When a vast espionage organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. is fragmented from within, as they were when Hydra revealed themselves in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there can be many splinter groups. Just because the former leader Nick Fury hands you the keys and says you’re in charge, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Poor Agent Coulson. Meet the new S.H.I.E.L.D., watch Ward and Agent 33 going steady as a bonus, and see my thoughts on “Love in the Time of Hydra” after the jump.
You may recall that while I loved the set up and most of last week’s episode, I hated the ending, and it completely ruined anything good that came before it. The bottom line is that this show burned me, and I don’t forgive easy. Anything they throw my way at this point, no matter how juicy (or in the case of pancakes, tasty), is going to be taken very carefully before I even think about getting excited.
That said, I am intrigued by the opening scene with two of our favorite baddies having dinner in a diner. Agent 33, whose photostatically veiled face was frozen and scarred by May (who she now resembles, plus scars), and ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Grant Ward making table top pillow talk about saving each other’s lives, and having pumpkin pancakes with pecan syrup is pretty cool stuff. It gets better when they go all Pulp Fiction and kidnap a patron who could fix Agent 33’s face, but still, I’m pacing myself. You never know when an Inhuman might teleport in and go all deus ex machina on any good plot device.
While I really could have watched an entire episode of Ward and Agent 33 on the run, and been entertained, that’s not what we get here, and it’s sad. The episode jumps around from subplot to subplot like it’s waiting for something to happen. Weren’t we doing this same dance last season just before Captain America: The Winter Soldier? If this show is just advertising and support for Marvel’s cinematic endeavors, then fine, but if this is going to be it’s own thing, it needs to do it now.
When discussing what to do with Skye, as everyone has been doing for three episodes now, Fitz and Simmons bring the Avengers into the equation. Fitz says Skye’s powers could make her into an Avengers-level hero like Captain America, but Simmons counters that she is more threat than hero like the Hulk, and that like Dr. Banner, Skye should be cured. Again, the dance, and did they just namedrop the Avengers because Age of Ultron is right around the corner? Is that what we’re waiting for? Just embrace it or get on with it!
The ‘Real’ S.H.I.E.L.D.
Mack finally brings Hunter into the inner circle with him and Agents Morse, and introduces him to the real S.H.I.E.L.D. We’ve met one of them before briefly, at The Academy, and the others include wizened Gonzales (Edward James Olmos of “Battlestar Galactica”) and the aggressive Calderon (Kirk Acevedo of “12 Monkeys“). None of them are characters from the original Marvel Comics.
The gist is that these folks didn’t like the way Nick Fury ran things, too many secrets (like a good spy) and all that, so they certainly don’t want Fury’s handpicked replacement, Coulson, in charge. Sour grapes, anyone? The only good points they make are about the alien DNA in Coulson, but all those involved know that’s done with. And a word to the showrunners, the ominous music during these scenes doesn’t at all reveal intent or motive. Sigh. Did I mention my distaste for this subplot when it first showed up? I thought so.
The Secret Origin of The Lola
How do you solve a problem like Skye? Do you sign her up for the Avengers? Or do you take her out back and shoot her like Old Yeller? That’s the decision at hand this episode for Coulson. He’s got all his info, and is moving Skye from The Cage to who knows where. To soothe her fears, Coulson tells her the story of his little red flying Corvette. It’s cool to know, but it’s not a good analogy.
At the destination safehouse that we’ll call The Cabin, Coulson explains that this is an alternative to the many bad things that could’ve happened to her, he even namedrops Captain America again. This is a place where Skye can hang out, get her head together, maybe test her limits and train herself in using her powers – everything but fish, because The Cabin is surrounded by lasers. Home sweet home. And this is better than staying with her friends and ‘family’ how? There are lots of good warm feelies from both Coulson and Skye here, but no real resolution.
Who Can You Trust?
I mentioned early on in the review that Ward and Agent 33 were the most interesting part of the episode, and I could have easily watched forty-odd minutes of just them. The magic of Agent 33’s photostatic veil allows Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Bennet to play bad girl and go outside their character, making this fun time for performers and viewers. Although I have to say I could see the writer trying not to make it too much like the cinematic Mystique.
This one is not just for the actresses though, we get to see the chops that made Brett Dalton sooo good as the treacherous Grant Ward as he charms Agent 33 throughout. As viewers, we have learned so hard that we don’t know when to believe him, but we definitely know we cannot trust him. And even though it’s rough to root for the bad guys, we can’t help but fear for Agent 33.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Ward’s ulterior motives with Agent 33 involve breaking into where the military are holding Bakshi. Agent 33 can do it by impersonating General Talbot’s wife. Wait a second, Glenn Talbot has a wife? I don’t think he was ever married in the comics, except briefly to Betty Ross. He was always single. Hmmm… I guess this is another surprise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Regardless, while Talbot engages in Three Stooges tactics to discover which of his female officers is Agent 33, the real event is happening elsewhere. At first Bakshi is happy to see Agent 33, but when Ward steps into his cell, he knows he’s in trouble. If there’s anything worse than Hydra Agents, it’s rogue Hydra Agents.
We’re then treated to simply set up for the next episode. Bakshi is taken and tortured, Hunter escapes, Morse is going back in to stop Coulson, but Coulson knows something is up. Sigh. Why couldn’t we have had the entire episode of Ward and Agent Ward playing Ringo and Honeybunny? I would have dug that. At least no eyeless Inhumans teleported in and out to keep the plot holes at bay. This show has a long way to go to get my allegiance back.
Next: S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. and May vs. Morse in “One Door Closes!”