Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review 1.11 - 'The Magical Place'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 01.08.2014
Agent Coulson learns the secret behind his resurrection following The Avengers while the team races to rescue him from Centipede! 411's Wyatt Beougher checks in with his review of "The Magical Place!"
Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Mike Peterson returned, along with Raina and Centipede. When Raina kidnapped Mike’s son Ace, he convinced Coulson to come with him so that he could give himself up, but it was really a trap so that Centipede could get Coulson. Several explosions ensued, leaving Mike apparently dead, Coulson in Centipede’s capture, and the team seemingly in shambles.
Season 01, Episode 11: The Magical Place
A man with a British accent is attempting to sell a Chitauri artifact to an unknown woman when a S.H.I.E.L.D. hockey puck enters the room. It explodes, leaving the occupants stunned and disoriented enough for May and Ward to take the majority of them down. The seller of the artifact hits Ward with a chair and escapes the room, with May in two. She loses him and Fitz uses the quadcopters to herd him into an elevator, which Skye hacks to take him to the roof, where a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is waiting with guns drawn. Agent Victoria Hand says that they were hoping the man, a Mr. Vanchat (Aiden Turner), can help them find Coulson. Back on the Bus, Simmons tends to Ward while Fitz shouts at a nameless agent. The team is clearly unhappy with Hand and all of the extra agents on the Bus. Skye shuts down the plane’s computers trying to access Vanchat’s financials to find Coulson, but Hand says she’s out and off the plane. Ward sticks up for Skye, but Hand leaves it up to May, who says Skye will be of “no use to them on the plane”. Skye storms out and Ward, Fitz, and Simmons give Skye a satphone and the means to escape S.H.I.E.L.D. debriefing.
Coulson, meanwhile, is flashing back and forth from “Tahiti” to a barren room with Po, where he appears to be in a CT scan machine. Po threatens Coulson to try to get him to reveal what he’s seeing, but Coulson is adamant that he won’t reveal anything. Po says Coulson lost his father at a young age, which is why Mike’s death hit so close to home. Skye attempts to get into Vanchat’s records at a coffee shop, but that triggers a lockdown as well. She checks out a magazine and sees that a Lloyd Rathman is suspected of money laundering, so she buys a leather jacket and steals Rathman’s SUV.
Back on the Bus, Fitz and Simmons are working on a neutralizer for the Centipede soldiers superpowers. Ward gets upset that Hand’s interrogator isn’t getting any answers from Vanchat, so he goes in to do it himself. Skye tries to get to Rathman’s house, but her bracelet locks down the vehicle’s navigation, so she drives into a bunch of water barrels and gets OnStar to tow her, and the vehicle, to Rathman’s house. Coulson, bleeding from the nose, gets taken to a room with a mannequin and dumped onto a bed, where he pulls a pair of tweezers out of his sleeve and starts picking the handcuffs. Ward tries to get Vanchat to talk, but when he won’t, he straps himself in and has Fitz and Simmons open the outside of the plane up, which nearly sucks Vanchat out of the plane, making him much more cooperative. Coulson trips and chokes out the guard who brings him food, but when he runs outside, Po is waiting on him and explains that they’re in a town that was used for nuclear testing that was abandoned decades earlier. Coulson tries to attack Po, but a supersoldier takes him back into custody.
Skye gets into Rathman’s house via his garage door opener and uses a golf club to dial his secretary. Pretending to be an LAPD officer, Skye gets the secretary to send Rathman to his home on the premise of giving a statement about his stolen vehicle. When Rathman arrives, she pretends to be May and says that he’s in a lot of trouble. Skye threatens to freeze all of Rathman’s assets, but offers him immunity if he cooperates. As she walks into the office, Rathman hits the “call” button on his home security system. Hand confronts Ward about Skye and his interrogation methods, and then wonders why Coulson is so valuable to S.H.I.E.L.D. Po says the Clairvoyant sees an end to S.H.I.E.L.D., and then Raina comes in, saying she was tending to their other subject. Po says he should be helping her break Coulson, but she says she would never use force. As Po tells her that the Clairvoyant has requested Coulson’s beatings, the Clairvoyant asks to speak with Raina. After a brief word, she hands the phone back to Po, and it sends some kind of signal into his head, killing him. On the Bus, Ward confronts May about kicking Skye off of the plane, and May reveals that she’d be of more use to them on the ground, without a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent looking over her shoulder. Hand gives May new coordinates and the Bus pretty awesomely turns around on a dime using VTOL technology.
Rathman continues to refuse to help Skye, so she locks up his phone. Skye puts the information she dug out of Rathman’s personal files to use, mentioning his gambling and real estate debts and also him being behind on his child support. Rathman’s security company arrives, and Skye disarms and flips the first guard before turning his gun on the second one, which finally prompts Rathman to agree to help. Coulson and Raina debate over their respective organizations’ various nefarious means to their ends, and Raina wants to know how Coulson came back to life. She tries to convince Coulson to cooperate so that he can suss out his real memories from his post-death.
Rathman logs in and Skye gives him instructions, but he’s completely lost, so she has the first security guard do the actual work for her. She hacks into Vanchat’s records and finds transactions from Raina before getting Vanchat’s Lamborghini. Raina continues trying to persuade Coulson, revealing that his mother died also, and then playing on the fact that Coulson gave up on the love of his life, who was devastated to find out Coulson was dead. Coulson continues to resist her arguments, but when he finds himself immediately responding “It’s a magical place” when Raina mentions Tahiti, he finally relents and tells her to turn the machine on.
On the Bus, Fitz and Simmons show Ward their delivery system to neutralize Centipede’s soldiers’ superpowers, which is a bracelet with the antiserum in it. Just then, Skye calls in and gives them Coulson’s location. Hand is reluctant to let the team go after Coulson and angry that the team has continued to play her, but Ward says they’re going after Coulson and she can send back-up if she wants. Raina turns the machine on and Coulson thinks back, seeing Tahiti at first, but bits of reality start to filter in. Skye finds the town and begins looking for Coulson, but a supersoldier finds her and chases after her, only to get hit by a S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV. The soldier with Raina goes to check on it, and Raina guides Coulson to seeing through the implanted memories.
Outside, Ward takes on a supersoldier while the rest of the team looks for Coulson. May dispatches some of the regular soldiers while Ward is getting his butt kicked. After having no luck getting the bracelet onto the soldier, Ward removes the delivery system and jams it in the soldier’s mouth, disabling (or killing) him. Coulson wakes up (in his memory) to a doctor protesting and some type of machine stimulating his brain. He screams and Skye bursts in, punching Raina out. She and May shut the machine down and wake Coulson up. Back on the Bus, Coulson watches as Raina is led out and he and Hand discuss Centipede, the Clairvoyant, and Raina before shaking hands. Hand says the Bus really isn’t her style, and the team finally gets a moment with Coulson, who thanks them. Coulson takes off Skye’s bracelet and she talks about what Coulson experienced in that room. Coulson says it wasn’t real and that they were messing with his head. The doctor in Coulson’s vision gets into his vehicle, and Coulson is in the backseat. He reveals that Coulson was dead for days, and that Fury moved heaven and earth to bring Coulson back to life. That specific doctor wasn’t even brought in until the seventh surgery. They kept Coulson awake to monitor his brain activity, and the machine he saw manipulating his brain was used to replace his memories, rather than making him a man with no will to live. As the doctor apologizes, Coulson disappears. Mike Peterson wakes up in a small, poorly-lit room, severely burnt and with the Centipede fused to his arm. His right leg is also missing from the knee down and his face is burnt even worse than the rest of his body. He looks in the mirror, and a greeting appears in his eyeball, with directions to wait for further instructions.
“Is that a Roomba?”
“Don’t touch Lola.”
“No single agent is that important.” “Coulson is.”
“Great, I just got my high score on Tiny Wing.”
“I’ve gone surfing. That is definitely not surfing.”
“Sounds like riding a bull for 8 seconds.” “Yeah, it’s exactly that simple.”
Theory of the Week
So, Coulson is actually Coulson, not a robot, or a Life-Model Decoy, or Deathlok (although Mike Peterson might be Deathlok). Seems pretty anticlimactic, but at least we have our answer. So now the biggest mystery we have is Skye’s parentage, which looks like it will be at least partially revealed in next week’s episode. I still think May figures heavily into whatever happened in Skye’s past.
So this is officially the halfway point of the season, and I think by now, you should know where you stand on this show. At one end, you’ve accepted that it’s a show with flaws that has pretty steadily improved, or the other end of the spectrum - you’re upset that it wasn’t the best show on television right out of the gate and are convinced that it’ll never get better. Considering it’s a comic book show and the general reaction of those fans on the internet regarding ANYTHING, I’m actually surprised that more people who comment on these reviews don’t fall into the latter category. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle - I think this show could still do more to tie into the Marvel Universe proper, but I do enjoy all the little nods that they’ve thrown in along the way.
And, to be honest, they’ve addressed nearly every issue that I had with the first few episodes - the guest stars have all worked since Hand’s first time on the show, the team has been given more to do and more backstory and more personality, and the action and effects have all been much better than in the earlier episodes.
Still, though, there are a few things that need further attention - Skye and Ward are still more archetypes than actual characters, May’s wild personality shifts from episode to episode still haven’t been properly explained, and I’m hopeful that there will be some more supervillain-related stuff, and not just X-Files-esque agency conspiracy and Warehouse 13-style artifact of the week. For all of those complaints, this is still a very good show for being the first Marvel Cinematic Universe television show, and this episode was another step in the right direction - the action made sense, the stuff with Coulson had the proper emotional weight, Skye was actually more than just “hacker girl”, Centipede is obviously still in business in spite of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s massive efforts to stop them, and it even ended with a perfect comic-style cliffhanger.
The 411: I continue to feel as though this show has found its stride. It still has room to improve, but the average quality of the episodes has been much better than the hit-or-miss nature of the beginning of the season. With the Coulson mystery solved, and the deal with Skye’s parents apparently getting resolved in the immediate future, I’m anxious to see where it goes from here.