Agents of SHIELD TV Reviews

TV Review: Agents of SHIELD, “Turn, Turn, Turn” (S1/EP17) – Where Do We Go From Here?

To read our other Agents of SHIELD episode reviews please go here.

agents-of-shield-captain-america-e1393809368554

  • Airdate: 4/8/2014
  • Director: Vincent Misiano (Blacklist, Gossip Girl,  previously directed “FZZT” for SHIELD)
  • Writer: Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen (SHIELD co-creators/show-runners)

There are only four episodes of SHIELD which I genuinely couldn’t wait to watch: the pilot, the Thor: The Dark World tie-in, the one with Sif, and “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  Of those four, only “Turn, Turn, Turn” actually met and exceeded expectations.  Heck, it seems significant that despite all the negative things I’ve had to say about the show I was stoked (people still use that word, right?) to see “Turn, Turn, Turn.” In fact, “What happens to Agents of SHIELD now?” was one of the first things I thought after seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  

(If you haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, and would prefer it to remain unspoiled stop reading right now.  Seriously, though, if you haven’t seen Winter Soldier yet then why the heck did you watch “Turn, Turn, Turn”?) 

THE RECAP

Did you know that ABC’s website actually does recaps for every episode of Agents of SHIELD?  They do “Field Reports” where they recap the key plot points accompanied by embedded videos of the most important scenes in the episode (videos which are not embeddable through my web server, though – grr, argh)?  You can check out their recap for “Turn, Turn, Turn” here.  Just remember to come back to read my below review.

THE REVIEW

Throughout its short history, Agents of SHIELD has been disparagingly dubbed “JAG for comic book nerds,” and saw its viewership continue a sad, downward trajectory.  There have been the inevitable, “Arrow is so much better than this!” arguments, even though regardless of quality Arrow is actually watched by several million fewer viewers per episode than SHIELD.  We were promised a Joss Whedon show, and although we pretty well knew Joss wouldn’t actually be a significant presence past that pilot we hoped that his little brother (and his little brother’s wife) could serve as sufficient proxies.  Well, it took 17 episodes, but, dangit, we finally got that Joss Whedon show, as “Turn, Turn, Turn” reveals SHIELD has been pulling an Angel season five, Dollhouse season one on us and presenting an episodic show that was secretly planting the seeds for a final run of awesome serialization.  That is now the go-to Joss Whedon compromise for doing a geek show on a major network which demands a broad appeal.

angel
Angel’s fifth season – based on that first half, you can see why WB canceled it; based on the last half, you can see why they were wrong to do so

However, it is a compromise which we now know was forced upon Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and their less-often-heard-from Executive Producer Jeff Bell.  After “Turn, Turn, Turn” aired, Bell told EW they’ve know they were doing “a showed called Agents of SHIELD, and in Winter Soldier SHIELD gets blown up” since they “first came together a year ago.”  Whedon and Tancharoen told THR they were shown the script for Winter Soldier literally a day or two after they received the order to do a show called Agents of SHIELD.  Part of the deal was that to maintain Winter Soldier‘s big, hydrated twist a surprise they were forbidden from using the word “Hydra.”  So, instead, they created things like Centipede and the Clairvoyant, knowing full well that by the time Winter Soldier came out these would revealed to actually be Hydra.  

agents-of-shield-season-1-episode-17-review-hydra
Suck it, Centipede. The real big bad is finally in town.

So, really, from its inception Agents of SHIELD has been a show handcuffed by a need for fidelity to and guarding of potential spoilers for larger pieces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Suddenly, so many of the pitfalls of the prior 16 episodes make a lot more sense, as SHIELD has pretty much been fiddling its thumbs and slowly building up its characters to the point that hopefully we’d be invested by the time the world of the show and lives of its characters were torn asunder by Captain America.  This made SHIELD a show preaching “respect the process” in an era of instant gratification (see: the comparatively advanced rate at which similar genre shows like Tomorrow People, Vampire Diaries, Arrow, Teen Wolf, etc. move).  It doesn’t forgive Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen’s sins as show-runners and head writers, but it does make us more sympathetic to the difficulty of their job and appreciate everything they’d been doing to lead up to the reveal of Ward as a member of Hydra.  

Sadly, one of the benefits of writing this review several days after the fact (so sorry about the delay) is that I do so knowing full well how “Turn, Turn, Turn” did in the ratings.  As you can see in my “THE NOTES” section it actually set a new series low, receiving no Winter Soldier bump whatsoever.  Clearly, the wait which has led up to “Turn, Turn, Turn” was simply not worth it for a lot of people.  This also points to the pitfalls of doing an episode which so completely tied to the larger events of a film which by the time of the episode’s airing had only been in theaters domestically for 5 days.  I can’t begin to imagine what “Turn, Turn, Turn” must have looked like to anyone who had yet to see Winter Soldier.  Heck, unless I missed it this episode never even stopped to bother and explain what the heck Hydra even is. 

SHIELD Seriously
Daddy’s not mad, just disappointed, Fitz.  Now, open this damn door so that I can smash your brains in!

For those of us who have stuck with SHIELD, though, and were there opening weekend for Winter Soldier “Turn, Turn, Turn” was easily the most engaging and rewarding 43 minutes yet accomplished by this show. From the way the Mexican stand-off at the beginning turned so quickly from Skye and Coulson vs. May to Fitz then briefly not trusting the whole lot of them to Coulson bellowing, “Boo-ya!” after his Star Wars-esque gunning down of the SHIELD drones to Agent Garrett’s “Hail Hydra!” to Ward’s putting in a couple more bullets into Victoria Hand to make sure she was dead this was freakishly engaging.  Sure, it seemed clear from the moment he was cast that there’d be more to Bill Paxton’s Garrett than they were letting on, with his ultra chumminess a key giveaway (dude was nice – a little too nice).  Plus, the “I never told you that key detail, and the only way you’d know it is you’re the bad guy!” and “No worries – we had the room tapped, and heard everything” tropes were perhaps a bit too familiar and a tad lazy, but boy were they plenty effective here.

Plus, now that the Hydra tenticles are out of the bag it seems like they’ve been freed up to not only get bold with their own characters (Ward’s a secret bad guy, y’all!) but also comic book-based ones.  It seems fairly significant they were allowed to kill off Victoria Hand.  Sure, Saffron Burrow’s performance won’t exactly be missed, even if she finally got a good line this week, “The number of people I trust is now up to 7,” but it’s not like Hand is a completely and utterly disposable character in the comics.  However, now she has been introduced and summarily killed off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It didn’t seem like SHIELD would have been allowed to do that kind of thing earlier in the season.

Survive, dangit
Survive, dangit

This all may have taken too long to arrive, but Agents of SHIELD was a show which was not really working and shying too far away from the potential grey moral areas of its subject matter as well as under-utilizing potential, proven spy tropes.  Now, we have a character who’s not gone dark side but was actually dark side from the very beginning, although Ward’s stopping short of actually uttering “Hail Hydra!” leaves some doubt.  This could turn him from boring season 1 Angel of Buffy to awesome evil Angel from season 2 of Buffy, just with more ambiguity.  Plus, we have the “don’t know who you can trust” trope on fantastic display, playing with expectations by turning foes (Victoria Hand) into friends and friends (Garrett) into enemies.  They even did enough that while we never would have truly suspected Coulson as a member of Hydra you can completely understand why Hand did, Simmons’ resigned reaction acknowledging how compelling Hand’s argument was.      

THE BOTTOM LINE

I don’t know how well “Turn, Turn, Turn” would hold up for anyone who hadn’t already seen Winter Soldier, but for those of us who have this was almost mandatory viewing.  Agents of SHIELD has slowly been making gains in 2014, yet it never quite rose to the level that I would comfortably recommend it to anyone who had given up on it.  Well, “Turn, Turn, Turn” is finally that game-changing episode the ABC promo announced has been promising for seemingly months, and with everything thrown into such complete disarray they seem posed to finally deliver the show we all thought we were getting back in September.  Is it too little too late?  Ratings wise, maybe, but in terms of the actual quality of the show they’ve never been better.  If this is to be the only season of this show it seems set to go out on an absolute hot streak.  After “Turn, Turn, Turn,” I can now, without hesitation, say something I’ve rarely been able to say in relation to this show: I absolutely can’t wait for next week’s episode because I have no idea where this is going (and I love it!).

THE NOTES

1. Have you seen the ratings lately? – The 16 episodes leading up to “Turn, Turn, Turn” was the type of compromise demanded of the needs to maintain a broad appeal while holding back story elements meant to be a surprise in Winter Soldier.  However, the wait may have been too long for anyone but the hardcore viewers  because despite the ginormous worldwide box office numbers for Winter Soldier over the past 10 days “Turn, Turn, Turn” received no bump in viewership whatsoever.  In fact, it set a series low in the key 18-49 demographic.  Sure, a lot of people will likely check in on DVR, and maybe watch “Turn, Turn, Turn” for the first time next Tuesday when it was re-run as a two-hour event with the next episode.  However, Agents of SHIELD just had its best opportunity ever to be event programming, and for those of us who stuck with the show it was definitely that.  For everyone else?  They may not be coming back. 

2. Because I lost track that the Hub is actually a different place than the Triskelion (aka, the big fancy building serving as SHIELD headquarters in Winter Soldier) I was waiting for Captain America’s big “your best friend might be a Hydra agent” speech from the Winter Soldier to cut in through the PA at any moment, particularly once everyone was off the plane and in the Hub.  

3. Okay.  I get it.  They wanted us to briefly fear for Simmons well-being and think Tripplett was a traitor as well as simply highlight the instant unease which result between all SHIELD members after learning of the Hydra infiltration, even getting between a flirtatious, potential romantic pair like Simmons and Tripplett.    However, come one, did they maybe overplay their hand there a little bit because that dude was straight up creeping on that poor girl before giving her that knife!  He may not be Hydra, but those were some serial killer-like looks in that one scene.

4. Am I the only one who wanted the Bus to be completely destroyed during this episode, forcing them into a new, better set ala Angel’s film noir detective office being blown up at the end of the first season of Angel?

5. So, that last look Coulson gave Ward as he departed with Hand to escort Garrett means Coulson totally suspected something wasn’t quite right.  Right?  Actually, maybe not.  Maybe I just don’t want to believe how truly awful at his job Coulson has turned out to be in Agents of SHIELD.

SHIELD May

6. I completely loved May’s conversation with Coulson about how she is the one who truly selected his team, each member – other than Skye – picked for their strategic utility in the event that Coulson needed putting down.   Come on – we all knew that May wasn’t really going to end up being a bad guy.  Her “a good guy with a secret” reveal was expected; Ward’s was not.  

Well, I’ve said enough.  What about you?  Join in the conversation in the comments section to let us know what you thought of this episode.

Second Opinions

 

2 comments

  1. This is my favorite episode of the series so far. Most of the fake outs didn’t fool me but in the final minutes when Ward asked to go to the Fridge, I knew something was up. I wouldn’t have pegged Ward as Hydra. One thing that I am very surprised about is the low ratings, which means not all of the viewers that watched the previous episode bothered to find out what happened after Hand have the orders to kill everyone, but Coulson. Plus I’d expect some crossover hype from CA: TWS. It would have been so cool if Caps message was also played at the Hub “your best friend might be a Hydra agent” than get a shot of Ward haha. Thanks again for the link as always.

    1. This was also my favorite ep of the show so far. I knew something was up with Ward at the end, but based on that last look Coulson gave him I suspected he was off on an under cover kind of thing. The fact that Ward stopped shirt of hailing hydra seems significant, but now that the door has been opened I hope they don’t back through it and reveal some kind of fake out with the Ward evil turn. I am still surprised the ratings did not improve one iota. Not a huge bump necessarily, but you would have expected some kind of improvement. The fact that it actually went down from last week is doubly damming since, as you pointed out, it means there were those who didn’t deem it mandatory viewing to see what happened after last week’s cliffhanger (at least not “watch it live” mandatory). Ouch.

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