Apr 17 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Providence” Retrospective. Agents of Nothing?


Season 1, Episode 18

Air Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 8/7c on ABC.



“Fury didn’t make it out of DC.” – Agent Koenig

Adrian Pasdar as Colonel Glenn Talbot

Adrian Pasdar as Colonel Glenn Talbot

After HYDRA was discovered embedded deeply within the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) receives a message from Air Force Colonel Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) saying he and a  peacekeeping force is coming to check out the Hub, aka the S.H.I.E.L.D. base. Even Coulson knows, “This doesn’t sound good.”

Talbot has a long history in the Marvel universe as a villain, often being the one hunting down Bruce Banner/the Hulk (last played by Mark Ruffalo inThe Avengers). Given Coulson’s history with Banner in The Avengers, one would assume Coulson is all too familiar with Talbot’s methods, none of which could be described as peacekeeping. Coulson decides it would be in the best interest of S.H.I.E.L.D. if he and his team disappear.

HYDRA agents Ward (Brett Dalton) and Garrett (Bill Paxton)

Meanwhile, HYDRA agents Garrett (Bill Paxton), aka the Clairvoyant, and Ward (Brett Dalton) regroup with other HYDRA agents after the events of “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which coincidentally coincide with what happens in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There seems to be a mad dash by both S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA to gain the upper hand when it comes to men and weaponry. One of Garrett’s first moves is to free Raina (Ruth Negga) and have her continue her work on the Centipede device.

I wasn’t a big fan of Raina, aka the girl in the flower dress, when she first appeared in the episode aptly named “Girl in the Flower Dress,” but Ward freeing her from the S.H.I.E.L.D prison does set up an interesting storyline. Raina seems disappointed to learn the so-called Clairvoyant is nothing more than a con man. Later, when talking to Ward about how Ward betrayed his team, Raina tells him, “I spent time with Coulson, he’s a good man. Someone who’d lay down his life for you.” Could Raina be questioning her decision about which team to play for? Could she be the one who exposes Ward to Coulson? Raina isn’t the only one who feels used by the Clairvoyant, which begs the question, are there others?

While Coulson is collecting his team’s S.H.I.E.L.D badges, something happens to his own badge, causing a series of numbers to light up on it. Coulson immediately assumes it is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) trying to communicate with him by sending him coordinates to some unknown place. Not everyone on the team is convinced it is a message from Fury; after all, he is supposed to be dead. Some fear it’s a HYDRA trap, while others fear Coulson has become unstable.

I found myself turned off by Coulson’s level of desperation in “Providence.” One of the things that make Coulson such a fan favorite is his ability to walk into a situation completely composed and deal with it. He has faced alien invasions and stood up to Loki (Tom Hiddleston), all without ever breaking a sweat. I understand his world has been turned upside down but I still think Coulson’s reaction is over the top for his character. I would have rather seen more frustration and less despair.

Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Simmons ( Elizabeth Henstridge

Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Simmons ( Elizabeth Henstridge

Turns out Coulson is right. The coordinates lead the team to a secret base set up by Fury and maintained by Agent Eric Koenig (Patton Oswalt). The base allows Coulson and his team to take a deep breath and figure out their next move. I am a big fan of Oswalt, who currently does the voice-over on The Goldbergs, another ABC series. I hope Oswalt is there to play a more serious character and not just to inject some humor. For some reason, the writers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. don’t handle humor very well. 

The HYDRA revelation is so big, it should have made people want to go back and re-watch earlier episodes to look for signs they might have missed, something that might have hinted Ward wasn’t who he said he was. But, because those episodes weren’t very good, I suspectnobody wanted to bother.

To many, Ward is the eye candy for the series’ female audience. On a show where nothing is what it seems, I wonder whether the producers will have the courage to have Ward continue being the bad guy. Or, will they suddenly claim he is a double agent in spite of killing Agent Hand (Saffron Burrows) and several other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents? Will the show follow Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s lead, claiming that HYDRA did to Ward what they did to Bucky Barnes (Sabastian Stan) — wiping his memory and then reprogramming it?

Many fans hoped the HYDRA reveal would breathe new life into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a series that has struggled from the beginning and only recently improved. I worry the show will find itself restricted, focusing more inward on things like Ward and his relationships with Skye and Coulson, as he tries to figure out who he can trust. It looks like  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will focus more on the team in future episodes instead of the huge Marvel universe. Because the writers have been holding onto so many secrets, it became necessary to hold off on some character development, and now that the secret is out, they seem to be going back to work on it. As much as I enjoyed the connection to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I worry the connection might end up negatively hurting the show.

Tweet me @staffaroadtrip or leave a comment below to let me know what you think about “Providence.”

For more on the show, go to http://www.agentsofshield.com/.

Follow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D on Twitter, as well as some of the cast: <Ward> Brett Dalton, <Coulson> Clark Gregg, <Simmons> Elizabeth Henstridge, and <May> Ming-Na Wen.

Like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D on Facebook.

Photos: © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


© 2014, Greg Staffa. All rights reserved.

Greg Staffa

I provide testosterone to the site. You won’t be reading about how nice a actress looks in a dress or how much of a hunk Matt Bomer is in my reviews. I describe colors using words like brown, not taupe. My twitter name is @staffaroadtrip because I love road trips and have done two different 48-state road trips since 2008. My favorite show is White Collar.


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    • vc frost on April 18, 2014 at 10:24 pm
    • Reply

    Yeah.. I’m with you on the Coulson overreacting thing at the Masonically titled “Providence” I think the show is clunky and a little ABC 123 in it’s story telling and that Grant being a double agent was a surprise for me but not totally unexpected after the less than stellar season so far.. I’m beginning to think it’s an afterthought in a way…. It seems they aren’t writing for the audience that is really tuning into the show…
    I suppose if I was 14 I’d be as happy as I was when Planet of the Apes came to TV..and you are dead on with no one bothering to go back and check for back story clues which I doubt are there..
    Nice article.. I put you on my rss..

    • Jim on April 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm
    • Reply


    I liked this review and your description of your review style.

    Keep it up.

    • James on April 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm
    • Reply

    Actually, There is one episode where ward shows his true colors. You will have to forgive me, I do not pay attention to episode titles. In the Episode where Ward is being controlled by Loreli he actually pulls the trigger to kill May AFTER Lady Siff removes Lorelis power. Bad editing? I think not.

    • Syd Payton on April 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm
    • Reply

    I guess my problem with the show is that it always feels cheap and disconnected from the marvel universe. I have argued that point to no end with brother who states that it’s called Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. so why am I expecting to see other Marvel characters. My problem besides that I do not believe that it is well written is that they opened the box of being connected to the Marvel universe by basing the show around Coulsen and name dropping Thor or the battle of New York etc. from time to time. I may be in the minority but I felt that weaving the storyline into then out of the Captain America was a cheap trick that forced us to rush to the movie so we didn’t find out spoilers and secrets out of order. I under stand one is a movie of epic proportions and one is a weekly TV show but at no time has this tie in made you feel like their worlds are in anyway connected outside of them telling us they are. With the movie proclaiming the end of S.H.E.I.L.D. and everyone disbanding and going underground why did the TV show seem to have more business is still up and running operations? Also now that we know who the clairvoyant is the new story just doesn’t fit with the movie story. Is Bill Paxton’s character the head of Hydra? ( terribly played now in a more comedic angle). I have tried to like the show and have ridden out it’s bumps and bruises but I think we have seen their best work with the middle movie tie in. I feel like it will only hang on by saying” look at me I really know Iron Man! I just had lunch at his place the other day”. Marvel is going to ride this tie in strategy until they burn it out.

    • Stephanie on April 17, 2014 at 6:45 am
    • Reply

    I enjoyed watching Providence as I have all the other episodes. I am a fan of the show and the Marvel universe. Seen all the movies so I know what is going on and all. I like your idea about Ward and him possibly been reprogrammed like Bucky….another idea for him changing the way he did. He makes a good bad guy and fleshes his character out more. He was ok as a good guy, but oh…he makes for a better bad guy. Any way, Colsen was more desperate than usual, but you would be too if you had a lot of stuff happen to you in the last few months and all….I can’t wait for the team to find out about Ward and Garrett. Explosive stuff. I liked the idea that Colsen did not want to use Lola….she is his baby and not meant for the trek. Such interesting stuff happening leading up to the season finale….I just hope that this show gets a second season and we get to see what else the writers can come up and all….

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