Due to some internet and editorial issues, I’ve gotten a little behind in my reviews of Agents of SHIELD, but it’s not for lack of enthusiasm (I’m looking at you Helix). The last two episodes of Agents of SHIELD have been some of the strongest so far thanks to a strange combination of goofy sci-fi fantasy and occasional outbursts of deadly violence that somehow remains bloodless and “family-friendly” in the manner of the big-screen Marvel Studios films. Which is a discussion to have in itself that would not only encompass the Marvel movies, but PG classics as far back as the Indiana Jones series or Star Wars. The bloodless killing of “bad guys” is kind of a tradition in this general genre. What that says about the complicit nature of audience morality or the inculcation in young audiences of the acceptance of (lethal) violence against enemies, is something I’d like to read sometime. But not here. I only mention it because the climax of “T.A.H.I.T.I.” involves our heroes gunning down two operatives who, as far as we know, are just hired guards for the secure facility where Coulson (Clark Gregg) had his miracle surgery and was brought back to life. These are not S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but independent contractors for whoever actually runs the “Guest House” – and while S.H.I.E.L.D. is obviously tied to them in some manner, they are not S.H.I.E.L.D. Which raises much more interesting questions about Coulson’s resurrection than “The Magical Place” initially implied. The fact that top level clearance is required to know any facts about Coulson’s situation was a hint, but it’s not until this episode that we really start to see how deep the secrecy goes. And why. But first, a little plot. After being gutshot by Quinn (David Conrad) last episode, Skye (Chloe Bennet) is dying and not even the docs at S.H.I.E.L.D. can save her. It’s just a matter of time until she’s gone. Of course, our heroes know that death is not the end if you can pull enough strings, so after some fast and dirty research, the gang figures out where Coulson was actually treated – and it wasn’t at a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. On the way there, the Bus is boarded by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents John Garrett (Bill Paxton woo hoo!) and Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt) with orders to take Quinn to the Fridge for detainment. Luckily, Garrett is old friends with Coulson and was Ward’s S.O. and after only minimal arm twisting is on-board with tracking down the Guest House and finding a way to save Skye (after the obligatory good guy fight where Ward (Brett Dalton) and Triplett beat on each other for a minute or two). And while the script isn’t perfection, everything is better with Bill Paxton. The Guest House, where our hired guns are killed, is a Top Secret facility and our heroes are able to find the miracle drug that saved Coulson before the self-destruct sequence brings the whole place down. But not before Coulson makes a startling discovery about the source of the drug in a room marked T.A.H.I.T.I. (and since we’re a couple of weeks out from the episode, spoilers be damned!). It’s one of the freakiest moments in the series so far and opens up a variety of potential narrative lines going forward. By following a series of tubes that seem to be distilling the magical drug, Coulson opens up a compartment to reveal the mangled body of a blue-skinned alien in a containment tank and the tubes are coming from the alien body!!! After snapping out of a daze (his mind is blown, as was mine), Coulson tries to stop the gang from using the drug to save Skye, but it’s too late. She’s injected, and after a dramatic convulsion, is healed. But all evidence of the drug’s source is lost in the explosion that destroys the Guest House, so the next mystery involves discovering both the identity of the alien and who really did Coulson’s surgery. As far as mysteries go, these are pretty good ones. I can’t help but wonder if this was the play all along or if this is course-correction. But to be honest, it doesn’t matter. Because once we passed the original 13-episode order, things have been looking up. Way up. And that uptick in quality is carried over into last week’s “Yes Men.” Again, we’re not dealing with hard sci-fi or adult action, and the script by Shalisha Francis suffers from the same shortcomings of her previous work in the mid-season finale, “The Bridge,” but somehow it all still worked. I’m pretty sure the credit for this rests on the Asgardian shoulders of this week’s guest-stars, Elena Satine as Lorelei and the always impressive Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif. The plot is pretty straightforward and is something you’ve seen in countless comics or cartoons as Lorelei uses her magical abilities to manipulate men into becoming her slaves/soldiers. Lady Sif is here to stop her and return her to Asgardian prison. Along the way Lorelei takes control of a biker gang, but after a run-in with S.H.I.E.L.D., upgrades to the one-man army (and sex toy), Agent Ward. Before all is said and done, Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) faces off against Ward while Sif and Lorelai duke it out in the confines of the cell on the Bus. There are a few funny bits along the way, mostly dealing with the weaknesses of men in general — and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) in particular. It’s not life-changing, but it’s just plain fun. Coulson’s “casual” question to Sif, asking whether she had ever encountered any blue-skinned aliens was nicely done as she begins listing off race after race after race (including the Kree) while his face slowly drops. You know, there’s a lot to be said for just being damned entertaining, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally consistently hitting that mark with every episode while also moving the more serious story elements along smoothly and steadily. And speaking of more serious story elements, Coulson and Skye bond after he spills the beans about the alien origins of the mystery drug, but then the camera pulls back to reveal that the office is bugged. In another room, Agent May is listening in, picks up a secure phone and says “Coulson knows” before we cut to black. !!!!! This, combined with an off-hand comment from Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) earlier in the episode about Fury being off the grid, seems to be designed to build connections with the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier film. And seeing as how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking a break until April 1, 2014 – just days before the Cap movie premiere – with an episode entitled “The End of the Beginning,” and then returns the week after the premiere with an episode called “Turn, Turn, Turn,” things may be about to take a grim turn. Agents of SHIELD 1.14 “T.A.H.I.T.I.” & 1.15 “Yes Men”"T.A.H.I.T.I.""Yes Men"3.8Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Shawn EH Agreed on all, but especially Jaimie Alexander’s awesome Lady Sif; she really brought that Marvel Movie charisma to the small screen; it read like having Thundra burst her way into the Fantastic Four or the Defenders, a role Sif hasn’t often had to play as she so seldom used to get out of Asgard. Loving her Wonder Woman-esque qualities, embodied perfectly by Alexander!