Say what you want about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but you have to admire how it has completely changed the game when it comes to continually connecting a television series to events unfolding in a franchise playing out on the big screen. We've never really seen this before, at least in an ongoing capacity, and while the results are mixed as Marvel jockeys to establish a successful television show that stands on its own while also serving fans the big-screen tie-ins they so desperately obsess over, it's definitely getting better with each week.
Arguably the show's best episode so far premiered in the wake of the latest Captain America arriving in theaters, revealing some neat nods to The Winter Soldier while also acting as a sort of bridge to The Avengers: Age of Ultron. What was so great about this episode is that it served to enhance the movie just as the movie served to enhance the show, whereas previous episodes felt like it was using the movies just to beef up its geek cred (and ratings).
Earlier episodes toyed with the fallout from Thor: The Dark World (Jamie Alexander even appeared in an episode as Lady Sif) and an ongoing storyline attempts to unravel the mystery behind Agent Coulson's (Clark Gregg) return from the dead, but none of these plot points fed back into the films themselves until the post-Winter Soldier episode, which further explores the disintegration of S.H.I.E.L.D. after its revealed that Hydra not only infiltrated the organization, but has been hiding within it since Hydra was thought to have been defeated back in Captain America: The First Avenger.
The episode (titled "Turn, Turn Turn"), which runs alongside the events of The Winter Soldier, helps add more context to the fallout from within S.H.I.E.L.D. at every level, whereas the movie sacrifices some of those details in order to tell a bigger, more action-packed story about what happens to Captain America, Nick Fury and Black Widow while all this is going down. So if you watched The Winter Soldier, you will get a lot out of this particular S.H.I.E.L.D. episode's connecting of the dots, and if you listened close enough you also learned more about that first postcredits scene in The Winter Soldier, as well as some foreshadowing of where we pick up with our favorite superheroes at the beginning of The Avengers sequel.
At one point during the episode, once it's revealed that Hydra was hiding within S.H.I.E.L.D., we're told that Hydra has taken over two remote S.H.I.E.L.D. bases. One is located in East Africa and the other just goes by the name of "The Treehouse." It's a throwaway line adding more context to what's going on, but at the same time it's a direct tie-in to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and most likely the setup for the beginning of that movie.
We already know a major action sequence from Age of Ultron was filmed in South Africa, and that it's said to cover the first 10 minutes of the film. After last night's S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, we now know that sequence will directly tie to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base taken over by Hydra. Furthermore, we also now know that the first postcredits scene in The Winter Soldier - in which Hydra leader Baron Strucker shows off an arsenal of weaponry, including Loki's staff -- is in all likelihood set at that same S.H.I.E.L.D. base, where we also get our first look at Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and her brother Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who are being held there as prisoners.
Knowing all this, we assume Age of Ultron will now open up with a sequence that involves the superheroes attempting to take back that base. Did Strucker already have Loki's staff or did he invade the base in order to steal it? And were Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver already prisoners there, or did Strucker use them to take over the base in the first place? Questions! Questions!
And what about the base known as the Treehouse? What's that? Well the episode doesn't give that up, but we do know production on Age of Ultron just moved from South Korea to the Hawley Woods in the U.K., and that they're shooting an action sequence that involves snow (next week's S.H.I.E.L.D. episode teased its characters hiding out in a snowy location), fighting and tanks. Is Age of Ultron now filming at the former S.H.I.E.L.D. base? Will the Treehouse play a major role in the Avengers sequel? More questions!
Meanwhile, you have the show itself, which turned its own characters' lives upside down, revealing more than one major traitor among them. Maybe it didn't happen the way you wanted it to, but you have to admit we're witnessing television history right now.
And it's pretty damn cool.
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