Tune, Tune, Tune in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
*** Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen "Turn, Turn, Turn." ***
They hide in plain sight. They earn our trust, our sympathy. They make us like them. And when you hesitate, they strike.
"Must write about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." That was the note I wrote myself just minutes after watching "Turn, Turn, Turn." I was going to do it some time later this week, but immediately the words came flooding out. I haven't written a lot about AoS lately because another new favorite show, The Blacklist, wouldn't let me stop thinking about it, writing about it, or making GIFs during my free time. I would always plan on doing something for AoS, but then something always got in the way. By the next time I had a moment, usually taking the entire week, I would be writing about The Blacklist again, because I was so taken aback by how incredible it was, and I was and still am completely caught up in the what-the-hell are they to each other relationship of Red and Liz. But I regret that I lost all this time that I could have also been praising Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I need to better balance my time between these shows in their second seasons.
For existing in a world of superheroes, AoS lives firmly in a beliveable reality precisely because it infuses spot-on emotion, great action, and fun dialogue in the face of the more out there aspects, which is what so many shows with fantastical elements don't seem to grasp. My favorite series tend to start with episodic elements and introduce an undercurrent of a larger story, and I adore how this series has slowly but consistently teased out a number of mysteries and is now bringing those threads together in a frantic end run to the season finale. It made us quickly fall in love with all these multifaceted characters, showed us who they are through their actions and relationships, and ties into a larger world, the way the excellent Marvel movies have been. Unlike those gotta-have-every-answer-now people who prematurely abandoned the show because it didn't regularly feature recognizable comic characters and completely self-contained, mind-numbingly simple to follow storylines, I've known from the beginning that #ItsAllConnected. It needed to establish itself and stand on its own. I always trusted Joss Whedon and the terrific people in his 'verse, especially now Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, to deliver on a promise of excellence and imagination, and I trusted the actors to provide the humor and heart that they have done in spades.
Sadly, I didn't get a chance to go to Captain America: The Winter Soldier before this episode aired. I was busy and I was going to see it this weekend. I knew something would be spoiled if I watched "Turn, Turn, Turn," maybe the best episode of the season so far, and certainly the most devastating. I wasn't wrong, but that won't ruin the movie for me and only enhanced the episode by being far-reaching. I never imagined how far they would really go and so soon. So much has already happened to these characters in the first 17 episodes. Just as a reminder, they had to learn to work as a team; Coulson came back from the dead and was physically and mentally tortured; Simmons and Skye both nearly died; Ward revealed an unspeakable part of his childhood; Ward and Fitz were sent on a suicide mission without an extraction plan; Skye was revealed as an 0-8-4 (object of unknown origin), who people had died to protect; Mike Peterson, the first person they saved, was turned into Deathlok, fighting against S.H.I.E.L.D because he has no choice; T.A.H.I.T.I. turned out to be a not so magical place; GH325, a powerful regenerative drug synthesized from an alien (Kree?), saved Coulson and Skye; and May became someone Coulson no longer trusts or considers a friend.
After everything, the biggest reveal was still yet to come in the final scenes of "Turn, Turn, Turn." I can't imagine how it can get more devastating before the season's end. Ward's is the kind of story decision I both hate and love. It's a beautifully done show, and a choice like must be a hard one. It takes a character we trust and completely changes everything we thought we knew. At least that's what it looks like. In the end, after he did what he did, staring at the blood, hardly hearing "The Clairvoyant's" words, he seemed sad, lost in the sudden betrayal and brutality of what he had done. Could it be because he had to, not because he wanted to? I will keep hoping that's the case until I see the next episode.
The series has always conveyed the feeling that these are good people in a very dangerous world. It's hard to accept for the moment that there was a deadly traitor in the ranks. It's a very disconcerting development since Dalton was always playing it as the good guy, as a cold-blooded, sociopathic Hydra agent would have to do while biding his time. Now I will rewatch these first episodes and see every action and word as having an ulterior motive. Everything is spinning out of control. This is a great decision to keep the story fresh and interesting. If things didn't happen to test the team's loyalty to each other and our loyalty to the show, then what would be the point? This is the kind of writing that keeps me coming back for more. It makes it more difficult to watch but unveils pieces of a deeper story that those of us who stuck with the show were certain was there all along. "Turn, Turn, Turn" is the kind of episode that makes or breaks a series and it's not even a finale. It absolutely made it. It was executed perfectly and with all the emotion of everything that's happened and the possibilities of more mystery, adventure, and poignant loss and revelations to come.
Don't forget, you can get the AoS poster for Providence at 1:00 AM PST on Friday, April 11, in the Marvel Store. I'm now sad I missed the Turn, Turn, Turn poster. Even though I didn't have the money to get them all and I thought the following ones might be more my taste, this was an episode well worth commemorating.