The showrunners and Kevin Feige hadn’t exactly been cagey about events bleeding into and out of the greater MCU since pre-production on the pilot, but I don’t know if anyone could have guessed it would have taken this long to feel like any part of that strategy mattered. Last week, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally grabbed hold of a thread and gave a good yank to the show’s up-till-now pathetically safe tapestry. (Or, is it a security blanket?) As of the previous episode, there is finally the sense the world of Agents doesn’t exist within a vacuum within the Marvelverse. I had begun to think this show’s setting took place in some distant Marvel imprint that had never heard of any rampaging Hulks or chrome-domed telepaths in wheelchairs.
But here we are at last. Even if you haven’t yet seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, all of the information you need about the twisty spy-game shenanigans that impacted S.H.I.E.L.D. exploded in tonight’s episode. And it’s about f**king time. I think Agents, as a component of a larger piece of media, might finally be saluting—and being acknowledged by—the Masters of the Universe. (Not He-Man and Skeletor, you sillies!)
Tonight, I can actually say I’m happy to be writing about this show because, if I hadn’t been on the hook to do so, I’d have long since dismissed Agents and continued making my way through Fringe on Netflix. (Great show, by the way!) This one episode may or may not be a sign of long-form storytelling to come, but this one frickin’ rocked, and it’s not only because they packed a hell of a lot of reveal into 42 minutes: It’s because the story had clear significance and far-reaching consequences for these characters. (Except Skye, of course. Her Big Moment was a quick makeout with Ward.)
For any other show, I’d say it was overkill. But Agents has been treading water since last October, so the suddenly breakneck pace feels more like emergency morphine in the IV drip to a dying patient. It doesn’t heal the patient, of course, but damn, it’s a relief.
As far a recapping goes, there’s precious little point—a viewer could get whiplash trying. (Half-hearted apologies to Mickey Rourke—your character’s probably not coming back. Also, you were actually Crimson Dynamo with whips. And you sucked.) There were so many layers of betrayal, keeping the main characters a step behind, but for once it wasn’t annoying. Rather than make them look stupid, it instead did a good job of depicting their confusion as the bedrock of their organization crumbled underneath them. May’s got her orders. Garret’s got his orders. (Bill Paxton continues to amusingly elevate the material.) Hand gives her orders with icy conviction. Fury’s out of the picture. Everybody’s got a gun pointed at each other in wild-eyed terror and desperation. It’s a free-for-all, and it’s been way too long coming. It finally matters what kind of team Coulson assembled.
I’m not sure what the pitch must have looked like in selling Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Disney, but if it was anything less than “Turn, Turn, Turn,” then the wholesale purchase of Lucasfilm feels like it must have been a way of deferring their TV futures on Jedi. Instead, here’s to A New Hope.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter, if you must.