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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.14 "T.A.H.I.T.I." Review: Not So Magical After All

    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “T.A.H.I.T.I.,” was written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Bobby Roth. Bell’s last episode was “Eye Spy.” This was another action packed episode and featured the introduction of Bill Paxton as John Garrett. There were a number of terrific performances in this episode including, Clark Gregg, Elizabeth Henstridge, Iain De Caestecker, and Ming-Na Wen. Perhaps most importantly, this episode revealed the shocking truth of what really happened in “T.A.H.I.T.I.”

    There are two things about this show that really make it work for me. First of all they’ve done a great job slowly building these characters so that I feel I know them and so that they have a credible connection to each other. Secondly, they are able to tackle some interesting philosophical questions while looking for and infiltrating a secret military base.

    At the center of the episode is the fight to save Skye (Chloe Bennet). As the episode opens, the entire team is in the waiting room, waiting for news on her condition. Fitz (De Caestecker) and Simmons (Henstridge) are sitting closely together on the couch, supporting each other. Ward (Brett Dalton) and May (Wen), however, are on opposite sides of the room. Coulson (Gregg) paces nervously. Fitz worries that it’s his fault for not stopping Skye, but Ward tells him that he’s to blame because he’s her S.O. However, even as he says it, Ward looks meaningfully at Coulson, clearly blaming him for what happened. When the doctor arrives to suggest it’s time to call Skye’s family because they can’t do anything else, Coulson tells her that they are Skye’s family.

    May takes off to deliver punishment to the one she blames – Quinn (David Conrad) – and proceeds to beat the crap out of him until Coulson stops her. Coulson is determined to save Skye by any methods, and they take off to find the doctors who saved him. Interestingly, Coulson won’t give up Quinn to S.H.I.E.L.D. when he’s asked to, precipitating the arrival of Garrett and his protégé, Antione Triplett (BJ Britt). It’s interesting that Coulson doesn’t outright say (or later confirm) that he won’t let Quinn off the bus until Skye is saved because if she dies he’ll kill him, but it’s definitely implied.

    It’s interesting to see the team’s reactions to Coulson’s decisions. He doesn’t hold back any more of his secrets, finally telling Ward, Fitz, and Simmons the truth about what happened to him. I loved the scene in which Coulson gives his files to Fitz and Simmons and Fitz says it’s against the law for us to read that! Coulson tells them he doesn’t care about their clearance. It’s another way in which the team is breaking from S.H.I.E.L.D. protocol and becoming something more.

    Ward is clearly skeptical of Coulson’s choices and tells May as much. May asserts that people like them – who risk their lives for S.H.I.E.L.D. – need people like Coulson – who risks his life for theirs. There is a contrast drawn between May and Ward who are primarily agents of action, following orders, and Coulson who has to strategize, but also consider the lives under his command. Someone with empathy and compassion is a much better person for that task. Interestingly, Ward comments on liking May going after Quinn because it actually was a show of emotion for her. Ward is particularly critical of Coulson in this episode, and I wonder how that is going to play out in the future.

    Whether Skye should be brought back at any cost is also explored in the episode. Couslon is determined to save her, right up until the moment when he realizes just exactly how he was saved. Gregg is, as always, simply fantastic in this episode. I always love him going into the field, but his determination to find out what exactly T.A.H.I.T.I. is and then his horror at the discovery of the half a blue alien was particularly powerful. I had the good fortune to see Gregg at an event this week in Los Angeles and he commented that he’d asked to be kept in the dark about what T.A.H.I.T.I. was, so he was just as shocked as we were!

     Coulson finally does draw the line at injecting Skye with alien blood? Serum? Whatever it was, but he’s too late to stop Simmons from injecting it. Both Garrett and May, who have known Coulson for some time, realize that something is wrong with him. May, in particular, presses him about whey he’s not happy about saving Skye. And here Coulson lies – after vehemently declaring there would be no more secrets. He says he was scared that she would suffer as he had. In a way, he is protecting her from suffering from how people would look at her – and him – if they knew they’d been saved by an alien’s fluids. I can’t help but wonder what the possible side effects might be.

     There has been a lot of speculation about the alien. My first reaction was oh my goodness, that's Dr Manhattan from The Watchmen.  But there has also been a lot of comparisons to the alien from Prometheus. Who knew there was such a history of large, naked, blue aliens. It will be interesting if they make anything of these connections. Watchmen is a Warner Brothers/ DC property, however, making a crossover unlikely. Prometheus is Twentieth Century Fox property and ABC, who does S.H.I.E.L.D. do have some agreements in place, specifically for the new Gotham show. It will be interesting to see if this is actually developed as a link.

    I very much liked the way the show had Simmons question how much intervention was too much. It made sense for it to be Simmons as she is the doctor among them. I also very much enjoyed the dynamic that sprang up between her and Triplett, especially his comment at the end that he’d like to see more of her. It will be interesting to see Fitz’s reaction to the dynamic between Simmons and Triplett at some point.

    They created an interesting dynamic between Garrett and the team as he had a history with Coulson and also with Ward as his SO. I loved Coulson’s snarky “They scratch my paint, I’m gonna be pissed.” Which was also his declaration that they weren’t going to make him scratch his plans. In the end, Coulson negotiates a deal with Garrett for Quinn. I liked watching Garrett gain a grudging respect for the team, especially Fitz – who is also a master of snark. I loved his answering Coulson’s question about whether he could get them in with “To certain, horrible death? Absolutely.”

    The episode also tied into the overall mythology of the Clairvoyant. Quinn tells them that he is obsessed with knowing what happened to Coulson because Coulson is the only one that the Clairvoyant can’t see. Or at least couldn’t see what had happened to Coulson after he died. I had to wonder whether the Clairvoyant couldn’t see what Coulson saw in the Guest House. It’s very likely that this will only increase the Clairvoyant’s interest in Coulson and may draw his attention to Skye now as well.

    A quick shout out to the special effects team for this episode. I absolutely LOVED Fitz’s echo chamber where they examined all the records in 3D. The alien was movie-worthy. And the scene in which the bus lifts off and the cliff falls away beneath it was also superb. Gary D’Amico is the special effects supervisor for the show and visual effects are done by an army! I’ll simply refer you to the IMDb page for the show.

    The final scene sets up tonight’s visit from Lady Sif as we see Lorelei (Elena Satine) arrive on earth and make her first conquest. Looks like May and Simmons will have to be front and center for this one! What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked to see how Coulson was saved? Do you think this is going to imbue either Coulson or Skye with special powers? Did you enjoy Triplett’s interest in Simmons? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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