Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 13 review: T.R.A.C.K.S.

Review James Hunt 10 Feb 2014 - 07:02

2014 is looking like a good year for SHIELD, which has just delivered one of its best episodes yet...

This review contains spoilers.

1.13 T.R.A.C.K.S.

This week: SHIELD, on a train. Like Under Siege 2, only with fewer chefs. But wait! Far from being another catalogue of missed opportunities, simplistic plots and embarrassing dialogue, it was actually… quite good. For the second episode in a row. Has the show turned the corner? Please, for the sake of my sanity, let it have turned the corner.

So it is that after twelve episodes of mind-thumpingly pedestrian output, someone finally seems to have let the writers on Agents of SHIELD loose, allowing them to try out something we haven't seen on every weak genre series out there. Specifically: an episode which tells the same events from multiple viewpoints. Okay, it's not exactly Primer in structural terms, but for a series that hasn't displayed a lot of subtlety thus far, it's nice to see them write a story that assumes the audience is actually paying attention for more than fifteen seconds at a time.

The non-linear action led to some interesting moments, especially during the initial moments of re-orientation. The decision to show the train "disappearing" from Coulson and Ward's perspective was smart, and a bloodied Agent May turning up at just the right moment was a shocking enough moment to be worth the poor fake-out that preceded it. I wouldn't call it gripping, but it was better than most.

Even the character moments were good. May and Ward still have no physical chemistry, but at least their personalities are starting to spark off one another. Simmons' rehearsed accusations to Coulson were genuinely hilarious, born as much out of character as execution. Ward and Coulson's failed attempt to use the holo-interface was the first time this show even felt like something with Joss Whedon's name attached, and there was even a hint of flirtation between Skye & Fitz, which is impressive work for a series so short on charisma that its entire cast only gets one person's to share.

Meanwhile, the ending of the episode was surprising in ways this series could have only dreamed of during its opening run. For the first time since the show started, it looked like one of the characters might be in actual jeopardy. The fact that she pulled through probably isn't supposed to be as disappointing as it was, but that they managed to create uncertainty at all deserves applause.

Finally, the episode's stringer actually gave us the thing we've been crying out for: a recognisable name! It turns out that Mike Peterson is going to become (a) Deathlok, and though he might not be a first-tier character (or second-tier, or third-tier…), he IS a character we recognise. Even if they've not bothered to use most of his comics background, it's hard to get a cybernetic man too wrong. Finally, a character I want to see more of.

So all things considered, it's been a pretty good week for Agents of SHIELD. It seems to have helped that some plot threads didn't really get a look in, such as Coulson's depression and Skye's parentage. If we're lucky they'll be resolved as quickly as possible and then dropped, because if this episode teaches us anything, it's that we don't need certain subplots slowing down the rest of the show.

With two good episodes in a row, that actually means we've seen more good episodes in 2014 than bad ones. I don't know about you, but I like the sound of those odds.

Read James' review of the previous episode, Seeds, here.

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Your review has too much of your own opinion, which isn't valuable to anyone. I bet you're the kinda guy that thinks firefly ended at the right time.You also probably think Ryan Reynolds was a good choice for Green Lantern.

Which one was the bad episode? This half of the season has been great. I'm guessing you mean the Coulson reveal, but the rest of that very episode was good with qualifiers and superlatives, particularly Skye acting like May. And though the reveal may have been disappointing, it still LOOKED cool. Plus mike Peterson's return! Again!

Firefly absolutely ended at the right time. Had it not suffered the ignominy of being cancelled just as it was entering it's "prime" it would have became a show with it's own high and lows, something a bit more ordinary, instead of being the internet's poster-child for shows "hard done by fate". A fate that has given a decent show a reputation not deserved.
And I didn't think Ryan Reynolds wasn't too bad as Green Lantern who as a guy who shoots "magic" green stuff out of a ring was always going to be a hard sell to audiences even in a saturated super-hero market.
Guess I'll hand in my "geek-card" in at the door on the way out.

Sorry i'm stumped - when is this on in the UK again? Has it been lumped onto E4 or is it still sticking around on C4? And what day? What time? I've seen bupkiss on this recently.

A couple of episodes have aired in the US since December, but it is now on another three week break. Channel 4 are still going to air it, but are likely to wait until the back end of the season resumes properly before putting it back on over here.

I think most reviewers use personal opinions when reviewing shows or films. I don't understand how an interesting review can be written without using any opinion whatsoever!

This episode didn't really appeal to me except for a single part of it.

"Trains" just don't get me interested as a plot device, and it has a lot to do with their very nature. Trains either go forwards, or they go backwards, and that's it. Which leaves characters little room to actually be surprised. Unless the bad guy goes on the roof of the train, they're either in the next car, or the one after that, zzzzzzzzz.

I almost turned this show off, it was that boring to me, until they thankfully jumped off that train.

Best part of the episode...Skye getting shot...twice!!! Worst part of the episode...Skye surviving from getting shot twice!!!

How do americans program their DVR's if they keep getting all of these irregular breaks? No wonder shows fail so easily, when you never know when they're actually going to be shown. I'm glad I can just set the Sky+ in the UK and get regular weekly updates of my favourite shows. No wonder Channel 4 are waiting until March to show the second half of the season.

As a Brit residing Stateside (from time to time), my DVR has a setting for just new episodes. Don't know if that's standard but it is through Brighthouse.

Finally, the episode's stringer actually gave us the thing we've been crying out for: a recognisable name!"

We? Nope. The more reviews I read, the more it seems that a lot (not all, but a lot) of reviews for Shield and Arrow have very little to do with the individual quality of each respective show and a lot more to do with which characters/storylines from each franchise have appeared.

Channel 4 are restarting the season at the start of March so that once they catch up, there will be a straight run to the end of the season. Whilst I understand their logic, it does seem a little old fashioned when people can just ask their peers what happened.

best line in the ep: "i saw you guys frozen on the field. you looked ridiculous"

why no mention of the stan lee cameo

I'm amazed how often people misunderstand the point of a review. It's an opinion, doofus. That's the point.
And actually I agree with Glasgow Guy - RR wasn't the problem with the GL film. The script was.

This episode was fantastic, AoS really upped its game this week. I've enjoyed it the entire way through but this week was hilarious, gripping and very well written. I was kind of disappointed Skye lived (nothing against the character but I always like it when shows have the nuts to off a major character at a seemingly random point because far too often characters are put in jeopardy and you know they'll make it out). Also, that Deathlok reveal was great, even though I have no idea who he is (obviously a cyborg)

Just watched this in the UK, I've been enjoying watching MAOS, not massively but enough to watch the following week and see whether it improves. This one was a definite improvement, it made me laugh in places and engaged me in others.

Fingers crossed....

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