With episode 13 of TV incarnation of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the series is finally starting to elevate to the level of storytelling that long-time fans of the comicbook series have come to expect from these characters. Ostensibly, the episode entitled T.R.A.C.K.S. has Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) on board a train in Italy, on which a Cybertek security group led by Carlo Mancini (TJ Ramini) is shipping a package to Ian Quinn (David Conrad), who works for the Clairvoyant. This episode is particularly notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the appearance of Marvel frontman, the iconic Stan Lee in one of his legendary cameos. Still, it is the actual storytelling of this episode that truly elevates it above what has come before.
As stated, while we are a fan of the series, we have long felt that it has not so much squandered its potential, as not truly reached for it. With this episode, you can actually feel it doing just that, First of all it delivers a Rashomon-like tale, in that it relates the story from a number of separate perspectives; rolling back to the point of divergence at the end of each segment, thus building a greater internal tension within the story itself. Each time the story rolls back, the viewer gets a better piece of the larger puzzle of what is actually occurring in the episode, thus layering a larger story over each episode.
In addition to this, unique storytelling device, we also get a greater glimpse into the Marvel (comicbook) universe with the reveal that Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) is revealed to be Deathlok a cyborg character that has been part of the Marvel Universe since 1974 when He initially appeared in Astonishing Tales #25. This reveal adds to the other characters that have already shown up tying the TV show into both the comics (Dr. Franklin Hall: Ian Hart as Graviton), and the films (the episode The Well tied into the film, Thor: The Dark World by giving us a bit of Asgardian tech).
The episode also ups the ante on the drama by getting Skye (Chloe Bennet) twice in the stomach and at death’s door, save for the quick thinking of Agent Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and the presence of a hyperbaric chamber, into which the dying Sky is shoved. While it may be early in the show to eliminate a core cast member, we strongly feel that the show should take its cue more from the Law and Order paradigm in that if it were to have a rotating or “replaceable” cast, it would make the series more dramatic, as in this fashion, anyone could be replaced or die, so as to give the series more of a realistic dramatic edge.
Personally, we are looking for this series to grow and evolve into what it could become (remember, when initially conceived by Stan and Jack Kirby (back in the ‘60s, SHIELD was essentially “just another” spy group much akin to U.N.C.L.E., Her Majestys’ Secret Service, or the one for which Kelly and Scott worked in I Spy), and it really wasn’t until Jim Steranko took over the series that it was catapulted into the stratosphere with his amazing visuals, and graphic storytelling. We’ve always been a big fan of the concept of SHIELD, and truly hope that the series can survive this season, and become all that it is meant to be.
Robert J. Sodaro has been writing professionally for some 30+ years. He came of age not only watching TV, but reading comicbooks and going to the movies. Subscribe to receive regular articles and reviews about TV programs.