Well, that was refreshing! A thoroughly enjoyable hour of superhero TV that hit all the right buttons: slick action sequences, legit laugh out loud dialogue, high stakes pathos, and a for real superhero/supervillain reveal! This is what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. always could have been and even though Joss Whedon himself hasn’t really been involved with the script writing or directing since very early on, the whole thing has an unmistakable Whedon vibe that is firing on all cylinders. I was as shocked as I was impressed, and really, really happy with “T.R.A.C.K.S.” Time-jumpy action TV can sometimes feel unnecessarily complicated, but this week’s S.H.I.E.L.D. shows us the story from every agent’s point of view and it works just right.
Coulson has gotten a lead on Ian Quinn. The guy bought a ten million-dollar package from Cybeterk, Inc. that his crew of cronies will be transporting across the Europe via train, so Coulson gently informs his counterpart in Russia that they will be taking over the operation — undercover.
The first undercover team is May and Ward, the latter of whom is having a hard time keeping his feelings in check, maybe because when they get to their couples sleeping compartment May takes off her fur coat to reveal a straight up leather Catwoman-type suit. Her undercover role was literally to scowl her way to a closed-door cart. Now she gets to do the fun stuff: climb out of the window and hop onto the train wearing laser vision glasses and looking fly as hell. Ward’s undercover disguise is cardboard. Just kidding. He is a train conductor.
Next up are Coulson and Simmons who are playing the role of father and daughter. Refusing to make a repeat performance of her awful improv from the academy a couple of weeks ago, she has invented an hilarious, elaborate back story for herself and Coulson which she pantomimes loudly for everyone in the train car to hear. They’re on their way to spread her mother’s ashes in Italy — she even brought an urn, with actual ashes inside! — and Coulson is her absent American father. “You never made time for her,” Simmons wails, “But you made time for your work! And your prostitutes!” Coulson angrily whispers, “Prostitutes? Plural?” But Simmons is feeling just fine about it, thank you very much. Even Stan Lee approves of her outburst. (I approve of her glasses.)
Finally, Fitz and Skye pretend to be new lovers working their way across Europe. She tries it on with a Scottish accent that sounds like a drunk Australian, so he decides to be American. They work one of the porters, asking for travel advice so they can steal his keys, and when Skye sells their story with a kiss on Fitz’s cheek, he nearly faints. Once they’re in the luggage cart, he suggests she kiss him even longer next time to make it even more realistic, and when she sweetly mocks him for being so into it, he goes, “You are the least supportive fake girlfriend I’ve ever had!” I’m not saying he’s admitting to bearding up in the past, but … yeah, OK. That’s what I’m saying.
As soon as everyone is settled into their undercover roles, everything goes tits up. Their comms go down. Ward and Coulson and May all get attacked by Cybertek thugs, forcing them to bail from the train. May obviously does this in the coolest way possible, pulling a parachute and landing in that iconic superhero three-point stance. Coulson and Ward just flop out of the train kike fish and get hit with a night-night bomb. By the time they wake up, May has been kidnapped, but not before she hot wires a car for them.
If you thought you’d seen the true badness of Agent Melinda May’s badassery, think again. When she awakes from being stunned en route to an abandoned warehouse, she’s hanging by her wrists from the ceiling. The guy who kidnapped her is the Italian Interpol guy Coulson talked out of not working this mission. Turns out he’s in Cybertek’s pocket. He tries to get May to tell him Coulson and Ward’s location. “Listen, sweetheart,” is what he says. When she won’t cooperate, he stabs her right in the chest. And do you want to know what this magnificent sorcerer of a woman does? She chides the guy for calling her sweetheart, says, “This is just what I needed,” and rips the knife from her chest while slashing her rope in one swift movement. She obviously disarms and incapacitates her captors in under ten seconds.
Italian Interpol guy intercepts a message from Coulson and goes to the bus to try to murder him, but May arrives right behind him and throws a knife into his heart before he can even raise his gun. Slamacowa, lady.
Once the bus is in the air, Ward and Coulson try to analyze Cybertek’s night-night bomb but they can’t get the holoprojector to work. Their failed attempts got at least four real laughs out of me. May needs to be stitched up on account of being stabbed in the heart, and she’s perfectly willing to do it herself, but Coulson helps her out while talking softly to her about how sorry he is that she had to see combat today because he knows how badly she hates combat. Ward sees them and skulks off, proving Coulson’s point that anyone who isn’t mature enough to say the word “sex” out loud should not be dating all the woman that is Melinda May.
Actually, a really cool thing happens when Ward is talking to Coulson about his relationship with May. Coulson doesn’t give him a speech about, “If you hurt her, I’ll kill you” or whatever patronizing man thing. He says, “If your feelings for her jeopardize a mission and get someone on this team hurt, I will make sure you spend the rest of your career working the midnight shift guarding Blonsky’s cryo cell in the Alaskan wilderness.” Awesome.
By the time the bus gets back to the train, it has been stopped in the middle of the countryside and boarded by like a United Nations peacekeeping force or something. Ward, Coulson, and May find Simmons hiding out in the luggage car firing a night-night gun around all willy-nilly. You’d be shaken up too if you threw yourself on a bomb for your girlfriend and best friend and woke up without them there. But Skye and Fitz are nowhere to be found because Skye and Fitz have followed the package to Ian Quinn’s house by themselves because Skye and Fitz are dumb, dumb, dumb. They could not get any dumber. Oh, wait. Skye goes into the house all alone to try her hand against a criminal mastermind and a whole group of elite mercenaries while Fitz rolls around under cars. So I guess they can get dumber.
Skye wander down to the basement of Quinn’s house and finds the Cybertek package, and also: Mike Peterson! Quinn wander in and finds her gawking at Mike, so he wakes him up from his airtight chamber and helps him fit into his new Deathlok leg. Yes, Deathlok leg. The graphics are crazy neat. This one scene probably cost more than Once Upon a Time‘s SFX budget for a whole season. Mike won’t kill Quinn because the Clairvoyant didn’t tell him to. And he won’t kill Skye for the same reason. So Quinn goes ahead and point blank shoots Skye in the chest, twice.
By the time Coulson finds her, she is so very nearly dead. Coulson and Simmons are flat beyond themselves in anguish. They put her into Mike Peterson’s airtight tube to stabilize her vitals. When they get her back to the plane, Simmons says in a robotic voice that she’ll do everything she can, but if they can’t find a way to fix her fast and raise her temperature, she’ll suffer irreparable brain damage.
And then Simmons goes to the back of the bus and breaks down. It’s so sad! (Where’s the fan fiction? Link me!) Ward is mad. May thinks he’s mad at himself because he’s making his “mad at myself” face, but he’s like, “No! This is just that one face I make!” He’s mad at Coulson, actually.
Mike Peterson hides in the bushes at the park, new Deathlok leg working just fine, and asks the Clairvoyant if he can see his son. The Clairvoyant says “Not yet.” The Clairvoyant is a dick.
What did you think of last night’s S.H.I.E.L.D.? Is the show finally getting awesome?