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Agents of SHIELD, Ep. 1.14, “T.A.H.I.T.I.”: SHIELD’s Dark Secret In T.A.H.I.T.I.

MING-NA WEN, CLARK GREGG, ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE, IAIN DE CAESTECKER, BRETT DALTON, SARAYU RAO

Agents of SHIELD, Season 1, Episode 14, “T.A.H.I.T.I.”
Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Bobby Roth

Episode 13, “T.R.A.C.K.S.”, ended on a cliffhanger with Skye, shot twice in the abdomen by Quinn, getting rushed to SHIELD for medical attention. “T.A.H.I.T.I.” picks up right where “T.R.A.C.K.S.” left off, and Coulson’s team is faced with a moral dilemma. They can try to save Skye with the same techniques Director Fury’s team used to bring Coulson back to life, but by saving her life, they could cause her immense pain and make her wish she had died instead.

As the team dives deeper into the secrets of SHIELD, their plan to save Skye is further complicated by Quinn and SHIELD Agent John Garrett, played by Bill Paxton. Garrett wants revenge on Quinn and demands Coulson turn him over, but Coulson won’t give up Quinn until they know Skye will live. Meanwhile, Quinn claims that the Clairvoyant is following them, and even if they find a way to save Skye, the Clairvoyant will know how to bring people back to life and could use that power against SHIELD. Should they let Skye die peacefully and consider her loss a sacrifice in the fight against the Clairvoyant, or will they save Skye, no matter what the cost?

Jeffrey Bell wrote two of season one’s more exciting episodes, “0-8-4” and “Eye Spy”. In “T.A.H.I.T.I.”, he weaves the overarching theme of sacrificing-one-for-the-many into the story in a way that feels natural. The episode starts with Skye being the necessary sacrifice in the bigger war against the Clairvoyant. When Coulson and Garrett break into a SHIELD base, though, two men are killed so the team can get what they need to save Skye. The most horrifying sacrifice, however, is what Coulson finds behind the door marked T.A.H.I.T.I. What sacrifice was made to save Coulson’s life, and did he want Skye to carry that guilt as well? For other shows, this level of writing is second nature, but Agents of SHIELD has really struggled with the basic building blocks of storytelling.

One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is to show, not tell. Over halfway through the first season, the writers of Agents of SHIELD are finally past telling their audience who Skye, Coulson, and the rest of the characters should be, and they are concentrating on who these characters really are. Listening to Coulson question what happened to him is not nearly as engaging as watching him break into a SHIELD facility and search for answers. Listening to characters discuss the intelligence of Simmons cannot compare to her keeping Skye alive long enough for Coulson to return with the cure. Actions speak louder than words, and if the writers keep delivering the action in “T.A.H.I.T.I.”, Agents of SHIELD could be TV’s big comeback in 2014.


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