Daisy seems rather indifferent to the fact that she’s been captured by Kasius — much less that he also seems to be drawing a significant amount of blood from her. Though he still talks plainly, Kasius is clearly somewhat threatened by Daisy’s presence. Not just because she’s the so-called “Destroyer of Worlds,” but also because the prophecy foretold that multiple S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would return from the past to overthrow his order. He’s already connected that Simmons and Daisy must have come together, since neither have Metrics, but now he needs to know if there are more out there he should be looking for. After paying Deke his literal piece of silver for betraying Daisy, Kasius instructs him to find other time-travelers.

In the meantime, Kasius loops Daisy into his main business of training and then selling powerful Inhumans. Here Daisy meets a telepath, capable of hearing other people’s thoughts whenever his earpiece implant is turned off. That makes him capable of predicting and countering his opponents’ moves, which Daisy doesn’t think is necessarily fair. But she and the other SHIELD agents are still getting used to the alien morality of the station. As the telepath explains, he doesn’t mind being sold off, because his family will be compensated, giving them a better chance at survival. And here, survival is everything.

I must say, I greatly enjoy the constant tension in this season’s future setting. A particularly thrilling sequence comes when Kasius decides to interrogate Daisy and Simmons about how they got here; if their stories don’t match, then he’ll know they’re lying about being the only ones from the past. Daisy says that after Fitz killed their teammate Jeffrey Mace, she took Simmons to a diner to talk about their feelings, whereupon they were seized, knocked out, and woke up here. At first it seems impossible that the stories will match, since Kasius’ implant prevents Simmons from hearing well. But it turns out the telepath doesn’t just “hear” thoughts, he can also transmit them, allowing Simmons and Daisy to sync up their details. For now they’ve evaded suspicion, but being so close to Kasius means the telepath has picked up on his thoughts as well … and they seem to indicate a plan to destroy the station at some point in the near future, rendering his selfless sacrifice moot. So Daisy decides it’s time to shake up the rules a bit around here. And the rest i think you need to watch and see for yourself…

In a not unsurprising fashion, SHIELD is once again the tie-in to an upcoming big-screen Movie Adaptation (namely Doctor Strange). The second episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives us a foothold into the supernatural in more ways than one. First, we have Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes who told Daisy that he sold his soul to the devil. The secondary plot involves a bunch of ghostly people that induce dementia to those they come in contact with. At first, the force that caused their current state involved some device and what they called the Darkhold.  Though Marvel tried to keep it under wraps, the new director’s identity has been revealed. EW can officially confirm that Jason O’Mara is playing Jeffrey Mace, otherwise known in the comics as the Patriot.

Like the Necronomicon in the Evil Dead series, the Darkhold is a powerful ancient book in the Marvel universe. It’s also known as the Book of Sins and was penned by the demonic Elder God Chthon. A creature at the level of Mephisto (Satan), The Dread Dormammu (arch-nemesis of Doctor Strange) and the Earth Goddess Gaea (Mother Nature, and Thor’s real mother in comic lore), the Darkhold contains all of Chthon’s magical knowledge and also serves as his link to the earthly plane before all the Elder Gods (except Gaea) were banished to their respective dimensions.  Anyone, not powerful enough to use the book itself, becomes a thrall of Chthon. Robbie Reyes says he has some link to what’s going on in the lab and might have come across a page or two, giving him the means to summon ‘the devil.’ It doesn’t work the same way in the comics, but you know the MCU.

Now while the whole tie-in thing was amazing and awesome in series one & in some ways took everyone completely by surprise with the grand reveal of Ward as an agent of HYDRA, having it so prevalent and so early on in this season is a bit annoying.  I loved Ghost Rider and his overall look/feel but I’m almost annoyed with the fact that the authors seem to think their show is nothing more than an extended sales vehicle and lead into the overarching MCU.  I really feel that SHIELD has enough to stand on its own and doesn’t need to be used so.

On a positive note, however – the new Director was quite interesting for me.  While his initial goodie-two-shoes’ness was a bit bland, his later reveal as an Inhuman – by the way, this is actually contrary to comic book lore as Jeffrey Mace (the Patriot) from the comics was not a super-powered individual but was simply an admirer of Cap & in fact, took on his role – was really good and unexpected. As the show tends to do, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has put a twist on the character by infusing him with powers and turning the Patriot into an Inhuman. That’s exactly why he got the top job at S.H.I.E.L.D., because Coulson (Clark Gregg) suggested that the new director should be a powered person the public could trust, especially in the wake of Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, going AWOL.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is leaning hard on Ghost Rider joining in Season 4 as a hook to get people watching the show, so it makes sense that Gabriel Luna’s take on Robbie Reyes would be introduced right at the beginning of the premiere, “The Ghost.” It was the right choice not to force viewers to wait to see the fiery Marvel superhero, and he proved to be the best part of SHIELD’s return.  As always with new beginnings on this show, the status quo has radically shifted. The last few moments of season 3 jumped ahead six months and gave us a quick look at where the characters had ended up in the wake of Hydra’s final defeat, but now we know for sure.

The difference made by shifting Agents of SHIELD back to a 10 p.m. time slot came across most notably through the Ghost Rider story arc; there’s a whole lot more blood this season, and a generally darker aesthetic. Thinking back to the Season 1 premiere (which was in an 8 p.m. time slot), it’s clear how Agents of SHIELD has matured over the years, and given the success of the darker Marvel shows over at Netflix, it’s a smart move for ABC’s series to be more tonally similar. It also helps that Ghost Rider looks great.

A lot has changed after the time jump that ended Season 3, and not all of it for the better. Fitz is now keeping lies from Simmons, the team is split up, Coulson is no longer Director of SHIELD and the person who replaced him doesn’t have a lot of love in his heart for the ragtag bunch that came before him. Then there’s Daisy, who is so determined to not lose another person close to her that she is still evading Coulson’s attempts to bring her in, and has become a bit of a vigilante in the process.

Things have changed for Phil Coulson and Mack, too. The one-time directors of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been demoted to field agents over the time jump. We find them out on assignment in the Zephyr One, killing time between assignments by playing backgammon and grumbling about the new management (“everything is classified nowadays”). Suddenly, they get orders to fly back to base, which confuses them because they’re not due to refuel for a while. Coulson’s excited to see the old team again, though, especially May (Ming-Na Wen).

ghostrideraosheader

Cut to May, who’s sparring with the members of her elite strike force as the Zephyr One lands. Thanks to her contacts in law enforcement, she’s able to fill Coulson and Mack in on the grisly details of the Ghost Rider murders (apparently, one unfortunate goon got his spine ripped out). But the reason she had them come back to base personally was so she could tell them that Daisy might be involved — and in this new post-Sokovia Accords world where Daisy’s considered a dangerous fugitive, she didn’t exactly want to send that info over the wire. If they pursue, they might be able to catch up with her before she gets into deeper trouble. Then again, it might be too late for that. Daisy’s already breaking into a hospital to interrogate a survivor of the Ghost Rider attack. He helpfully informs her that Ghost Rider’s flames don’t just burn flesh and bone — they burn your soul. Apparently those soul burns were too much for a sinner like him and he expires, forcing Daisy to pursue other leads.

The Ghost Rider that most people are familiar with is Johnny Blaze, whether that’s through the many Ghost Rider comics or Nic Cage’s portrayal of the character across two live-action movies. So when you think of “Ghost Rider is coming to Agents of SHIELD,” you might wonder why he’s not tooling around on his classic bike or why the character is suddenly tearing up the streets of Los Angeles in a souped-up hot rod.

Agents of SHIELD’s Ghost Rider is actually the fourth person to take on the mantle (fifth, if you count the original supernatural cowboy that first appeared in the ‘60s, who had his name changed to “The Phantom Rider” after Johnny’s introduction), Roberto “Robbie” Reyes. Robbie is the most recent and freshest version of the character, having only first appeared in 2014—his series, All-New Ghost Rider by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore, lasted just 12 issues.

Johnny’s power comes from Marvel’s equivalent of Satan, Mephisto, merging the young man’s soul with a demon named Zarathos, after the two made a deal for the life of Johnny’s adoptive father that went awry (Mephisto, of course, is famous for being the vehicle with which Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s marriage was erased in the infamous One More Daystoryline). Zarathos was a spirit of vengeance, causing Johnny to turn into the Ghost Rider in the presence of evil, compelled to hunt it down and destroy it.

Robbie, on the other hand, was resurrected by a spirit named Eli—an altogether more nefarious supernatural entity who pretended to be a spirit like Zarathos, but was actually the soul of a Satanist serial killer using Robbie to get back into the physical realm and continue to kill. While Johnny and Zarathos had a slightly more amicable relationship (as much as one can with a demon linked to your soul), Eli is a potent and sinister force that Robbie has to learn to keep suppressed, after making a deal with it that they would only take the lives of truly evil people. So expectSHIELD’s Robbie to maybe get a little bit nasty every once in a while.

In terms of the tone of the show, the darkness works for Ghost Rider, but there are some definite growing pains as the other facets of the experiment with the time slot freedom as well. The increase in blood and violence was a little jarring after three seasons of comparatively less intense action, but it did feel true to the direction SHIELD is headed in. What didn’t fit as well were the close up shots of Daisy getting dressed; these pants-come-up, shirt-comes-on sequences are familiar ways to add sexuality into TV shows and movies, but SHIELD has already done a great job establishing Daisy as a sexy character without needing to depict it in this unsubtle way. Hopefully the inclusion of more overt sexuality in the show feels a bit more organic to the show as it continues to explore the new territory of the 10 p.m. hour this season.

Among Us Hide – Season 3 Episode 6

Right missed a couple of these over the past little while so let’s try to get caught up as quick as we can shall we?  If you recall from the previous episode (Devils you Know & not 4,722 as while that was an excellent episode, it doesn’t (yet) do anything for the underlying story), May and Bobbi had managed to track down Strucker and while they weren’t in time to stop his beating, May managed to hear that Andrew might not be dead after all.  In fact, Andrew it  turns out is the Inhuman – Lash that Daisy has been searching for.  Turned out, he was the one who set the building ablaze. The worse part is Skye (Chloe Bennet) is right. The inhuman, Lash, they are hunting can indeed transform into human. To blend into the crowd, the beast becomes Garner.  May is in disbelief with the shocking revelation about her ex-husband.

I like giving credit where credit is due, and I can safely say that as someone who has been a fan and viewer since season 1, tonight’s game-changing reveal was on par with the great “Ward is Hydra” turn of 2014. I didn’t see it coming, and maybe I’m alone in that. But when a show can blindside me completely with a narrative that is interesting and unsuspecting, I have to give it props.

agents-of-shield-02Before we get to those big moments, though, let’s start with something important: Andrew Garner is alive. Not only that, he’s alive enough to talk and give May and Coulson the rundown on what happened when Werner von Strucker tried to kill him. He tells them about the men who followed him, who Coulson correctly calls out as being HYDRA. Turns out that Coulson had his own S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tailing Garner, which is how he got lucky: The agents gave him time to find cover, but just barely. (The way this scene was shot, with May watching the medics work on her husband, was incredibly reminiscent of Black Widow, Cap, and Maria Hill watching a dying Nick Fury in Winter Solider…at least for me.)

May’s still pissed at Hunter for putting Garner’s life in danger, and her anger’s not unwarranted. Unsurprisingly, Coulson pulls Hunter off the assignment while May puts herself on, because now she’s going after Ward, hell or high water. At least there’s one positive thing that comes out of Garner’s near-death experience: May’s back. I mean, really back. She’s got the Hunter “out for blood” thing going and takes it to the next level by “recruiting” Bobbi to help her in the way only S.H.I.E.L.D. agents can: by forcing her into a sparring session. Bobbi and Melinda make an amazing team, because they’re both total badasses, but watching Melinda mentor Bobbi and encourage her to see her pain and suffering as “experience” that makes her stronger is pure gold. And that’s an example of good therapy, that makes you more capable instead of making you doubt yourself—as Bobbi proves at the end, when she uses her “experience” to take down Ward’s right-hand man. As much as I enjoyed Scientist Bobbi Morse, I cannot express how happy I am to see my favorite character back in the field, kicking butt, and being an active part of the team again. (And those fight scenes in this week’s episode just proved that. Give me an entire episode of Bobbi and May undercover, please.)

It makes sense that Lash was someone with inside knowledge, and this may even explain why Andrew was so opposed to letting Inhumans go out into the field—since he’s apparently got a lot of issues with his own kind and sees it as a vital mission to hunt them all down and perforate them.

Missed one here – many apologies … read this one before you read 4722 although considering the context of that episode, it won’t really matter in the grand scheme of things!  Anyways if you recall at the end of the previous episode, Hunter had made a failed attempt on Wards life & Coulson has removed him from the task.  With May now all hot and bothered due to the death of Andrew, she’s more than eager to pick up the slack and sets out to see how Bobbi is doing.  Bobbi sidelined all season due to Wards torture still feels somewhat tentative but when May comes at her all guns blazing she’s forced to step up her game and defend herself.  Now while this fight isn’t at the same quality or intensity as the May vs. May fight from Season 2, it’s still quite cool.

Once May “persuades” Bobbi to join her, they quickly figure out that transfer student “Alex” is actually von Strucker’s son. He’s alive and on the run, having cleaned out a recent Hydra bank account, and May correctly thinks that if they find him, they can find a link to Ward. Turns out Werner is actually hiding out in a penthouse in Portugal with Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe), a powerful Hydra menace who once worked with his father.  The poor kid doesn’t know where to turn, but don’t worry — Malick will handle everything.  True to his word, Malick calls up Ward, who isn’t at all intimidated by Malick’s Hydra past. Malick offers him a chance at redemption, a chance to fix the mistakes he’s made in the game by involving unprepared people like von Strucker’s son. A confident Ward rejects Malick’s proposal, even when Malick says he knows where he can find the kid, who S.H.I.E.L.D. is also conveniently looking for. “Sometimes,” he tells the budding Hydra leader, “you sacrifice a player to play the game.”

Meanwhile, Daisy and Mack are working on Daisy’s pet theory that Lash can transform into a human and their first suspect is Rosalind’s right-hand man, Luther Banks.  With Hunter’s help (who lets be honest is beside himself worrying about Bobbi and frustrated with nothing to do) they decide to stake him out. Daisy and Mack soon realize that they have no idea how to really track this guy, other than waiting to see if he randomly shapeshifts. While Mack and Daisy want to be stealthy (especially with Coulson currently embedded in the ATCU), stealth has never been Hunter’s way of doing things. He takes matters into his own hands and runs out of the van and ices the guy. (“Come on!” Daisy yells, and I laugh because I would have yelled the exact same thing.) No one thinks shooting Rosalind’s No. 2 is a particularly good idea, but Hunter’s actually being smart for once: Inhumans have markers in their DNA, so if they test Banks’ blood, they’ll know whether or not he’s Lash. Even Daisy admits that’s kind of smart though she almost takes the compliment back after Hunter punches Banks in order to get the blood sample.

After snooping through Banks’ things, the three learn about a secret lab called Endotech.  Using a new (invisible) spy drone that Fitz has created they break into the lab and realize that it’s chock full of boxed up iHumans that the ATCU has been capturing.  They also see Coulson seemingly having a normal conversation with Rosalind and not throwing a hissy fit which is what Daisy expects him to do.   Daisy is definitely not happy – there’s no way she’s working with the ATCU after this, so good luck, Coulson. Unfortunately while they might have made this grand discovery, their hunch about Banks is incorrect as Simmons contacts them to give them the results of the blood test and Banks’ doesn’t have any iHuman markers.

But all is not what it seems, and this is part of why Rosalind didn’t want to tell Coulson about what they were doing. Rosalind and the ATCU are treating the Inhuman gene like an illness, one that they’re trying to find a cure for, so people can live their lives in peace. Plot twist! Turns out this all comes from a personal place: Rosalind’s own husband died of cancer a few years ago, and this a way to try to help others when she couldn’t help him. Coulson is unexpectedly touched by this show of humanity, and I think it’s interesting to see the two leaders displaying different sides of the coin when it comes to how to survive in this industry. Rosalind is doing anything she can not to cut herself off because she believes it’s important to have feelings while Coulson thinks the only way to get the job done is to stop feeling entirely.

May and Bobbi show up at the bank under the guise of wanting to open Ms. Wong (May’s) safe deposit box. (The two most important things about this scene: Bobbi’s undercover glasses, and May and Bobbi trading conversations in Mandarin.) But when Bobbi uses one of Fitz’s devices to find the actual safe deposit box belonging to Hydra, they trigger an alarm that has the bank manager and the guards cornering them in the vault. May’s first instinct is to fight, but Bobbi takes the opposite route: Using information Fitz is feeding her through her glasses, she sweet talks them long enough to almost get out of trouble. When May sees a guard going for his gun, though, the channel gets changed to the Melinda May Badass Hour. Later on, May corners Bobbi about why she chose the safe route rather than the attack route back at the bank. She assesses that Bobbi is hiding behind her medical tests and holding back because she doesn’t think she’s strong enough to fight anymore. May rallies her confidence by telling her about how she scouted her at the Academy before she became an agent (and I really need THAT backstory now) and shares her own Bahrain experiences. She knows what it feels like to regress due to a personal loss. And she’s not going to let Bobbi go there.

Thanks to Malick, Ward has gotten to Werner first, but May and Bobbi easily interrupt the love fest that is Hydra beating the crap out of the kid and gloriously disarm all the agents in a sequence that reminds me why I love these ladies so much. Bobbi finally gets her due, and for all her fighting skills, it’s experience and smarts that help Bobbi succeed — she uses her batons to electrocute Kebo in the pool. May, meanwhile, is trying desperately to get Werner to tell her about Ward before he either passes out or dies.

Werner tries to apologize for what happened, telling May, “I didn’t know he changed into that thing.” And as we watch May’s horrified face, we get the actual story of what happened the day that Garner was attacked and the reason behind why he ultimately survived a little too well.

Garner. Is. Lash.

I’d like to say that I saw that coming, but just like Ward and HYDRA, I have to admit this reveal did surprise me.  I will admit that I was surprised with Andrew’s character as he did seem so incidental considering the quality of the actor & when he was killed off, I really was a bit confused as it seemed such a waste. Obviously, now everything makes sense: the fact that he hasn’t yet killed Daisy (something Daisy asks him about point blank, along with asking about his shapeshifting skills) and also the fact that he’s so interested in finding Lincoln. (That last scene, where we see Daisy willing to offer up Lincoln’s whereabouts because, as Garner notes, “he’d be safer here,” made me cringe. Don’t do it, Daisy!) Much like when we learned Ward was Hydra, looking back at all the interactions and choices Garner has made in light of this new knowledge suddenly adds a different perspective to our stories. How will this affect his relationship with May? What about the fact that he and Simmons have been bonding over therapy and PhDs? Is Garner really, truly evil inside, or is just Lash that’s the problem? (We’ve already done the Jekyll and Hyde thing, so I’m guessing we’re not going to go there twice.) Moreover, if Garner has been vetting Inhumans since the beginning, how many has he actually killed or put on a list when he realizes they’re not “worthy” enough? Do we even want to know?

A Most wanted (Inhu)Man – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (S3E3)

The president’s ATCU (Advanced Threat Containment Unit) begins hunting down inhumans across the country. Meanwhile, Simmons begins her rehabilitation after her extended stay on the alien world.

While the title for “A Wanted (Inhu)man” referred to Lincoln, and his story was solid, the episode’s most notable content dealt with Simmons, as she was back, but hardly back to her usual self.

Elizabeth Henstridge was terrific here, as Simmons seemed on edge and often almost in pain from being around, well, nearly everything. Mundane things like a cell phone ringing got under her skin and Henstridge did an excellent job showing her trying to put on the best face she could, but struggling so much underneath. It was touching seeing Fitz trying so hard (yes, I it was “Aww”-worthy how he had held that restaurant reservation for them, hoping she’d return), but he just couldn’t help her – at least not yet.

Cover from Inhumans trade paperback (2001).
Cover from Inhumans trade paperback (2001). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Most Wanted (Inhu)Man starts off pretty fast-paced. We meet back with Lincoln, who is being chased by a small military squadron. They pursue him through the woods until he escapes after creating a blinding wall of sparks via some steel towers. He continues throughout the episode in a similar fashion, having to give the slip from the ATCU using his powers. Eventually, he seeks refuge with his old friend, John, but he ends up turning Lincoln in after seeing a news report falsely exposing him as a fugitive. Though it was a bit silly (and cliché) to do the “close confident sees news report about friend and freaks out without trying to get explanation” route. However, the fact that Roebuck’s character actually died from his heart attack, despite Lincoln trying to use his powers as a defibrillator – and that Lincoln didn’t redeem himself to his friend or anyone else by saving him – was effective.

 Superpowers should theoretically make a person more interesting, but the Inhuman characters on Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. are the blandest members of the cast. The writers of this series have struggled to give Chloe Bennet a character that brings out the charisma she shows in her public appearances, and while Skye/Daisy has gone through a significant transformation, it’s not one that highlights Bennet’s natural charm.  Right now, Daisy’s entire life is dedicated to S.H.I.E.L.D. and rescuing Inhumans, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a glimpse of what she does outside of work. What is her personal life like? Does she wish she could just be a regular woman in her early ’20s, trying to find her way in the world without alien powers and government organizations at her back? Now that she has control over her superpowers, does she ever have any fun with them?
While Daisy attempts to convince Lincoln to come along, Coulson meets with Rosalind Price. He’s attempting to find the reason her task force is hunting inhumans, particularly Lincoln. While her response is inconclusive, Coulson’s focus shifts when he informs her that he’s aware she knows about Daisy, who happens to also be on her hit list. Realizing neither side will get anywhere if they keep attacking each other, instead of focusing on the bigger struggle at hand, Coulson suggests a temporary partnership with Price.Lance Hunter
May finally decides to team up with Hunter in their mutual pursuit of Grant Ward. They make their way to Boston to meet with an old friend of Hunter’s who is in league with a mysterious arms dealer, suspected to be the new Hydra. It was a lot of fun seeing Hunter and May teamed up and on their own, trying to get Hunter infiltrated with Hydra. As a big Spartacus fan, I loved seeing Dan Feuerriegel as Hunter’s kinda/sorta buddy, “Spud”, they needed to cozy up to in order to get close to Hydra – a comic highlight of both the episode and the show in general was when Hunter and Spud got drunk and their slurred, thick accented dialogue – that May was struggling with – was subtitled. After a few rousing rounds of lager, Hunter agrees to fight his way up the pecking order…literally.  It’s a painful episode for Hunter, but it’s a great one for Nick Blood, who gets to goof off when he’s not being beaten to a bloody pulp.  Blood plays up the comedy even when Hunter’s getting pummeled, giving the character an endearing scrappiness as he fights a much larger, stronger opponent. May also finds herself in an uneven fight against three imposing men, but she’s far from scrappy. She’s ruthless as she quickly takes out her three would-be attackers, and gets the best line of the night as she walks away from the fallen bodies:
“How about I do you a favor and not tell anyone that a tiny little Asian woman kicked your ass.” 
Somehow managing to withstand a pretty hefty beating, he finally decides to go by Hydra’s rules to play as dirty as possible, pulls out his knuckle dusters, and reigns in his victory. Barely able to keep himself upright, he’s taken to finally face the man he set out to kill.
When Bobbi finds Simmons still analyzing the fragments of the Monolith, she tries telling her its been completely disabled and she has nothing to fear anymore. Much to Bobbi’s surprise, Simmons tells her she’s not afraid of being sent back, but for some reason, actually needs to go back.
Meanwhile, despite their differences, we got some more amusing banter between Coulson and Rosalind (them I feel chemistry between) and her “eyes up here!” as he eyeballed her car was a very funny bit.

OK, bit of a mixed bag this week as the impressive season opener did not really carry through in my opinion into week two.  While there was still quite a bit going on in this episode, the team was somewhat fractured dealing with all of the different responsibilities and goals that they needed to address. The first and perhaps most important was a straight continuation from last weeks attack on the Monolith by Fitz. Stopped by the rest of the group just before the Monolith decides to try and eat him, they realize that wherever it has taken Simmons, it has not just destroyed her as there is some dust left on Fitz’s face from a different planet. Coulson realizing that there is now some hope of recovering her has everyone get on deck to solve the problem of her disappearance.

Invoking the assistance of the Asgardian we’ve seen earlier – Dr. Randolph – who has been around for thousands of years and does not want to be sent back to Asgard. As such he has hunted high and low for all portals and should have information that they could use.  Once they find him, they determine that the Monolith was at one point in an English castle. It seems that over the ages people have discovered and analyzed this monolith to try and determine how it works and what it does and over the course of centuries some scientists have managed to create a way to activate the Monolith on demand (which in my opinion is quite impressive for individuals from the Renaissance/Medieval era!).

Fitz realizes immediately what they’ve discovered and they have Mac bring the Monolith to them so that they can try to rescue Simmons. Utilizing the tech from the middle ages Daisy (I’m going to have trouble with this name change and while I realize and can understand her justification for doing it and even applaud her for embracing her past, I’ve gotten used to Skye and I know her.  Daisy – well she’s still a bit of an unknown to me and someone I’m not as comfortable with) is able to open the Monolith by vibrating it at a certain frequency, although this obviously causes her quite a bit of pain.  While their initial intent is to send a probe through to see if they can find any sign of Simmons, Fitz decides to take the bull by the horns and leaps through the portal onto the  surface of another planet and in the middle of what looks to be a vicious sandstorm.  Struggling through the vicious storm, Fitz manages to locate Simmons and while at times he looks like he will lose his grip on her, they are able to make it back through the portal before it is destroyed due to the interference and effects of Daisy’s powers.  Yay!!!  Fitz and Simmons are back together!!

Now it must be stated that this is idiotic and while I understand that Fitz would do anything for Simmons he’d also check and see if there was breathable atmosphere wouldn’t he?!  He is a (brilliant) scientist & while he might be (is) still a bit messed up because of what Ward did, and while I’d agree and admit he’s conflicted, I didn’t like this at all!  I suspect the sandstorm/windstorm that he was subjected to on the other side was due to the portal being kept open and it effects on the local environment, but I would have expected to see some blowback on the Earth side of that gate which didn’t occur.

While all all of this is going on we finally have the reappearance of Ward and Hydra. Ward has transformed the organization into one that is significantly more violent and deadly than anything we have seen before and the members of this resurgent force seem willing to risk and do anything for his pleasure and approval. When he takes his forces and captures a playboy dilettante off of a yacht in the Mediterranean for the stated intention of obtaining his funds, it seems a little bit Micky Mouse, but this playboy is absolutely not what he seems.  As the son of the previous leader of Hydra, he’s not afraid of getting his hands dirty himself and quickly defeats Wards designated lieutenant – exactly as Ward had intended.  Ward wanted to see what he was made off and whether or not he would work with him in restoring Hydra and he’s gotten the answer he was looking for.

So as mentioned stuff has happened however we haven’t seen the reappearance of Lash – seemingly unstoppable based on what we saw last week or the team that Coulson was tangling with.  There is a very brief mention of secret warriors by May’s husband in a seemingly off the cuff remark and with all the other rumours out there, this is bound to come to fruition fairly soon.  May herself makes a very brief appearance as the perfect daughter which by itself is almost enough to make you shake your head in disbelief!

Simmons, even though she has now returned I’m sure there has to be some impact of her travels on the other side of the Monolith (PTSD is I’m sure the smallest part of it and it would be quite interesting to see her transform in some way also due to her exposure or something like that).  In all honesty the whole destruction of the Monolith itself was somewhat anti-climactic as it didn’t really do anything. Well I’m glad to see Ward back on our screens I’m actually starting to get a little bit frightened of him as he always seems to be multiple steps ahead of everyone else and this capability could lead to him becoming something quite horrifying in the future. May and Hunter are going to try and hunt him down, but the Ward that we’re seeing now – well my prediction is that, he’s not someone they will have an easy time with!

Opening:

Last episode was one of revelations. We found out what the map is to (sort of) and we get a hint of fugitive Ward’s next move (with his brother).  Season 2 has been excellent in general, so I was anticipating this episode eagerly, especially since it hinted that we’d get to see some more of Agent Carter in the mix (for a peek at her upcoming series, go here).  So, what kind of ep will we get? Let’s see:

Summary:

We start in Austria 1945, Werner Reinhardt (Whitehall these days) is working on unraveling the secrets of the Obelisk.  In doing so, he discovers a Chinese woman who it doesn’t kill. But upon hearing of the Red Skull’s death, Whitehall decides he’ll have her dissected later.  As it turns out, much, much later.

Present day.  Skye’s dad, behaving quite affably, tells Whitehall the ‘Diviner’ is much more than a weapon and suggests if one of the ‘special’ people take the Obelisk to a certain ‘place’ something very ‘cool’ will happen.

Meanwhile Coulson, Skye, Fitz, and Trip are en route in the bus to Oahu on a mission to locate the alien city. Bobbi is interrogating Bakshi back at the Playground and learns from a slip of his there may be an important Whitehall/Red Skull connection.

Then we have Ward and his brother Christian.  This is the hardest part of the episode to watch. Ward kidnaps Christian and makes him dig up the well he made Ward push their younger brother in. Besides the revelation that Christian did it because their mother was cruel to them, we don’t learn anything otherwise.  Really, it’s ugly and manipulative.

Back to the episode’s main mission:  It involves the seemingly absurdist delivery of a watch, a button and a task for Fitz to complete – put together a transceiver in less than 6 minutes, hard when you only have one good hand.

Meanwhile, Bobbi continues to press Bakshi. Through a search of several of the Playgrounds various SSR vaults we learn that somehow old Reinhardt discovered the fountain of youth before becoming Whitehall.  So… how??

To learn how, its back to 1945 at an SSR base called ‘The Rat’ where Agent Carter get to tell him he’ll be buried and forgotten there, even though he has info on the Obelisk and can tell her all about a meteor that crashed in China and the ‘blue angels’ that came with it to conquer Earth. However, after a nifty 44 year time-lapse montage, Reinhardt gets rescued by HYDRA agents who reveal they found ‘the woman’.

It turns out she hasn’t aged a day.  So, old Reinhardt makes up for lost time and dissects her to earn himself a second chance (main theme of this episode, explored somewhat perversely, not that that’s a bad thing).  I also think this was the exact situation Whitehall was talking about when he threatened Raina.  And it’s about as horrific as he suggested.

Armed with all they’ve learned about Whitehall, Bobbi takes this info in a final attempt to break Bakshi, claiming Shield will leak the info and credit it to him.  Bakshi, however, prefers death to dishonor and goes the old cyanide capsule in the cheek bone route.

Oh, you actually wanted some action this episode? Really?  Okay…

The Bus flies to the Australian Outback and Coulson explains what’s actually going on.  Once the radioactive button and watch get close enough for critical mass, a magnetic pulse will take down the government a satellite control facility in Oahu.  While that station is down, they will use the less secure Australia Outback station to use the gov’t satellites to locate the alien city.  In an awesomely underplayed scene, Fitz suggests that he won’t be able to build the transmitter in time, freaking out Coulson for a minute, then adds… with his bad hand.  Fitz is officially back!

However, HYDRA, or Skye’s dad anyway, is already there. And while treating Trip for a severe GSW, he clips one of Trip’s arteries to buy time, then gushes about his coming reunion with his daughter, before leaving Coulson with the necessary medicine to save Trip’s life.  Awesome exchange between Skye’s surrogate dad and her real one.  I’m looking forwards to round 2.  And… mission success!  Shield now knows where the alien city is.

The wrap up:

Ward shows up to talk with Whitehall about rejoining HYDRA to fight Shield, you know, as a second chance. Ah, Ward, he’s good, you almost believe him. But then, psycho that he is – he’s has just murdered his own family and framed Christian for it.  Ah, the things we bury…

Skye’s dad is brought in later and is introduced by to Ward by a beaming Whitehall.  It’s a beautiful scene with the knowing glances and visceral subtext.  So, so good.

On that theme of second chances, Hunter accuses Bobbi of pushing Bakshi so hard because she was afraid he’d reveal her own dirty secrets. Frustrated her ex’s paranoia Bobbi asks, “will you never trust me?”  He confesses that he won’t, but he will never stop trying.  I guess this is as close to a confession of undying love a spy can expect since it leads to… hot makeup sex!

And one sort of final twist, but actually a confirmation of what I’d already guessed.  We get one more trip in time, 25 years, where we find Skye’s dad comes across his wife’s eviscerated body and declares he will do the same to Whitehall and tear him apart.  And yes, his wife was the immortal Chinese woman – Skye’s mom.

Final Thoughts:

This episode was at times hard viewing, at least the first time around, but highly rewarding the second time (so… second chances).  The twists at the end weren’t entirely unexpected, but thrilling nonetheless, given how they reinforce the character development we’ve been witnessing with a whole raft of subtext.  Kyle MacLachlan, wow! He has been a revelation in the part, both super dark, yet engaging and a scene stealer as Skye’s dad. So… not easy to watch, but well worth it.  Watch this episode twice!

Opening:

The last two episodes of SHIELD have slid a little bit from the opening pair, a little too formulaic, a little heavy in the foreshadowing, and trying a little too hard.  Will this episode buck the downward trend, or will it be a boost back up to how the first two worked?  There has been news that another classic Marvel character is going to join the team, so I had my hopes.  Still, the continuing bad punmenship in episode titles has me still wondering…

Summary:

A Hen in the Wolf House starts off strong with a wedding reception that goes horribly, horribly wrong.  I’ve been to very few that ended this badly, honest.  Ironically, it goes disappointingly for HYDRA as well, as their reverse-engineering of what the Obelisk does only killed eight of the guests.  Only eight! So disappointing, Whitehall will likely have to call a meeting.

Back at the Shield meeting over the deaths, which turned out to be of a naval anti-HYDRA team, Skye notices that Coulson has been etching something suspicious on his desk, and starts to questions him, but he shuts her down.  May advises Coulson that keeping her in the dark won’t end well.    To be fair, Skye isn’t the whiny kid he hired on a whim, is she?  And yes, that is a very, very good thing for us watching the show.  But still, as has been said, death follows her…

We shift to Skye’s dad, who is performing back alley surgery on a thug for his pal.  He’s interrupted by Raina, who pleads to borrow the Obelisk back to save her from Whitehall.  Dad however freaks out over the fact Raina hasn’t yet been able to make good on her promise to bring him Skye.  In the process he almost strangles her, then refuses to give over the Obelisk, sending Raina back to Whitehall to beg for mercy.  It’s a powerful, if brutal scene to watch.

Back at HYDRA, we are treated to a reference of Bessie the Hellcow (a potential  ex-wife of Hunter’s? she would literally qualify as a demonic hellbeast), before Simmons and her lab partner are called up to a meeting headed by boss Whitehall, who talks glowingly about his plans for the Obelisk.  He then asks Simmons about her thoughts on the problem, and is pleased by her response.  Her creepy lab partner gleefully appreciates the idea that they could kill millions.  Yeah, I think Simmons might be thinking about putting in her two weeks notice.

Conversations between Hunter and Skye are the best.  We get a conversation this time that includes the painting, aliens, Coulson, Hunters ex – again – and a suggestion to keep digging.  This leads to another session with Ward, funnily enough.  While she doesn’t believe that Raina knows how to find her father, he does disturb her deeply when she realizes Coulson might be going the way of Garret.  This leads: to Skye confronts Coulson, Coulson comes clean, including thinking not being upfront about his monitoring of her, and the idea she might be an alien from her was a good idea, to which Skye responds: “Well, epic fail!”

Raina, now highly motivated to save her skin, spots Simmons doing a dead drop for Shield, then arranges an appointment with Coulson. Mirroring this, a certain Bobbie Morse shows up with Bakshi in a HYDRA mole-hunting unit.  Bobbie ratchets up the tension by singling out Simmons, but Simmons manages to frame her creepy lab partner, and we feel no sympathy for him at all. Nope, none at all.

Coulson meets Raina for dinner, with Skye, Hunter, and May hiding in the restaurant kitchen listening in. Coulson, however, does not bend in the slightest when Raina threatens to reveal Simmons to HYDRA.  The two minute countdown is effectively suspenseful, especially when May physically restrains Skye when Raina mentions her dad. Raina literally begs Coulson to stop the countdown, but he stands firm. In the meantime, Bobbie continues to terrorize Simmons, and really seems like she’s enjoying it.  Simmons, however, soon finds herself is pursued by Bakshi and several armed guards, as Raina’s evidence is now on every HYDRA monitor.  Okay, stop for a moment and think about this.

Right, back to the recap.

Simmons is on the run and about to be captured, but instead, she is saved by Bobbie, who is by coincidence (okay, not really) also a Shield mole within HYDRA. And we get a perfect demo that Bobbie is a relatively big name Marvel hero, Mockingbird.  Bobbie gets Simmons to the roof and the two are able to escape with the help of Trip and Shield’s cloaked Quinnjet.  Bobbie has also handily grabbed Simmons’s hard drive after their bathroom conversation, so this is a solid win for Shield.

Back at the restaurant a now very worried Raina begs for Coulson’s protection, but he instead tags her with a tracking device and demands she tells him where to find Skye’s dad as well as lead him to Whitehall.  Coulson and May then realize Skye has disappeared.

Where is Skye? Already at her dad’s abandoned hideout, where she discovers, with Coulson and the others, the bodies of the two men her father viciously murdered. Watching via hidden camera, her dad realizes to his own horror that his daughter, who he has spent decades trying to reunite with, now knows he is a monster.  She also promises Coulson she will do whatever it takes to stop him, as long as he stops hiding things from her.  Coulson then shows her his wall carving of the diagram.  And while he doesn’t have any idea what it is, Skye tells him she thinks it’s a map.

On return to the Playground, Simmons gushes over Bobbie, then Coulson announces that she’s joining the team.  Simmons goes to see Fitz, where they share a strained and awkward reunion.  He’s still plenty angry at her for abandoning him, and she looks guilty enough to know she deserves it.  While Mac is pleased that Bobbie has joined the team, Hunter is less than pleased. Why?  Remember that she-devil ex-wife he’s been going on about? Yeah, he used to be married to Mockingbird.  And worse, she admits she was the one that suggested to Coulson he was vouch-worthy.

Lastly, Skye’s dad shows up at Whitehall’s office, murders a couple of guards and then agrees to ally himself with the HYDRA leader, even offering to teach him how to survive the Obelisk, which he says is called the ‘Diviner’ in its creators native tongue. Why? All to help them kill Coulson, (oh, and) “everyone else”.

Final thoughts

This episode is back to the season premiere form.  For the first time in a couple episodes, the action and music weren’t at odds with each other, the situations didn’t feel forced and the suspense was palpable.  The tone also flowed effortlessly, with great transitions from comedy to drama to action and back.  Plus, as Mockingbird, Adreinne Paliki was perfect and her chemistry with the gang already natural.  Awesome.

Opening:

Last episode’s excitement ended with the team all back together +1.  Skye’s dad also made a portentous offer to ally himself with HYDRA. Oh, and that +1, she happens to be both Mockingbird, Hunter’s ‘psycho’ ex-wife. So, are the sparks going to continue to fly this ep? Oh yeah…

Summary:  

We start this episode with Talbot at the UN, badmouthing Shield. In response to his speech, a group of armed men show up, disintegrate the Italian ambassador and throw the meeting into panic. The armed men wear Shield badges, but we all know they are HYDRA.

Back at the Playground Skye and Simmons watch Ward exercising in his cell. May arrives back with news of the HYDRA attack and the team is in action.  Bobbi recognizes Marcus Scarlotti (the actual Whiplash, not that other one) as the leader of the attack, and identifies the inventor of the weapon used in the attack. Off go her, May and… Hunter to Okinawa.

Elsewhere, an angry senator has a meeting with Talbot, who somehow avoided being disintegrated. Talk turns to Senator Christian Ward’s brother. Guess who that might be?  Senator Ward goes on to propose a worldwide witch-hunt against Shield, which, oddly enough, only a Belgium Foreign Minister appears to be against.

On the Quinnjet to Okinawa, Bobbi and Hunter start bickering, and the frustrated Mockingbird earns a pair of raised eyebrows from May, who clearly knows better than to talk to her ex.  This mirrors Fitz and Simmons as they work on the hard drive Bobbi grabbed last episode.  Bitterness = sad.

Sky talks with Ward about his brother.  Turns out, Ward is freaked out that Christian might find out where he is, and warns that his brother can’t be trusted.  Talk turns to her dad, of course, and that’s where Coulson cuts it off.

In Okinawa, Bobbi goes in undercover as the HYDRA agent she was, to charm and flatter the info on the ‘Splinter Bombs’ that were used at the UN. She learns they’re on their way to Belgium, and that they were derived from the Obelisk.  While watching Hunter attempts to curry some sympathy from May re: Bobbi’s ‘talent at deception’. May’s not biting.  The moment a message comes through that blows Bobbi’s cover he’s off to save her, not that Bobbi is appreciative.  Then it’s off to Belgium.  Hmm…

In continuing the rough adjustments for former couples, Fitz can’t hold in his simmering resentment over Simmons’ leaving when he needed her.  Later, though, it becomes clear that having Simmons around to remind him what he used to be may have been Fitz’s real problem all along.

Meanwhile, Coulson shows up at Christian’s office advising him that HYDRA was behind the UN attack, then appears to offer up Ward, as an ‘I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine’ thing.  Ward, I think, has good reason to be freaked.

Cut with that meeting, Skye chat’s with Ward, persuading him to tell her everything he knows about her parents: HYDRA tried to kill both her and her mother, then her father lost it and killed them all, but did it out of love.  Ward again offers to help Skye find her father. Seemingly accepting this, Skye tells him its time they let cut him loose.

The moment Ward gives her a hopeful look, though, she drops the hammer.  He’s being handed over to Christian, but not before Coulson comes by takes the time to remind Ward that there is no redemption for him. Nope, none at all. Never.

Meanwhile, Simmons returns to the lab to discover that Fitz as found a new partner in Mack, and they have found the Splinter Bombs were invented in the 1940’s by a HYDRA scientist named… Beckers. Same name as that Belgian Minister.  Uh-oh.

Yes, grandson Minister Becker is a HYDRA agent, and the whole Belgian safe haven is a well-conceived trap.  But, now clued in, our agents show they have reached the point where they can match HYDRA play for play.  Hunter distracts Scarlotti and his team, allowing May and Bobbi to stage a surprise attack.  Sadly, brave agent Noelle Walters was disintegrated before they got there.  You win one, you lose six (agents).

On the plus side we are gifted with, hands down, two of the best fight scenes yet on shown on AOS.  May gets to take on Scarlotti and his chain-whip.  And Hunter and Bobbie (in excellent Mr. & Mrs. Smith fashion, showing they are a well-oiled fighting machine.  Awesome.  And since Shield isn’t same Shield that tore them apart, maybe some future reconciliation is possible…

To top this all off, we get a near perfect montage wrap up, played out to Senator Ward’s re-written and pro-Shield speech: And it is brilliant, starting with the worried Grant being handed over to the military, facing his former team members as he is lead away.  This is followed by Talbot shaking hands with May, empathizing over her lost agents.

Christian winds up his fantastic speech with a claim that his younger brother will pay for his crimes, adding an ominous warning for the world re: HYDRA.  This man is going to get re-elected for sure. Then again, as I watched Ward pull off his escape, I considered, maybe not.

Then there’s the end tag: a stranger walks into a tattoo shop looking to complete his full torso tattoo, which looks awfully familiar. Yep, he’s a human canvas for the alien map.  Now that’s a punch line.

Final Thoughts:

This is the fourth excellent episode of this season.  Not bad, considering it’s the sixth. How so?  By being a masterfully written weave between character and action, where relationships take center stage, thus raising the personal stakes in the storyline without taking away from the episode plot one iota. In fact they all contribute to both character and season arcs brilliantly.  And despite it’s only taken a few episodes for Shield to get back into the good graces of the world, it still feels well earned.  Great performances, beautiful writing.  AOS is firing on all cylinders.