Image credit: Justin Lubin/ABC
WELCOME TO LEVEL 7 Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) mysteriously returns in order to form a special unit in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It turns out, the shady resistance known as The Rising Tide is actually just Skye, who is swiftly apprehended by Coulson and Ward. She is placed into fancy interrogation room aboard the Bus. Coulson may have joked earlier about a dead lightbulb in the S.H.I.E.L.D. field office, but seriously, what is up with the poor office lighting at S.H.I.E.L.D.? She discovers that Ward and Coulson aren't aware of "Centipede" — a project she uncovered in her van compared to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s vast resources. But the question remains: What is Centipede?
Cut back to Mike and his son, now in his apartment. He's been served an eviction notice and is pleading with an unknown doctor on the phone to reveal his secret and be a "hero." In his discussion, he replies "You want me to go crawling back to the factory?" (Centipede reference!) and scratches at a metal apparatus that looks like a bug or centipede attached to his arm.
FitzSimmons and May search the explosion site — a secret lab masquerading as a self-empowerment center. Fitz launches handy data-collecting bots, muttering, "Hi-ho! Off to work you go" since Snow White references unlike Spider-man are allowed.
Back on the Bus, Coulson tricks Ward and doses him with
Veritaserum a potent truth serum, allowing Skye to ask him anything she wants. Bennet and play well off each other as Ward slips and calls Skye a "beautiful woman" and Skye takes full advantage of her physical assets and the truth serum's effects. (Alright fine, I kind of ship Skye and Ward already.)
Mike returns to the factory and begs the manager for his old job back, but the manager is unresponsive. Mike, frustrated and delirious, lashes out. He has an epiphany — he is the hero and people like the manager that keep the little man down are the bad guys. The scene plays out relatively well given Richards' believable performance, but his character's arc starting in this scene is much too much self-aware. At the very least, Mike didn't describe the manager as a bad guy "just like we used to read about...IN COMIC BOOKS!"
Skye, along with the other agents minus a knocked out Ward, collaborate to find and help Mike before he hurts anyone else. Aw, it's the team's first investigation roundtable, and they (except for Coulson) don't even realize it yet. As Agent May and Skye head back to Skye's van to retrieve data on what occurred in the lab before the explosion, Mike visits the woman he saved as he recuperates in the hospital. In a smart twist, the woman is actually the doctor Mike was previously speaking to on the phone. She is angry that in saving her, he's exposed the program.
Since apparently the centipede is a steroid allegory, the doctor tells him, "You're juiced, Mike, and you're losing it just like the last guy." But it's no steroids-gone-wrong-disaster, according to Mike, "it's an origin story." Groan. Just as the show moves two steps forward, it goes one step back.
Thanks to FitzSimmons' work "like magic...but it's science," the team learns that the explosion wasn't from a bomb but from a Centipede subject dosed with the highly unstable Extremis. (See: Iron Man 3.) Mike, now suffering from the adverse effects of Extremis, is desperate to start a new life and "saves" Skye by knocking out Agent May, forcing her to delete his identity. He wants to start a new life from his son and himself — if he doesn't explode first. (Dun dun dun!)
NEXT: Let's all smile in slow motion