Did this episode have it all?  Well lets see – we had Ward (yay he’s back!), we had HYDRA (and we even got a glimpse of the Baron himself), we had an amazing time with Cal (Kyle MacLaclan) on his “day out” and we even got to see Lincoln strut his stuff a little bit.  So yes, there was tons to enjoy in the most recent episode of SHIELD.  Was it perfect … no, but then it never is … there are always some little quibbling little details that are just annoying, but there was lots to love here as I’m sure you’ll agree.

In Frenemy we had Coulson, Hunter and Fitz track down and make an uneasy alliance with Ward.  Coulson offers to have Ward get a clean slate via the Tahiti protocol (yeah I don’t think anyone believes that Ward will go through with this) so that he can help him infiltrate HYDRA in an effort to track down Skye.  We had Cal returning to his home in Milwaukee (ostensibly to collect his belongings in an effort to make his stay in the Afterlife more comfortable) with Skye in tow.  We also had HYDRA tracking the comings and goings of Gordon and his Nightcrawler-esque powers using “quantum entanglement” to arrive in Milwaukee and the “Real” SHIELD hacking into Deathlok’s vision circuits to find out what Coulson and crew were up to so that they also arrived in Milwaukee!  Basically everyone ends up in Cal’s Milwaukee office building for a variety of misunderstandings, double-crosses and plans being kept secret from the audience and all of the differing storylines all converge together – finally – in an orgasm of destruction!

When Jiaying makes the decision that Cal can no longer stay in the Afterlife – due to the concern she has for her fellow Inhumans, Skye counters that simply dropping him on the side of the road like a puppy is both cruel and malicious.  She makes the very cogent argument that while he might not belong with them, he absolutely should not just be discarded as he will literally explode at the rejection.  Making a deal to tag along so that she can let him down gently, Cal and Skye travel to Milwaukee where his enthusiasm to spend some time with his daughter can almost literally be felt.  Cal – played so well by Kyle MacLachlan – can emote with the best and his delivery of lines like, “How about next time we grill?!” and “Big overdoer!” was hysterical, even as he showed the manic, dangerous side of Cal always lurking below the surface – one he’d later unleash on those Hydra agents.  When they do arrive in Milwaukee, Skye is able to “obtain” a cell phone which she uses to contact May and the others while searching for Coulson.  This action helps to get Bobbi and Mac to Milwaukee also.

Talking about Bobbi and Mac, I actually quite enjoyed the interaction between them at the start of the episode where they were discussing whether they’d made the right decisions to betray Coulson.  Their banter and sparring (both verbal and physical) was excellently portrayed and when Mac literally bounced off the floor of the training room after being thrown by Bobbi I thought that was just excellent! However much they might be questioning their previous decisions though – they are still all in to find out what Coulson is actually up to and while no mention is made of the Theta protocol from last week’s episode, you can see that this is very much in their mind.

While Skye is sightseeing in Milwaukee with her dad, Coulson has managed to track down and corral Ward and makes him an offer he can’t refuse.  While Ward seems to agree to this and gives up Bakshee in an effort to find out what HYDRA is up to with powered people, you just know that his end game is going to be something completely unexpected.  If we were betting people, after the first episode of this season aired we wouldn’t have put any money whatsoever on Ward getting a redemption – while there are some instances here where he seems to show some remorse (specifically in regards to Skye), his actions till now have only demonstrated that he is nothing if not extremely dangerous.  A complement that Coulson also pays him by bringing Deathlok to their initial meeting.

After Bakshee is able to organize a meeting – one that Mike Peterson (Deathlok) attends, Coulson, Hunter, Fitz, Ward and Agent 33 are able to see that HYDRA is also stalking Gordon and they hope that this will lead them to Skye – this is where Ward might start to change as the only thing he seems to care about, genuinely care about is Skye.  Tailing them in their Quinjet they all arrive in Milwaukee also and Ward/Coulson head off in search of Skye while simultaneously fighting off the forces of HYDRA.

Kyle MacLachlan at 43rd Emmy Awards ceremony
Kyle MacLachlan at 43rd Emmy Awards ceremony (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bakshee meanwhile is seemingly NOT as brainwashed as we were led to believe as he manages to capture both Deathlok and Lincoln who were fighting each other, not really realizing that they were both there to protect and help Skye.  Perhaps he (Bakshee) has a larger role to play in this after all (?) unless the whole thing is still a long con and he’s actually following the orders of Ward and Agent33.

 

While Coulson and Skye finally get a chance to see other again … it really is a father/daughter moment … they are yanked apart again by Gordon.  Unfortunately Cal too joins in the teleport and you know that he is not going to be a happy camper when they get to the other side.  While he’s continued to help and save Skye/Daisy – he’s nothing if not disturbed and his temper is never that far away!

Some Quibbles & Thoughts

  • Skye/Daisy kind of “forgave” or empathized with Cal a bit too easily didn’t she?  Last week she had to almost be forced to have a dinner with him, but now she’s understanding him so well?  While her explanation made some sense – i.e. she’s been searching for her parents for so long and she did everything/anything to find them – I prefer to think that in reality she already had the idea that if she got out with him she could come up with a way of contacting SHIELD.  I like to think that she’s that devious/intelligent!
  • I hope that now that Skye has seen Coulson in person — even if it was in the unexpected company of Ward — we’ll see a bit more conflict between her SHIELD agent side and her reunited daughter side.  With both Cal and Coulson in her life she has to feel pulled in many different directions and while she doesn’t have all of the facts, she needs to wonder about the fact that SHIELD was both helping her and hunting her.
  • It was really, really good to have/see Ward again.  He’s definitely not reformed and seems to always have multiple plans underway. I’d hate to see them figure out a way to make him back into a good guy as he is an awesome villain – in fact the scene where May and the others back at SHIELD headquarters saw Coulson and Ward together was pretty priceless (even though it was 100% expected), as far as a big “Oh, crap” moment, seemingly reinforcing everyone’s worst fears about Coulson and what he’s been up to.  Unfortunately unless Ward becomes someone significantly greater than he is I do not see him staying around forever … I would expect that in an upcoming episode he is killed off while saving Skye giving him some (but not complete) redemption in the eyes of the world and SHIELD.
  • There were several Age of Ultron moments – the Baron, experiments on powered people – sprinkled throughout the show and it’s quite possible that the April UK release is going to give all of us some interesting tie-ins and details! There were also references to Raina and her precog talents … this is definitely going to be important in the future.

News and Gossip

Finally some rumors … there has long been speculation about an upcoming Agents of SHIELD spin-off … yesterday it was announced that this show would focus on Bobbi and Hunter and to be honest I’m a bit torn about this.  I absolutely love the interaction between the characters themselves – it’s very Mr. & Mrs. Smith with the bickering exes that do spy work together to be honest – and while I can see Hunter being a great standalone character, I’m actually not as enamored of Bobbi.  I know this is probably surprising as most reviewers like her character, but her motivations and reasons for betraying Coulson and team leave nothing more than a sour taste in my mouth and I really don’t know if I can allow myself to trust her (character) in the future.  Together they absolutely do add “something” to the show, but I also believe that the show could have done without her character and managed with a “throw away” mole within HYDRA to serve as Simmons rescuer.

All that being said though – you know me … I’m a Marvel junkie and I’ll be the first in line to watch this and report out to you all my thoughts when it finally does appear on our screens!

This episode picks up right after last weeks really funky the Blitzkrieg button and continues the fast pace that Agent Carter is known for.  While right from the title we’re getting a nice wordplay with “glass ceiling” being replaced by “iron ceiling” we get a lot more than we’re expecting in the growth of Thompson and Dooley and without giving too much away it looks like the best detective they have at SSR – Sousa – is finally putting things together and coming up with a conclusion that he doesn’t really like!

Recap

In a nutshell the mystery typewriter starts to function and Peggy manages to decode the message sending her and Thompson on a mission with the Howling Commando’s into Eastern Europe.  We get a really quick flashback (from Dottie’s point of view) at the start of the episode of a Leviathan program (although not named as such we all know this is the Black Widow program) intended to train young girls as killers and assassins and we see in the flashback that this is not a gentle training regimen as young Dottie kills another girl who wasn’t as strong as she was.

Black Widow (Natalia Romanova)
Black Widow (Natalia Romanova) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Peggy and Thompson + the other agents are on their way to Europe – they are (for some reason) changing into their gear inside the SSR building … here Thompson in his normal infantile way, tricks Sousa into going to the other side of the room where Peggy is changing.  Peggy and Sousa are both flustered at finding Peggy in her undergarments but Sousa notices something which we’ll come to later.

Dottie meanwhile has stolen Peggy’s keys from her purse and has broken into her apartment within the housing block – they don’t really explain why Dottie targeted Peggy … I guess you have to assume that Leviathan intelligence for obvious reason’s doesn’t discount the worth of a person simply based on their gender! – and she finds the photo’s that she took for Howard in the previous episode.

Once Peggy and the other agents meet up with the Howling Commando’s within Europe, Thompson initially try’s to take charge of the mission but he quickly sees the respect that they all have for Peggy and is forced to defer to her.  As the episode progresses we learn that his medal for bravery earned for fighting the Japanese was actually obtained by killing soldiers trying to surrender and he’s perhaps not the poster boy for evil that we (myself anyways) first thought.  He’s a significantly more flawed and humane character and while he won’t replace Sousa as my favorite SSR agent, he’s not as horrible as I thought he was.  On the mission, they find a Soviet military complex which seems to be a training site for children to infiltrate the United States as sleeper agents.  Peggy and Thompson aren’t able to find any significant information on Stark, but they are able to rescue a prisoner that might have some information on Leviathan and they take him back to the States with them.

Stateside, Dooley continues to investigate Finow and manages to get additional information from a reporter friend who makes him realize that perhaps Stark isn’t public enemy number one after all and that there might be more going on than he initially realized.  In addition as I’ve already alluded to, when Sousa saw Peggy in the changing room, he noticed some scars on her shoulder.  After digging into it further he learned that she acquired these during the war but taking out his picture of the blonde lady – he sees that she too has the exact same scars.

Review

Well, all of the episodes of Agent Carter have raced along at a breakneck speed and this one is no exception really!  Its very nice to see Peggy redeem herself after last weeks forced blunder to save Jarvis and I think Thompson at least sees her in a very different light.  It’s always good to see the Howling Commando’s off course & Dottie as mentioned last time is a very, very interesting person.  She has masks that she seems to be able to don based on the occasion and while there was no real shock from her this week (in comparison to last week) her development is ticking along quite nicely.

Well I guess it had to finally happen.  The little “filler” show in between seasons of Agents of Shield had to finally end and I’ll be honest I’m somewhat mixed up in my feelings.  While I’ll be really happy to have Agents of Shield back & more specifically of course, find out what the heck happened to Raina and Skye, I’m going to be quite sad to see Peggy go as I’ve gotten quite fond of her and the rest of the gang – Jarvis, Sousa in particular and even Thompson (although he’s still a bit of a snake also).  The cinematography and costumes that they utilized to bring that world to life … well, lets just say that its extremely lifelike and believable and while I realize they are somewhat restricted to the stories they can tell, I hope that Marvel finds a way to bring back Peggy in her own show again in some way or form.

Recap

Valediction picks up right after last weeks excellent episode – Snafu – with the SSR agents investigating the horrific scene from the movie theater.  If you don’t remember what happened, let me give you a quick reminder – Dottie placed a baby carriage in the theater  loaded with some sort of poisonous mind-control gas that transforms everyone in the theater into raging maniacs. They end up killing each other—all of them. Not a single person is alive when an unsuspecting theater attendant finds them. It’s gruesome and bold and when the credits roll, you’re left with the image of brutalized corpses littering the theater.  When Sousa inadvertently takes a wiff of this gas, he immediately tries to kill Thompson and knocks away Peggy with manic strength giving you a real insight into the potency of this gas.

Following the incident at the cinema, Howard Stark arrives at the SSR and we learn that the chemical in question is something called Midnight Oil and it was meant to give US soldiers the ability to stay awake forextended periods of time.

By the way (and this is an aside) … have you noticed that Howard is a bit of a nutjob with his inventions?  He definitely does not have Tony’s skills as it seems that his inventions more often than not, not only DO NOT WORK, but they tend to leave the user in something of a less than healthy state!  To paraphrase the comic book guy from the Simpsons“Worst-Inventor-Ever” … really makes you question where he got his incredible wealth from?!

Well it seems that the US Government in their infinite wisdom decided to “help” the Russians in their attack and it was this gas and its effects that actually caused all the horrible deaths and mutilations that we found out about during the course of this series.  Johann Fennhoff (Dr. Ivchenko’s real name) was the one of the only survivors of this massacre and he’s made it his life’s work to revenge himself on the inventor of Midnight Oil – Howard Stark (I’m not sure if you recall from my post last week, I did mention that he doesn’t seem all bad when he was helping the wounded soldier, however what he did to Dooley was just mean, but I guess to some extent this does explain his motivations).

In an attempt to trap Ivchenko and Dottie, Thompson and team agree to hold a press conference hoping that it will lure them back to town where they can trap them.  During the press conference where they basically exonerate Howard Stark for all wrong doing, shots go off and a shooter is seen in a window across the street.  While Peggy and Thompson rush to investigate, Jarvis hustles Stark to a waiting police car, but before he can jump into the passenger side it rushes off leaving Jarvis to stare in horror at the dead bodies of two police officers slumped on the ground nearby.

When Peggy and Thompson break into the room that the shots are coming from they find a gun has been rigged to automatically shoot, but its been rigged to miss!  Wondering why Dottie would do this, they come to the horrifying realization that they must want Stark alive for some nefarious and unknown purpose when Jarvis informs them of his kidnapping.

With Jarvis’ help they track them down to an airfield outside the city where Stark had squirreled away some planes and classic automobiles (turns out this is another vault he’d shown Dottie when she was seducing him), but unfortunately they are minutes too late as Ivchenko has managed to hypnotize Stark into flying a plane over New York city loaded with Midnight Oil.  As Jarvis takes off in another plane with the intent of shooting Stark down if necessary, Peggy, Thompson and Sousa enter the airfield hanger in an attempt to stop Ivchenko and Dottie.

Peggy tracks them down in the control room and battles Dottie while Ivchenko makes his escape but is stopped by Sousa and Thompson.  Peggy’s battle with Dottie while cool, unfortunately doesn’t match the epic May vs. May fight from Agents of Shield and to some extent is a bit of a cop out as Peggy shouldn’t have really won, but regardless, Peggy eventually manages to “de-hypnotize” Howard and gets him to bring his plane back to the airfield.

By the time it’s all over, Senator Walt Cooper personally congratulates Agent Thompson – who was put in charge of the New York SSR branch now that Dooley’s dead – and Thompson accepts the accolades despite the fact Peggy did all the work. Considering his unearned medal from WWII, clearly Thompson is used to accepting praise for things he didn’t do.  A now restrained Ivchenko appears in Prison with Dr. Zola (infamous from both Captain America movies off course) while Peggy destroys the last remaining vial of Captain America’s blood as she says a final, tearful goodbye to the man she loves.

Review

Well I think I’ve already mentioned it … I’m not really happy that Peggy is no longer on the screen as while some of the episodes have been weaker than others, the fact that it was in such a compressed period of time meant that they didn’t drag things out, and we weren’t forced to endure filler episodes which I personally abhor!

Most importantly, the opening of the season was stronger than the close. As exciting as the last two episodes were, they lacked the charm of the earlier segments. When Carter was more the sleuth, and she and Jarvis were out trying to unravel the mystery of Howard Stark’s lost inventions, the show was far and away at its strongest point.  Even when the SSR thought Peggy was working against them, it felt less like a personal struggle for Carter than what she faced in the earlier episodes. Carter as the odd-woman-out was more interesting than Carter-on-the-lamb.

I liked the little smile/conversation between Carter and Sousa at the end as it very much did imply that perhaps there is a future for both of them and Peggy won’t have to live her life as a war widow, but I personally didn’t think that Carter should have been able to defeat Dottie as I really believed a graduate of the infamous Black Widow program far superior to a regular US Agent – regardless of how talented he/she might be.  I was actually hoping/expecting that Sousa or even Thompson would have been required to help subdue Dottie and felt that this was somewhat rushed and in some ways they didn’t really give her the exit that she so richly deserved (I mean that in the best possible way!).

Conversely however, Dr. Zola’s surprise appearance was truly a surprise and a very welcome one.  While it obviously hints at the Winter Soldier and mind control it perhaps also implies a more involved future for Peggy and the agents at the SSR in the overall MCU.

The long awaited … wait a second, that’s actually not really true is it?  I know that there was some mystery about why May has/was (been) called the CAVALRY, but in reality it didn’t really matter (at least not in my opinion).  While some mysteries NEED to be answered, others can stay as mysteries as they add a little something to the character.  Now I’d like to think that the writers had planned the whole reveal out, right from the beginning where May’s “origins” are linked back to Skye but unfortunately that almost seemed forced. I know that the MCU cannot utilize mutants to explain away powered individuals but by tying this episode into the current Inhuman story arc, they have taken away from all of the others that have been shown to have powers in earlier episodes.  Last year at about this time, the show completely transformed itself with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the grand reveal of H.Y.D.R.A – conversely this year, while the show has been enjoyable, its also been dragging a little bit as they seem to be doing too much talking and not enough growing.  Unfortunately this weeks episode was really nothing more than a long and extended flash back to May which is a real pity as having a two year mystery about someone’s origins is not really interesting.

One could assume that the upcoming release of Avengers: Age of Ultron will have another bombshell to drop on our favorite team of unpowered (well not counting Skye) crime fighters – perhaps the return of our favorite patch-eyed Director to command of S.H.I.E.L.D?  Would this be how the underlying story between Gonzalez and Coulson gets resolved perhaps?

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second season has been much more consistent than its first in terms of quality, and it’s done a relatively fine job of introducing secrets and paying them off in quick fashion (for example: Skye already knows that Jiaying is her mother), but it’s hard to ignore the feeling something is missing.  I’ve complained several times already about the (too soon) removal of H.Y.D.R.A and the take over by the “Real” S.H.I.E.L.D was also very anticlimactic considering the buildup.  While Gonzalez is being portrayed as nothing more than a patriot we love Coulson and while it is shocking to find out that he’s got another operation on the go – something called Theta Protocol – I‘m sure you continue to trust him as do I and this will all be explained away in a positive manner.  With Ward and his role in H.Y.D.R.A – well that was a shock I’ve still not gotten over … it truly was a genuine surprise.  Coulson though … he’s a goodie!

The opening sequence featured Blair Underwood as May’s husband, which was a nice surprise. I mentioned in my review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Episode 13, that he was the best part of that episode. Ming-Na did a wonderful job of portraying a pre-Bahrain Agent May. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we learned what damaged her, but did it have to take so damn long?  Her separation from Blair Underwood was somewhat explained – I know perhaps I’m a bit insensitive, but he is a psychologist so you’d think that he’d be able to explain to her and make her see that the problem wasn’t with her?  After all, if you think about it, Fury did when he had her spy on Coulson while pretending to join her team.  Unfortunately I really think that while they emphasized May’s fighting skills the actual storyline and interaction between May and the “transformed” child + mother was nothing more than a way to tie her storyline into the underlying Inhuman storyline.  It felt forced.  You could see that May was traumatized – this was played out extremely well however so I do need to give her absolute credit for this.  Perhaps her distress at the title was in how inapt it really is as the only reason she was able to disable so many others was because of the use the little girl (Katya) put them to as she was literally dropping them right and left.

The more interesting stuff took place at “Afterlife” between Skye and her mother. Jiaying put a positive spin on Skye’s power and made her move mountains, literally, which was kind of fun. Perhaps even cooler however was her more subtle manipulation of the glasses to literally get them to sing.

While it was absolutely expected it was still nice to hear that she had made an “exception” to train Skye and her explanation on why it needed to be kept a secret made sense (Jiaying fears that some folks might draw parallels between Skye and Katya, therefore she can’t have people knowing the real nature of her relationship to Skye) – it didn’t however have to be tied into May’s role as the “Cavalry” as I feel like S.H.I.E.L.D. is diminishing the importance of that day in May’s life by also making it about Skye.  Is it too much to ask that May’s backstory be about May?

Lincoln: You know it’s really impressive for Jiaying to take anyone under her wing.
Skye: Yeah?
Lincoln: Yeah.
Skye: I like her. I just… I can’t… What’s her role here?
Lincoln: Her role is, in charge. So really she must like you.
Skye: If she’s in charge, how often does she train people?
Lincoln: Since I’ve been here… let me see… never.

Continuing with our Inhuman friends though we do learn one other key thing that will definitely play out in the future … Raina’s power – or at least one of them – is prophecy.  While we all know that the Inhumans story arc is a long one with S.H.I.E.L.D (after all the movie is years away) this gift is sure to be a very important direction for the show and I’m really glad that they are moving Raina’s character forward.  I’ve never really liked her – she’s always been too amoral and only in it for herself, but her transformation to Porcupine girl was also really cruel and I know I started to feel somewhat sorry for her!  The family dinner where Lincoln realized Raina was actually seeing the future was awkward, but Skye behaved herself and everyone enjoyed the moment. Kyle MacLachlan was wonderful as always as Cal, and it was nice to see him smile, although I’m sure you were also expecting the other shoe to drop just like I was?  One thing I do have to wonder though … if the secret of Skye’s parentage must be kept … should Lincoln have been allowed to see them?

The episode concluded with our neophyte James bond wannabe, Fitz hiding in a bathroom after opening Fury’s toolbox.  Always the genius he’s managed to get it working and has figured out a way to contact Coulson and Hunter – yay – the gang is getting back together!