'Agents of SHIELD' episode 13 recap: Coulson drives Skye to the end in 'TRACKS'

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"Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" just had its stakes grow very, very high.

While a lot of the focus leading up to episode 13, "TRACKS," has been on its Stan Lee cameo, this really was Skye's episode. And by Skye's episode, we mean whoamygoodness she got shot. Twice. And though she's not dead (and very likely won't die), it's clear that "Agents of SHIELD" isn't afraid to rough up its main characters.

Following in the footsteps of the very good episode "Seeds," "TRACKS" played to all of "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD's" strengths. Though it was told out of chronological order at times (a nice touch), the episode still took the time to shine a light on the relationships we have come to love in the show. No more is this just a ragtag group of misfits, but rather a family of adept agents moving toward a clear goal.

It's taken us a long time to come to this point, but finally "Agents of SHIELD" has clinched its characters. That scene when Skye kissed Fitz on the cheek and then he called her the "least supportive pretend girlfriend I've ever had" was killer. Coulson's face in response to Simmons claiming he had been with prostitutes? Amazing. Though "Agents of SHIELD" might be going "full throttle" in these final episodes, it's working because the show is playing up the fun dynamic between its core group of characters.

Of course, it does help that the plot is moving ahead at a fast clip too. In "TRACKS," the agents follow Cybertek to a train that is transporting a device, which in turn leads them to Quinn. Through a series of mishaps, only Skye and Fitz end up at the delivery point of the package, and then only Skye makes it to see what the item is. As it turns out, it's a new leg for Mike Peterson, who is now the Clairvoyant's new weapon.

By the end of the episode, it's revealed that Peterson is Deathlok, something we all knew was coming. But it wasn't that reveal that had us gasp in surprise; it was Skye lying barely alive in a stasis while her team members were devastated around her. This is what "Agents of SHIELD" needs to work. It's not jam-packing it with superheroes and villains (though that doesn't hurt); it's making us care about the characters and their fates. And now we really, really do.

Like stated early, it's very doubtful that Skye will die. She is too integral to the plot of this series, and the mystery of why she is an 0-8-4 is a main one driving us to the Season 1 finale. Maybe the reason for her classified Marvel status will be revealed as she is healed, which will likely happen in episode 14, airing March 4.

But it legitimately was shocking that "Agents of SHIELD" would so seriously injure one of its own. This is a direct consequence of Coulson revealing to Skye that she is an 0-8-4 -- something May told him not to do and Ward would likely disapprove of -- and the final shot of him in "TRACKS" makes it seem like neither he nor Ward are going to take that connection lightly. Coulson is out for a vengeance after revealing the truth about why he's still alive, and it's having some serious side affects. It will be exciting to see what comes of this tear he's on.

Some other thoughts and tidbits: Stan Lee's cameo was cute, but much too short. He would have been better served in a less action-packed episode. Also, Mike Peterson's leg looks pretty inspired by Tony Stark's Iron Man Suit. Unintentional? Doubtful. And that comment about Coulson not being ready to deal with Asgard ... well, he should start getting prepared.

Have you also been happy with the direction that "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" is heading in?

Photo/Video credit: ABC