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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!