Review: “T.R.A.C.K.S.”

This week, on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:  Hot on the trail of the Clairvoyant, Coulson and his team board a mystery train that seems to be headed for certain death.

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General Thoughts

Diego: Guys, am I going crazy or was this actually an acceptable episode of television? It used a different structure that served to build suspense. It had great action with both Ward and May showing their badass status It was *really* funny (the highlight for me was Simmons’ perfectly planned backstory), but also had enough twists and drama to make this a compelling hour.

Quinn shooting Skye once was unexpected, but within TV parameters. It was the second shot that shocked me. Compare this to Ward getting shot in the midseason finale. That felt perfunctory, an artificial way to raise the stakes. Here, although Skye’s survival is a given, felt personal and compelling. Quinn does have a point, and Coulson knows it: if he cares so much for Skye, why does he puts her in harms way?

After the opening teaser, which I found fun and exciting, I thought “This is like a Chuck episode.” (Note: that’s high praise, in my books) So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that it actually was from Chuck writers Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc.

I know they must have missteps to get here. This episode wouldn’t exist if they hadn’t tried and experimented (badly) with the formula. But still, I wish this had been episode 3 or 4.

And I didn’t even get to Deathlok and that very special cameo, but I’ll leave it to you guys. What did you think?

Matt: This episode was just plain cool. Magic trains, new body parts, almost certain death, old faces, new lives and a cameo….pretty intriguing stuff. I felt this was strong, and while it was a bit too late, they seem to finally be on the right track. The way it was formatted was cool too, dare I say that the show is finally finding its stride?

Deathlok! Any way to keep  J. August Richards on the show is fine by me.I don’t know if this was always the plan – as Richards himself said he didn’t know he would end up being Deathlok, but it worked anyway.

I also enjoyed the Skye Shooting – that sounded better in my head – I meant that I liked the way it was handled. Coulson seemed more scared of Skye’s impending death than he seemed about his own. Is Skye Coulson’s Coulson?

As my colleagues pointed out this was from a few Chuck writers, who always knew how to write “fun” episodes. They haven’t lost their touch.

Laura: When the episode first started and I realized what the format would be, I actually kinda groaned. I’m not a huge fan of “see what happened over and over again from different peoples perspectives,” because usually it just shows you things you could’ve already assumed or figured out. Lost did this at the beginning of season 2, which is why those first three episodes crawled a bit. But this actually worked to Agents of SHIELD’s advantage, because while we could’ve assumed what happened during Ward’s version of events, everything after that was so completely unexpected and not predictable that the format suddenly became interesting rather than contrived.

So all in all that was an incredibly pleasant surprise. I agree that Quinn shooting Skye the second time was shocking in a good way, since we know she’ll end up surviving anyway. The entire teams desperation to save her was great. The interplay between Coulson, Ward, and May throughout the episode was great. The scene between Coulson and Ward trying to figure out the fancy hologram table was the best thing the show has done to date. I loved the different pairings of Skye/Fitz and Simmons/Coulson.

Basically, this entire episode was miles better. I actually found myself wanting to focus more on the episode than whatever it was I was eating. Thanks, Chuck writers!

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Replies

Diego: Laura, I agree that the structure worked in this episode because it was unexpected. For instance, I thought the grenade that made the train disappear was… lame. And I was pleasantly surprised when it was revealed that it actually paralyzed Coulson and Ward. They could’ve gotten away with “magic grenade” but they actually explained it, and having the different perspectives helped us understand that.

And Matt, while I’m a fan of J. August Richards (and his lines in the final “Angel” scene will always be in my mind), I’m not sure how much, or well, they’ll use him. It didn’t bode well that the first scene to prove his powers happened off-screen.

Matt: Laura, I liked the tech table part too, and that’s when Coulson dropped the Abomination reference to Ward – which I liked since it was much more subtle than “THOR HAS A HAMMER AND TONY STARK IS RICH!!!!!!!!!” Also “I actually found myself wanting to focus more on the episode than whatever it was I was eating” is the greatest line ever.

Diego, you raised this question: “Quinn does have a point, and Coulson knows it: if he cares so much for Skye, why does he puts her in harms way?” I agree, but the same can be said about Fury/Coulson too; which is intriguing in and of itself.

Laura: I’ve always thought from the beginning that Coulson’s interest in Skye was very paternal. All the revelations about her past have done nothing to lessen my feelings about that. I highly doubt it’ll turn out he’s somehow involved in her origin (since we still don’t really know where she came from), but since they haven’t exactly given him a love life beyond bare little mentions in the past, and just where he’s at in his life, it makes the most sense that’s how the show wants their relationship to be. I look forward to seeing how he reacts in the next episode to this near-death situation.

Parting Thoughts

Diego: I’m hopeful that the season will pick up, although this hiatuses surely aren’t helping. There’s nine episodes to go, and another Marvel movie in between. This is their moment.

Matt: Lady Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiif!!!! That has the potential to be my favorite Agents of SHIELD to date, and the good news is if they are willing to put someone of that caliber from the MCU in, then Laura, Agent Barton has a good chance!

We are almost on the home stretch to the premiere of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the Agents of SHIELD finale. Lets end on a high note.

Oh yeah – watch the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer on February 18th. Thanks.

Laura: DON’T GET MY HOPES UP ABOUT CLINT, MATT, YOU KNOW BETTER! Now I need to go reread all of my Hawkeye comics to calm down. I’m definitely disappointed there had to be a hiatus right after this episode, because seriously, it would’ve been much smarter/better for them to present another episode immediately after their best one so far. But oh well, the Olympics kinda got in the way! Fingers crossed it’ll continue upwards when it returns!

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