It seems like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been playing with this question all season. And with the new Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer casting S.H.I.E.L.D. as the ominous, Big Brother bad guy, the question seems even more present. The newest episode, "The Hub," simply comes out and asks it: Is S.H.I.E.L.D the enemy?
It starts off seemingly harmless, with Ward and Fitz being sent on a mission to disable some huge weapon in Russia. (Weirdly enough, this part of the episode ended up being the least important, so I don't remember much about the specifics of the weapon. It's just bad, okay?) But this mission comes from the big bosses at S.H.I.E.L.D., so instead of the team knowing everything, just a few people have clearance. Of course, this makes Skye antsy for information, so she convinces the worried Simmons to help her hack S.H.I.E.L.D.'s system to find out what's really going on.
What she finds isn't pretty: S.H.I.E.L.D sent Ward and Fitz into an area that they knew to be dangerous without a plan to get them out. Meanwhile, Agent Coulson has been the good company man the whole time, rotely repeating "trust the system, trust the system" to Skye any time she protests. So when Skye reveals to him the true nature of the mission, he challenges his superiors and helps the team get Ward and Fitz out of there. Victoria Hand, Coulson's superior, answers that the mission was the Coulson's team's mission, but the meaning is unclear. Was it a test for Coulson's team, or is there something that S.H.I.E.L.D. is hiding?
It sure would make for an interesting season. Coulson, the heart of this show, believes so wholeheartedly in the organization that having his faith in S.H.I.E.L.D. called into question would be a huge conflict, professionally and personally. He's always been the kind of guy to follow orders, so what would he do when it's revealed that the orders are coming from an enemy?
The rest of the information coming from S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't reflect too well on the organization either. In the episode, Coulson finally tells Skye that the redacted S.H.I.E.L.D. file about her was actually about the woman who dropped her off at the orphanage — what he doesn't tell her is that the woman was killed. And in the episode's end tag, Coulson tries to retrieve some details about his death and recovery, only to find that he doesn't have the clearance. Once again, the show is bringing up more questions than it answers. But all of the answers we have so far point to S.H.I.E.L.D., so is that where the problems lie?
The questions brought up in this episode make it clear that it's time for the show to move on from doing serialized "baddie of the week" episodes. That was all well and good when the audience was just getting to know the characters, but now we need to see more of their relationships and find out more about this season's big problems. So far, we have two, possibly three potential Big Bad Guys, three potential relationships, and two overarching mysteries — and the show has hardly developed any of them. Is S.H.I.E.L.D. the bad guy? What's up with Skye's parents? How did Coulson recover? Is anyone ever going to make out on the Plane of Sexual Tension? Well, we won't find out next week — the next episode just a tie-in for Thor: The Dark World (groan). But, you know, tune in... sometime... to find out... something. Maybe.