Imagine if UNCLE was bought out by THRUSH, or CONTROL was overcome by KAOS or SPECTRE taking over MI-5 and James Bond’s job?
That’s how Phil Coulson and his Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feel. They’re not even considered the good guys anymore, especially by the military or Congress. They’re also not sure they can trust each other.
That never happens on NCIS, that’s for sure. This week’s episode, “Providence”, shows what happens when the good guys lose trust, as well as their jobs. Somehow they must find a way to reunite and battle HYDRA, who seems to be getting the upper hand. Not everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. knows what happened at the Triskelion, or that Victoria Hand is dead, thanks to Agent Ward. Even some agents are giving up. In a way, the world trusts HYDRA because it knows HYDRA’s evil. It’s not sure about S.H.I.E.L.D., whether it protects the world or is really a terrorist group. Maybe it’s due to Black Widow doing an excellent Edward Snowden impression in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and telling Congressmen that it still needs people like her. S.H.I.E.L.D. is getting the attention of Colonel Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), who says he’s just bringing a peacekeeping force to the Hub. It could also mean he wants S.H.I.E.L.D. in pieces.
The man who is clearly in charge is John Garrett, the best nemesis we’ve seen on TV in years. Bill Paxton is beyond impressive in this role. He has knowledge, skill and charm that would make him a great choice to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. Too bad he’s the evil “Clairvoyant”, and slightly more man than machine. Ward, who is hailing HYDRA, springs Reina (Ruth Negga) out of her cell, freeing her from spending days folding paper flowers. When she meets Garrett in Cuba, she’s disappointed Garrett doesn’t have supernatural powers. He calls himself “an artist, a con artist, perhaps, but an artist all the same.” At least he’ll help her reach her goal of changing the world. She’s intrigued, until he says “Welcome to HYDRA.” Seeing her expression, and the fact that he keeps calling her “Flowers”, hints that she may wonder what she really joined.
We’re also seeing a different side of Phil Coulson. He’s usually the unflappable agent in a great suit. Now, he’s all too human. He tries to maintain faith in the organization he’s worked for since just after high school, even at the face of despair. He’s just looking for hope that somehow, S.H.I.E.L.D. can be repaired and reforged, even stronger than before. As he shows his badge to the others, he says S.H.I.E.L.D. is there “to serve where everything else fails, to be Humanity’s last line of defense, to be the Shield.”
Yet he’s having problems having faith in others. He’s reluctant to have Triplett (BJ Britt) join the crew, but Simmons trusts him because of what happened at the Hub last week. He’s also still upset at May keeping secrets from him, concerning how Fury resurrected him. She also admits Fury ordered the use of T.A.H.I.T.I., but he wasn’t in charge of that project. She doesn’t know who, and of course only Fury does. Well, since Fury suspected something was rotten in the state of S.H.I.E.L.D., the doctor can’t be a HYDRA mole, right? May is worried that’s possible. It’ll take some time to restore trust between the two, but it’s more because of circumstance. What she did makes sense. Coulson is still upset he pinned his faith on things that weren’t real, and he’s taking it out on May.
Coulson’s crew also isn’t aware Ward is with HYDRA, and killed Agent Hand. That’s why Skye can call him with confidence through a direct line. It’s something he can exploit, as she tells him she’s erasing the agents’ identities from the internet, to become “agents of nothing”. Here, we get some insight about why he’s loyal to Garrett and his cause. They discussed what has happened, and that cellist Coulson dated. Ward does say that he didn’t want Skye shot, although Garrett is amused by this. As long as Ward remembers the mission, it’ll be fine. Ward tells Reina that being part of a team isn’t his speed, but he was the person Coulson wanted him to be. Surprisingly, she notes Coulson was a good man. “Don’t you owe a man like that something?” she asks. “Sure,” Ward says, “but I owe Garrett everything.”
Meanwhile, Reina is back on Phase 3 of the Centipede project, as they hope to replicate GH-325. It also looks like Ward did have that hard drive that has some key information they need. For now, the guys have a new mission: raiding S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Fridge, which looks like an extra-large Hilton hotel off the coast somewhere. They break in through guile, a helicopter and a couple of guns. Garrett reveals S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t really send dangerous technology to space. They wind up in the “Toy Store.” That includes that plasma particle beam from Peru, and something that’s buried in a secret place.
Back at the Bus, Coulson reluctantly puts all the S.H.I.E.L.D. badges in his vault, but notices his badge has some coordinates glowing on it. They’re not the co-ordinates to the Lost Island, but what could they be? He thinks Fury could be responsible for this, and he is willing to follow them. The crew, meanwhile, is skeptical. Maybe Coulson is grasping at straws, especially when they wind up somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. It’s a trap. HYDRA is behind this.
He’s not discouraged, though, but he’s close to it. “The world needs us. HYDRA is out there. We cannot let them win. We cannot let them define us,” he says. “We are not agents of nothing. We are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and that still carries weight.” He says it with conviction and despair, and you want to believe it. Still, the agents want more.
They get it when Coulson throws his badge, and it gets shot at by a hidden gun. He talks to the gun, identifying himself, and a door opens to reveal a hidden facility…and Patton Oswalt. He’s Eric Koenig, the caretaker of Providence, which is what he calls the unofficial facility. He also gives out lanyards to those who deserve it. Apparently he’s been there since The Avengers. He tells the others that Fury is dead, but privately tells Coulson that Fury’s OK but off the grid for now. Koenig also suggests Coulson not tell anyone, or else. That’s OK with him. Now he’s got a secret he can keep.
However, so does Grant Ward. Thanks to keeping his HYDRA status a secret, he’s able to get to Providence and Skye. It seems that the hard drive she gave Ward can’t be cracked without her password. After pretending to escape from HYDRA, he’s got 24 hours to get the password. If not, kill the agents and bring her to Garrett. Again, he’s the man in charge because he has Ward’s trust, while Ward has SHIELD’s trust. This is why HYDRA is winning, because they pretend to be likable, or trustworthy.
One more thing: Quinn is finally released from his cell, and he’s not happy since Garrett was the one who arrested him. Garrett tells him to relax once he sees what Garrett got from that secret place beneath The Fridge: the gravitonium from “The Asset”.
So, can S.H.I.E.L.D. be the good guys again, and make sure the world believes that, too? Before that, it must make sure they can all trust each other. They’re not at that point right now, and there’s some question if they’ll reach that point before the end of the season.
We shall see.
Next week, we’ll see if Ward can fool his former crew, especially Skye. Also, Coulson’s cellist friend will show up, and may be threatened by a villain who likes her music.
ABC will also likely decide if moving the show to 9pm for one night will be permanent. The show earned a 2.0 at 9pm, second in that time slot. Until then, new episodes air on Tuesday @ 8/7c on ABC. Watch full episodes on ABCGo.com, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video.