This week’s newest installment of Agents of SHIELD has an overarching idea that anyone with enough drive — including smart-alleck Skye — can be trained to be an agent. That’s why its opening gets the story off on a more important leg than just showing a truck flip that makes the supers-savvy viewers go, “ Hey, I thought this was a Marvel show. Why’s there a Dark Knight move in the opening teaser?”
Beyond the stunt, however, the opening shows that anyone can be a SHIELD agent: Agent Mac is a truck driver (anyone else groan at that pun?) bopping down the highway to country music with an important physicist, Dr. Hall, in the back of his cab. But when trouble hits in the form of an invisible, telekinetic enemy, Mac’s job training comes into play as he communicates with HQ.
Hall’s abduction gives Skye a welcome break from physical training. His rival, Dr. Quinn, brings him to his operation in Malta to talk and drink whiskey. But there’s more to the meeting than reminiscing; the physicist has — as described by Fitz and Simmons — discovered gravitonium, an element that can use electrical current to control gravitational pulls. Quinn needs Hall to show him how to control the gravity fields to use the element without making his entire Malta lab go kaboom.
The only way for SHIELD to get in is through Skye, who uses “back-channel voodoo” to get an invite to the lab. This bothers Ward, who’s irked on Skye’s inability to commit to being an agent. Coulson suggests he start acting like a human instead of an agent toward her, and this prompts Ward to open up to Skye about his past with an abusive brother. I smell character development, albeit forced.
And then the show drops its biggest possible-secret-leak line. Coulson announces he’s going into the field with Ward, citing how much action he saw with the Avengers. A cautious Mae replies, “Yeah, but then you died.” What does this mean? Is Coulson a clone? A robot? Anything’s possible in the Whedon-verse, and we’ll just have to wait to see what comes of it. In them meantime, SHIELD has a scientist to save.
Skye walks up to the party at Quinn’s estate under the guise of being a member of Rising Tide (or is it a guise? So many conflicting questions). Luckily, she has Mae, Fitz and Simmons in an earpiece helping her navigate the other invitees. Meanwhile, Coulson and Ward arrive on the Maltese beach — and yes, Coulson is still wearing a suit. All they’re waiting for is Skye to let them in; little do they know she’s given them up to Quinn.
The doctor dissects her psyche as exactly what SHIELD looks for, coupling his blunt descriptions with an offer to join his own team. There’s a caveat, however; she has to give him the exact agenda SHIELD sent her in with. Then comes the typical Whedon reversal; like all the times in Firefly that Jayne recovered from double- and triple-crossing Serenity’s team, Skye does the same and uses a compact mirror-looking devise to open the gates for Coulson and Wade. It comes at just the right time, because the two experienced SHIELD operatives are cornered in a gunfight. The opened gates save their hineys, and they get into the estate.
When they reach Hall, they find a kid scientist in a chemistry store who’s right where he wants to be. “I’ll be honest,” Coulson says, “Our strategy did not take into account you saying that.”
It should have. Even I, a non-SHIELD agent, could have called that one.
What’s less expected is Hall’s follow-up — he’s burying the gravitonium so no one will find it, including Quinn and SHIELD. And he’s planning on burying Quinn and the whole party with it. Its force knocks out Coulson, who wakes up to find that the room’s gravity has shifted. Everything is upside down. It’s a moment that makes even a skeptical viewer go, “OK, now that was cool.” The ensuing fight is reminiscent of Inception’s gravity-defying hallway showdown on a smaller scale.
Hall isn’t happy with SHIELD, either. He tells Coulson that the organization is just as guilty as Quinn when it comes to exploiting power sources. “You made a hard call,” Coulson says before shooting out the window and sending Hall to his death at the core of the gravitonium, neutralizing the generator and saving the entire island estate.
Cleanup happens when Coulson orders no record to be made of the incident. Mae wants back in on the action. Skye is working hard at her physical training and explains to Ward her childhood of being a foster child (the forced character development continues).
The stinger is sadly star-free, but has an Indiana Jones-like flare as we see the blob of gravitonium locked away in SHIELD’s reserves. Before the vault door shuts, however, a silver hand reaches out from its depths, hinting at a return of Dr. Hall. Or maybe it’s a reference to the Silver Surfer, a Fantastic Four-universe character, where Johnny Storm is played by Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, and OH MY GOD DID I JUST MAKE A ROUND-ABOUT PREDICTION THAT CAP WILL APPEAR SOON?
OK, I’ve contained my excitement. At the beginning of the episode, Ward tells Skye, “Every field agent has a defining moment.” We’re still waiting for SHIELD to have its own blaze-of-glory moment, but this episode — with its gravity switches and character twists — definitely came close.
Kate Everson is a Chicago journalist and University of Missouri alumna. By day she is an associate editor for four HR industry magazines. By night, she reviews films, outlines fiction novels with tough female leads and dreams of being the first person to win two Oscars in the same night for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. When her fingers aren’t getting exercise bouncing across her keyboard, she’s reading Palahniuk and Vonnegut, practicing her Batgirl skills in the dojo or waiting by the mailbox for her Hogwarts letter. As Katharine Hepburn said: “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.”