AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.17 ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’

Episode Title: “Turn, Turn, Turn”
Writers: Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen
Director: Vincent Misiano
Previously on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”:
“Turn, Turn, Turn” is the first episode that comes close to delivering the promise of true integration between “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the Marvel Studios movies. In terms of synergy, this is a well timed tie-in for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And events from the movie are immediately reflected in the show’s ongoing storyline.
It’s not a perfect union. Captain America: The Winter Soldier played out over the course of a few days, while “Turn, Turn, Turn” appears to happen over a couple of hours. There is a cut ahead near the end of the episode as Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and one other person observe the fallout of The Winter Soldier’s climactic battle. With the advance warning that the show’s writers had, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” should have been able to coordinate with the movie’s timeline more smoothly.
None of that takes too much away from one the best episodes in the show’s run. There’s some potentially fun times ahead as Coulson is personally betrayed by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent for the fourth and fifth time this season, including an apparent traitor on his team. 
Although if you really believe that the last betrayal will hold up then you haven’t been paying attention to this show. Supporting and recurring characters can become villains, but our leads are basically bulletproof. Even the open betrayal of Coulson’s trust in this episode doesn’t amount to much.
And as for those dead bodies at the end, I have a question for all of you: do the words “Life Model Decoy” mean anything to you?
From this point on, there are full spoilers ahead for both “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. So if you haven’t seen either of those then you should probably skip this review or else Coulson will use the Icer on you. 
I’ve been pulling for Bill Paxton to be a regular on this show since his first appearance a few episodes back. Paxton’s Agent John Garrett brought so much life to the show that it would be worth giving him a long term deal. I still think that’s a good idea in light of the twists in this episode. Garrett as a competent S.H.I.E.L.D. was fun, but Paxton has the dramatic chops to be the great villain that this show desperately needs.  
No one could have predicted that The Winter Soldier would kick off a meme dedicated to Hail Hydra. But it was a powerful moment when Garrett said those words late the episode. Although it was a very sloppy bit of writing that led Garrett to out himself as both a Hydra agent and the Clairvoyant. I also have a hard time seeing Garrett as the final reveal for the Clairvoyant, since I prefer the Asgardian theory about his identity.
It’s not as if the show hasn’t misled us about the Clairvoyant’s identity before. At the end of last week’s episode, Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) seemed like she was going to be the big bad of the season. But by the time that Hand revealed that she wasn’t actually working with Hydra, it wasn’t as much of a surprise as the writers apparently intended. 
I do have to point out that the bulk of this episode once again takes place on the Bus. I’m so sick of that plane that I was hoping it would be blown up in this episode. One of the things that screams “TV budget!” is the way that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” spends so much time on the Bus rather than creating and exploring new locations. 
However, this episode did have noticeably improved action sequences involving Agents Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) as they took on S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the Hydra sleepers within the organization. May’s broken friendship with Coulson was handled well, but I don’t expect that to linger too long. How long did Coulson stay mad at Skye (Chloe Bennet) when she betrayed the team? At least May was only reporting on him to the late Nick Fury, whom we know isn’t quite dead yet. 
As much as this episode did right, it failed horribly when it came to the relationship between Skye and Ward. A lot of terrible, on-the-nose dialogue was used in an attempt to get the audience re-invested in a potential romance between Skye and Ward. And it just fell completely flat, without a convincing performance from either Bennet or Dalton in that scene. 
The other potential romance on this show between Agents Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt) has a little more life because the episode kept them together without overplaying Triplett’s previously stated attraction to Simmons. Triplett and Simmons also had a heroic moment when they refused to be cowed by an apparent Hydra demand. Triplett’s anger at Garrett’s betrayal was also well played by Britt, as his character finally showed some real fire in that moment.
But as usual, it was Clark Gregg who carried the episode as an increasingly angry and paranoid Phil Coulson. The way that Coulson casually used the Icer on May even left Agent Leo Fitz (Ian De Caestecker) momentarily afraid of his boss. One of the things that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has done well is Coulson’s transition from supporting player to lead character. There’s a broader story going on with S.H.I.E.L.D., but it’s all personal with Coulson. He may actually be running the entire organization at this point… or at least what’s left of them.
Which brings us to the big turn in the episode: Ward’s betrayal of the team. While Garrett is being escorted away by Hand and a few random S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Ward shoots them all dead and frees his former mentor. 
I’m not buying it for a moment, but this is the most interesting thing that Ward has ever done on the show. It seems fairly obvious to me that Ward is going deep cover within Garrett’s organization at the behest of Coulson and Hand. And as for the people that Ward apparently killed in the operation (including Hand), that’s what Life Model Decoys are for. We haven’t really seen LMDs on this show, but that’s the only out if the writers want to use Hand again.
That said, I would be perfectly happy if the show kept Ward on Hydra’s side and promoted Triplett to take his place on Coulson’s team. But that would require “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to jettison one of its stars and I don’t think that the creative team is willing to do that. Still, I’m excited to see the next episode in a way that I haven’t been since the pilot episode. The show hit a lot of rough patches before it got here. Hopefully it can finally deliver on its promise.
Hail Hydra.