?
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I was kind of hoping that they would go a more mystical route with Coulson's ressurection. Maybe have it be revealed that someone contacted Doctor Strange or made a deal with Mephisto. Even using one of Asgard's healing crystals would have been a nice touch.

A lot of people feel that the show is lacking and I think that Kaitlin is right in that it seems to lack a real enemy for the team to go against. It has to be something more than just the faceless shadow organization that Centipede is now. Maybe if it was revealed that there was a mastermind behind it like Wilson Fisk, Silvermane, or even the return of the Red Skull. Unfortunately not all of the Marvel Properties are owned by Marvel at the present moment or I would add Doctor Doom and Norma Osborn to that list.

Maybe the show needs to get more involved in the movie universe other than just being an offshoot. Things that happen on the show should effect that movies in some bigger way.

Spoilers for those who have not seen Thor the Dark World

(HIghlight) The movie introduced us to the concept of the Infinity Gems, something hinted at with the appearance of Thanos in The Avengers. I think that the show should change direction a bit and have the team trying to locate one or more of the gems, possibly fighting Centipede or other enemies to find them. (Hightlight)
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I agree with you on the mystical stuff. I too think maybe dr strange could've been called to revive coulson. Since they didn't show his revival, it's still a possibility (not to mention marvel might try to do a live action adaptation of dr strange).
Yeah it's a shame fox has fantatic four and xmen and sony with spiderman, those villains would be decent to have, but I think they would be a little too ambitious. I think a Zemo or someone from aim would be a better fit. Not too big and still a decent enough threat to introduce as recognizable than just a faceless villain.
I also agree it would be better to either be its own show or start integrating more with the films than just riding the coat tails. It's nice to have a regular series, but pointless if it is just show and nothing to tell.
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Baron Zemo would be a great choice. As he is mostly a Captain America and Avengers villain, he would be perfect as an enemy for SHIELD and is likely still under the ownership of Marvel.

Plus because there have been 2 Zemo's a father and son, you could have one appear in flashbacks and one in the present. I could imagine a flashback with the original Zemo going up against Agent Peggy Carter from the First Avenger and the modern day Zemo as the true face of Centipede.
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I for one am glad they didn't go with the clone theory (as far as we can tell at the moment anyway). I hate that sort of thing because I'm a hard-core dualist. To me there's never any ambiguity about whether it's the same person or not, If it's a clone, it's not the same guy. If it's a resurrection + re-programming, it's the same guy, just a guy whose brain has been screwed with. His soul, if you will, is still Coulson's soul.

Did anyone else find the scene where Skye finds him sort of touching? For that matter, Coulson's acting throughout was stellar. He'll never get an Emmy or anything, but his performance is what makes the show consistently watchable even when other actors and factors disappoint.
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Definietely touching. There's a father/daughter dynamic I think the show is trying to reach for, and it really came through in that scene.
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I'm not quite sure it's reached the father/daughter dynamic yet .... but the relationship revolves around the fact that Skye doesn't trust people in general - and SHIELD in particular. But, she does trust COULSON; well, as much as she can trust anyone. Their bond is based on that - that, and the fact that he loves the fact that she's brave and thinks "out of the box." That's why he added her to the team - and, also why he removed the bracelet at the end of the episode. HE now trusts HER enough to realize that their shared interests and goals are similar enough to base a mutual respectful relationship on. Coulson doesn't do "daughter" or "kid" stuff - he deals with FitzSimmons just like he does Skye - uses their skill set and abilities to get the job done. But I think he identifies with and LIKES Skye more, on a personal basis. Especially the fact that she calls him on stuff that the others won't; Coulson respects that.
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Oh I think the father/daughter dynamic is pretty obvious. The way Skye hugged him in that one episode, the way she's struggling with having grown up without her real parents. He's like the dad she never knew. And he's just so... I don't how to say it, but he's so WARM, even when he's angry with her, he's angry like a father is upset with his daughter. There's so much compassion in that character.
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While the show is still in desperate need of many repairs, I liked a lot of what happened in this episode. I still find Skye (although very lovely) very annoying and unnecessary. Fitz-Simmons finally got to shine a bit more with their gadgets, which should be happening way more often (how have they not combined their flying drones with the night-night gun already??). And Coulson hit it home as usual despite a fairly boring cast wandering aimless around him.
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I have a terrible thing to say. But does anyone else feel like they did while watching Revolution last season (and hell, in the last few episodes of this season) where you just see the possibilities but you can clearly see the fear too. I've always thought Revolution's issue was that Kripke was trying to avoid any and all of the tropes he had in Supernatural, and it kind of felt like at the beginning of this season, he was like fuck it, it worked and seems to still be working for nine freaking seasons, it persists beyond me and it seems obvious that the CW is going to renew it for a tenth season. I'm not sure what this show needs to do exactly to embrace itself. Does it need to have Coulson adopt like most of the Avengers' attitude toward S.H.I.E.L.D and just become a Leverage type crew? That might actually be awesome (or hell, follow some of the rules there about caring about the characters, I think we had a couple in the early going that were Eliot or Parker centered (but the history stories have to relate and clearly connect the dots...stupid well episode of this show) and Hardison and Sofie were outgoing enough that you didn't need history stories about either of them you just needed ones where they were the focal point of the con). Or does it need to do some binge watching of POI and Arrow to see how comic book tv shows need to be approached? Or hell, Grimm...I mean they are all still working for a bigger entity, well, Nick, Hank and Renard are anyway.
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