Agents of SHIELD: End of the Beginning review

Deathlok returns to Agents of SHIELD in an episode with plenty of action...but even more confusion. Here's Marc's review.

I never want to go into these reviews with a preconceived notion of anything, but boy, do I not like the Deathlok design. Marvel has done a great job since their cinematic universe began to make their characters look like their characters. Without a slavish devotion to comic accuracy, the Marvel pantheon at least all feel like their comic counterparts. TV’s Deathlok looks like someone who was in a bad BMX accident. I do love me some J. August Richards though, so let’s hope for the best.

Lost and Hawaii Five-0 vet Paul Zbyszewski  who also wrote the Agents of SHIELD episodes “FZZT” and “The Magical Place,” two series standouts, wrote this episode…and boy was it convoluted and needlessly dense. “End of the Beginning” played off the idea of a traitor in SHIELD’s midst, with all the trust and love built up between the team shot out of an airlock as they spend the entire third act accusing each other of being the Clairvoyant. It’s all kind of a mess with some nice acting and very little of the promised Deathlok.

Garrett and Triplett kick off the episode taking on BMXlok, and they kind of punk him. Doesn’t exactly established Deathlok as a badass, does it? This leads to a meeting of all the major name SHIELD mucketymucks, excluding Nick Fury (who at least gets a mention), including Victoria Hand, Coulson, Jasper Sitwell, May, and Agent Blake. They discuss who could potentially be the Clairvoyant and come up with some potential names. Things get old school Justice League as the elite SHIELD team breaks up into sub-teams to investigate potential Clairvoyant candidates. MAYYYBEEE they should call in Stark or Rogers on this?

No one thinks to call anyone associated with the Avengers (they must all be at a Winter Soldier premiere), but for some reason they call in Skye to help them plan the op? This makes Skye a full SHIELD agent, and a nice little group hug moment takes place. Coulson makes it convincing with his trademark lovable sincerity, and cue the soup opera with Ward and Skye making goo-goo eyes at each other.

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Deathlok, meanwhile, now has the cool Centipede tech thing on his back in that horrid costume’s only nice little touch. He finds a box outside his apartment with an arm piece to go with his other cybernetic parts. Really, someone left it outside in a box? Really? It has to be acknowledged though, the make-up looks really cool, and Richards is selling the whole thing like crazy. Meanwhile, Victoria Hand conveniently leaves mid-mission. Gotta say, suspicion on the comic book liaison to Norman Osborne is seeming pretty likely as far as potential bad guys go.

While Hand acts all suspicious with her Manic Panic hair, Fitz and Simmons are launching a personal quest to find the truth about the alien blood in Skye. So like every nerd in the world, they are trying to figure out what super power Skye could have (please be Jessica Drew). I guess this will be the big reveal by season’s end, and at this point (hopefully) it will be a good one.

So we come to the split SHIELD teams, with the first mission being Triplett and Ward. Triplett’s motivation becomes clear as it is revealed that the Clairvoyant killed his partner. Ok cool, it’s nice to have a B character with some depth. Points for that addition.

May and Agent Blake (who will always just be Black Smoke Guy from Lost to me) seek out their potential Clairvoyant in an assisted living home. They are investigating Thomas Nash, a man who once claimed to have precog powers but is now an invalid. Blake and Ward enter and here’s Deathlok who takes out Blake. Deathlok takes a shot at May, and I would like to say a badass fight ensues, but once again, Deathlok runs away. Maybe there’s a Fed-Ex package with another limb waiting for him somewhere.

[related article: Deathlok – The Marvel Comics Phenomenon That Almost Was]

Blake is f’d up after being gut stomped by Deathlok (which is going to be the name of my autobiography). Fitz and Simmons are charged with bringing down Deathlok. While I’m sure those two adorable little science scamps are capable and all but…once again, SOMEONE CALL STARK!

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Fitz proves useful as it turns out Blake tagged Deathlok with one of Fitz’s tracking bullets. Things really get moving as SHIELD tracks Deathlok to a racetrack in Florida. Ward gets all over protective with Skye foreshadowing a coming event. Fitz deploys his little doodads to track Deathlok. One of them x-rays the cyborg who looks exactly like the comic Deathlok on the x-ray screen, which is pretty freakin’ cool. OK Marvel, nice Easter egg.

SHIELD engages, and Deathlok blows shit up. A chase sequence commences, giving Deathlok an excuse to run away some more. Coulson unwisely pursues Deathlok alone to the basement. Garrett is already down there and they find Thomas Nash, who claims to be the Clairvoyant. Awesome bit of casting as Brad Dourif plays the wheelchair bound Nash. Nash plays the Agents like a fiddle and reveals that he wants what’s in Skye. He threatens Skye and Ward snaps and kills him. At least that provides a plot reason for the annoying soap opera stuff. Ward’s emotions are pretty heated, it’s in character for the altruistic Ward, but I was hoping for more Dourif.

Meanwhile, Coulson doesn’t buy for a second that Wormtounge was really the Clairvoyant and neither does Skye who figures out that the Clairvoyant is a SHIELD Agent. Things get needlessly convoluted and dense as Coulson accuses Ward of being a double agent because he conveniently shot Nash. No Coulson, beef stick was just thinking with his very loyal libido which is totally in his character. While all this is going on, Fitz discovers May has been using an encrypted line to contact the outside, so while Ward is under suspicion, May has also become a suspect and I’m rapidly losing the will to continue with this thread. It’s always good to play up the paranoia of the espionage game when doing a spy, even a super spy, drama, but this…is too much.

So what was promised as a SHIELD versus Deathlok episode turned out to be a whole lot of Deathlok running away, J. August Richards ruling the universe by selling the nonsensical plot he is involved in, the Agents losing all the trust in each other that was established over the whole season, and nothing really being revealed at all.

Not a good way to head into Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel.

Marvel Moments

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– That moment’s respite from this odd Deathlok design with that awesome x-ray that would have made Mike Zeck proud.

– A shout out to Department H! Does that mean a possible Alpha Flight appearance at some point somewhere in this Marvel Universe? If you use your imagination, there’s a Wolverine connection there…but don’t hold your breath.

– A mention of Marvel’s super villain prison, the Fridge.

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2 out of 5