“One Door Closes” is the best episode of Agents of SHEILD’s almost two year run.
The show went for broke in both the story and effects departments producing the best hour of comic book TV on any network this season.
It’s hard to go wrong with flashbacks that show Lucy Lawless channeling her inner Brock Sampson, Simmons using prissiness as a weapon and tables turned so often it made you a little dizzy. In a lesser episode, the May vs. Morse battle would have been a centerpiece; this week it was a first-act appetizer (and the second most badass thing May does in the episode).
At its heart, SHIELD is an action show. Showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have at times lost track of that during the series’ run, but not this time. The flashbacks to the Iliad were well timed and welcome when the episode showed the slightest hint of bogging down. The pace was consistently quick with a lot of gunplay, grand entrances and solid fight scenes.
It’s the closest the series has come to hitting that expectation of being a Marvel movie condensed into an hour of TV.
In amongst the Easter Eggs, Avengers: Age of Ultron breadcrumbs and HYDRA callbacks is the battle for SHIELD’s soul with Skye as first prize - a story that’s happened before and will happen again.
The last two episodes have a spiritual connection to Battlestar Galactica’s brilliant second season arc when Admiral Cain and the Pegasus show up on the scene.
Besides sharing Edward James Olmos, both tell the tale of about two sides of a fractured whole crossing paths and sabers battling for control over their rag-tag group. Olmos fills the Cain role well with his authoritative presence and growling line delivery. (Plus I’m pretty sure that makes Ward and Agent 33 the show’s Baltar and Six, which is a fun idea to play with).
Caught in the middle is Skye (who’s Starbuck in this comparison), laying in low in a cabin in the woods (with minor Hulk damage) playing solitaire and eating Little Debbies. Her life got more complicated when Gordon the Inhuman (Leoben the Cylon) dropped in for a visit, broaden her horizons and cast doubt on the intentions of her friends.
Chloe Bennett has come a long way since the series premiered. She’s not winning any Emmys anytime soon, but you could feel the elation when she made the water from the faucet dance and sense the horror when she leveled a half-acre of forest with a flick of her wrists.
It’s hard telling if SHIELD will be able to keep up this pace throughout the home stretch of the season, but even if there are more episodes like this one than not, it’s going to be a fun ride to the end of a vastly improved season.
Craig Wack is a veteran journalist. Please follow his Twitter.