Welcome to SHIELD episode 10, where it’s a mid-season two-parter with a holiday break in between. In other words, plot chickens come home to roost and everything wrong happens so the audience can sweat about it over New Years.
And you know it’s serious when there’s a “Previously, on Agents of SHIELD” intro. It kindly reminds us about when Raina, the Girl in the Flower Dress visited a mysterious guy in a prison to ask about “Stage Three” and “The Clairvoyant,” because I’d completely forgotten to remember that scene and I’m recapping the show.
The mission of the week is to find and recover Edison Poe, former Marine, tactics expert, and convicted murderer, who was busted out of prison by three guys with super strength and Centipede implants. Other early episode exposition: Ward starts to joke about their sex life as he spars with May, and is met with a hard shut down. Skye is still doing research into her parents, and wheedles for more access to help her narrow down which SHIELD agent of the era could have dropped her off at that orphanage. Instead of giving her access (because he wants to protectively keep her from the truth), Coulson says he asked May to look into things for her.
Going up against Centipede means they’ll need backup, and they are provided it, in the form of someone who knows all about it. Mike Peterson, who we find pushing a bulldozer across a football field like a very cinematically-shot boss (“Did I beat Captain America’s time?” “Not even close.” Is Steve really that strong?), is our first recurring POC of the week.
Coulson takes the lull before Peterson arrives to warn May that Skye might be coming after her about research, a bit of subterfuge that May is not happy to be participating in. Not because she thinks Skye should know the truth, more like because she’s exhausted by the thought of having to interact with her. Peterson sticks the landing of integrating with the SHIELD crew by coming out right away with an apology for being a power crazed jerk and kidnapping and kicking a bunch of their butts the last time he saw them. As he says to Coulson, he’s dropped the villain act. This is his second chance, and he knows he won’t get a third.
Everybody heads off to Cleveland, where they have tracked down the sister of one of the soldiers, caught on security footage, who broke Poe out of federal prison. On the way, Peterson visits Coulson, eager to be of help in the field, only to have Coulson tell him that he wants him in the lab for testing. Using his super strength taxes him, and Coulson wants his own techies to be as familiar with Peterson’s limits as those at SHIELD HQ. Now, we all know that we’re going to see Peterson kick some superbaddie butt this episode, so I think that the real point of this scene might be when he tells Fitz and Simmons that it wasn’t SHIELD that perfected his Centipede implant (which now no longer holds the risk of self immolation, nor does he need to be topped up with serum in order to use his powers), it was the technobullet that they developed for Ward to shoot him with. Both SSibs get adorably flustered at his compliments.
On the way to talk to the soldier’s sister, Coulson notices Ward is reading some kind of eBook on the psychology of women, because I guess it’s implied that he wants to understand May better? Ward, babycakes. Even you should be able to tell that May is kind of atypical from the sort of generalizations made in books like that. Pick up The Psychology of Soldiers, for heaven’s sake. But despite how weird that is, I enjoy the rest of the scene for Coulson talking about his ‘cellist and how he had to basically leave her in the lurch when he died. She can’t know that he died fighting Loki, because that’s classified, and he can’t tell her he’s still alive, because that’s classified, so from her perspective he basically just stopped calling her. “Know where she is now?” Ward asks. “Course I do,” Coulson replies.
Then Coulson throws shade all over inter-agency dating, but it’s okay, Ward, because you’re not dating May. You’re just banging. Which is perfectly healthy, so long as that’s what you both want. Using a ruse and a
magical high-tech business card Ward and Coulson manage to get the soldier’s sister to call him and to trace the call to California.
Meanwhile on the bus, Skye finds prison footage of Raina visiting Poe to ask about the Clairvoyant, and Mike recognizes her as the lady who brought him to Centipede. Coulson maintains his hard line that the Clairvoyant couldn’t be a psychic because there’s no evidence that ESP is anything other than a myth. At this point I’m wondering if all this skepticism about psychics and telekinetics really lampshade hanging, or ominous foreshadowing. Meanwhile in a room full of shipping containers, Raina and Poe decide to set a trap for the team.
Mike and Skye share a nested “I’m a parent who can’t be with his child” and “I’m a child who can’t be with my parent” moment (Peterson’s son Ace is still staying with his sister) before everybody suits up to go take out this latest Centipede base. And of course, contrary to Coulson’s indications earlier in the episode, Peterson is along as well, in a brand new suit the SSibs made for him that monitors his vital signs so they can tell when he’s going to be overtaxed.
As foreshadowed, Centipede is ready for them. The three soldiers ambush Coulson, Ward, May, and Peterson and everybody fights. Three to one, Peterson gets injured, but manages to take one of the soldiers down before the rest are ordered to escape. Upon being questioned, the last soldier is killed by brain explosion just like in “Eye Spy.” In the dead man’s eye-feed, Raina recognizes Mike Peterson, and is interested what he has, unlike her soldiers, that lets him keep his super strength without repeated injections. “What he has is your key to Stage 3,” says Poe as the camera shows us a shot of Peterson (and Coulson, but we’re not supposed to think that that’s significant, yet).
Fitz and Simmons confirm that the dead guys’ explodey eye was the same as Amadour’s. Peterson asks who Amadour is and they answer “A one episode guest stint for an actor of color. We helped her, then she disappeared for a while.” “Kind of a pattern with you guys,” he says.
Just kidding, they actually say “Former SHIELD agent. We helped her,” and he says “Kind of a pattern with you guys.”
Unlike Amadour’s eyeball, this new one is untraceable, so they can’t track down Centipede using it. Coulson is alarmed by how fast Centipede appears to be making technological advancements, which reflects either lots and lots of manpower or very deep pockets or both. And now, some character development.
Poe finally talks to the Clairvoyant for Raina, but says he can’t reveal what he was told yet, and that if she asks too many questions about the Clairvoyant he’ll have to carve out her eyes with a steak knife. He did tell the Clairvoyant that she’s been doing a good job though, and she’s creepy!touched and kind of comes on to him. Actually you could just prefix everything Raina does with creepy! and it would be true. She’s got a very subtle evil about her that I like. May gets pissed at Ward for taking a punch for her in the fight, because A) she doesn’t need it and B) it might betray their relationship, and he gets all IT WAS TACTICAL I DON’T HAVE FEELINGS I NEVER HAVE FEELINGS, rounding it out with a “don’t flatter yourself” like the dumb jerk he is. May’s not the one reading psychology textbooks, Ward. It turns out Skye accidentally overheard at least part of the conversation, which frazzles privacy freak May into telling her that Coulson is not actually helping to research her parents because he doesn’t want her to know the truth. The truth, according to May, is that she needs to figure out whether she’s in SHIELD for the mission, or for herself. Which, okay, super mean to break her faith in her SHIELD dad, but yeah, that’s still been Skye’s problem from day one.
Skye responds to this by tearing up her printouts of possible SHIELD moms and hiding in her bunk. Coulson almost goes in to talk to her, but retreats when he hears her crying. There is sad guitar music. Peterson visits Coulson in his cabin, and it is revealed that he hasn’t seen his son since SHIELD picked him up because he can’t face him after being such a monster in the first episode. Coulson gives him a “you should think harder about being a dad” talk, because being a SHIELD agent means you can’t prioritize him. He says he’s seen “first hand” the kind of damage that can do to a kid, and my goodness, that could refer to anybody from Tony Stark to Skye.
Then Peterson calls his son and finds out that Raina has kidnapped him OHHH NOOOOOO. Thankfully, he tells the SHIELD team right away, so the last ten minutes aren’t the old trope of a character going to a secret hostage trade off instead of just asking for help. So, SHIELD can help out with a non-electronic tracking method that will let them keep tabs on Peterson until he’s recovered from the shipping container fight enough to bust out, and they head out to the trade point, but we were all warned that this was a two parter so of course something’s going to go wrong.
The first thing is that Ward, in his sniper’s perch, loses line of sight on Coulson, Peterson, and Raina as they go to make the swap due to a giant obvious cement truck, so, like, SHIELD agent scouting fail. Maybe next time pick a different building, Ward. Coulson and Raina begin sassy hostage negotiations, and Raina reveals that she’s not here to trade Ace for Peterson. Peterson’s betrayed them all to save his son. She’s here for Coulson.
Peterson grabs her by the throat, his last gambit, and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t let Ace and Coulson go. Raina simply replies that her employer doesn’t care whether she lives or dies, just that she gets Coulson. Still it takes Coulson to talk Peterson down with some advice about how he should be a good dad to Ace, because Coulson has so much dad experience not having kids or a family. I joke about Coulson being SHIELD dad and the team being a bunch of babies, but honestly a part of me was pretty skeptical of Coulson giving advice about how to be the father of a young child to a guy who is already the father of a young child. Not of every scene in which it happened, obviously Coulson’s got some personal experience to draw on about how SHIELD messes with interpersonal relationships, but some of the bits.
Anyway, Peterson lets Raina go and she turns over Ace. After he and Ace leave, she and her soldiers start to drag Coulson away, causing panic among the SHIELD team, who have no idea what’s going on. Peterson leaves Ace with Skye, and then runs back towards the Centipede folks to try and rescue Coulson with his superpowers because he wants to be a hero not a villain. Then that big truck that was blocking Ward’s line of sight blows up, with Peterson in the blast. So does the Centipede car. All the Centipede baddies themselves make off in a helicopter, shooting Ward in his sniper nest for good measure.
Stinger: Coulson tells Raina he won’t give her what she wants. She says all she wants is to hear about the day after he died.
So there you have it, folks, the first recurring POC character of the week and he dies in his second episode. Unless he hasn’t died because superpowers. And that’s not too implausible, in my book: having a dad blown up in front of his kid feels a bit dark for SHIELD.
What Centipede wants with Coulson is certainly the question that the show wants us to be focusing on during the holiday break. What is it about Coulson’s death that makes him the key to phase 3, instead of Peterson, who has somehow acquired a perfected form of the Centipede implant? Is it something that SHIELD did to him that we do not know about? Is phase 3 perhaps not even about perfecting the implants? Was it really Fitz-Simmons’ bullet that made Peterson’s implant non-fatal and self-sustaining? Or was it something SHIELD secretly did to him later at the Bridge?
Speaking of the episode’s title, it’s easy to see “The Bridge” as a reference to the episode’s last scene, it was also mentioned in last week’s ep. “The Bridge” was where Coulson said they were bringing Hannah the presumed telepath. So presumably the Bridge is where SHIELD receives new members of the Index, helps them cope with their new powers, and if, like Peterson, they so choose, integrates them with SHIELD. Integration with SHIELD was a theme throughout the episode with Peterson and Skye, who are both using SHIELD not for its own sake but as a way to get closer to their families, Skye by figuring out who they are, and Peterson by trying to become a hero for Ace.
There are a number of things to look forward to when the show returns in January, most obviously and intentionally, a reveal of more information (if not all the information) about Coulson’s death and resurrection. But there were other things in the episode and the sneak preview that I’m intrigued by. I hope that Peterson is not actually dead. I’m intrigued by glimpses of a harder, combat dressed, Skye. And I’m also interested by the various wrenches thrown into the team’s cohesiveness by this episode. If upon its return the show was about Coulson’s team pulling together to rescue him, it’d basically be the end of “0-8-4” on a grander scale, but serious steps were taken to make big rifts between second in command May, and Ward and Skye. There’s also some hints that SHIELD brass won’t feel the need to prioritize Coulson’s rescue, indicating that there will be some more wrinkles to the story than a simple rescue mission. See you in (nearly) a month!
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