After Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is kidnapped by the villainous Centipede in the mid-season finale, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. slows down slightly a little as the team are forced to search for their missing leader in ‘The Magical Place’.
The episode sees the return of Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) leading the S.H.I.E.L.D. team as they try to track down Centipede and rescue Coulson. Hand makes for a good leader of the organisation in the absence of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). She represents the facelessness of the organisation, the rigid rules and unwillingness to break from protocol.
We see how much leeway Coulson’s team actually have in the way they are treated when he is no longer there. The team are allowed a lot of freedom and whilst their standard way of operating might end up well for them, it’s far from the norm for S.H.I.E.L.D.. This is no more obvious in Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) role in the episode.
Thrown off of The Bus, Skye is left to her own devices to try to find Coulson. Normally this might not be much of an issue for her, but she’s slowed down by her inability to use any tech thanks to her S.H.I.E.L.D bracelet. However, after 10 episodes, we get to see that Skye has finally learnt some spy skills.
After finding the person who is controlling the flow of money going into Centipede, she steals his car, crashes it, gets it towed home, then ambushes her target once he arrives. It’s a pretty smart plan that relies on Skye using her wits and tricks that she’s picked up from the team, rather than her hacking skills. It gives a hint at the versatile agent she could one day become.
While the team tracking Coulson down, their leader finds himself a prisoner in an abandoned nuclear testing town – complete with creepy mannequins. With the ‘help’ of Raina (Ruth Negga) and a machine designed to uncover repressed memories Coulson and the audience finally gets a hint at what happened to him after the event of Avengers Assemble.
Despite having been told that Coulson only died for a few minutes before being revived, it turns out that not only was he dead for several days, but that Fury used some kind of advanced tech to revive him. This was not too far from what the audience were expecting; yet Coulson screaming, asking to be killed, whilst a machine messes with his exposed brain is something of a shocking image.
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The main season arc moves forward as more information about the mysterious Clairvoyant is teased. Sadly, with this still being halfway through the season, very few real answers are given here, though the story does seem to be finally advancing with a clearer narrative.
The episode ends with the surprise reveal that Mike Peterson (J August Richards) wasn’t killed in the previous episode, but is now being forced to work for Centipede with one of the eye implants first introduced in the episode ‘Eye Spy’. It’s good that Mike hasn’t been killed off as he’s one of the best characters in the show. His shift to working for the villains definitely produces some extra drama. It’s also a nice thing that the show didn’t hide this reveal for a later episode and actually gave us some information up front for once.
‘The Magical Place’ doesn’t so much as provide answers to the mystery behind Coulson’s resurrection as much as it just confirms suspicions. Hopefully now that the cat is out of the bag, the series won’t be as stingy with information as it has been up to this point. ‘The Magical Place’ continued on from ‘The Bridge‘ by giving the audience a much improved experience, embracing a larger narrative and decent character moments over adventure of the week stories.