No, no, no … this is not good.  Just finished watching this one (I know a bit late … sorry about that, was out of town) and I’ve got a hole in my stomach.  Basically, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and while I managed to get to Avengers prior to watching this – so that the Theta protocol reference actually made sense – and was all pumped up for it … now … I’m completely bummed out. 🙁

Cover of Avengers vol. 3, #20 (Sept. 1999). Ar...
Cover of Avengers vol. 3, #20 (Sept. 1999). Art by George Pérez. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know that last week I made the point that the thing I hated most about that episode was its references to the events of the upcoming Avengers Age of Ultron.  This week they basically covered that point in the first thirty seconds of the show and while there were some references to the events that occurred in the Movie scattered throughout the episode, it almost feels like it never happened.  After much thought I realized why I didn’t like what happened last week – it made the show feel like nothing more than a sales tool for Marvel and in all honesty over the past two years I’ve spent more time with Coulson and team than I have with Captain America or Iron Man and while I enjoy the Avengers, I really care about Shield and I didn’t like the feeling that they were being sold out.

This week though, its almost worse … while I’m glad they didn’t belabor the point and make the whole episode about the movie, you can’t just gloss over it like they did.  There was no reference to H.Y.D.R.A and the events that took place there, they talked about the Helicarrier of-course but what about Vision?  What about Wakanda and the Hulk?  How about Veronica and the epic battle?  There are so many things that anyone involved – even peripherally – would have mentioned and its really disappointing that this didn’t happen here.  Fitz especially is such a huge geek and fan of all things powered, he’d definitely have been gobstruck and then of course there’s Coulson himself with his complete awe of the Captain – how could he have not said something, even in passing reference?  Maybe it would have helped to actually see Fury meeting with Coulson, on top of Sam Koenig (awesome Star Wars sheets aside)?

All that aside though – that’s probably not the thing that’s put a hole in my stomach … what’s really got me here is the stupidity of things.  I mean how/why would Skye leave her mother with Gonzalez for the conference?  She had to wonder what the underlying motivation/thoughts were when Coulson didn’t attend but he did.  It’s really annoying having the show/directors try to throw you off the scent with one scene only to have it mean something completely different in another – the whole thing with Gonzalez and the “package” which turned out to be totally innocuous … why?  I know we were meant to think that he had another “secret weapon” to use against the Inhumans, but seriously – he’s not an idiot … nothing we’d seen till now would have led us to believe that he would have gone by himself into the base of a potential enemy and then threaten them while under their control.

Jiaying … don’t even get me started on her.  While she might have a reason to distrust those that are attempting to “index” people with power, she has lived a long time … in hiding!  The reason that she lived in hiding was that it was safer for her and her people … committing them to a war is just stupid and again all indications have been that she is anything but stupid.  While she might have been caught and cut up by H.Y.D.R.A she’s also been alive for much longer than we know and she’s managed to keep the secret of her people safe throughout that time.

What did work?

I know I’ve probably belabored the negative myself here so apologies for that, there were some things that absolutely did work though.  Namely the May/Agent 33 vs. Bobby fight in the quinjet.  While the outcome of the battle was never really in doubt it was still quite a good little rumble and good to see.  I have to be honest if there is one thing that S.H.I.E.L.D has managed to get right almost from day one, its the ability for women to kick ass in some pretty awesome fight sequences.  I’m not going to disagree with Dave and some of his comments in regards to Whedon and Coulson that you’ll see in a couple of posts on this site … I think those are more generic to women in general … in terms of fight sequences though … well there they are doing a great job!  That being said … why would Bobby walk out of the quinjet into an open field that has landed in the middle of nowhere?  That really doesn’t make sense to me?  Wouldn’t you get the plane back into the air and get back to the mission that you’re supposed to be on?  It’s almost like watching someone in a horror movie go into a room that you know the killer is in.  It was just dumb!

Ward – well we knew that he wasn’t going away didn’t we?  His return while again somewhat anticlimactic was still quite cool.  I really don’t know what they are going to do with him … he’s one of those characters you love to hate (but at the same time still secretly love!).  I’d really hate it if they kill him off, but there is also absolutely no way they can rehabilitate him and have him still be Ward … they could empower him I guess and make him a villain in the MCU?  That would be an interesting way of keeping him around somehow.

Raina cold and manipulative definitely don’t do her justice.  Her power play too was not unexpected and I’m very curious to see how this all plays out as she might actually end up in control once the truth about Jiaying finally comes out.

Inhumans – We had Fitz’s little comment earlier, but now it’s actually what these guys are calling themselves, with nothing coy about it.  It makes me even more curious how these events could and should have at least some impact down the line in the Inhumans movie, even in terms of referencing past encounters between the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D.

Overall Verdict

Gripes aside it was still a good episode.  There was some definite forward momentum on a bunch of different storylines and with the news that S.H.I.E.L.D has been renewed for a third year now public (oh yeah, Agent Carter has also been renewed – YAY!!) I am comfortable knowing that all of the open stories will get resolved – while in typical Marvel fashion, many new mysteries will be revealed!

And we’re back!  Marvels Agents of Shield returned with the bang yesterday to our screens and our hearts and while I for one was a definite fan of Agent Peggy Carter, Jarvis, Sousa and the gang at the SSR, I’m so very happy to have my favorite crime fighting/mystery solving group back on TV!  Please note that if you’ve not watched the most recent episode, I’d probably recommend that you give this review a miss as there quite a few spoilers in the text below.

With the shocking mid-season finale and the death of Tripp plus the transformation of Skye and Raina in the terrigen mists there were many questions and many unanswered fan theories and suppositions left outstanding and in the air.  Some of these were definitively answered but as with all good TV we’re probably left with just as many questions at the end of this episode as we started with – if not more.

I guess really quickly we should talk about the fact that Skye has become the Inhuman known as Quake after passing through the terrigen mists & in addition to her, Raina has definitely been transformed into something new also.  There were questions about Tripps possible survival which I think I have been pretty conclusively put to bed (although who really knows … we’ve seen hero’s and villains come back from the dead many times before, Coulson of course being a prime example) and quite a few different outstanding questions about what Raina becomes as her transformation seems to be quite a bit more physical in nature then Skye’s.

We do see that Simmons has a very negative reaction to to the potential transformation as she speaks quite negatively about all of the other people with power in the universe and the impact that they have had on normal humans. We also see that Fitz is still struggling with his mental incapacity after Ward’s incarceration of them when he truly turned to the dark side and HYDRA.  The other members of the team are all somewhat shattered with the death of Tripp and they all deal with Tripp’s death in a manner suited to their characters and May (as expected) really lets her frustrations out.

One thing I really liked in this episode is that they didn’t gloss over Tripps death  – they addressed it head on and they also addressed the impact that losing a loved partner, friend and colleague has on the survivors too. It was very nice to see them hold a mini wake for him at the end of the episode where they all acknowledge the fact that Tripp was the laughter in their lives and while Coulson uses this as a motivation for the team, is this any different to what Fury did in the Avengers when Coulson himself died? Another thing I guess that really did strike me is the change in Raina herself – I mean as a person who took such care in her appearance it was quite ironic what they did to her and I guess as a transformations goes it was extremely drastic and I’m very curious to see who she actually ends up being.

Who is Raina now?

Unfortunately as we didn’t get a specific answer as to who she could be there is still much speculation, but some possible candidates that exist are the Inhuman character known as Naja who has appeared in several Inhuman comic books.

Naja is one of the new Inhumans who underwent terrigenis after Black Bolt released the terrigenisis bomb in Infinity.  There are some distinctive body changes that could absolutely support this but I’m very curious if the transformation takes into account the character of an individual (similar to the sorting hat from Harry Potter) when it impacts the person or if their eventual change is completely random?

Another possibility is the character known as Quills – however as she is a mutant and quite possibly already on the Fox list of proscribed characters they probably cannot use her & I would give this the least likelihood of success.  If we do go by looks alone though I have to say that there is much there to match and she looks very similar.

Another character that she could possibly be although in this case he is now a Male is the character known as Jolen – Jolen developed a special affinity with plants after passing through the terrigen mists and became able to cultivate them and grow them by linking to them.

We already know that Raina has a great love flowers as she has indicated over the course of the previous two seasons and in fact with her new look which is very “thorny” this personally has a significant likelyhood of coming to pass, although they would obviously have to change it from a male to female character.

However this does presuppose that a person’s likes/dislikes impact their powers which might be completely bogus.

So long story short I guess we still don’t really know who she is for sure (which is somewhat frustrating) and while they’ve also introduced us to a couple of other Inhumans – Skye’s mom again and the eyeless man that we all thought was Reader, but seems to be a nightcrawler clone of some sort – I think we can safely say that Tigra is not one of the options and I’m very curious to see who she actually ends up being.

One thing I do have to state though in terms of the actual look she struck me very much as the character (Jabe the Tree) from the second episode of the resurgent Dr. Who when Christopher Eccleston takes Rose Tyler on her first excursion to watch the explosion of the Sun and the destruction of the Earth.

On this observation space station all of humanities children return for a literal once in a lifetime event and one of the key characters is a human/plant hybrid … in terms of the overall look, she bears quite a few similarities to Raina and the plant correlation in my mind really provides even more weight to the possible Jolen hypothesis.

With Skye/Daisy Johnson as a modified human also we get a very brief glimpse of her powers and also an understanding of the fear that she herself feels for the changes that have impacted her. Now this is possibly something that I might be on my own about (they’ve definitely taken a more humane view of things) but if I had all of a sudden got superpowers AND was a secret agent with a team that liked and trusted me I probably would have been a bit more upfront with them as I would think that they would all recognize the potential benefit that someone with powers could bring to the group. I mean over the course of just a couple of seasons, we’ve seen the Absorbing Man, Siff and Deathlok and now Raina’s transformation too so who knows what else is out there.  I would think having an ace in the hole like Skye would be an obvious benefit and something that would be extremely positive.  However I realize that I’m probably being a bit to black & white as they’ve taken on the view about the transformation itself and the impact it would have on Skye as a person which I’m probably discounting unfairly.

What didn’t work?

One thing I probably wasn’t too keen on was the obvious stupidity exhibited by Bakshi. I mean the whole SHIELD sting operation was an obvious ploy and his immediately speaking to the other HYDRA leaders who turn on each other that wasn’t really what I would’ve expected from a group so devious and cutthroat.  They hid literally in plain sight for decades and were cut down in one episode?? I did like the fact that they definitely were not taking prisoners when they took the shot and Coulson’s actions while somewhat vindictive were I think valid. One point I probably should state though is that these actions shouldn’t be because of Tripps dead but rather they should be the standard operating procedures when dealing with HYDRA as otherwise SHIELD will never win.  I know its a bit harsh, but I think we’ve seen in the new MCU, they aren’t afraid to make those hard decisions and while I’m not in any way advocating collateral damage, I think targeted eliminations make perfect sense.

Another thing I didn’t really like was Skye’s mom … her death in the previous episodes was somewhat touching and heartfelt.  However seeing her as the trainer for Inhumans leaves a couple of major questions in my mind …

  • How was she captured?  If she’s trained all these Inhumans as its implied, shouldn’t she be protected?  She obviously cares for her charges and they seem to return her affection?  Gordon appears in the opening scene as a young man that has recently undergone Terrigenesis and is struggling with his new Nightcrawler-esque teleportation powers … as we learn from the conversation between Skye’s mother (Jiaying) and the village elder, she has managed to train many others due to her longevity
  • Where is the secret base she did the training in and why wasn’t she there vs. the “village” that she was taken from?

I’m assuming that she was exiled from the Inhumans for some reason – perhaps her love for Kyle McLaughlin … Skye’s dad? – and as such no longer had access to her students and resources?  I think its an unnecessary detail that doesn’t really add anything to the story though, but perhaps that’s just me.

Overall thoughts

It’s always good to get some AOS happening and while I definitely miss Peggy Carter and her shenanigans (and I have to admit the overall look/feel of that universe), I’m extremely happy to see what’s going on with Coulson and the gang and how that ties into the larger MCU.  I do agree that AOS is a lot “greyer” than the vibrant colours in Agent Carter and other shows like Arrow and Flash, but to some extent I think that’s very much a sign of the times – my wife says my wardrobe consists exclusively of blue’s, blacks and grey’s and I expect that I’m not an exception in this!

Talking about the transformations themselves, how Skye and Raina looked and coped with each of them was somewhat eye opening.  Skye unfortunately looked like she was acting, which was a pity … perhaps if she’d not dealt with it as such a negative it would have been better, but Raina … wow … you could feel her pain and anguish and see why she wanted to commit suicide to escape.  Raina truly has become Inhuman,  her former beauty has been wiped away, replaced by leathery skin, exaggerated facial features, and thorns all over her body. Her insides feel like gravel and she cuts herself every time she moves.

Was it a perfect episode … No, I guess it wasn’t … it was pretty good though and one of the better ones for sure.  I expect that it was positively colored by my wanting to see the show and this definitely had an impact on how I perceived it but they addressed quite a few things and I was very glad to see that they weren’t afraid to raise the stakes when engaging with HYDRA.

Well, we’re finally here … the penultimate episode of Agent Carter and boy have we seen Peggy go through a lot. In a nutshell, in the office she’s known as the office secretary, and a dizzy dame (when she helped Jarvis in his interrogation), she’s also shown herself to be one bad-ass babe with Thompson and now she’s been designated as nothing more than a traitor! Considering that once upon a time she was completely disregarded as nothing more than furniture … well furniture that could fetch sandwiches, I guess its a step up, but probably not in the direction that she was looking for!

Now under arrest, Carter undergoes interrogation by her former colleagues at the S.S.R. and somewhat surprisingly this interrogation goes a completely different direction than I was expecting. Sousa – obviously feeling immensely betrayed by Peggy is “bad” cop in this scenario and Thompson after his experiences with Peggy in Europe is the sympathizer and wants to trust Carter and urges her to give them something, anything they can use to let her off the hook. Now considering that at one point I’d thought Thompson might be a precursor to the introduction of HYDRA (and while I’d thought there might be a potential love interest thing happening between Sousa and Peggy) I guess it’s appropriate to say that I was nothing if not WRONG. I didn’t want to believe Thompson, the classic chauvinist pig could be redeemed, but it happened. Well, I guess I’m man enough to admit it when it happens! As the interrogation progresses, Sousa, Thompson and Dooley try to get Peggy to admit to anything but she is adamant and in fact continues to try and get them to listen to her side of the story, but doesn’t really give them any details.

After some time Jarvis appears with a signed confession from Stark, in which he promises to surrender if Peggy is released without charge, however while Dooley agrees to accept this letter when Stark physically surrenders to him and will let Peggy go – he also fires her from the Agency as the agents all believe that she has simply been “influenced” by Stark and that she didn’t make her decisions on her own. When the agents all leave the room however, Jarvis confesses to Carter that the document is fake, but while Peggy is busy berating Jarvis for ruining her chances of release she spots Dr. Ivchenko communicating in Morse code with Dottie across the street (If you recall I mentioned this happening in last weeks episode).

Carter finally decides that the only way to save everyone is if she reveals the whole truth to the other agents about everything which she proceeds to do and to prove that she’d actually telling the truth about Dr. Ivchenko she shows them the vial of Captain America’s blood. Dooley eventually decides to trust Carter and dispatches Sousa and Thompson to find Dottie while he watches over Dr. Ivchenko, but Dr. Ivchenko uses his hypnosis trick on him (by the way, I forgot to mention – at the beginning of this episode there was a somewhat touching scene where Dr. Ivchenko used hypnosis on a critically wounded soldier, allowing the surgeon’s to operate on him without pain. It had nothing to do with the story aside from showing how powerful
his hypnosis is, but it did show that perhaps he’s not as bad as you think he is? … nah, he’s a rat, you’ll see what I mean) and after the other agents leave, gets Dooley to handcuff Peggy and Jarvis in the interrogation room. Across the street, Thompson, Sousa, and two redshirts hunt for Dottie. This is an intense sequence, as on the one hand we want them to find her and thus prove Peggy was right. On the other hand, do four S.S.R. agents stand a chance against Dottie Underwood?

Ivchenko and Dooley then head to the S.S.R.’s labs to steal an item from the collection of Stark weapons. Meanwhile, Sousa confronts Dottie, but she manages to escape, killing another S.S.R. agent in the process. Ivchenko, now in possession of one of Stark’s weapons, hands Dooley an experimental armour vest to wear and escapes the HQ with item number 17 and is picked up by Dottie. When Thompson finally arrives to release Peggy and Jarvis they find a hypnotized Dooley in his office wearing the special vest which Jarvis informs them is another of Stark’s inventions – this time its one that keeps the wearer warm in adverse weather, but unfortunately it doesn’t work as intended and tends to overheat with catastrophic (read explosive) consequences!

Left with little choice, Dooley steals Thompson’s sidearm and in act of singular bravery, shoots out the window of the office, jumping out minutes before the vest explodes shattering the glass in the office, but leaving the agents largely unharmed. Dottie meanwhile appears at a local movie theater with a baby carriage containing a gas cylinder which she turns on before walking out of the theater. The gas quickly has an effect on the audience making them attack each other in a frenzy and to such an extent that they all kill each other!

Review

Well as I’ve already admitted, my pet theories and idea’s have been somewhat washed down the drain here so instead of trying to come up with something else, I’ll just enjoy the rush to the finish line that we’re on with Agent Carter. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts that they aren’t taking this show slow and easy, and boy can you see that in the previous couple of episodes. With this week being the finale for this excellent show prior to the return of Agents of Shield my feelings are definitely mixed. It will be good to get Coulson and the gang back, but I’ll definitely miss my weekly appointments with Agent Carter also!

It’s strange but Afterlife felt so much like a return to old friends that it was uncanny!  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that it seemed silly how they keep on removing foes and friends at such a reckless pace but in Afterlife they actually seemed to bring some of them back!  We had Raina (or Porcupine head as I like to call her – I do have to say that the makeup job with her is pretty amazing … this isn’t the good old days of Star Trek for sure as it’s very difficult to “see” Raina under all the quills), Cal (Skye’s dad), Deathlok (looking way, way better costume wise in comparison to season one … I’d be quite interested in seeing a Deathlok inspired show/movie as he was always a character that I really liked in comic book form) and in a really surprising twist – Skye’s mother (Jiaying)!

I have to be honest, that one did take me by surprise as I really didn’t see her coming back to life!  Perhaps (dare I hope) that my previous complaints about Whitehalls death were also premature?  I mean he’s not the best villain (that sounds a bit idiosyncratic I think?) but considering the fear that he was held in by all and sundry, his death was a little bit anticlimactic I thought?

Unconscious for two days after Gordon rescued her, Skye wakes up nearly naked with acupuncture needles all over her body, the first step in the treatment that will help her adjust to the rapid evolution her body is undergoing. We also had a major new face – Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) who functions as Skye’s “transitioner” and helps her adjust to her new home and it is assumed in some way to her new powers.  He also has been transformed by terrigenisis and as it comes out during the course of the episode, we learn that Skye did it “old school” using a Kree temple and a diviner which people haven’t done for thousands of years … details aren’t really provided on how it is done now, simply that people are selected from the “descendants” that have the special gene and are then transformed.  So as you can see, while some questions are answered, we’re still left with a bunch more.  Lincoln’s power is actually quite cool (although he’s definitely NOT in the same game as Skye from the point of view of power levels) as he seems to be able to control static electricity and is able to help use it to heal & in limited ways overcome gravity.

Introducing Inhuman elements now is absolutely essential given the limitations on mutants in the MCU, however while we’re exposed to a fancy chinese botanical garden … there really isn’t anything unbelievable or “inhuman” about Skye’s new home.  While its obvious that the appearance is intended to create an atmosphere of tranquility that will ease the transition for those that are transformed by the Terrigen mist, it lacks a strong visual character. There’s a distinct Chinese influence, but it would be nice to see the design team push a little further and find ways to incorporate elements that are more unconventional and alien.

Continuing from our SHIELD vs “REAL” SHIELD storyline, Coulson and Hunter remain on the run and come up with a daring plan to steal a Quinjet which will give them a lot more flexibility.  Coulson – the master of the obvious – basically tells the REAL SHIELD where they are (the cabin the woods where they hid Skye) and offers himself up as bait.  May meanwhile is a prisoner of Gonzales who while still playing an irascible uncle comes across as also a bit more sympathetic as he gradually shows that perhaps there is a case to be made against Coulson and his use of powered people.  The surprise return of Deathlok as Coulson’s backup unfortunately only served to make Gonzales’ case stronger, but his inclusion of May into the board was actually a really nice touch as it showed he was trying to be as unbiased as possible.  What I really liked about Gonzalez though was his statements about loyalty and his utter belief that it’s SHIELD, not Coulson (or anyone else) that the team should be committed to above all else. Whether you think he’s right or wrong, that belief is one that is understandable as far his motivations go and it’s clear that he is willing to stick with his convictions when he actually lets Fitz go.

Talking about Fitz though … one team that has returned with a welcome bang is good old FitzSimmons – it was so good to see them back working together when they managed to “trick” Bobbi and Mac with Fury’s toolbox.

  • First Jemma sets the plan in motion. She lies to Bobbi, telling her It’s not a tech solution. It’s a lab solution.
  • Next, Fitz figures out what Jemma is doing. She’s scanning the surface dimensions… why would she do that? You can see his realisation that she is scanning it so she can print an identical looking 3D model.
  • Then comes the most Fitzsimmonsy conversation ever. So much subtext. I saw everything Jemma. Did you really want me to find out like this?
  • Well I was hoping you would so that we can work together on this. Do you have any idea how valuable the information inside this could be? You need to help me get it out. Get things back to normal.
  • Things can never go back to normal. Can’t you see that can’t any of you see what you’ve done you’ve destroyed a mans life for what. Because of fear? Well I don’t believe in fear. I believe in trust. And I’m shocked that you would do this you knew it would drive me away you may as well have packed my bags yourself. You want me to leave, don’t you Jemma.
  • If we work for SHIELD we have a DUTY to carry out our responsibilities. So perhaps it’s best if you do.

This was just completely awesome – they completely pulled the wool over Mac and Bobbi and Fitz is now on his way to join up with Coulson and Hunter.  Considering how easily Simmons disabled Bobbi in last weeks episode you’d think that she’d have learned her lesson and would stop underestimating her, but it obvious that Bobbi believes herself to be a “superior” spy to my favorite couple on the show.

Overall a really solid episode and while we didn’t have too much progression with any of the deeper mysteries it was not a filler episode and stuff actually happened!  While there’s considerable forward movement with Skye, the Gonzales/Coulson conflict lags this week. There’s the aforementioned sequence with Deathlok that spotlights the sweet new upgrades Mike Peterson has gotten since we last saw him, but not much else is especially memorable.

The most anticipated sequel of the year finally hit North American theaters on Friday May 1st. It had a massive opening day and a very strong opening weekend. Not quite as strong as the first Avengers movie but it easily dominated the box office this weekend.  After watching Avengers 2 I realized how often I kept going back to the first movie so I thought why not directly compare them.

 

Story:

Avengers

While I loved the original Avengers I often wondered why people were so enamored with the story of the first one? perhaps it’s because those type of alien invasion stories didn’t happen much in superhero movies? I enjoyed the story for what it was but I found it very simplistic and even formulaic at times. Another thing I found curious was how many fans embraced the story but were more divisive with DC’s new 52 version of Justice League. The first six issues particularly. Essentially it’s the SAME story that was in the Avengers film. It’s an origin story. You have the team bickering at first and later working together. You’ve got an alien invasion. You’ve got Darkseid, which is essentially DC’s version of Thanos, and you’ve even got a S.H.E.I.L..D. like element there. Even the style in which it was done was similar. Fast paced, tons of action and humor sparkled around. Not complaining, but I just thought it was a funny thing to point out. perhaps Marvel’s execution was better?

Avengers 2

Right of the bat I’ll tell you that the story in this one is much more dense. There is quite a few more arcs hanging in the balance. A lot more characters to juggle as well. This could be a good thing or a bad thing but I felt that for the most part, it succeeded. You also get a lot more individual character moments in this one too. Hulk & Black Widow had their own arc that was interesting at times and random at others. It felt a lot more thought out and it even made you think a bit more as to what was really going on. They also seemed to pose more interesting questions despite throwing a ton of action at you.

Winner: Avengers 2

Action :

Avengers

The action in the first movie was really ahead of its time for comic book movies. It set the bar very high. So much so that when Man Of Steel came out ( Which had awesome action as well) it seemed like we had seen it all before. One thing that really stood out among many things was the awesome panoramic shot of all the Avengers battling the Chitauri I had a smile from ear to ear watching that scene.

Avengers 2

While you could say you’ve seen it all before, the action here just seemed bigger. Is bigger better? Well to give you a very sure answer I would have to watch it again, but it just seemed like it carried more oomph. There are so many highlights to mention. The Hulk vs Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor was a nerds dream. Much of the Ultron action scenes were effective and entertaining. You even had another panoramic scene right at the start of the movie, which was dare I say, better than the first!

Winner: Tie

The Villain:

Avengers

Loki was a fan favorite for sure. Charming, charismatic, scheming, interesting. Was he menacing or intimidating? I never thought so. In fact he does seem to get his ass handed to him many times in the film. He seems more like a petulant child who gets beat up and then throws a tantrum. Nevertheless I found his story very interesting because we had the pleasure of seeing him before in the Thor movie. The Chitauri were effective enough but I would have loved to have really seen Thanos! Loki just did not feel like an Avengers level villain for me. I enjoyed him but not as the main baddie.

Avengers 2

I’m a big fan of Ultron so the prospect of seeing him brought to life was very appealing.for the most part I was pretty pleased with the end result, save for a few things. aesthetically he looked great. Almost a splitting image of the comics version which is rare for any superhero movie. James Spader continued his impressive run of playing likable villains. Although I guess you could say he plays more of an “anti-hero” on the Blacklist but I digress. Spader played him with enough menace to feel like a genuine threat. Ultron’s story is interesting enough to have kept me hooked as well. I wish they had explored the more psychological side to him but then again the movie was long enough. One thing I did not care for was the fact that this malevolent robot was so carefree and jokey at times. It was very weird and distracting to me. Although he did have a few great one liners that were both villainous and clever. They do tweak his origin slightly ( SPOILER) making Tony Stark his father and not Hank Pym which could ex-plain his sarcastic tone but I don’t know…

Winner: Avengers 2

Characters:

Avengers

I have to say that I have very little complaints in this department. The idea of seeing all these iconic characters together for the first time was awesome but it also posed an interesting question. How could they balance them all? Surprisingly it all fit together and it worked really well. The main guys continued to be the main guys without overexposing one or the other. I found Coulson’s death to be a meaningful one at the time. The chemistry between all the actors was very apparent from the get go and it shined all throughout the movie, making for a team you could root for.

Avengers 2

Sort of a love/hate on this one. The mainstays are all great and they did give them all more substance. Perhaps the Hulk and Black Widow romance was a little out of left field but it allowed the actors to grow the characters through those moments. I could take it or leave it really but I appreciated the effort. The main thing is the addition of new characters. I liked the addition of Vision. In this case they stayed fairly true to the story of Vision minus a few tweaks. One thing I could say is that it was a bit rushed and I wished he had more screen time I thought he looked great but sounded too human. Paul Bettany did play him well though. Now for the “Twins” otherwise known as Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver. I got to say I was not a fan. Particularity of Quicksilver. He felt very much like a throwaway character. Scarlet Witch was better because she proved to be pivotal to many elements of the story. It was cool too see Quicksilver use his speed but It’s a shame you don;t get to see it used in a more dynamic way.Both the actors playing the twins had bad Russian accents but at least they tried which is more than I can say for Scarlet Johansson. ( Don’t get me wrong. ScarJo’s getting better and better.) One big plus was Hawkeye in this one. Much more time on him and thanks to Jeremy Renner, it paid off. Pretty much my favorite character this time around.

Winner: Avengers

Acting:

Avengers

I know what you’re thinking. ” Acting? who cares about acting in a movie like this?” I get your point but acting always matters to me regardless of the movie. I have to feel and believe the performances that are put out there. The task of playing these larger than life heroes is not small. It does take very strong actors to pull off such a fantastical thing. We had already seen almost all of the Avengers in their own movies before Avengers actually came out so we knew what they could bring to the table. Still, they manged to exceed expectations when it came to acting as an ensemble cast. In fact the actors had their best moments when together on screen. A great first attempt. There was no real weak link here.

Avengers 2

By the time Avengers 2 came out I really noticed the actors being more comfortable in their characters skins and knowing how to go where they needed to go. As mentioned previously , having unexpected character moments in the movie added to performances. Particularity Mark Ruffalo. I really liked his portrayal of Dr. Banner/Hulk much more here. He brought out the tortured part of Banner more believably and on a side note, he stopped referring to Hulk as ” the other guy” which became tiresome quickly in the first movie. Jeremy Renner, as previously mentioned was great. Spader was on the ball with Ultron, but the twins failed to floor me. The highlight of that film is the scene in which all the Avengers are just hanging out and shooting the breeze while trying to lift Thor’s hammer. All of the cast shined in that one.

Winner: Avengers 2 ( by a hair)

Special Effects:

Avengers

I’m not an expert by any means but I know what looks real and Hulk looked pretty damn real. Awfully cool too. The difficulty of pulling off such a large scale war that uses super powers is daunting  which makes Avengers all the more impressive visually. Everything, for the most part looked clean and crisp. The movie looked like a cartoon that was just real enough. It was fun and it looked fun thanks to it’s stunning effects.

Avengers 2

Once again everything here seemed bigger. It was certainly more fantastical than it’s predecessor. At times a bit too fantastical. I think that there may have been a slight overuse of C.G.I. that perhaps made it look a bit more artificial. I will say that Hulks facial expressions were far more emotive than the first movie. No doubt a testament to Andy Serkis’s presence on the set. Ultron looked badass and real enough. In his case, perhaps too emotive?  a minor quibble but overall great.

Overall Impact:

Avengers

It’s going to be tough to beat the first Avengers on impact. I mean it was the first time we saw a group of standalone characters together on screen! something no one thought would ever happen fifteen years ago. Remember, there was a time where superhero movies were commercial gambles and audiences didn’t always embrace them. Superman and Batman were the only sure thing and then came X-men which got the ball rolling. Eventually we got Spider-man, Iron Man and the rest but it was Avengers that set the bar for THE SUPERHERO movie. I remember when I saw the trailer and saw them briefly battling all together, I nearly cried. That’s impact.

Avengers 2

My friend put it best. ” The film was missing the magic of the first”. What I think he meant was that the impact was gone. We had already seen them all together and it felt familiar. In a good way, but not the same way as the first Avengers. The problem was that it didn’t really tread on new ground either. Sure it introduced new characters but nothing else really NEW. What it did do was improve on nearly every aspect the first movie threw at us. So I guess what I would say is that Avengers is the legacy movie that has a long lasting impact but that Avengers 2 is the better movie overall.

Tough choices, but go out and see it so you can decide for yourselves!

Well the long awaited day has almost arrived … AOS is coming back tomorrow!  While Agent Carter definitely helped to tide us over with some excellent episodes over the past 7 weeks, I’m sure that you were as eager for the return of Coulson and the Agents of Shield as I was.  So where were we when the show went into hiatus?

In “What They Become,” we got to see Skye & Raina transform after being exposed to what we presume was the Terrigen Mists. Unfortunately this transformation was not completely painless as the change also impacted Tripp somewhat adversely and while Skye seems to be physically unmarred, the transformation to Raina – well that seems to be a bit more drastic to say the least. Common consensus is that Skye is actually Daisy Johnson – the inhuman known as Quake, but speculation is rife as to who or what Raina is and there is even a question about Tripp also as while it seemed he died (pretty convincingly) there are questions about whether or not this is a fake out entirely, so lets look at what we know and go from there.

Raina

In What They Become, we only got to see a glimpse of Raina’s eye & the assumption is that this lady, always so prim and proper, with a level of confidence only rarely impacted, is going to be physically and drastically changed.  Raina has wanted this change more than anything else and has been chasing it from the start, but I think we’re going to see that the price she’s had to pay is more than she initially expected or quite possibly wanted!

“We’re going to see how this process affects both girls differently,” added Whedon.

We expect part of that difference will be in the physicality of it. Some Inhumans, like Crystal, can pass as human without problem. Others, like Triton, are unmistakably something else…

At the end of the second mid-season finale, Raina undergoes the process of Terrigenesis, revealing her to be an Inhuman also, but unlike Skye (Daisy Johnson/Quake), Raina undergoes a physical transformation causing a change in eye color, black, spiky protrusions on her skin and blackened fingertips. Whether she has actual powers is yet to be revealed. Questions abound about who or what Raina could be – there are some references to Tigra based purely I’m sure on the physical characteristics shown and while this is a distinct possibility another that’s been circulating is that while Marvel is restricted from using mutants (due to their deal with respect to the XMen) there is no restriction on their creating NEW characters that are unique to the MCU.  This is probably a stretch also as there is so much history within the Marvel Universe it would be somewhat silly to start a new character from scratch here (not mentioning the uproar in the Interweb when all the fan theories fall to dust), however just because it doesn’t make sense to you or I doesn’t mean they won’t do it!  So long answer short?  No clue … I know that her transformation into some sort of creature while leaving Skye physically unmarred is going to have a significant impact on her psyche, but I guess I’m more old fashioned and really want to see what her powers are!

Tripp – is he alive?

Now the main thing fueling speculation here that he might be alive is a supposed tweet from the actress Ming Na Wen who plays Agent May on the show.  I’ll be honest, I’ve tried to find it and I couldn’t so there might be truth to the rumors, but his death looked fairly conclusive to me.  In fact the way he went out – a true hero who literally saved the Earth from the Diviner and its destructive “choosing”/weaning of humanity … well that’s what you want in your hero’s … someone that’s selfless and thinks of others first.  It’s a real pity as he’s a background character true, but he’s one that could have been developed into someone quite interesting and useful instead of a glorified red shirt.

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved dramatically since last season and if the final run of episodes this year can rival the same time season, we are in for quite a treat. AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. returns on March 3rd.

This weeks two part season finale entitled ‘S.O.S’ is probably the best Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D will ever be – it literally takes no prisoners in its dealings with the core characters and no one (at all) is 100% safe.  It is extremely fast paced – perhaps frantic in places – and while there isn’t some of the amazingly well choreographed fight sequences we’ve seen in earlier episodes, there is more than enough death and destruction present to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty!  This episode didn’t linger to make full use of the threat that the inhumans posed. This despite the fact that we knew very little about them. Jiaying was an effective villain. Like Darth Vader she meant something to someone and she wasn’t just the unapproachable antagonist with the standard ‘I seek revenge’  backstory.  If you’ve not yet seen the episode, I can’t recommend it enough – be warned thought that if you continue reading this, there are many SPOILERS as always in my recaps and reviews.

Right lets deal with that elephant first … Ward is a dick and there is absolutely zero chance of his ever getting redeemed.  He deserves nothing more than death and I only hope that when it finally happens it is in a particularly gruesome manner suitable to his crimes and attitude.  OK now that, that’s off my chest lets get down to the review … by the way, I’m not normally that blood thirsty but aside from his betrayal (last season) and his treatment of FitzSimmons, his actions this episode warrant nothing more a swift and final punishment.

While last weeks episode showed us that Jiaying is not as innocent as she seems my initial thoughts that it was just hatred of H.Y.D.R.A and S.H.I.E.L.D are probably wrong … rather like any ruler (which she is) she has chosen to take whatever actions are necessary to protect her people and in this case she has determined that those actions necessitate the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D itself.  She was so obsessed with protecting the Inhumans, that it blinded her own sense of humanity (or inhumanity).

Coulson quickly figures out that the supposed attack is not all its cracked up to be and while he’s immediately curious about Cal and his rationale for being at the base determines that the first priority is getting Bobbi back from Agent 33 and Ward.  Coulson and the “council” realize that they need to do something to fight back against the Inhumans and Jiaying but while Coulson is hoping that Skye will serve as a mediator the remainder of the council advocate an immediate counter-attack.  Fortunately Mack who’s still on the aircraft carrier backs Coulson in his decision.  Meanwhile May and Hunter manage to track down Bobbi’s Quinjet and see signs of the struggle and Cal is interrogated … almost innocently he declares that he’s a trojan horse and has been sent by Jiaying to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. This is actually our first exposure to his Mr. Hyde persona that has been hinted at over the course of many episodes and when the drugs finally take effect on him he transforms into a hulk like creature with supernatural strength.

Back in Paradise we learn that Jiayings healing ability while internal can be “enhanced” by sucking the life force from another being which she proceeds to do to heal herself from the self inflicted gun shot wound that we witnessed in last weeks episode.  Skye meanwhile is trying to understand what went wrong and visits Raina where she is told by her that her mother is not as innocent as she’s proclaiming and Raina’s purpose is to actually herald Skye’s ascension to leadership over her mother.  Jiaying attempts to stop Raina’s influence over Skye by killing her. However, Skye has seen the murder and for the first time questions Jiaying purpose about attacking S.H.I.E.L.D.   Jiaying realizing that Skye will not be easily persuaded has her incapacitated and incarcerated with the gloves that Simmons developed to restrict her powers.  She takes Skye with her and then proceeds to attack the S.H.I.E.L.D aircraft carrier along with several other Inhumans.  Quickly reducing their defences they manage to take over the majority of the ship but Mack is still onboard and realizes that they are planning on using one of the crystals in the ship to poison everyone.  He takes it upon himself to defend this room against all comers after first managing to help Skye escape.

At S.H.I.E.L.D HQ Coulson has managed to “persuade” Cal (by driving a car into him and pinning him in place so that he could talk to him) that Jiaying might not have Skye’s best intentions at heart.  Coulson has realized that Cal actually has a good heart and while he’s been convicted of multiple murders – in actuality it was Jiaying sucking the life force from them and Cal was basically left to blame.  Cal agrees to help Coulson save his daughter and they set off together to the aircraft carrier to confront Jiaying and the rest of the Inhumans.

Agent 33 and Grant Ward are busy torturing agent Morse. Without any remorse Grant stuffs needles into Morse’s fingers and demands an apology for what she did to agent 33. After an escape attempt Agent 33 tries to kill Morse but can’t do it. Ward decides they should leave and booby-traps the door so the first person walking through it will be killed by a high powered rifle. Grant states he hopes it will be Hunter, so Morse can feel the loss while strapped helplessly in a chair.  When Hunter and May finally arrive, Morse manages to tip the chair she’s strapped to over so that the bullet ends up shooting her instead of Hunter … Ward & Agent 33 meanwhile are attacking S.H.I.E.L.D agents and when May realizes that Agent 33 is there, she manages to trick her into going to another part of the building.  Agent 33 wearing the mask that transforms her features into May’s is instead shot dead by Ward.  Agents 33 death closed the book on Grant Ward ever joining the light-side. I had my doubts at the beginning of the season whether Grant could be allowed to come back without alienating the audience. In hindsight the brief cooperation between him and S.H.I.E.L.D was well handled. Now that he is responsible for the near death injuries Morse suffered he can never rely on the sympathy from either S.H.I.E.L.D agents nor the audience.

Agent 33 (Maya Stojan): Did anyone in the history of this show get a more raw deal than poor Agent 33? She was a nondescript agent (un-capitalized) of SHIELD who got captured by Hydra, brainwashed and turned into a killing machine, then saved by a sociopath who manipulated her into a creepy-love-y-dove-y relationship that may or may not have had real feelings behind it (I think Ward was as close to being genuine in his affection for Agent 33 as is possible). Plus, she had a tragic death, dying at the hands of her beloved, mistaking her for Melinda May, ultimately succumbing to the oft-used plot device that ushered her into the show in the first place. It was one of the most effective and concise arcs on the show, and while her time had come, Agent 33 will be missed.

Finally on the carrier, Coulson and Fitz meet up with Mack.  Fitz has designed a quantum entanglement devise that restricts Gordon’s ability to teleport and forces him to remain in the room – while the three still have problems containing him, they are eventually (& by accident) able to kill him when he teleports behind Fitz who was at the time holding a steel rod.  Gordon drops one of the Kree crystals prior to falling himself and Coulson leaps to catch it before it shatters on the floor killing all of them – and anyone else left on the ship – but as he grabs onto it, his hand starts to turn to stone.  Mack quickly cuts it off before it “infects”his whole body and Jiaying realizing that she is losing decides to escape along with a box of crystals.

Skye rushes to stop her mother, but Jiaying instead starts to drain Skye’s lifeforce stating that she’s obviously not the one to lead her people.  While Skye is able to push the Quinjet over the side of the ship Jiaying is gradually killing her until Cal comes up and manages to stop her.  While obviously in mental anguish he finally does the right thing and puts her down saving his daughters life in the process.  Cal was willing to do anything and everything to repair the damage done to his family, but it was an impossible mission, though Cal managed to save his daughter and his wife from herself.

Finally while we think things are finally golden for our team, we learn that Ward is now planning on creating his own “team” as he dislikes working alone from the remnants of H.Y.D.R.A – one can only assume that he is going to be taking on more of a leadership role in this organization.  Bobbi recovering from her wounds tells Hunter that she doesn’t think she can continue on with S.H.I.E.L.D and while this might have been a good segue into the previously mentioned stand alone show with Bobbi and Hunter, now that this has been cancelled, I wonder what is planned for them.  Cal has been put through the Tahiti program and given a new life as a Veterinarian (one has to wonder about this as so far everyone that has already gone through that program has also had issues) and Skye is put in charge of a new team that seeks out those with powers.  Coulson is trying to deal with his missing hand and while it looks like Fitz and Simmons are finally getting together that’s not to be as Simmons gets swallowed up by the Kree stone held in the glass confinement case.  We also see that while we might have thought Skye had disposed of the crystals safely into the ocean – in reality she might have herself instituted the changes her mother was striving for as the crystals decompose into our food supply.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has managed to survive through its second season and while some fans have taken to calling this episode Save Our Show, I, personally have enjoyed all the twists and turns that this show taken us on … I think they didn’t drag things out as long as they did in Season 1 and perhaps they might have almost rushed things a bit too much prior to the launch of Avengers:Age of Ultron, but overall I’m extremely satisfied that this show will be back for a 3rd season. Not all future episode of SHIELD can be like ‘S.O.S’, but it is a start.

This morning I read a recent Q&A Joss Whedon @josswhedon did with Dana Schwartz over at mental floss and I have to say some of his answers really raised my eye brows here and there.

DS: People don’t really stay dead in Marvel movies. I think we’ve had to deal with Loki dying four, five, 12 times. Coulson coming back. Fury comes back mid-film in Captain America: The Winter Soldier … How many more times do you think a character’s death can have an impact if it doesn’t have a permanent effect?

JW: “A lot of people come back in The Winter Soldier. It’s a grand Marvel tradition. Bucky was supposed to die. And the Coulson thing was, I think, a little anomalous just because that really came from the television division, which is sort of considered to be its own subsection of the Marvel universe. As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is dead. But I have to say, watching the first one with my kids—I had not watched the first one since it came out—and then watching it with my kids and watching Coulson die but [thinking], “Yeah, but I know that he kind of isn’t,” it did take some of the punch out of it for me. Of course, I spent a lot of time making sure he didn’t. And at the time it seemed inoffensive, as long as it wasn’t referenced in the second movie, which it isn’t.”

“There’s a thing where you can do that so many times and there’s nothing at stake. But it’s difficult because you’re living in franchise world—not just Marvel, but in most big films—where you can’t kill anyone, or anybody significant. And now I find myself with a huge crew of people and, although I’m not as bloodthirsty as some people like to pretend, I think it’s disingenuous to say we’re going to fight this great battle, but there’s not going to be any loss. So my feeling in these situations with Marvel is that if somebody has to be placed on the altar and sacrificed, I’ll let you guys decide if they stay there.”

Fair dues Mr. Whedon your not happy with Coulson being alive again. But arguably you absolutely do not lose under cut the impact or the impact of his death in Avengers because I think it’s a little weak to rely on losing Coulson to be the ONLY tangible link an audience can grasp or really feel.

Given that the sky had broke open and hundreds of thousands of alien monsters poured out to conquer and slaughter anyone breathing in a major American city as the pretext for an invasion. Homes big and small business streets all totally destroyed. No one in recent human history can identify with any of this I guess?

Friends family members being hurt or even dyeing in this massive city wide catastrophe. Credit where credit is due in The Avengers they rescue a lot more people from actual dangers. Unlike Man Of Steel and one of my many issues with it similar in that a major American city and is totally different because this attack is by aliens in massive ships with superior technology. Devastating the city a kin a a few thousand 9/11 attacks but of course the only people we see in actual trouble are Jimmy, Lois and Perry. Because of course the filmmakers “just didn’t want to go there”.

Since the revival of Bucky Barnes it would be fair to say the only character left untouched and justifiably so is Spider-Man’s uncle Ben. Playing devils advocate to myself I’m trying to think a little more like Mr. Whedon in this moment. Could they have done things differently story wise that he would have been happier with? Would a compromise have been a happier solution for him? Coulson might have returned but as a Life Model Decoy everyone was a buzz about for a time.

But then on the other hand the entire first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is the character acting wizard that is Clark Gregg (@clarkgregg) clawing his way to discover why he brought back from the dead. It was very human it was easily relatable it was so engaging because you wanted to learn with this man why he was chosen to be brought back. He wasn’t an extraordinary guy he was in the background of a few things and he was kind of a jerk sometimes. But he was and he was working really hard to make it mean something and I’m sorry but if that’s not a Marvel story then I’m not sure what is.

Again devils advocate, if the show and stories in general went in a different direction just a speculative idea. If they were to follow the books a little closer and Maria Hill was the headliner. After all she is and was Fury’s right had and his very visible heir apparent as in the books she did take on the role of director over for Fury. It would have been very different the story challenges would be minimal and what real journey does Maria Hill have after The Avengers?

She’s a very high ranking officer at an elite spy organization, we already like her character a lot. There is no reason not too I mean it’s not like she was a jerk to Jane Foster in Thor or anyone else really. We would have started off in a story about an awesome winner who has an exciting spy job continuing to win and be awesome.

Quantum leaping back into myself devils advocate section is done for now. I find it a bit rich that Mr. Whedon is complaining about the continued use a character he did not have a hand in originating. Even more so every single character in The Avengers film originated somewhere else. Granted Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Banner was new but the character certainly wasn’t and it’s not like The Hulk was the focus of the entire film.

That being said it would be fair to say The Avengers film is a lot like a mix tape Mr. Whedon made from all the best songs of all these awesome bands we already know and love. Yes the arrangements the tone the emotions it evokes are fantastic for our road trip. But then to later turn around and complain that someone continued The Ballad Of Phil Coulson to the detriment of your road trip mix is a bit ludicrous.

I also ask if he is really truly so opposed to the idea of Coulson living then why is he his brother and his sister in law writing producing and show running Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D respectively. The vehicle of Coulson’s resurrection. All under his very own company mast head Mutant Enemy.

To wrap things up Mr. Whedon is every Coulson lives t-shirt on the streets and on the backs of loyal fans a dollar in your pocket or a knife in your artist hearts?

Somewhat like old home week, the gang is finally all back together.  Skye has returned and with Ward’s inclusion last week our original cast of characters is now all together back on the boat … one thing that needs to be said though is that WOW have they changed.  Skye once a bit of a loner is now truly at home with her teammates, Fitz and Simmons with their on again / off again relationship/friendship (who knows what ship) are still just as confused – perhaps even more so and May … once the mother of the group to Coulson‘s dad is now possibly considering a divorce!

The elephant though … well that’s Ward really isn’t it?  Who he has become and what he’s done to those he considered his friends … this was his opportunity to really apologize and perhaps start working towards that redemption he seems to so desperately need.  The team (including us) would never give it to him – his actions go definitely beyond the pail, but unfortunately Ward’s apology really shows a lack of maturity and a true understanding of the pain and anguish that he has caused his supposed friends.

When Mack apologized to Hunter – it was meaningful … you could see the tears in his eyes (I know this was acting, but it was believable) but perhaps most importantly he said the right words:

I still believe in what I do, but I never meant for you to get hurt and I’m sorry for that and I’ll try to make it up to you in any way that I can.

Ward by contrast however blames all of his actions on how he was brought up, the abuses he suffered at the hands of his family etc… he refuses to take any ownership for his actions and his sociopathic tendencies and while it seems he’s trying to do the right thing by Kara (Agent 33) he’s unable to translate these actions into the necessary changes he’d need to make in himself.  While Ward seems to desperately want to be a hero again – he cannot redeem himself, truly redeem himself until he acknowledges and atones for his previous actions and shows true remorse.  Right now his only regrets seem to be that he and the team had “good times”

Whereas Captain America: The Winter Soldier had S.H.I.E.L.D being impacted greatly by the events of that movie and us literally being caught blindsided, this time S.H.I.E.L.D is providing us with some foreshadowing by way of Raina and her gifts and while I personally wasn’t that impressed with this (I’ll explain more later) it was to be expected.

Episode Recap

OK lets get down to the nitty gritty as there was quite a bit of stuff that happened in this episode including a tie in for the the upcoming Avengers Movie also (as previously mentioned).

*** Spoilers below ***

With the return of Cal and Skye to the Afterlife, Cal literally explodes (verbally) and lets the cat out of the bag in regards to Skye’s parentage.  If you recall from a previous episode Jianying wanted to keep this secret so I’m sure this is going to come back and bite her quite badly.  Skye wants to immediately attempt a rescue of Lincoln, but when Gordon initially attempts to do so himself he is accosted by Hydra agents and almost captured.  With Raina’s “influence” based on her visions, Skye has herself teleported to the bus prior to Coulson and the rest of the gang initiating their rescue attempt.

Coulson as just mentioned has managed to persuade Gonzales of the value of conducting a rescue operation to recover Mike Peterson (Deathlok) and also the unnamed powered individual (Lincoln) that H.Y.D.R.A is experimenting on.  While his apparent surrender to Gonzales at the end of the previous episode might have put him into Gonzales’ “power” it is quite apparent that Coulson can literally run circles around him.  His comments to Hill that Gonzales has a committee that actually vote on decisions shows the true derision that he feels for Gonzales.  The sad fact is that a leader is someone willing to make those difficult decisions and deal with the consequences of them both positive and negative and unfortunately as much as I like the Edward James Olmos – Gonzales is not a leader.  He is not the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to the recap! 🙂

Coulson gathers together the rest of the gang and with Skye’s return to the bus thanks to Gordon, they set off on an apparent suicide mission to infiltrate the H.Y.D.R.A base.  When H.Y.D.R.A detects the bus even thought is cloaked and fires two missiles apparently destroying it … our thoughts immediately go to the team … well, no, not really – we all knew they were fine didn’t we?  Anyways, it turns out that they were in a quinjet inside the bus and they actually used the wreckage of the bus as camouflage to sneak down.  Bakshi it seems has continued to keep them informed and they well knew the capabilities of the base prior to planning their assault.  Once they are able to obtain ingress to the base they actually meet up with Bakshi and split up into three separate teams with Skye/Ward and Bakshi on the rescue team.  While Skye initially uses her powers (which she seems to be gaining control of exponentially) to disable some H.Y.D.R.A agents, she really kicks ass in an action sequence that is up there with the May vs. May fight from Face my Enemy.  Kevin Tancharoen has directed several episodes this season, and once again he really raised the bar for action on this series when he staged an intricate sequence showing what Skye is capable of not just with a weapon but also with her body and the surroundings.  I can’t really speak highly enough if this sequence and I definitely want to see more of Skye kicking butt not just with her powers, but also good old fashioned hand-to-hand as this episode shows she’s definitely got the goods and the abilities to allow her to hold her own.

Coulson meanwhile leads Fitz and May on a separate mission to disable the anti-aircraft defenses that H.Y.D.R.A has in place so that S.H.I.E.L.D can send in some jets to destroy the base.  While Fitz is hacking the defenses however, Coulson seems to have another reason for being there – rescuing Deathlok and Lincoln it seems is simply a cover and a way for him to access the base.  In a similar sequence to what we saw with the Widow and the Captain from Winter Soldier, Coulson manages to obtain access to some information while May holds of the attacking H.Y.D.R.A agents.  May however is less than pleased at learning of this subterfuge and continues to push Coulson to come clean with her on all of the different secrets he’s holding very close to his chest.

Simmons similarly however had her own reasons for deciding to join the rescue attempt and while her attempt on Wards life fails she does kill Bakshi.  While I can understand Simmons’ need to avenge herself on Ward, I really feel that she is becoming more and more unhinged herself and if she’s not careful could end up just as damaged as he is!  Jemma is not a killer. I think she’s falling apart so quickly she doesn’t know how to stop it. So much hurt, pain… She can’t deal with it alone. That’s why I really hope she confesses everything to Fitz (including Bankshi’s death and I’m afraid of how is he going to react).

Returning to the base, Coulson hands over the cube but not before letting slip that Fury is still alive.  While Gonzales’ might think Coulson isn’t the Director, a phone call from Agent Hill demonstrates quite clearly that there are many others who believe the opposite.  While speaking to Hill, Coulson provides her with the information that he’d stolen from H.Y.D.R.A – the location of Loki’s scepter – and also informs her that they need to call the Avengers again.

Review

From the point of view of tying up a bunch of loose ends this episode absolutely delivered and I know I’m probably in the minority in my one gripe, but since this is my post I can state it anyways!  While I absolutely was expecting the fact that they’d somehow allude to the upcoming movie in S.H.I.E.L.D I hate the fact that they had to do it.  I know that they (the MCU) are all interconnected and I loved what changed in S.H.I.E.L.D after the events of Winter Soldier, but this “plug” for Age of Ultron felt like nothing more than that … an attempt to get more bums in seats.  Winter Soldier took me by surprise and the whole S.H.I.E.L.D v.s. H.Y.D.R.A impact along with the changes to some beloved characters … that was good storytelling.  This – well we’ve all seen the trailers for weeks if not months with Ultron … we know that these are the metal men that Raina is referring to and unfortunately as much as I enjoy Raina’s character and her thorny new look, her clairvoyance feels too much like a convenient plot device to put certain pieces in place.  The impact just isn’t there for these pronouncements which is really sad as the last 5 minutes of the episode removed some of the awesomeness that I felt in the rest of the episode.  I absolutely know and realize that the whole MCU is interconnected – I honestly do get that – maybe its just Raina.  It’s probably just me. 🙂

Coulson has kept the secret of the Theta Protocol close to the vest as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., refusing to reveal what it means even to Agent Melinda May (Ming Na Wen). In “The Dirty Half Dozen” Coulson finally lets slip what this protocol entails while speaking to Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders): the Avengers as mentioned below and while I wasn’t too keen on how this was tied into the show, I am very curious to see what happens next week post Ultron and how that impacts S.H.I.E.L.D and the team.  While Ward is absolutely not redeemed (thankfully), the question is of course is his actions on/for Kara as genuine as he is making them out to be, or is he still playing another con, this time with her inside S.H.I.E.L.D?

By this point you’ve probably already seen the trailers for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.  If not you can find one of them at this link.  Something else that might interest you however is an overall cinematic for the MCU as presented in the video below.  I found it quite interesting and hopefully you will too!