After last week’s game-changing episode of Agents of SHIELD, we were left with just as many questions as were our heroes. This week both we viewers and the characters we watch got some answers, along with some clues about where the show goes from here. There’s no way that this episode could live up to the huge moments of last week, and the show was wise not to try. In many ways, it felt like the first episode of a mini series, heading into the finale of season one, setting up both the type of conflicts our heroes will face as well as the internal strife they must confront to find their place in a changed world. So without further ado, let’s dive into tonight’s episode, “Providence,” written by Brent Fletcher and directed by Milan Cheylov.
The Powers That Be in charge of the show were wise to air this episode immediately following a repeat of last week’s episode, as tonight, and the rest of the season, was spent dealing with the aftermath of the collapse of SHIELD at the hands of HYDRA (and Captain America). But this episode actually opens with a character we haven’t seen in a while, Raina, who spends her days locked in a cell making origami flowers. She’s been there a while, given the fact that her shelf is full of them, but when she hears gunshots and alarms she’s surprisingly calm, sitting down and waiting for something to happen. Who should bust into her cell but Ward the traitor, whose appearance alarms Raina at first until he pulls a present tied in a bow from his backpack. “A gift from the Clairvoyant,” he says, handing it to her. She opens it to find a stylish replacement for her prison uniform: a familiar red dress. The Girl in the Flower Dress lives once more.
Back at the Hub, Coulson and the surviving, loyal members of SHIELD are watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Netflix. Oh no, wait, they’re watching news coverage of the destruction of the Triskelion by carefully aimed Helicarriers. It seems that for some reason the destruction of the world’s largest covert organization tasked with defending humanity is big news, full of talks of Congressional hearings and the like. Coulson watches and considers his options, telling an assistant to try to find a “back channel” to the UN as a way to stay in contact, hopefully with someone they can trust.
Skye arrives with a situation report on how many SHIELD facilities are secure and still allied with what remains of the good guys. Coulson guesses that there are 7 secure bases, but Skye sadly tells him there are only 3, including their location at the Hub. Skye confesses that Coulson was right, that the world’s sudden open access to all of SHIELD’s secrets (courtesy of Natasha Romanoff) makes the world more dangerous, especially now that there’s no one left to protect it. “There’s us,” Coulson replies, confidently. He reminds her that this is just the beginning of the war against HYDRA, but “at least our team’s still intact.”
Except, you know, for Ward the traitor, who escorts Raina to Havana, Cuba, the coolest place for villainous organizations to hang out (at least according to James Bond movies). He leads her into a barbershop, where Garrett reveals himself to her as the Clairvoyant, though pointing out that there’s “no need to call me that anymore.” He commends her for her great work with Centipede, while confessing that he was never gifted with foresight, just a high level of security clearance. Raina calls him a liar and a fraud, but he prefers to think of himself as an artist, even if “con-artist” is perhaps the better term. He reminds her that she was recruited to help change the world, and sits her on the barber’s chair with the promise to show her how they plan to do that. “Welcome to HYDRA,” he says, before the chair sinks through a secret entrance in the floor.
Back at the Hub, Fitz and Simmons are working on repairing the Bus. In particular, Coulson has ordered Fitz to have the loading ramp working by the end of the day, even if he’s ignoring Simmons recommendation to fix the grounding wires. Simmons wonders whether they can even call Coulson’s commands “orders” since SHIELD doesn’t really exist anymore, technically making them simply “requests.” We find out that SHIELD has been labeled as a terrorist organization. Fitz calls to Trip to try the ramp, which immediately starts shooting sparks anywhere, prompting some advice from Trip about fixing the grounding wires and a grumbly response from Fitz.
Back at command, Skye shares the good news that the Cube has been retaken, while May arrives to inform them that the hull of the Bus has been repaired. When suddenly they get an incoming transmission from Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), an Air Force Colonel. Talbot reproaches Coulson for the mess that SHIELD has gotten into, and says he’s sending a “peacekeeping force” to the Hub to take control. He promises that they’re only interested in asking a few questions of the personnel there. “Sounds good,” Coulson replies, but when the transmission ends he confesses, “this doesn’t sound good.”
“He’s lying, definitely, for sure,” agrees Skye. Coulson says that if Talbot is in charge there will be nothing “peacekeeping” about the force he sends. May points out that their defenses are working and they could try to hold them off, but Coulson observes that the last thing SHIELD needs right now is to start a war with the US government. Skye wants to know what’s going to happen with Talbot gets there, and Coulson says the best case scenario is that they all are served with subpoenas and spend the next six months in courtrooms. On the other hand, Talbot might just fire bunker-buster bombs at them instead. Either way, Coulson instructs them to enact the “Odyssey Protocol” and fix the Bus, because they’re getting out of there.