Agents of SHIELD: 116 “End of the Beginning” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a week away from the main story arc last week, this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dives straight back into the action with the return of Mike Peterson, now known simply as ‘Deathlok’, and some interesting developments surrounding the Clairvoyant; add to that the beginnings of the show tying in to the world of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and you get an excellent outing for the once-struggling show.
The episode begins with Agents Garrett and Triplett being attacked by Deathlok at a S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse, but he escapes through the ceiling before they can do anything to stop him: this prompts the duo to join Team Coulson, along with Victoria Hand and Agents Sitwell and Blake in the hunt for Deathlok, whom they believe can lead them to the Clairvoyant. The enlarged group split into random pairs and receive intel on the various candidates Skye has selected from the S.H.I.E.L.D. psychological reports as potential alter egos of the Clairvoyant: at the nursing home May and Blake head to in an attempt to find a man named Thomas Nash, who claimed to be a psychic, they encounter none other than Deathlok, who critically injures Blake and subdues the entire team with various crazy weaponry. As he escapes, however, Blake manages to hit him with a tracker allowing the team to hunt him down and hopefully find the Clairvoyant, whom they all now believe for certain to be Thomas Nash due to Deathlok’s presence.
So Blake is taken to hospital and Sitwell is transferred to a ship, where he is found under Georges Batroc’s imprisonment at the beginning of The Winter Soldier, thus signalling the fact that the film is occurring at the same time as the events of this episode. The rest of the team work out that Blake hit Deathlok with a tracker and find him at an abandoned horse-racing track: Simmons and Triplett stay behind at the Hub to assist Victoria Hand while the other agents head out to confront Deathlok.
However, what they find is far more interesting, as Deathlok leads them to a hidden room where Thomas Nash (played wordlessly by the interesting, and kind of insane character actor Brad Dourif) is hooked up to a large number of computer monitors, allowing him to see a great deal. He taunts them for a while via a computer about being the Clairvoyant, telling him that he will always be watching them, and builds up to his big reveal: that Project Centipede will kill Skye. He is cut short, however, by Ward shooting him dead, driven to murder by the Clairvoyant’s comments about Skye: naturally the rest of the team are none too happy about this, and Coulson orders Ward taken into custody, and he is locked up in the interrogation room on the Bus.
Back on the plane, Coulson talks to Skye about Ward’s sudden outburst, and realise that Nash knew how to push all of Ward’s buttons: combined with Skye’s findings in the S.H.I.E.L.D. psychological reports they realise that Nash was never the Clairvoyant, and that the Clairvoyant never had special abilities, just high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. clearance.
While all of this is going on, Fitz attempts to set up a secure line to Simmons at the Hub, so that Simmons can investigate the GH 325 that Coulson and Skye were injected with and report back to him with her findings. However, in doing so he uncovers the secure line that May had been using in the last episode (and, presumably, throughout the entire season thus far), and tries to work out what is going on. Until May finds him, that is, and pulls a gun: she ends up chasing him to the medical bay and narrowly missing him with her Icer (the new name for the ‘Night Night Gun’ that Fitz came up with last episode).
This interrupts Coulson, who was interrogating Ward about his potential involvement with the Clairvoyant. He believes that Ward is working for the real Clairvoyant and shot Nash to make S.H.I.E.L.D. believe the threat from Project Centipede was over, distracting from the Clairvoyant’s true identity. Ward asserts that he only shot Nash because he was threatening to hurt Skye, for whom he clearly has something of a blind spot.
Eventually the whole episode climaxes in a standoff in the plane’s loading bay, as Coulson and Skye find out about May’s phone line and confront her over it: May says that she did what she had to, that she can’t tell Coulson about it and that they should allow her to keep going, and Coulson naturally disagrees.
However, this confrontation is also interrupted as the plane changes course apparently of its own volition, and it is revealed that Victoria Hand is controlling the Bus from back at the Hub, ordering for it to be brought in and the team to be killed. A lot can be assumed of this moment: as Hand has high-level security clearance at S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems likely that she is the Clairvoyant; and considering the episode’s tie-in to The Winter Soldier, it would seem that both the Clairvoyant and Project Centipede are both part of the major threat now present in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So it would seem that the enemy Coulson and his team have been fighting all along is none other than HYDRA, and we are bound to see the fallout from this next week, and possibly for the remainder of the season.
A satisfying episode with plenty of twists and turns, some nice reveals about the Clairvoyant and the beginnings of a pretty hefty crossover event with Captain America: The Winter Soldierthat may well change the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever.