Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review 1.13 - 'T.R.A.C.K.S.'
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 02.05.2014
Coulson and the team try to find Ian Quinn by tracking a package that he purchased, but will they get more than they bargain for when they find him? 411's Wyatt Beougher checks in with his full review of "T.R.A.C.K.S."!
Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Coulson and May discovered Skye’s tragic history, while Ward, Skye, Fitz, and Simmons investigated a series of attacks on S.H.I.E.L.D. trainees at the SciTech academy. Plus, a promising student from the academy developed an unusual power after his invention got out of control and Coulson found out that the Clairvoyant’s reach is much more widespread than he initially thought.
Season 01, Episode 13: T.R.A.C.K.S.
Aboard the Bus, Coulson tells the team that they think they’ve figured out how to locate Ian Quinn by following a major purchase Quinn made from Cybertek. Cybertek hired a private security team to transport the package to the central Italian countryside via train. Coulson thinks they’re delivering the item directly to Quinn, and says he asked the Italian intelligence team “very nicely”. However, a flashback shows that Coulson didn’t ask, so much as tell, the Italian intelligence team that S.H.I.E.L.D. would be taking over their investigation. In order to find Quinn, the team is going to go undercover on the train. May and Ward are front and center, Skye and Fitz are running communications, and Coulson and Simmons have their own assigment.
May and Ward find their cabin, where May quickly removes her overcoat to reveal a catsuit and pulls her hair back. Ward begins changing from his suit and he asks May if she thinks the team’s operations are getting personal. May says it is personal, that the Clairvoyant put Coulson and Skye through hell, and finding Quinn is their only lead to the Clairvoyant. May puts on a pair of glasses and climbs out the window. Skye and Fitz compare accents to perfect their cover story, and they ask the conductor about a restaurant so that Skye can get close enough to steal his keys. They set up the team’s communications grid in the baggage car. Coulson preps Simmons for their part of the mission, and they too work on their cover story, which Simmons has gone into incredible detail to prepare. Stan Lee cameos after Simmons’ dramatic proclamation to offer his condolences to Simmons and chide Coulson. Simmons attempts to storm away from Coulson, but she crashes into the head of the security team and dumps her mother’s “ashes” all over the floor.
As the security head walks through them, May’s glasses allow her to see through the top of the train and follow his footprints. Fitz uses the feed from May’s glasses to locate the package, which is in the rearmost car. Simmons attempts to talk more about the backstory, but Coulson cuts her short to check in with Ward, only the team’s communication link is down. Coulson makes it to the rear car seconds before Ward, who is dressed as a train attendant, and he and Coulson jump from the train as the security chief tosses a grenade at them. It explodes and the train disappears. Ward is putting on his train attendant uniform in his cabin, when the same announcement plays over the train’s PA that Simmons and Coulson heard just before the team’s commlink cut out. Ward tries to let May know that he’s going to tag the package when he discovers the commlink is out, but before he can get to the final car, a woman asks him in Italian if he can help her with her bag. Ward says he’ll send someone along, but she’s insistent, so he relents, only for her to pull a gun on him. He uses the bag to smack the gun out of her hand, but her partner comes out of the cabin’s closet and attacks. Ward knocks him down, but the woman pulls a knife on him and cuts his arm. He takes both assailants out in a nice little fight scene before going to find Simmons. He tells her to lock herself in the baggage car with Skye and Fitz and then goes after Coulson, which leads to a replay of Coulson making it to the rear car.
The scene continues after the grenade goes off though, and Coulson and tells Ward that Simmons, Skye, and Fitz will be okay because May is with them. Ward says that she’s not, and then fishes May’s special glasses out of a clump of weeks a few feet away. They discover that their phones aren’t working, and Coulson sees that it’s not a true grenade. He thinks that it’s a cloaking device of some sort, but before they can discuss too much more, two SUVs pull up and they have to run through a vineyard to try to get back to the Bus. They find a small truck that’s running, see that it’s been hotwired, and while Ward thinks it’s suspicious, Coulson gets in and they drive away. On the Bus, Coulson communicates with the head of the Italian intelligence, Russo, who is cut near his eye, and he says Cybertek knew they were at the station. Coulson says they knew S.H.I.E.L.D. was on the train, and most of his team is unaccounted for. Russo says most of his men are dead, and when Coulson tells him the train vanished, Russo says he’ll look into that, and that he’s on his way to meet them. Coulson contacts HQ and sends Ward to figure out what the grenade was and how it worked. Ward tries to get the holotable up and running with gestures, but he has no luck until he finds a switch on the side. Ward clears out whatever Fitz and Simmons had been working on and brings the grenade schematic to the center just as Coulson comes in. Coulson asks him if he can zoom in, but neither Ward nor Coulson have any luck, with Coulson only managing to horribly warp the image. They decide to upload the data to HQ, and Ward confronts Coulson about May’s confession of their sexual relationship. Coulson warns Ward that if he screws up and endangers a team member because of it, he’ll be transferred to Alaska to guard Blonksy’s cryogenic cell. Just then, Russo pulls up; he tells Coulson that they’ve found the train, but before he can say anything else, May buries a knife in his back. May looks like she’s been through the ringer, and she tells Coulson and Ward to be ready to take off in five minutes.
Back on the train, we get the same announcement again, only this time, it’s the security team in the final car. May tries to contact Ward, but the comms are down, and a member of the security team shoots at her, forcing her to parachute off of the plane. She runs across the tracks and finds Coulson and Ward completely immobilized but alive, and she goes to look for a way to get them somewhere safe. Moving into the vineyard, May finds the truck Coulson found (seemingly) earlier and is forced to hotwire it. Just as she gets it started, Russo comes up behind her with a gun and his team pulls up in an SUV. He pistolwhips May and knocks her out. Cut to a barn, where Russo throws a bucket of water on May, who is dangling from a hook by her wrists. He reveals that he works with Cybertek to get their packages delivered with no problems, and he tries to get her to tell him where Coulson and Ward are. Russo takes a knife from one of his team members and jams it up to the hilt in May’s shoulder. May doesn’t even flinch, and when Russo turns his back, she pulls herself out of the hook that’s holding her up, grabs the knife out of her shoulder, and takes out Russo’s two team members. She goes after Russo as it cuts back to the scene of Ward and Coulson discussing he and May’s relationship. This time, we see Russo’s got a gun in his hand when May throws the knife at him, and Coulson asks her to explain herself. She says the plane didn’t disappear, that Russo sold them out, and that they need to get the plane ready so that she can shower. Ward offers to stitch her up, but she tensely repeats that he needs to get the plane ready.
May stitches her own wound up, and Coulson comes in and offers to help. As he cleans her wound, he tells her that S.H.I.E.L.D. found the train, which switched tracks shortly after they got off. Coulson theorizes that the grenade released a toxin that made them think no time had passed. Coulson worries about the non-combat members of the team, but May says they’ll be fine. Ward walks in as Coulson tends to May, and he takes pause before telling them that they need to reset the coordinates because they found the train. May offers to help, but Ward tersely tells her he’s got it. On the ground, Coulson, May, and Ward see smears on one of the windows and go to investigate the baggage car. They find laptops that are riddled with bullet holes, and as they continue to search, Simmons pops up out of nowhere and fires the Night-Night pistol in both directions, narrowly missing Coulson. He yells for her to stop and she asks where Fitz and Skye are.
The train is moving again, and we get the same announcement, this time with Skye and Fitz, who wishes he could see the scenery. Skye inquires about 0-8-4’s, and Fitz says the only thing they have in common is that they’re dangerous. Skye looks concerned, but Fitz, thinking she’s worried about the package, tries to console her. Skye asks if he’s ever heard of an 0-8-4 being a person, and he says it’s possible, but he’d “hate to meet the guy”. Just then, their electronics cut out and Skye goes to warn the team, but just then, a member of the security team bursts through the door and shoots their laptops. Skye and Fitz try to subdue him, but they (along with some luggage) aren’t able to do so, and he pulls out a grenade of his own. Simmons bursts through the door, sees the grenade, and grabs the guy, causing the grenade to go off between them and for them to collapse to the floor of the train car. Skye checks Simmons’ pulse and determines that she’s still alive, and Fitz says that it’s a form of dendrotoxin, like in the Night-Night gun, only evolved to be airborne. They move Simmons to an alcove in the train and leave her with a Night-Night pistol, but not before Fitz puts two Night-Night rounds into the chest of the security team member who attacked them, leaving him in a large wooden crate. Skye and Fitz see more of the security team moving the package, and because Fitz has another tracker, they follow the team.
They follow the team to a large villa, where Ian Quinn gets out of a car. They activate the other tracker, and discuss their options, deciding in the end that Fitz will disable their vehicles and Skye will go after the package using Fitz’ Night-Night pistol. Skye drops two security team members with Night-Night rounds before getting into the house, and Fitz places some sort of device beneath their vehicles. Skye sneaks through the house, making her way to the basement, to what appears to be a wine cellar. She locates the package and also a large cylindrical object that has Mike Peterson inside of it. Before she can do anything, Quinn comes into the room; Skye draws on him, but one of the security team members comes out of the shadows and takes her Night-Night pistol and pins her to the container that Mike is in. Quinn tells Skye that the Clairvoyant told him to expect her, and that Centipede has been watching S.H.I.E.L.D. too, which is how they made the Night-Night grenades. Quinn opens the container and Mike wakes up, and Quinn tells him that he’s purchased something that will help Mike complete his orders. He tells Mike to stand up and places the device in the package over Mike’s amputated stump. The security team member activates the devices and Mike screams as it turns into a cybernetic leg. Quinn commends the security team member and says he’ll be receiving his payment soon. Quinn wants to know if he’s getting his money’s worth with all the technology that’s inside Mike. Mike says he can’t hurt Quinn, and that he won’t stop Quinn if Quinn tries to hurt him. Quinn is disappointed that Mike won’t kill Skye, but he says that Skye isn’t who he’s supposed to kill. Skye starts after Mike but then turns to confront Quinn, who shoots her in the stomach, hugs her close, and then puts another round into her stomach. He wipes down the gun and says he has his own orders while Skye struggles just to breathe.
Skye tries to sit up and calls for help, but she starts bleeding even worse as she attempts to crawl out of the room. Mike walks into the room of security team members and says that there is no money because they have failed. He grabs the woman who attacked Ward earlier by the throat, and that causes her partner, who set up the device on Mike’s leg, to draw a gun on him. Outside, as Fitz is disabling another vehicle, the partner comes crashing onto the ground near him with a cacophony of breaking glass. Fitz cringes at another burst of violence but moves to go in the house after Skye. Just as another security team members draws a bead on him, Ward shoots him with the Night-Night pistol, and the team asks where Skye is at. Skye manages to open the door and weakly calls for help, as Quinn realizes that Coulson team has arrived. Ward bursts through the doors with a pair of Night-Night pistols and takes out Quinn’s entire security team, while Coulson pulls a more conventional firearm on Quinn. Quinn taunts Coulson about Skye, so Coulson delivers a few blows to incapacitate him and sends the rest of the team to look for her. Coulson himself finds Skye and yells for Simmons. Coulson can’t find her pulse, and Simmons says she’s lost too much blood. She looks around, sees the chamber Mike was in, and tells the team to put her in it. They hesitate, so she orders them to put her in, and when they do, Simmons turns it on and lowers the temperature. May and Coulson both demand to know if it’s working, and Simmons, seeing Skye’s breath on the glass, says that it is.
Back on the Bus, Quinn is in the interrogation room while Simmons appraises the team of Skye’s situation (she needs to get to a medical facility as soon as possible, but until they can get her there, Simmons is going to do whatever she can to keep Skye alive. Simmons goes to clean her hands up and starts to break down, and when Fitz comes in, she sinks, sobbing, into his arms. Ward punches the hood of the S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV, and May tells him that it’s not his fault. She takes his hand, and Ward says that she never should have gone in alone. May says blaming himself won’t help her, and Ward says he’s not blaming himself. At the hyperbaric chamber, Coulson’s face makes it pretty clear that Ward’s not the only one who blames him. Meanwhile, Mike crouches in a stand of trees, and he surveills a playground. He writes a note to ask if he can see his son, but the message that appears in his ocular implant is “not yet”. The camera zooms in on cybernetic knee joint to reveal a Cybertek logo and the Model name, which is “Deathlok”.
“Really? You think Coulson will take that excuse when he finds out about us?” “He took it okay when I told him.”
“I’m not *just* the gadget guy, maybe I want to do things with my bare hands.” “You build your gadgets with your bare hands.” “Just allow me these rare moments of self-pity - you’re the least supportive pretend girlfriend that I’ve ever had.”
“Pretty tricky, right? I couldn’t even find the ‘on’ button.”
“And, if it’s really just sex, Ward, you should get more comfortable using the word.”
“Why are you smiling?” “You called me ‘sweetheart’.”
“I saw you guys frozen on the field - you looked ridiculous.”
“Help me move Simmons first, we can’t just leave her like this. Look at her little face - she’d be so embarrassed.”
Theory of the Week
Well, the Deathlok theory was confirmed like two weeks before this episode ever aired, so it wasn’t really a surprise (unless you’ve lived under a rock for that whole time), but it was still really well done as far as the effects were concerned, and I’m intrigued to see where the storyline goes. I still have no idea who the Clairvoyant would be in Marvel continuity, as the only one I’m familiar with is Destiny, and she was primarily and X-character. However, I suppose it’s not completely out of the question if Skye ends up surviving because she’s a mutant with some type of healing factor. Based on what they’ve shown for next week’s episode, I suppose that’s a stretch, but whatever mission they’re going on next week could fail and Skye could live anyway. There’s also the possibility that they do to Skye what they did to Coulson, but I’m not sure how they’d explain Fury agreeing to that, since they spent an entire episode playing up how it was unheard of for that type of thing to be done prior to Coulson, who is supposedly one of Fury’s most valuable assets.
Wow. This is, by far, the best episode of this series to date. The direction, with the Tarantino-esque temporal jumps, worked perfectly for this episode’s story. The action scenes were awesome, with each non-Coulson team member getting their chance to shine, and there were some genuinely funny scenes (Coulson and Ward trying to work the holotable really stood out), rather than just snappy one-liners. Plus, in an episode where they introduce Deathlok, a Marvel Comics fixture, they also threw in a reference to the MCU (Coulson threatening to send Ward to guard Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination). Unfortunately, three weeks off didn’t bode well for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s rating, as it dropped 5% between its last new episode and this one. Hopefully when they factor in DVR and everything else, the ridiculous schedule that ABC opted for doesn’t hurt the show, as I think this was the episode that people have really been waiting for.
And just when you think the show’s going all-in on the action and humor, they bring the emotional punch of Quinn trying to kill Skye. While I think it’s unlikely that the showrunners are going to kill off the most prototypical Whedon character on the show, the real tug at your heartstrings moments were not in Skye actually being shot and her struggle to call for help, but in the team’s responses to her being so close to death. Also, this episode set up tension between Ward and Coulson based on Ward’s belief that there’s something between Coulson and May and also because he blames Coulson for Skye getting shot. Bonus theory this week: Ward’s the character that’s going to die. Think about it - he’s now got beef with Coulson, he doesn’t fill a particular need on the team (Coulson and May are both equally qualified in combat and as far as leading the team in the field), and it’s a Whedon show - someone has to die.
Until this point in the season, I’ve questioned whether some of the early episodes were really necessary, but it’s rapidly becoming clear that everything that happens on this show happens for a reason, be it everything with Mike Peterson, the team going to investigate an 0-8-4, or even going to rescue Franklin Hall from Quinn. I’m genuinely confident that any lingering questions from those early episodes are going to be answered, but I’m concerned that because they weren’t as well-done as the last few episodes, a lot of the show’s potential fans have moved on to other shows or simply given up on this one. If that’s the case, it would be a real shame, but hopefully word of mouth can bring back some of the fans who tuned in to the premiere, expecting a show more like the past couple episodes have been. If not, I’m afraid that we’re looking at a one-season run, and that’d be a real shame. Thankfully, tvbythenumbers.com seems to think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a shoo-in for a second season, so hopefully these last couple sentences were just my best Chicken Little impression, and that the show can maintain or improve upon the level of quality that we’ve reached since the December mid-season finale.
The 411: Easily the best episode of the show to date, and probably what most fans of the MCU movies were hoping for when this show was announced. I honestly would happily review the rest of this season if they could maintain the quality of the three episodes leading up to this one, with maybe another episode or two that are as outstanding as this one sprinkled in.