The Pitchfork And The Brick

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A while back I watched a video of David Simon from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. (How cool is it that such a thing exists?) David Simon is the creator of The Wire. He also created Treme. He makes it his business to study urban and economic development in order to write compelling dramas about them. So when he talks about income inequality and where he thinks it’s headed, I listen. He got to a point in the hour long talk where he’s thinking about where things are going and he says this:

“We’re either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I’m losing faith.”

This week I found an open letter by billionaire Nick Hanauer called “The Pitchforks Are Coming…For Us Plutocrats”. It’s a scathing letter explaining in detail why the middle class must be rebuilt by paying workers more money. In words that eerily echo David Simon’s he says:

“If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”
These are smart men who know what they’re talking about and I don’t see a lot of compelling arguments going that refute their claims. More to the point, if you’re looking for it, I can see evidence of this war happening already.

Anyone who is paying attention can see that we have an increasingly militarized police force. Recently a Massachusetts SWAT team when asked for records of their activities claimed to be a corporation or a private mercenary force. This isn’t a promising sign when you have SWAT teams in other parts of the country injuring 2-year-olds.

When people aren’t getting injured or killed by the police, they’re getting arrested and imprisoned. In America we have 5% of the population and yet we have 25% of the world’s prisoners. We are incarcerating humans at a rate never before seen in human history. We are then taking those prisoners and forcing them to work for little to no pay often to increase the profits of private companies running state prisons. This is the legal slave trade of America. And you’ll find no millionaires among their ranks. Most prisoners aren’t white. Most of them are poor. All of them will have a difficult time finding a job if and when they are released increasing the likelihood that they will resort to crime resulting in more prison time.

Of course this isn’t the only problem. These days we have an increasingly large group of people who feel it is necessary to arm themselves with guns. Many of these people are anti-government. Many are poor. And thanks to gun laws so lax that even Mexican gangsters come to our country to get guns because it’s easier many of them are exactly the sort of people who shouldn’t have guns. Despite an annual death count that is nearly equal with car accidents, instead of increasing gun control laws, we have made guns even easier to get and easier to fire legally.

The combination of open carry laws and stand your ground laws make it possible for two people to openly carry guns, feel fearful of the other one and shoot each other without any law being broken. This isn’t the Wild West. It’s worse.

So we have unparalleled income inequality. We have unparalleled militarized police. We have unparalleled imprisonment. We have unparalleled private citizen armament. What we have is a class war being waged and it’s only just beginning.

If I were a billionaire, I’d probably do everything to erase my public existence, buy a fortified yacht, and hide out in the South Pacific until it’s all over.

Unfortunately, I’m a few billion dollars short of being a billionaire. Like most of you I’m living paycheck to paycheck at a pay rate closer to minimum wage than it is to the average CEO’s. I think it’s safe to say that the war is here and it’s going to get A LOT worse before it gets better. I’m talking Mad Fucking Max worse.

It could be that David Simon and Nick Hanauer and I are all wrong about this and it’s going to be fine. I accept that and I don’t have any questions about it.

What I don’t know is what should we do if we’re right? What do the people in the rapidly shrinking middle who don’t want to throw bricks or raise pitchforks do to prepare for war? How do we increase our chances of survival? Arming ourselves and stalking up on food doesn’t seem like a good choice because you don’t know how much food or ammunition you’re going to need and the best gun in the world doesn’t make you bulletproof. Is it as simple as drastic relocation? Should those of us who see this thing coming just get out of the country and try to find a safe place? (Though what place is safe from what seems to be a global class war?) These are questions I genuinely don’t know the answers to and I’m curious what others think about all of this.

I know it sounds a bit paranoid and most of us think that something else will happen before the pitchforks and bricks, but it’s a situation where we should start thinking about contingency plans before it’s too late.

I’m interested in what you think. Go ahead and comment below if you have anything you’d like to contribute to the conversation.

-       Jack Cameron

Being Wrong On The Internet

duty_calls
People are wrong on the Internet. People will say things that are factually inaccurate and easily proven false. They will say things that any 5-year-old who hasn’t been hit in the head with a baseball can tell you are untrue. They will tell you that vaccines cause autism. They will tell you that more guns make people safer and that the last mass shooting was a hoax. They will tell you that everyone on the West Coast will get cancer within five years thanks to Fukushima. They will tell you there’s a secret root that cures all cancer. They will tell you about Obamacare killing thousands. They will bury you with absolute bullshit that if you heard anyone saying in a city park, you would just assume that person is a crazy person.

And yet, if you’re like me, when these people say these wrong things on the Internet, rather than ignoring their prattle like you would if a crazy person were ranting in a park, you feel compelled to correct them. You feel the need to make sure that if someone less intelligent than you were to stumble upon such a post, they would at the very least see your comment showing that the original post is absolute crap. Because what if an innocent and naïve person were to read the original post and think that it’s true? What if your comment is the only chance to stop some other person from sharing this obviously asinine crap? If not you, who will speak truth to stupid?

It’s been one of my pastimes over the last few years. One might even call it an addiction. I find a cause I’m interested in and I care about. I find people who disagree with my stance and I battle it out online with them. Whenever possible, I try to use links and facts and statistics to back up what I’m saying and try to insist that they do the same.

I’ll tell people that I like talking to people I disagree with because it’s the only way I learn. I’ll tell people how at one point I was a anti-choice, pro-death penalty, gun rights, Christian Quaker, and how through talking with people I disagreed with, I am now none of those things. And while that is true, it’s not why I do it.

I am not going to learn anything from someone who thinks 9/11 was an inside job. And there isn’t going to be a theologian alive who is going to convince me that God exists. There aren’t facts out there that will convince me that killing someone is the best way to show as a society that killing is wrong. Many of the things I see as true are things I’ve thought about and studied so much that in many ways I’m simply frustrated with those who see things otherwise. More to the point, I just want them to pay attention to the facts and see where that leads because I think if they do that, they’ll find themselves in a similar area.

I haven’t been doing it to learn. I’ve been doing it because it’s fun. And while I’m all for having fun, there are better ways to have fun than at someone else’s expense. Taking out my frustration and anger on people who have opinions not backed up by anything more than their feelings on the matter while enjoyable isn’t really what I want to be about. I’d rather take that time and simply make a compelling argument here on my website than get into a thread war on Facebook that inevitably ends with someone I might otherwise think is an okay person all pissed off at me because I’ve ridiculed them for having the audacity to post something stupid.

My point here is simple. I have things I need to do and things I want to do that all take priority over telling someone they are wrong on the Internet. So instead, I’m going to treat you like the crazy person in the park and simply walk away. Facebook friends who post too many bullshit stories will find themselves no longer part of my Facebook friends. Websites that post click bait will be ignored. Commenters so incredibly stupid that it’s strange they’re capable of literacy will be likewise ignored. In short, to all you climate change denying, 9/11 conspiracy, gun nut, anti-vaccers out there, I have better things to do with my life than to tell you that you are wrong on the Internet.
- Jack Cameron

An Open Letter To American Gun Owners

gunsAmerican Gun Owners,

Let me start off by saying that I know the vast majority of you are responsible law abiding citizens who are trained in the use of your weapons and would likely never shoot another human being without other lives being in imminent danger. You’re also likely not someone who is brandishing your weapons around supermarkets, department stores, and restaurants trying just to antagonize anti-gun people. Your gun likely sits in a gun case somewhere until you feel like going out to the range to target shoot or perhaps when you go hunting. Despite what many liberals might believe, most of you are entirely rational, educated individuals who are well aware of the power and responsibility inherent in owning a gun. You need not convince me of this as I already know it to be true.

Now having said that, let me also state that I don’t expect that this letter is going to change your mind about guns in the slightest. When it comes to the seemingly endless and toothless gun debate here in America, most of us have chosen our sides, dug in our heels, and will not be changing our minds anytime soon. I get that. I’ll even acknowledge that such a description likely fits me as well. We all have our reasons and our pet studies that will help back up what we already believe about guns, gun violence, and what can or should be done about it.

I’m aware that no amount of sources, studies, evidence, or data is going to result in a sudden shift in viewpoint. I’m equally aware that what I’m going to ask will likely fall on deaf ears. So before I get to that point, let me ask one quick and easy favor. For the duration of this letter, let’s step out of our fox holes for a few moments. I will not attack you with anything and you will allow if only for a moment the idea that just maybe we could do this. Can we make that deal just for the length of this post?

Every year a gun is used to kill 30,000 Americans. 20,000 of these are suicides. 10,000 are homicides. If rates continue as they are, more people will be killed yearly using guns than will be killed in automobile accidents. And despite what many in the gun lobby have told us, liberals and Obama are doing absolutely nothing to take your guns away. If nothing else, you can rest secure in the iron-clad fact that Obama is not coming for your guns.

Okay. Now let me ask you this. What if there was a way to make 100% sure that your gun was never used for a homicide or a suicide? Sure, you may have your gun locked up. You may have various methods of security to keep your gun from being used to harm other law abiding citizens, but each of these can be circumvented. Locks can be broken. Guns can be stolen or lost. It’s one of those things we think will never happen to us until it does. So I ask you to open your mind. I ask you to let in one incredibly simple idea.

The one sure-fire way to make sure that no one ever uses your guns to kill anyone else and every law abiding citizen is safe from any harm your guns might do is to simply get rid of your guns.

I know you’re already immediately dismissing this concept. I know that in some cases it’s a part of who you are. In other cases, you simply can’t imagine a circumstance in which your gun might be used to harm others. You’re probably right about that.

However, if you’re able to, I’d like you to imagine a scenario in which you’re wrong. Imagine that someone with ill intent did get their hands on your gun. Imagine they used it to take their own life. Or imagine they used it to kill someone. Imagine how that might make you feel and imagine how different it might be if you simply didn’t have the gun in the first place. Are you not afraid of that feeling and if not, why not? Isn’t that just as big of a fear as you might have of someone breaking into your house while you’re unarmed? It should be. It’s much more likely that a gun will be used to shoot the person holding it or used in a homicide than it is to be used to defend against a home invasion.

Home invasions are incredibly rare despite how popular such instances are on the news. And defending yourself from a home invasion with a gun is rarer still. Our government has drones and missiles. If they chose to be oppressive, your guns would not stop them. Most of the situations in which you might need a gun are incredibly unlikely. Truth be told, it’s also unlikely that your gun will ever be used for anything beyond target shooting. But why leave even a small chance that it could be?

You can bring your gun in to any local police station. You do not need it. Getting rid of it may save lives. It may even save the lives of the people in your home or yourself. You want to make sure your gun never takes an innocent person’s life under any circumstances? Join us and be good without guns.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I realize that you’re not likely going to get rid of your guns. But I do appreciate your willingness to imagine it with me for a while.

-          Jack Cameron

#GoodWithoutGuns

Be Safe I Love You By Cara Hoffman – A Review

besafeiloveyouA while back I reviewed Cara Hoffman’s first novel, ‘So Much Pretty’. The raw intimacy that Hoffman achieved in that novel was so memorable that I kept my eye out for her next work. Her new novel, ‘Be Safe, I Love You’ shows that Cara Hoffman continues to be one of the most original voices writing novels today.

‘Be Safe, I Love You’ tells the story of a soldier returning to the small hometown of Watertown, New York after being in Iraq. Unfortunately the soldier brought some of the war back as well. This is not a new story. In fact, we’ve seen it many times. Two things set this story apart from others. One is that Cara Hoffman has a gift for creating characters that don’t feel invented. The other is that the protagonist of this particular war story is a woman.

This combination results in a novel that at times feels more like a war memoir than a novel. Lauren Clay is one of the most fully realized characters I’ve ever read. By the end of the novel you feel like you know her.

Lauren joined the military because her family had shattered and she needed to provide for her family. Her mother had abandoned the family and her father was left a husk of a man, leaving Lauren to take care of her preteen brother. The relationship she has with her little brother is similar to that of survivors of a catastrophe. It’s clear as the story goes unfolds that Lauren’s war started long before she ever put on a uniform.

It takes some time for the reader and those around Lauren to realize the extent of Lauren’s damage. There is a lit-fuse quality to the entire book. We feel as though it could all go tragically wrong in an instant. Poignantly this is exactly the same feeling Lauren herself has despite being thousands of miles from a war zone.

As I said, the story of the scarred veteran returning home is not new. And even with the welcomed addition of the soldier being female, many of the tropes of the soldier home from war remain. This is one of the points of the novel. The soldiers may change by the wounds never really do.

What sets this apart from your standard war novel isn’t that Lauren Clay is a woman. It’s Cara Hoffman’s effortlessly intimate writing. There’s an immediate closeness to the people and events in ‘Be Safe I Love You’ that isn’t common in these kinds of books. Hoffman’s characters have quiet moments that feel more authentic than the non-stop action or drama you might get from other novels.

Be Safe I Love You manages to be exactly what you want in a second novel. It’s nothing like the first but every bit as powerful and enjoyable to read. I look forward to her third novel.

-          Jack Cameron

Mistakes And Mass Shootings

policelineWhenever there is a mass shooting, there is always talk of gun control. This is a mistake. While mass shootings are certainly dramatic and terrible, they account for a very small amount of the 30,000 people who lose their lives to gunfire every year in America.

Truthfully, background checks, limited magazines, training, registration, and other common sense preventative gun control measures are unlikely to stop most mass shootings. This leads many gun rights enthusiasts to conclude that because gun control is unlikely to stop mass shootings we should not enact any gun control measures. This also is a mistake.

Of the 30,000 gun deaths every year, 20,000 of them are self-inflicted. In other words if you are killed by a gun, you’re twice as likely to be the person who also pulled the trigger. This is an area where gun control measures have an opportunity to help immensely. A suicidal person is less likely to kill themselves with a gun if they are required to go through an extensive background check and then a training course before they can even purchase a firearm. Studies show that lack of access to firearms results in lower suicide rates. 

Gun control will not stop all gun deaths or gun suicides much like owning a fire extinguisher isn’t going to stop all fires from burning down your home. Another common mistake about gun control is that many people think if it won’t stop ALL gun deaths then we shouldn’t do it at all. This is, of course, absurd.

Another mistake we often see after a mass shooting is the outcry that we should not be putting any focus whatsoever on guns and instead we should only focus on the pitiful state of our mental health care programs. We should most definitely put a focus and money and resources towards fixing the lack of mental health care in this country. But it’s a bit simplistic and outright stupid to think that we only have the ability to focus on one dangerous factor when it comes to mass shootings. We can acknowledge that our mental healthcare system needs work and then look at what other factors may have contributed to these tragedies.

This leads to another common mistake. While it’s correct to say that every single aspect of a person’s life leads them to take the actions they choose, it’s incorrect to assume that if those actions are horrific, then every single aspect that influenced those actions must be equally horrific. Correlation does not necessarily equal direct causation. Millions of people watch violent movies, play violent video games, read books on picking up girls, and listen to music with morally repugnant lyrics without committing any violent actions whatsoever. One cannot condemn something simply because a murderer may have encountered it. Of course, it’s a simple matter to use this same argument regarding guns. And again, this is why I say it’s a mistake to think gun control is going to stop mass shooters.

Whenever something horrible happens, we want to know why and we want to know how to stop it from happening again. Sometimes there are no simple answers. Sometimes there are obvious answers that turn out to be absolutely wrong. It’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to change it when presented with new evidence. Failure to do that is the biggest mistake of all.

Jack Cameron

Marvel Movies Cinematic Universe FAQ

Marvel-Movie-Montage-smallX-Men: Days of Future Past comes out this weekend. It’s the third movie in two months based on a Marvel Comic. Those who watched Amazing Spider-Man 2 saw a preview for the new X-Men movie. Meanwhile over in Captain America: Winter Soldier, viewers saw a glimpse of a disturbed and speedy character comic book fans know as Quicksilver along with his sister, the Scarlet Witch. However, if you watch X-Men: Days of Future Past, you’ll find Quicksilver running around in the 1970s.

I know this is likely confusing for people who aren’t aware of comic books in general and the movie rights of comic book properties in particular. So I’m writing this to explain things in a way that hopefully will make sense. So here are some FAQs when it comes to Marvel Movies.

Do all these Marvel movies take place in the same ‘universe’ like in the comic books?
No. It wasn’t until 2008’s Iron Man that Marvel started making and financing their own movies and integrating different Marvel movies into one cohesive cinematic world. Before that they would sell movie rights to different movie studios.

Why would they do that?
In the late 1990s Marvel was on the verge of bankruptcy. They were too busy trying to stay in business to even think about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on movies. This was especially true because at the time, comic book movies were far from a sure thing. The Batman franchise had fizzled out. It wasn’t until 1998’s Blade (and then X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2001) that comic book movies really took off.

Isn’t Marvel owned by Disney?
Yes. Disney bought Marvel in 2009.

So when it comes to Marvel movies who owns what?
Sony owns the movie rights to Spider-Man.

Fox owns the movies rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four.

Marvel owns pretty much everything else.

What about Daredevil, Punisher, Blade, and Ghost Rider?
All of these characters had movies made by other studios. However, the rights to these characters have all reverted back to Marvel.

If Spider-Man movies are done by Sony and X-Men movies are done by Fox what was that X-Men preview doing at the end of Spider-Man?
Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Marc Webb was supposed to do a movie for Fox as a follow up to his 500 Days of Summer. Instead Fox made a deal where Sony got Marc Webb but they had to put a preview of X-Men at the end of Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Why don’t all the studios get together and merge everything?
Because it would take a level of collaboration these studios are not comfortable with. Fox has even gone on record as saying they don’t even want to crossover X-Men and Fantastic Four despite owning the movie rights to both.

Okay. So Marvel movie characters owned by different studios shall never meet. Then what’s up with this Quicksilver character being in X-Men Days of Future Past AND the upcoming Avengers Age of Ultron?
In Marvel Comics, Quicksilver is the son of Magneto and started out as a member of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He soon defected from that group and joined the Avengers along with his sister, the Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye. All of these were former villains turned heroes. So due to Quicksilver’s history he is both an X-Men character and an Avengers character. Both studios are using the character but the character is being played by two different characters and have no connection to each other except that they are based on the same Marvel character.

And for the simpler version:
Marvel Movies and TV shows all taking place in the same shared ‘cinematic universe’
Iron Man
Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Thor
Captain America
Avengers
Iron Man 3
Agents of SHIELD (TV show)
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Agent Carter (TV show)
Daredevil (Netflix TV show)
Luke Cage (Netflix TV show)
Iron Fist (Netflix TV show)
Jessica Jones (Netflix TV show)

X-Men Movies all taking place in the same shared ‘cinematic universe’
X-Men
X2: X-Men United
X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men: First Class
The Wolverine
X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Apocalypse

Every other movie based on a Marvel character unless it’s a specific sequel (such as Amazing Spider-Man 2) is entirely in its own little world. The short version is that in the movies, Spider-Man will not be swinging by Avengers Tower any time soon.
- Jack Cameron

Agents of SHIELD Part 2

CLARK GREGGThis is the second in my two part review of the first season so far of Marvel’s Agent’s of SHIELD television show. If you just watched Captain America: Winter Soldier and want to get caught up, this is the place. Tonight on ABC they’re airing episode 17 again along with 18. So don’t read 17 if you’re going to watch it. Needless to say, spoilers ahead.

S01E11 “The Magical Place”

Since the beginning of the series when someone asks where Coulson went when he died, the word was he went to Tahiti. And whenever he hears that word, he says, “It’s a magical place.” The audience and Coulson’s captors want to know the truth behind that statement. Edison Po tortures Coulson to get it but when he fails to get any information, the Clairvoyant kills him remotely leaving Raina in charge. Raina convinces Coulson to use a device to retrieve his memories because he’s just as interested in finding out what happened as they are. He sees flashes of Dr. Streiten using robots to work on Coulson’s brain while Coulson begs to die. Meanwhile, Victoria Hand and SHIELD work to rescue Coulson. After his rescue, Coulson confronts Dr. Streiten who admits Coulson was dead for days and that he’d lost his will to live until they manipulated his brain with false memories. It’s also revealed that Michael Peterson is alive and implanted with an eye device though he’s lost his leg and sustained other injuries.

This was a great follow up to The Bridge and finally partially answered the big question of the series. How did Coulson who died in The Avengers come back to life? We also learn that apparently the Clairvoyant doesn’t know everything because they know nothing when it comes to Coulson’s resurrection.

 

S01E12 “Seeds”

With the team back together, they go to a SHIELD training facility where a machine is being used to freeze people. Fitz befriends a cadet there named Donnie who reminds him of himself. After helping Donnie out, Fitz finds that Donnie and his friend Seth are creating a giant version of the ice machine in an effort to get the attention of Ian Quinn. Meanwhile, Coulson and May follow a lead on Skye’s origin finding out that 24 years earlier, a SHIELD agent died protecting Skye who was considered an Object of Unknown Origin. Back at the Academy, Donnie and Seth turn on the machine causing all sorts of havoc. A lightning bolt hits the machine and the SHIELD team is able to shut it down, but Seth is killed. Donnie is taken to the holding facility called the Sandbox and secretly now has ice powers. Later Coulson makes a call threatening Quinn. Quinn responds by mentioning that the Clairvoyant says ‘Hello’.

This episode was a combination of ‘anomaly of the week’ and continuing the ongoing plots and it works well. We get the return of Quinn and the revelation that he’s working for the Clairvoyant. We also get another piece of the puzzle when it comes to Skye. And we get yet another villain who gains superpowers and may become a problem later.

 

S01E13 “T.R.A.C.K.S.”

Hot on the trail of Quinn and the Clairvoyant, the SHIELD team infiltrate a train carrying something Quinn wants but are instantly found out thanks to a double cross from their contact named Russo. May kills Russo and the team ends up at one of Quinn’s mansions. In the basement Skye finds Michael Peterson alive in a stasis chamber. Peterson is outfitted with an artificial leg. The leg says ‘Deathlok’ on it. Quinn asks Peterson to prove his loyalty by killing Skye but he refuses. Quinn shoots Skye twice and leaves. The team save Skye by putting her in the stasis chamber to keep her alive. Peterson manages to escape, but Quinn is captured.

This was a major episode for a number of reasons, but one of the big ones is the word ‘Deathlok’. Deathlok is a well known Marvel cyborg. Agents of SHIELD finally has its first Marvel hero. It’s also another episode where a team member is in peril and stays that way through the end of the episode.

 

S01E14 “T.A.H.I.T.I.”

The team arrives at a SHIELD medical facility but they’re only able to stabilize Skye. They realize that the only thing that will save Skye is whatever saved Coulson. They find that Coulson was taken to a place called the ‘Guest House’. Agent John Garrett and Antoine Triplet arrive to take custody of Quinn, but Coulson won’t let him go until Skye is safe. Garret and Triplet join the team as they infiltrate the Guest House facility. They find the drug Skye needs. Fitz brings it back while Coulson further investigates the facility and finds that the drug is derived from a dead blue alien corpse. Unfortunately the place is rigged to implode and Coulson doesn’t get any more time. He races back to stop them from injecting Skye but he’s too late. They’ve injected her and it works. In the final scene of the episode we see someone called Lorelei take mental control of a newlywed man and drive off with him.

The arrival of Bill Paxton as Agent Garrett is a welcome addition to the show. He’s got a genial world-weariness that we expect of a veteran field agent and really seems more like how I thought much of Coulson’s team should have been when the show began. The revelation of the blue-skinned alien source for the miracle drug is a complete surprise though the immediate destruction of all evidence was a little to X-Files-like for my tastes. Still, this episode effectively uses what has come before and moves the plot forward in a big way.

 

S01E15 “Yes Men”

It turns out Lorelei is from Asgard and has the power to sway men just by talking to them. Lorelei soon hooks up with a biker gang and puts them all under her sway. Meanwhile the SHIELD team investigates energy fluctuations consistent with the arrival of an Asgardian. They quickly run into Lady Sif last seen in Thor The Dark World. She is in pursuit of the escaped Lorelei and joins up with Coulson and the others. They catch up to Lorelei at the biker bar but she enchants Ward who leaves with her to Las Vegas where they hook up. The team follows them to Vegas but when they raid Lorelei’s hotel room they discover that with Ward’s help, she’s taken over the Bus. After a brief battle including May and Ward fighting, the team retakes the Bus and Sif returns to Asgard with Lorelei. Later, Coulson tells the freshly healed Skye about the origins of the drug in her system. May gets on a direct line phone and tells someone “Coulson knows.”

This was another episode that brought things in the right direction. Having a secondary character from a recent movie helps increase the interconnectedness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and adding the intrigue of May secretly reporting to someone else keeps us guessing as to what’s really going on.

 

S01E16 “The End of the Beginning”

After briefly being attacked by Deathlok, Triplet and Garrett arrive with Agent Hand, Agent Blake, and Agent Sitwell on the Bus. Coulson explains that they are going to split into two-person teams and pursue various leads on the Clairvoyant. Coulson grants Skye official SHIELD agent status and has her split the teams. Sitwell is sent away to a tanker in the Indian Ocean at the last minute. Triplet and Simmons stay at the Hub where Simmons is hoping to use their equipment to secretly analyze Skye’s blood. Following their lead, May and Blake are attacked by Deathlok. Blake is seriously injured, but plants a tracker on Deathlok. After the attack, the team decide that Thomas Nash, the supposedly catatonic man May and Blake were coming to see must be the Clairvoyant. They use the tracker and go to an abandoned horse track where Deathlok escapes but they find Nash in a hospital bed speaking to them through computer screens in the room. When he threatens to kill Skye, Ward shoots and kills him. Later Coulson realizes that maybe Nash was not the Clairvoyant. He confronts Ward who denies everything. Meanwhile when Fitz tries to create a secret line to Simmons, he happens upon May’s secret line. Skye tells Coulson about this just as May confronts and tries to shoot Fitz. Before she can do anything more Coulson pulls a gun on her. Then the Bus suddenly changes course and we find that Agent Hand back at the Hub is ordering that everyone on board be killed except for Coulson.

This was arguably the best episode of the series so far, incorporating nearly every character introduced so far in a plot that moves the Clairvoyant story ahead in a big way. There’s also the small nod to Captain America: Winter Soldier when Sitwell is sent to the ship where we find him in the opening minutes of the movie. The Clairvoyant’s identity is still up in the air and Agent May’s loyalty is entirely uncertain. At this point, a show that’s been doing done-in-one, mostly predictable episodes for most of the season is suddenly firing on all cylinders.

 

S01E17 “Turn, Turn, Turn”

In an episode that aired only four days after Captain America: Winter Soldier premiered, everything changes. Garrett joins up with the team on the hijacked Bus after being attacked by drones. Skye discovers a code and deciphers hit learning of the Hydra infiltration of SHIELD. The Bus lands but the team escapes into The Hub before Hand’s people can take them. At this point, Coulson is convinced that Hand is the Clairvoyant. Meanwhile Hand confronts Simmons and Triplet and orders them to swear allegiance to Hydra. When they refuse, she reveals that she believes Coulson is Hydra. Garrett insists to Coulson that they must kill Hand. Coulson notices a slip up on Garrett’s part and realizes that Garrett was the Clairvoyant all along. After a brief battle Garrett is captured. They learn that elsewhere, Nick Fury is believed to be dead and Captain America stopped a Hydra plot. Ward offers to join Hand in taking Garrett to their holding facility the Fridge. On the way there, Ward kills the guards and Hand as it turns out he was working for Garrett all along.

As far as I know, no television show has ever so directly tied into a movie that just came out in theaters. This episode was so much a part of what happened in Winter Soldier that it wouldn’t be out of place on the Winter Soldier DVD. It’s also an episode with a bunch of huge shockers including the identity of the Clairvoyant, the death of Agent Hand and a seeming betrayal by a founding member of the team. Personally, I’m hoping the betrayal is real and not a double-agent sort of thing. This is also the first episode that mentions SHIELD’s classic enemy, Hydra. It must have been frustrating as hell to be handed this show and been told they couldn’t mention Hydra for the first sixteen episodes.

Summary
As the show winds up its first season, there are all sorts of unknowns, not the least of which is whether or not it will be picked up for a second season. After what was admittedly a slow start, Agents of SHIELD seems to have found its footing and isn’t content to just sit there. Here’s hoping the remaining episodes continue the uptick in quality.

-       Jack Cameron