Did anyone order a "series-shattering maximum event?" Marvel's Agents of SHIELD returned to our screens this week after a lengthy hiatus -- and judging from the way ABC billed it, this time it's meant to actually be good.

So what is a maximum event, and how does it shatter the series? Does all that hype just mean that Bill Paxton is on the show now? Let's find out together!

When last we left the agents, Skye (Chloe Bennet) had been gut-shot by nefarious industrialist Ian Quinn (David Conrad) and stashed in a life-sustaining tube thingy. As we return, Skye is rushed into surgery at a fancy-looking SHIELD facility in Switzerland while her colleagues agonize in a distinctly un-fancy-looking SHIELD waiting room. Coulson tries to reach Nick Fury for answers, and a doctor announces that Skye isn't going to make it. She's as-good-as-dead, Jim. Phil. Whoever.

That would be pretty series-shattering, but we all know that's not where this is going. While Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) is already in mourning (and channels her rare bout of emotions into beating up Quinn in the interrogation room), Coulson still has hope. He decides they're going to find the doctors that brought him back from the dead and get them to save Skye. He's also going to hold on to Quinn in the meantime, against SHIELD orders.

So they're unlawfully holding a prisoner and beating him up. That's... not great. This show really needs a new moral compass.



Because stealing a prisoner is not OK, the wingycarrier is boarded by two other SHIELD agents, John Garrett (Bill Paxton), and Antoine 'Trip' Triplett (B.J. Britt), who are ordered to take Quinn into custody. After a little alpha-dog posturing and some scrapping between Trip and Ward, Garrett agrees to interrogate Quinn on the plane. So the tension between Garrett and Coulson evaporates, and Quinn gets brutalized some more.

Meanwhile, Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) go trawling through Coulson's confidential resurrection file for clues on how to save Skye. They discover that the facility that treated Coulson doesn't exist, and the doctor that worked on him is AWOL. (For a moment I thought Simmons referred to him "Dr Strange", but it was "Dr Streiten". Frowny face.) The only useful discovery they make is that a drug called GH325 may have helped heal Coulson's wounds.

Coulson and Garrett learn that Quinn shot Skye under orders from the Clairvoyant because the Clairvoyant wanted them to try to save Skye -- so he might uncover the mysteries of Coulson's resurrection. The agents must decide whether to go ahead with the plan or let Skye die.

They decide to go ahead with the plan. Duh.



Fitz and Simmons piece together a paper trail (using holograms, so we don't fall asleep) that leads to a non-SHIELD facility called "the Guest House," a collapsed World War II bunker that was once accessed by Nick Fury.

The agents fly to the Guest House and the fellas -- Coulson, Ward, Garrett and Fitz -- grab their guns and knock on the door. The guards refuse to let them in, so the agents hack the locks and engage in a gunfight that kills the two guards.

I'm not quite sure why this is OK. All we know about this facility is that it's not SHIELD. We have no reason to believe these guys are evil. Sure, they refused to open their doors to strangers who claimed to have a medical emergency, but is that a capital offence? Killing two strangers to save the life of your friend is kind of monstrous. Between the treatment of Quinn and the death of these two dudes, the Agents of SHIELD kind of look like horrible bad guys here. I'm wondering if the Winter Soldier tie-in episode is going to involve Captain America stopping them.



There's some business here with a bomb that's going to blow up the mountain and kill them all, but basically they find the GH325, get back to the plane and escape. The mountain explodes. Skye makes a dramatic recovery. Everyone lives.

But Coulson found something else in the Guest House; something that shook him up so much that he tried to stop Simmons administering the GH325. Agent May asks Coulson why he tried to stop them; he says he just didn't want her to go through the pain he went through.

That's not the truth, of course. Coulson found a door marked "T.A.H.I.T.I", and behind it, the source of the GH325; the body of buff bald blue-skinned dude who looks an awful lot like Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen.



Uh-oh. Did they read the wrong comics?

In the kicker, a red-headed English woman wanders out of the desert and persuades a man to abandon his new bride at a motel and drive her to civilization. She refers to Earth as "Midgard," and gives her name as Lorelei.

So there we have it, the maximum event.

Let's be honest; promoting this episode as an event was probably a mistake. Sure, the episode starred a comic character we haven't seen on screen before, but out of the context of the Frank Miller/Bill Sienkiewicz story Elektra: Assassin, John Garrett is just another SHIELD agent. The introduction of an alien blue dude -- most plausibly a Kree -- is intriguing, but after two Thor movies and a Chitauri invasion in Avengers, "aliens exist" is not a revelation. (The blue guy probably isn't an Atlantean, as Universal has the rights to Namor.)

The most interesting part of the episode is the introduction of Lorelei, a Thor comics villain whose presence brings Lady Sif onto the show next week. That sounds like a maximum event. This... was just another episode of Agents of SHIELD. And not a memorable one.



Credit where it's due:

'T.A.H.I.T.I.' was directed by Bobby Roth and written by Jeffrey Bell. SHIELD and Nick Fury were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Phil Coulson was created by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. John Garrett was created by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz. Deathlok was created by Doug Moench and Rich Buckler. Cybertek was created by Dwayne McDuffie, Gregory Wright and Butch Guice. Lorelei was created by Walt Simonson.

Dr. Manhattan was created by Dave Gibbons, John Higgins, and the Original Writer.