To my surprise, Agents of SHIELD inches forward. “Tahiti” is a surgically-implanted illusion and Coulson actually is incapacitated for a significant amount of time instead of mere seconds. Skye displays a whopping amount of social engineering, though it could’ve came apart in a few ways. A man who’s just a Level 8 causes SHIELD’s fight against Project Centipede ramps up, but we’re stuck with being told this info and seeing a bunch of dots on a radar map. At least Clark Gregg can deliver a rear naked choke. What a vast and awesome world!
Also of note: Bear McCreary scoring this episode with some decent, somber orchestral musicial pieces:
Agents of SHIELD, on one hand, is about a plucky rebellious crew loyal to Phil Coulson, thus willing to bend and break rules to rescue him. On the other hand, SHIELD is a such an institution that we’re supposed to believe that they’ll tolerate our heroes’ “ends justify the means” tendencies. Coulson is conditioned to “trust the system,” but his faith in “the system” is slowly eroding. The logical endpoint is for Coulson and the gang to leave SHIELD. But then they’d lose that sweet, sweet plane.
So the only explanation for May, Ward, FitzSimmons, and even Skye sticking around is that Nick Fury must approve of our heroes on some level.
“The Magical Place” follows the previous episode, the midseason finale, “The Bridge.” Coulson’s crew is trying to locate him and so we have the opening sequence of teamwork. Eventually the guy they nabbed, Van Chat, has ties to Project Centipede. Later on, they scare Van Chat by almost forcibly ejecting him from the padded room. Does SHIELD approve of these methods? Well, Victoria Hand offers token resistance and a stern face, but little else.
What about Skye? Thanks to Melinda May, Skye has her feet on the ground finding a way to dig info about Coulson’s whereabouts while getting away from the unyielding eye of SHIELD. Thankfully for her, she found some gullible saps to work her amazing social engineering sills.
As directly interaction with computers causes a SHIELD Lockdown, Skye steals a CEO’s Cadillac SUV and intentionally wreck it to get access to OnStar. The vehicle assitance service happily goes along with a strange woman’s request to find her “home.” OnStar doesn’t verify Skye’s identity or checks if she has permission to speak on CEO’s behalf making it a terrible advertisement.
After covering the wreck and while in CEO’s house, Skye is looking over the guy’s pictures and other stuff to aid her disguise as an all-knowing SHIELD agent. Skye also lifted May’s name and fashion sense for her covert operation. Of course, the CEO comes over, is totally convinced about Skye’s ruse, fails to actually speak to a lawyer, and goes along with Skye’s plan to find Coulson’s location with the help of hapless security guards.
Meanwhile, Coulson is in a ghost town that was an atomic testing site somewhere near the Mojave desert. Edison Po and Raina are trying their hardest to get something out of Coulson. Thankfully for Skye, they didn’t hide Coulson in a South American jungle or a Saharan oasis or something exotic. Thankfully for the producers, they breathe a sigh of relief of saving money at the cost of the villains’ intelligence. Skye discovers where Coulson’s being held, goes there, and alerts our heroes.
Back to Coulson. He resists the Clairvoyant’s efforts to find out how he was brought back to life after the Battle of New York. Project Centipede’s brain-scanning-and-arm-torture machine forces the Tahiti illusion to go away revealing surgeons operating on Coulson. Edison Po, for his trouble, gets offed via cell phone zapping. While Coulson knows he was implanted false memories of a “magical place” in his brain, he tells Raina that it’s “going dark.” He stalls just in time for our heroes to enter, take down the bad guys, and rescue him.
The status quo of Coulson leading a ragtag bunch with vague approval of SHIELD is now restored. Yay!
To tie a few loose ends, Coulson talks with the surgeon about how freaky the successful seventh operation was. Coulson had lost the wlll to live, thus the need to insert visions of Tahiti. Why is Coulson so special otherwise? I think Nick Fury sees Coulson as a valuable asset in the superhero age.
Also, Michael Peterson survived the explosion, but he’s badly burned and lost his right leg. The episode ends when is about to receive “further instructions” from… someone we’ll find about in the next episode?
Anyway, I await the ratings for Agents of SHIELD versus Tuesday night powerhouse NCIS as it isn’t the NCIS-killer ABC execs may have hoped. I’m not really buying that Coulson’s team could thrive under such a heavy-handed organization without Nick Fury being okay with their activities. A more interesting show would flesh out the SHIELD hierarchy to make them interesting characters to contrast with Coulson’s ragtag bunch. What we get instead is Victoria Hand, incompetent boss. Wow.