All this past week Agents of SHIELD has promised to give some strong ties to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and boy did it deliver. Not only did it do so in several flashbacks that feature a blue faux-movie filter to set them apart from the regular TV show segments, but several events within this week’s episode explain the current situation of the diverging sides of SHIELD. Does Agents of SHIELD still manage to deliver a compelling episode with several weaving plotlines converging at once? I’m not even going to make you wait past the jump – yes. Yes it does.
After a quick flashback to kick things off, “One Door Closes” wastes no time in getting down to the nitty gritty of Coulson discovering the apparent betrayal of Mack and Bobbi. A little bonding moment between Coulson and Mack quickly turns on a dime into an accusatory grill session. On the other end of the base, Bobbi gets discovered by May, sets off an EMP of sorts, and we’re off and running.
With just how deep Mack and Bobbi were ingrained with Coulson’s side of SHIELD, they had no trouble taking it down. Both of them had intimate knowledge of how the base works, and Mack had exact schematics of it all. However, since the Gonzales side of SHIELD still wants the Coulson side of SHIELD (I wish there were better terms for these, I really do) to integrate with them, they couldn’t just go killing everyone. Instead, they opt for choke holds and knockout gasses. This dedication to keeping everyone alive and well does come back to bite Bobbi, who gets played over by Simmons when the scientist pretends to be looking for a prototype and ends up giving Bobbi two objects that knock her unconscious instead. But for the most part the plan works flawlessly and Coulson’s side of SHIELD goes down without much of a struggle.
Simmons’ whole arc starting from the middle of Season 1 to now has been great to watch, and this scene where she plays off being ignorant to the situation only to effictively take out Bobbi is one big sign of how far she’s come. Sure, she’s gone undercover with Hydra for a while, but the fact that she can finally be so fake while talking to a friend is both mesmerizing and a little bit terrifying. The theme isn’t really touched on in this episode in particular, but it’s another sign that she’s leaving Fitz further behind as he continues to be a mental and emotional wreck while she further ascends into being a full-blown badass Agent of SHIELD.
Flashbacks themselves are handled well, even if they do keep that annoying blue tint on them the whole time. In a way, they are even more effective as a bridge to the Marvel films than the show’s own episodes that match the movie timelines. Where those other episodes following the events of Winter Soldier and Thor felt like they were reacting directly to events in the film, “One Door Closes” feels like it’s directly integrated with those events which makes everything work more naturally towards the same end goal. We see everything that leads up to the split in SHIELD, why it happened, and why exactly people like Bobbi and Mack are so loyal to Gonzales. It all helps to paint a clear picture of the current status of SHIELD without having two characters just sit and spew information at one another, something Agents of SHIELD has always been great at avoiding for the most part.
One of my favorite aspects of the flashbacks is in the very first one. When Mack says that one of his teammates are lying to cover for him, the Hydra agent holding them at gunpoint instantly shoots the other engineer. This cold brutality perfectly mirrors that same demeanor that we saw in one of cold opens of Agent Carter when Hydra did something similar with recruits. This slight nod to Agent Carter is some nice – and most importantly subtle – fanservice, while also showing how consistent Hydra has stayed over decades of being inactive.
Another big subplot, Skye being alone in the safe house originally created by Bruce Banner, gives the episode a tense, creepy tone in comparison to the action-packed events happening at SHIELD HQ. Skye discovering that something is up and investigating a strange knocking at her door is filmed and acted masterfully. She slinks around the cabin and hears random knocking and noises outside while the rest of the scene is mostly quiet, conveying the real sense of isolation and fear that she is feeling all alone in the woods. More than once I noticed myself fully tensed waiting to see what would happen. The whole scene would have been flawless were it not for her out of place and eyeroll-inducing “Fittz, why’d you have to make me watch Paranormal Activity” line. It’s already a scary and tense scene, but the writers just couldn’t help themselves by cramming a pop culture reference in there for some reason.
As it turns out, the knock at the door is Gordon, who has been tracking down and embracing other Inhumans (although they don’t actually say Inhumans, yet again). When the fight at Coulson’s base finds its way to Skye and she finally unleashes her powers, it’s done with some pretty fantastic CGI. I’ve constantly been impressed with the visuals on Agents of SHIELD, including the show’s restraint when it comes to not shoving in CGI at every opportunity. When it does decide to use visual effects, as it does while Skye is exploring her powers, it does so to great effect.
I do wish that there was some more explanation as to how Skye suddenly can harness her power, however. Is it just the act of talking to Gordon that unlocked something in her mind? If not, it seems rather convenient that she suddenly has a handle on them right when she needs them most.
In true Marvel fashion, the episode ends with Coulson on a paradise island after making his escape from the SHIELD headquarters with the help of May. He runs into Hunter, who just happens to have ended up on the same island, and the seeds for the next few episodes are sown. There are still seven more episodes left in this season, and it’s clear that the war between Coulson’s and Gonzales’ sides of SHIELD are not yet over. If Agents of SHIELD can maintain this great sense of pacing and action that this episode had, we’re in for a great ride.
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