Agents of SHIELD
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review - Episode 14: T.A.H.I.T.I.

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 5 Mar 2014 16:00
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Well, this will be interesting.

Objectively speaking, T.A.H.I.T.I. is not a particularly strong hour of television even by the standards of episodic "mystery of the week" fluff like this series. It doesn't feature much memorable action, doesn't advance most of the characters in any meaningful way, devotes a bunch of time to introducing two new characters who might become interesting but aren't now and leans on devices like ticking clocks (two of them!) and "Because we say so!" science-magic to keep up the pace. And yet! I get the sense that it's going to be cited as a big improvement or "turning point" by many fans - not because any of those flaws are mitigated in some way, but because an extra detail that might suggest something big and cool comes in right at the end.

By now, the almost universal "rub" on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - whether you feel it took too long to get pretty good or whether you've given up - is that it was a disappointment to (prospective) fans because it just wasn't tying into enough Marvel Universe continuity from the movies or dropping any of its own. I'm down with the series having not lived up to its own (debatable) potential, but I'm not onboard with the assigning pass/fails to these projects on the basis of how many fandom-fortifying shoutouts and references get packed in. Weak TV is still weak, even if it's pushing franchise buttons. I watched something like this happen to Smallville, which over the course of a decade gradually morphed from a bad show that fans widely reviled for not using enough DC Comics references to a bad show that fans bent over backwards making excuses for because it was suddenly packed with them. (Arrow, so far, appears to be following the same basic trajectory but within a much quicker space of a time.)

That's not to say that I don't want Agents to keep A.) getting better and B.) pulling in more Marvel gewgaws to play with, just that treating these as one and the same is a handy illustration of why fans are often not the people you want to be listening to.

Anyway...!

When we last left the least well-managed subgroup of the already dubiously-functional top-secret (yet very well branded) spy agency, Skye went from being really happy to learn that her tragic backstory was mostly arranged to cover up her being some kind of extra-special superhuman being to being less happy to discover that she wasn't the kind of superhuman being who can brush off being shot twice in the stomach. As "T.A.H.I.T.I." opens, Team Coulson has gotten her to a S.H.I.E.L.D medical facility only to be told that there's nothing they can do - her wounds are fatal, and she's going to die.

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This spurs them to do the one thing "regular" people living in superhero universes are usually too deferential to the status quo to actually do: Point out that it's ridiculous for "simple" problems like this to actually still be problems. If Tony Stark can build a battery-powered robot-heart out of old bomb parts in a cave or Captain America can survive being frozen for 70+ years, it stands to reason that things like "shot in the gut" should be pretty damn fixable by now. And since Coulson recently discovered that S.H.I.E.L.D. has access to medicine sufficient to literally raise him from the dead, he and his crew heads off to bully their colleagues into doing the same for Skye - taking her shooter, CENTIPEDE-affiliated tech billionaire Ian Quinn, with them so that they have someone to punish should she die anyway.

This brings down the ire (and the appearance) of Bill Paxton (yay!) as Agent Garrett, who claims to have been after Quinn long before Coulson's guys were interested and also happens to be Agent Ward's former S.O. He also has an underling in tow, Agent Antwon "Trip" Triplet, who immediately falls hard for The Bus ("is that a full bar??") and then starts insta-crushing on Agent Simmons. Since Paxton has already been announced as joining the series for a 4 episode arc, they work things out for Garrett and Trip to join The Agents on their quest - which hits a new snag when a bunch of the revealed "truth" in Coulson's "How Did I Come Back To Life?" turn out to have been (cue audience groan) even further falsified.

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