Agents of SHIELD 1.13 "T.R.A.C.K.S."A tv review article by: Paul Brian McCoy
Finally! Things have finally come together in what would have been the season (possibly series) finale, if not for the nine episode back end pickup. "T.R.A.C.K.S." (I've somehow missed the significance of the acronym) is filled with death, violence, drama, and innovative storytelling as we jump back in time repeatedly to see the story from different angles.
It's easily the best episode since the pilot.
And I'm not saying that just because of the Deathlok reveal at the end (the one spoiled by Marvel well before the episode). Granted, this is the shelf right next to my computer:
But the Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) version of Deathlok is based less on MY Deathlok (here's a rundown I did about the character a few years back), and more on the more generic version that was relaunched in the 90s. Same Deathlok tech, very different Deathlok character. But Peterson does seem prone to the bouts of crippling suicidal tendencies that I loved in the Luther Manning version, so fingers crossed!
That's a definite improvement over the safe and sanitized approaches to the characters that we've seen slowly slip away over the course of the season, and a step in the right direction as we move into the final stretch of episodes (which will start back up in March). Especially as Peterson isn't the only character to get put through the wringer this week. Both Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) and Skye (Chloe Bennet) take a lot of physical abuse that serves to demonstrate just how bad-ass May is and provide a nice cliffhanger for Skye as she is tucked into a hyperbaric chamber after nearly bleeding out from gunshot wounds to the gut, despite hyperbaric chambers not really working that way.
As with the explosion that "killed" Peterson a few weeks ago, there's no real expectation that Skye will be killed off (although I'm sure some viewers have their fingers crossed for that). It's a perfect opportunity to have the character manifest some 0-8-4 abilities though, so that's what I'm expecting. Probably something that will spiral into the last few episodes of the season.
In the meantime, the shooter, Evil Billionaire Ian Quinn (David Conrad) is in custody on the Bus and I doubt he'll get to a lockup without taking some abuse along the way.
All in all, this was a nicely plotted episode, despite some glitches here and there with the script, particularly with some jokes that fall flat (although Fitz's (Iain De Caestecker) "You're the least supportive fake girlfriend I've ever had" was cute and I did enjoy Ward (Brett Dalton) and Coulson (Clark Gregg) trying to figure out how to use the holo-desk) and a lackluster guest-appearance by Stan Lee. The rewind gimmick was well done, as we kept jumping back in time to see what was happening with different characters and getting explanations for incongruous events. More innovative approaches to telling their stories might have spiced up some of the lesser episodes earlier in the season.
Sometimes, a little bit of flash is appreciated.
And speaking of flash, when the show returns in March, we'll be introduced to two recurring characters; an African-American combat/munitions expert and Bill Paxton as Agent John Garrett (!!!). Hopefully that will provide a nice spark. And then the following episode, Jaimie Alexander shows up as Sif (from the Thor movies, you philistines!), so things are looking up, however you look at it.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.