It’s time to reach within my memory banks and pick out my favorite Captain America battles. There’s plenty of shield slashing fun to be had. The movies have actually done a good job in showcasing Cap’s impressive fighting skills, particularly Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. I ‘m old enough to remember a time when the 1990 Captain America movie was all we had in terms of Cap on screen. Sigh… a bad movie but I loved it as a kid!

5. Captain America vs Daredevil: Streets Of Poison – By Mark Grunwald & Ron Lim

 

What a way to start the list. Hero vs hero. Cap does indeed go nuts, but there’s a twist. The whole story, and particularly this one, is a cautionary tale about drugs. Turns out that Cap is high as a kite. This turns him into a very paranoid and angry super solider. Daredevil steps in to try to “knock” some sense into him.Usually these covers don’t represent the quality or length of any fight between two heroes. In this case  It’s a great fight and it surprisingly satisfies. Ron Lim turns in some exciting acton scenes. There is also the added treat of watching Red Skull & Kingpin go toe to toe!

4. Captain America vs Zahnmorder: Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty :  By Fabian Nicieza & Kevin Maguire

 

I find that this mini series is criminally underrated. It’s a very cool re imagining of Cap’s origin with terrific art to boot. Kevin Maguire is at the top of his game in this one. His skills particualirly shine when he pairs Cap against the evil Zahnmorder. There’s a real danger to this fight that made it impossible for me to look away. It’s Cap’s first real test as the super solider and man, is he ever tested. Add another Nazi henchmen and you got yourself a real fight!  I urge you to find this gem and see for yourself.

3. Captain America vs The Winter Soldier: The Winter Soldier: By Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting

 

No surprise to have an Ed Brubaker tale on this list. This is actually the first story arc he ever wrote when he started his epic run on Cap. To me it’s so good that nothing managed to eclipse it. Bringing back Bucky Barnes turned out to be a monumental move that is still felt in the Marvel Universe today. The movies only exemplify that. Much like Batman and the death of Jason Todd, Bucky’s death haunted Cap for years. His best friend , now turned foe. The emotional weight of accepting that Bucky is lost and not coming back is really what makes this fight stand out. Sure, it’s a great fight aesthetically, but it’s Cap’s refusal to give up hope , that makes it compelling and emotionally draining all at once.

2. Captain America vs Red Skull: Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty :  By Fabian Nicieza & Kevin Maguire

Yup. This mini series makes an appearance on this list again. This time it’s the grand finale with none other than Cap’s greatest foe. The Red Skull. I think this mini series was a large inspiration for the Marvel films. I dare say, it was a bit bolder than said films. It kept the Nazi overtones. So much so, that the last fight is an arena brawl, filled with onlookers. Among them is Hitler proudly anticipating the humiliation of an American icon at the hands of the ” superior” Nazi fighter, Wonderfully drawn again by Kevin Maguire. The prestige format well deserved for this Mini series.

1. Captain America vs Iron Man( Round 2) : Civil War: By Mark Millar & Steve McNiven

 

As you can see plenty of reason to be excited for Marvel’s upcoming Civil War film. It’s a bit of a easy pick for fans. As mentioned before, having two heroes duke it out is extremely satisfying for some reason. I suppose it’s just an excuse to end nerdy arguments among fans regarding who would beat who in a fight. In this case I never really thought Cap would lose. Even though logic dictates that Iron Man is more than a worthy combatant. Sure enough, Cap and Iron Man fight twice in this story. ( spoiler) in round one, Tony beats the crap out of Captain America. It’s really pretty one sided but the rematch is a more even affair and Cap gets his revenge. The unique thing about this whole hero vs hero scenario, is that they both actually have a compelling reason to fight each other. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Hero B run into hero A in his own comic and just start fighting each other. For no other reason than because they happen to be in their respective city, Eventually they battle for about a page or two and end up teaming up. This is a more common trope with inter company crossovers but still. Civil War never really had any of that  There was a finality to the fight that made it all the more dramatic. We were left with the feeling that things would never be the same after these events.

Let’s see how faithful Marvel studios stays to the comic when it ends up coming out next year.

Stay tuned for my next installment featuring Spider-man!

 

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.

Hopefully you’ve seen Age of Ultron by this point?  I’m assuming that you have either already seen it (or as you are reading this) are planning on seeing it again for the second or third time!  If you’ve not seen it yet, but are planning on doing so in the future, please give this post a skip as spoilers abound!  As we’ve discussed already on this site this isn’t perhaps a perfect movie but it has lots to love and if you’re a fan of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) in any way, its a must see.  One question that is out there though is who is big purple guy that we see at the very end of the movie and what’s his deal?

Thanos battles Spider-Man and the Thing on the...
Thanos battles Spider-Man and the Thing on the cover of Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977). Art by Jim Starlin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well most Comic Universes have a couple of major villains … Marvel as large as it is has a specific foe that is the antithesis to each of their Hero’s and hero teams.  With Captain America you have the Red Skull (as we saw in the first Captain America movie), with the Fantastic Four its often Dr. Doom and with the X-Men its Magneto and Apocalypse (set to appear in the next X-Men movie).  There are many, many more examples of this (Spider-Man and the Goblin, Batman and the Joker etc…) in both Marvel and DC but one of the most iconic and instrumental storylines was the Infinity Guantlet arc written by Marvel in the late 80’s.

 

Well the big bad of that book is someone that you’ve seen a couple of times now – namely Thanos – and he’s not only appeared at the end of Avenger: The Age of Ultron, but he’s also made an appearance in a meeting with Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy as well as hearing from his flunky about how the Avengers screwed up his plans in the first movie. He will be the bad guy in Avengers: Infinity War.

OK, I know who he is, but what’s his deal?

The guy is Thanos. Thanos was one of the last sons of A’Lars, progenitor of the second colony of Eternals on Titan, and Sui-San, the last survivor of the original settlement of Eternals on Titan. Born with grey, hide-like skin and a massive body due to being born with the Deviant Syndrome, Thanos was a morose child who became obsessed with the concept of death. Through bionic implementation and long hours of meditation, Thanos augmented his Eternal strengths and powers so that his abilities surpassed those of all other Titanian Eternals.

Well if the comic book is anything to go by, Thanos really has a thing for a specific chick and he wants to impress her.  Sounds somewhat banal doesn’t it, but guess who Thanos’ flame is?  Yeah, you got it – in the Marvel Universe, the incarnation of Death is a female and Thanos believes that the only way to impress her is by basically destroying the cosmos and he’s going to use the infinity gems to do it!

What are the gems & what do they do?

Well you hopefully know by this time that all of the Marvel movies are interconnected?  You can also that in both Agent Carter and Agents of Shield too so its a really nice touch.  (Off topic – I’d be very curious to see if DC does the same with Gotham and the other DC properties – Arrow and Flash – as that would be a nice touch).  Well you’ve actually seen most of the gems already & each of these gems by themselves is extremely powerful.  Combined as Thanos plans … well lets just say that he could literally wield the powers of a not so benevolent god!  So far we’ve seen the following infinity gems:

Mind Gem

The Avengers franchise: The Mind gem is what was in Loki’s scepter and is currently in the Vision’s forehead.

Space Stone

The Avengers franchise: The Tesseract, AKA the Space Gem, has transported the Chitauri army to Earth via rips in space. The Tesseract is currently in Asgard. (Shown in Avengers, Captain America, etc.)

Reality Gem

Thor: The Dark World: The Reality gem was that red thing Thor was calling the Aether, and that “infected” Jane Foster.

Power Stone

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Power stone was what Peter Quill steals in the opening and they basically spend the whole movie chasing. You might remember that it figures prominently into the finale.

There are two other stones, Time and Soul, which will almost inevitably turn up in some of the upcoming films prior to Avengers: Infinity Wars.

In this weeks episode we had a couple of different storylines playing out simultaneously and while at first blush there isn’t too much correlation between them, by next week at least two of them will combine (quite spectacularly) and hopefully the third will also start to play a factor.  While we don’t really have any major closure (or even progress) to the question of Skye and her powers arc … is she going to start training herself to use them? … one very cool comment from Fitz gives us an idea of where she could eventually end up.

The third arc while having some pretty significant screen time – namely the return of Grant Ward and Agent 33 – doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Coulson‘s SHIELD and the “real” SHIELD, but I’m guessing there is something there that they’ve glossed over or not really mentioned … the title of the episode does somewhat imply that HYDRA is back so quite possibly the whole conflict between the different groups is being orchestrated by them.

Recap

Well lets start with Hunter and his arrival at the real SHIELD where he is introduced to Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) and the leadership council (to be honest these guys are all a bunch of suits and remind me of nothing more than the shadowy council in Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier … basically politicians!) who claim that they are the original founders of SHIELD & are extremely dissatisfied with the way it is being run by Coulson.  They go on to discuss his apparent change since being brought back from the dead by Fury and his apparent fascination with alien technology (leading to Tripps death) as well as the changes to Skye.  While Hunter agrees that there have been mistakes he doesn’t in my opinion state the obvious:

  • HYDRA was pursuing the hidden city anyways and regardless of Coulson’s motivations he stopped them.  If he hadn’t the consequences would have been significantly worse!
  • If this team had HELPED instead of hiding on the sidelines, perhaps Tripp wouldn’t have died in the first place!  Coulson made many comments to the fact that SHIELD was under-resourced while HYDRA by contrast seemed to have an endless supply of combatants.
  • Finally while Coulson did seem to be influenced by the writing (OK, lets rewrite that … while Coulson was influenced by the alien writing) he actually handled it quite well and ensured that May was in the loop and able to “manage” him.  Also when the alien city was discovered, the compulsion went away and was no longer a factor.

Regardless the mission of the “real” SHIELD is nothing more than a shakedown of Coulson’s operation by the looks of it and as soon as Hunter gets a chance he breaks out of the hidden base (turns out its on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean … reminds me a lot of Resident Evil actually) and steals a sub to get back to the mainland.  Gonzales sends Bobbi back to SHIELD to set the stage for their takeover before Lance can get there and warn Coulson but it looks like the warning might be unnecessary as Coulson and May definitely don’t trust the story that Mac is spinning about Hunter’s absence/disappearance.

Boyfriends Back

While all of this is happening we have the reappearance of Ward and Agent 33!  Yay!!  Although its only been a couple of weeks (how did he recover from multiple gunshot wounds so quickly??), I’ve missed his homicidal tendencies (!) and his character with his messed up motivations only gets better and better.  Ward is still hanging out with the disfigured Agent 33, whose nano-mask remains stuck in “Messed-Up Agent May” mode. They both kidnap a former SHIELD scientist who can fix the mask (in quite a cool sequence with pumpkin pancakes no less!) and while he’s unable to remove the mask, he is able to repair it so that she can take on up to 3 different faces.

Unfortunately Agent 33 (by the way, am I the only one who thinks of Agent 99 from that classic show Get Smart?), has had all of her memories wiped and while she can now change her fact to look like anyone she wants – the person she can’t match is herself as she no longer knows who that is!  She does however transform herself into Skye to “thank” Ward for all of his help, but Ward manages to resist the temptation and guides her to information on Bakshi (the HYDRA leader that helped brainwash her).  Bakshi is being held captive at a US Air Force base, but using the mask, Ward and Agent 33 manage to infiltrate the facility and extract him.  By the end of the episode we see Bakshi tied up in a chair while a brainwashing program is running on the TV … Agent 33 has at least been given back her name although the question remains what else will Bakshi tell them!

What about Skye?

Last but not least is our favorite damaged SHIELD agent (there are actually quite a few to be honest so this list could get rather long!) – Skye.  While we learned last week that she was simply internalizing her powers (causing the bone fractures), Coulson had given Simmons an assignment to find a way to “deal” with it and it seems she’s created some gloves that can help Skye “limit” her powers.  The question of course is that with Simmons’ acknowledged prejudice, will the cure end up causing more damage than good, or even, is she being totally honest with regards to what the gloves can do?

  • Also as more of a question than anything else, since when is Simmons the inventor of the physical stuff … isn’t that more Fitz’ bailiwick than anything else while she’s concentrated on the biological?  I wonder if this is just a red herring or another clue?

Anyways, Coulson takes Skye to a cabin the woods where she can learn to get a handle on what’s happened to her.  Supposedly this safe have is a place that Fury built for powered individuals and its where Captain America spent some time post Popsicle.

  • Coulson: Earlier today, with Skye… just didn’t feel right.
  • May: You made the right call. There’s just too many things in play right now for her to be here.
  • Coulson: Yeah, maybe. But you ever get that feeling… like you mishandled something important?

Now that’s foreshadowing if I’ve ever seen it!

Review

Overall much better than the previous two episodes in my opinion.  While I’m not in love with the whole SHIELD on SHIELD civil war that’s about to erupt, the casting of Edward James Olmos can’t be beat and I’m glad to see that they’re moving (slowly) forward on Skye’s powers.  I realize that they can’t establish her identity/power/ability too soon as the Inhumans movie is still many years away, but at the same time I really don’t want them to drag it out forever either.  Ward’s return is very welcome and I’m curious to see if in some ways the possible resurgence of HYDRA is due to his influence or if his intentions are completely different.

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!

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.

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!

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!