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SPOILERS FOR LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE BELOW
Well, damn, it looks like the writers/producers of “Agents of SHIELD” weren’t messing around when they said the show was intimately plugged into the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. It looks like the events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is reverberating throughout the universe — or at least, throughout everything that is “Agents of SHIELD.” To say that things are coming to a head is an understatement. Essentially every event, every episode before number 17′s “Turn, Turn, Turn” were leading up to this.
I have to admit, following up on the massive reveal of Bill Paxton’s SHIELD agent John Garrett as not just a HYDRA sleeper agent, but the elusive Clairvoyant, I had absolutely no idea where the show was going next. And after Garrett was taken down by Coulson and company at the Hub, I expected the final scene of “Turn, Turn, Turn,” where agent Grant Ward shoots Victoria Hand to free his ex-mentor to be the beginnings of Ward’s attempts to penetrate HYDRA as a double agent. Turns out — not so much. Though to be fair, it isn’t so much that Ward has turned as he’s simply revealed his true colors — in this case, serving his friend and mentor, Garrett, though one gets the impression he could care less about HYDRA.
As for Coulson and crew, they’ve escaped the Hub as the United States Air Force closes in for a bombing run. It seems that SHIELD is persona non grata these days. Coulson and team go dark, wiping all traces of their existence from databases around the world, and, literally, surrendering their badges. Skye is understandably bum about this last part. She did, after all, just got her badge like, what, a week ago? But before things become too bleak, Coulson gets a cryptic signal in the form of coordinates to a meet-up with Nick Fury! Or at least, that’s what Coulson believes. Everyone else, including May and tag-along specialist Triplett (B.J. Britt), thinks he’s gone cuckoo for cocoa puffs. Turns out, Coulson was right. Well, mostly.
While Coulson and company meet at an isolated base run by guest star Patton Oswalt, Ward and Garrett are having a blast shooting and blowing their way through SHIELD’s various facilities. The Fridge is hit, and if you thought a prison that contains superpowered criminals and dangerous alien weapons would be better guarded — well, then you’re not the only one. Apparently besides two clueless guys watching the front door, taking the Fridge is basically a cakewalk. In fact, calling it a cakewalk is insulting to cakes. And in case you still weren’t sure about Ward’s loyalties, he coolly guns down two SHIELD agents at point-blank range. Dude is cold as ice!
“Providence” is the culmination of a season’s worth of storylines — from the Clairvoyant to Ian Quinn to Centipede. Perhaps best of all, I loved how they turned Brett Dalton’s stale, boring character into someone who is actually, well, charismatic. The reveal of Ward’s true nature is more effective when we recall his confession to Skye in the previous episode that he knows he’s a “boring” guy. Yeah, not so much there, Grant ol buddy. Turning Ward into a bad guy was a ballsy move. I’m not sure if he’ll stay bad — if he does convert, I wonder how they’re going to justify all the bodies he’s left in his wake — but his character arc completely took me by surprise, and that’s saying a lot, cause man, I watch a lot of TV and I can usually see these things coming a mile away.
If you haven’t been watching the last few episodes of “Agents of SHIELD” — heck, if you haven’t been watching the last handful of episodes — you have probably no idea what the hell is going on. I personally love this type of storytelling, which rewards loyalty. Watching everything coming together has been utterly fascinating, even if I continue to have some issues with how SHIELD is portrayed. (There are times when they’re just not as “super” as they should be.) I can’t tell you if the showrunners knew what they were going to do from the first episode onward, but man, it sure feels like it, especially when Ward reveals his deceitful nature to flower girl Raina (Ruth Negga).
The craziness continues next week, with Ward putting his good guy face back on to pry a secret out of what appears to be a smitten Skye, while Coulson’s oft-talked about, but never-seen girlfriend (guest star and Whedon regular Amy Acker) is, well, finally seen.