‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: Flashbacks Abound in ‘One Door Closes’
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Episode 15 – One Door Closes:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at a bit of a crossroads. The show is juggling so many different story paths in the air that it seems virtually unthinkable that they’ll be able to merge them by the end of the season. But “One Door Closes” shows a possible route that will bring these stories together.
It’s all guesswork at this point, but I’m thinking the key to this season will be Gordon (Jamie Harris). He understands how to control his abilities, and how to help others like him to deal with the transition once their powers manifest. He’s apparently been helping Raina, and now he’s here to help Skye (Chloe Bennet). It’s not unexpected, although it does offer an interesting commentary on the nature of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization. In telling Skye that her powers are not an abomination, and that she can be “marvelous” one day, he explains that once his abilities manifested, his mentor was there to embrace him. She didn’t shun him or turn him away. Instead, she offered him a hug. Now, Gordon doesn’t mention that the mentor in question was Skye’s mother, but he does punctuate his sales pitch with a poignant statement: “I got a hug. What was the first thing S.H.I.E.L.D. did when you changed?” Basically, Gordon plants the idea in Skye’s head that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t really have her best interests at heart. They can never see her as anything other than an abomination, because they’re not like her. Thus, they’ll never truly understand this otherness that people with special abilities (and looks, since Gordon didn’t always have skin over his eyes) must endure.
And so it all builds up to a climax in which “the real S.H.I.E.L.D.,” led by Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Calderon (Kirk Acevedo), come to capture Skye at the cabin, only for her to unleash her powers after Calderon fires at her. The result? She essentially levels the entire forest, knocking Bobbi to the ground and impaling Calderon with a piece of a tree she demolished. Horrified at what she’s become, she asks for Gordon to come take her away, and he all too readily obliges. It’s a hell of a sequence, and one of the things I’m appreciating about Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is how it gets as much out of its budget as possible. From the destruction of the forest to the surprisingly touching sequence in which Skye realizes she can manipulate the vibrations of things around her, even something as simple as a stream of water. Every penny of the budget is on the screen, and it’s paying dividends in deepening viewer immersion in the show’s world. That said, the writing is also helping a lot in that regard, as the show is arguably more focused than it’s ever been. You could probably make a case that the show has always been headed in this direction, but it hasn’t always seemed that way. So color me surprised when we got a flashback to the day S.H.I.E.L.D. fell, complete with Agent Hartley (Lucy Lawless) showing off her badass side. The presence of Hartley, who hasn’t been seen since her apparent death early in the season, suggests that her character was always intended to be part of a larger arc. I’m not saying Hartley is necessarily going to come back from the dead, but her appearance in the flashbacks here indicates that there’s more story to tell with her. And that tells me that the show has been building up to this S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. storyline since the start of the season, since her death is essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back and forced Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) to move forward with his plans to remove Coulson (Clark Gregg) from power.
There’s also some good action this week: we get a cool little fight between Bobbi and May (Ming-Na Wen), and we get to see Skye take down one of Gonzalez’s operatives with the moves May taught her, in a rewarding sequence. Even the flashback shows Bobbi briefly kicking ass alongside Hartley and Mack (Henry Simmons). But the action isn’t really the focus here this week. And that’s okay, considering that we dig a little deeper into the nature of this S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. conflict. For one, we learn that Mack is so protective of Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) because he inadvertently caused the death of a kind, Fitz-like engineer on the day S.H.I.E.L.D. fell. It’s a compelling story to explain why Mack sided with “the real S.H.I.E.L.D.,” since he was at ground zero once the Hydra invasion started, and so he was there when sides were chosen and allegiances were revealed. He knows which people he can trust, because otherwise, those people would have betrayed him on the day S.H.I.E.L.D. fell. But they didn’t, so it makes sense that his allegiance is to them, even while he doesn’t necessarily hate the people on Coulson’s team. The horror of what happened as Hydra invaded seems to still linger with him, fueling his desire to see S.H.I.E.L.D. properly restored to its former glory.
Gonzalez wants the same thing. Hell, he’d even like to have Coulson on his team, provided it’s the good Coulson from two years ago, and not the “creature” Nick Fury resurrected from death with alien DNA. The ideological stand-off between Coulson and Gonzalez is interesting mostly because it’s two men recognizing the errors in their respective leadership styles. We flashback to discover that Gonzalez nearly ordered Bobbi to go through with her mission, from director Fury himself, to sink the S.H.I.E.L.D. boat before Hydra could get a hold of its cargo. But Bobbi and the rest of the team rebelled, arguing they could save the remaining S.H.I.E.L.D. members on the boat without allowing Hydra to get control of the cargo. Gonzalez admits that if he hadn’t listened to Bobbi that day, he’d have needlessly caused the deaths of countless S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and the organization would have been even more crippled than it is now, since his team consists of many of the people they saved that day. So while Gonzalez IS coming from a perspective of moral superiority, he gives that position authority by explaining how he’s grown as a result of what he’s been through. He doesn’t want to lead, but it’s something he simply has to do, since he’s actually grown as a leader whereas Coulson has arguably regressed, at least in Gonzalez’s eyes. (Because, really, who chases after an alien city?) But Gonzalez is also minimizing what Coulson has accomplished in both keeping S.H.I.E.L.D. alive, and in taking down Hydra. Similarly, Coulson fails to recognize that Gonzalez is somewhat right to be concerned about the direction S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking, since, to outside eyes, the mission to Puerto Rico just seems like craziness. But the episode seems to suggest that there might be some middle ground here, if the two sides can find it. Gonzalez wants Coulson’s help in opening Nick Fury’s toolbox, and while I’m not sure if that’d actually help or hurt the situation, I like that the series is keeping it an uneasy mystery, at the moment. For all we know, the war between these two S.H.I.E.L.D. teams might have to be put on hold, since Gordon is out there training people, and who knows what kind of havoc that could wreak? Sure, we have no reason to suspect his intentions are bad, but things are rarely as they seem on this show.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is plotting out a solid trajectory for this season. While it seems daunting to think of how the show will merge the S.H.I.E.L.D. war story with the continued threat of Cal, Ward and the remains of Hydra, as well as the lingering mystery of Gordon and his people, “One Door Closes” certainly keeps the intrigue alive.