Agents of SHIELD: 118 “Providence” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
So, after the game-changing events of last week’s episode, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a lot to build on: not only is S.H.I.E.L.D. as we knew it gone, but the team has a traitor in their midst in the form of Grant Ward and ‘the Clairvoyant’ is well and truly on the loose. Basically, at this stage in the game, the team is screwed.
Now that Ward is working with Garrett, the episode is split into two different parts: one following Ward and his new HYDRA buddies, and the other following Coulson and his team. As we rejoin the Agents, Ward breaks Raina out of jail and introduces her to the Clairvoyant in a barbershop which is now apparently the front for a branch of an international terrorist organisation: she is naturally a little disappointed that he has S.H.I.E.L.D. clearance rather than any actual psychic powers, but her mood is lifted considerably when Garrett tells her that she will be put back in charge of testing the Guest House drugs for Project Centipede. So she is now fully funded and operational, and back in the saddle to create more superhumans in what is presumably a slightly more efficient way than how Mike Peterson became Deathlok, while Ward and Garrett have other things to worry about.
Other things like raiding the Fridge: while this is a fairly innocuous term for you or I, when the Fridge is a top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. containment facility in which everything bad from the entire season so far has been stored, it becomes a little more troublesome. So in the guise of prisoner transport, Ward and Garrett turn up at the facility and bust in with some help from a helicopter which also delivers a large number of HYDRA soldiers who essentially clear out the Fridge. They grab the Peruvian 0-8-4 from episode 2, the Asgardian berserker staff from episode 8 and a number of other things, as well as breaking out every prisoner S.H.I.E.L.D. ever placed in there, including Captain Douchebag himself, Ian Quinn.
However, when they return to their base, Raina informs Garrett that the hard drive Ward had, containing all of Fitz and Simmons’ research on the various items they have procured, as well as the intel on the Guest House drugs, has been encrypted by Skye and can only be unlocked by her. So Garrett sends Ward to find her and get the hard drive unlocked, but not before giving him a pretty solid beating to make everything look like a struggle.
Finally, once Ward is gone, Ian Quinn meets Garrett face to face for the first time and complains about being locked up in a tiny cell: however, he calms down considerably when Garrett shows him that they retrieved his gravitonium (containing a presumably super-powered Franklin Hall, but none of them are aware of that at this stage) from the Fridge, and are going to allow him to do some pretty nasty stuff with it.
I’m not sure how I feel about Garrett as the main villain of the season: he seems too cocky and swaggering to really present a truly chilling threat. Perhaps it’s because he hasn’t done anything major since the reveal of his identity as the Clairvoyant, but his attitude doesn’t fully line up with the ‘evil mega-genius’ the anonymous villain always seemed to be.
Moving on, we rejoin Team Coulson, who are assisting in the S.H.I.E.L.D. clean-up operation after the HYDRA assault, and not finding much good news: the majority of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s facilities (which all have very unimaginative names like ‘the Box’) have been compromised and what is left of the organisation is running a skeleton staff. Things are made even worse when Coulson receives a call from one Colonel Glenn Talbot (in the comics, Talbot is a recurring adversary of the Hulk and actually the first person within the US government to discover that Bruce Banner was the man who turned into the giant green rage monster), played by Adrian Pasdar of Heroes fame with a very dodgy hair situation; who wants anyone associated with S.H.I.E.L.D. to turn themselves in and submit to questioning to ensure that they are not working with HYDRA.
Coulson is understandably not keen, as he wants to continue helping people and not get tied up in the legal system for what could be a very long time, and he goes on the run with the team, now including Triplett. He orders Skye to erase the identities of everyone on the team, including the currently-absent Ward, and collects their badges: however, when he is about to put his own badge into storage, he sees it lighting up with a set of co-ordinates which he re-routes the Bus to.
After a significant search in the Canadian wilderness, they stumble upon a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base known as ‘Providence’, staffed solely by one Agent Eric Koenig, played by the fantastic comedian, and Joss Whedon alumni Patton Oswalt, who welcomes the team in: Coulson with open arms, the rest of them with some reluctance. While settling in, Koenig informs Coulson that Nick Fury is still alive and has only informed a select few S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and May informs Coulson that Fury was not the one in charge of the T.A.H.I.T.I. project which brought him back to life, and the mystery continues.
Besides the Fridge raid, nothing of particular note happens in “Providence”, but it does give us a moment after the momentous events of “Turn, Turn, Turn” to settle in to the new dynamic of the show: the team who once worked firmly inside the system are now outsiders, and their adversaries, previously working on the fringes are now the more powerful group within the show. As we thunder towards the finale, it’s all still to play for, but the threat of HYDRA is looming large over Team Coulson and it’s going to take a lot to defeat them.