The only thing wrong with this week’s Agents of SHIELD was that it followed this week’s episode of The Flash. Holy crap-was that good.
But as good as tonight’s DC contribution tended to be, Marvel was right there with an episode that answered a ton and a half of questions regarding this second SHIELD that was introduced last week. It’s a SHIELD that is going against the directions of Nick Fury, and a SHIELD that might be in the right depending on your point of view.
In fact, and forgive my fanboyishness here, the whole episode could be seen as a thematic precursor to next year’s Civil War where two factions of the Avengers will clash. Except for Agent Caldarone (and more on him in a bit), all the members of this offshoot SHIELD can be seen as heroes going against another group of ideologically opposed champions, just like the dynamics of the impending Captain America film.
Every villain is a hero of their own story, and this SHIELD (particularly Agent Gonzales and Agent Weaver) was portrayed as a group of self-sacrificing agents willing to die for duty. Weaver was revealed to be a former teacher of Fitz and Simmons, and we were told that when HYDRA struck, she fought to save the students of her SHIELD Academy.
And Gonzalez, played by the always super classy Edward James Olmos, was shown via flashback as willing to die to make sure that SHIELD secrets would not fall into HYDRA hands. Good agents all, and their goodness is what makes them such effective villains. This was also exemplified by Izzy Hartley, the agent that died in the first episode of season two.
This week saw the welcome return of Lucy Lawless who, as shown in the flashback, was instrumental in fending off HYDRA. Izzy’s bravery, and more importantly her death, provided the inspiration that set this second version of SHIELD on the path that smashed them into Coulson and company.
Last week, I took Agents of SHIELD to task for not fleshing out these newest adversaries, well, this week, I am more than satisfied with the reveals of who Gonzales and company were and what made them believe Coulson is such a threat. Showing what happened to Coulson, Mack, and Morse during the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier was such an effective way to make viewers understand and sympathize with their plight. They witnessed SHIELD’s darkest hour and they would do anything to keep it from happening again. If this group has any true failing, it was that they were tainted by the memory of HYDRA’s rise, and they blamed Fury for not protecting them from this catastrophic event.
Now they want Fury’s secrets, which were located in a trademark geometric Marvel MacGuffin that Coulson called Fury’s treasure chest. Listen, I get a nice MacGuffin hunt is always good to create drama and purpose, and to build character conflict around. But another cube, Marvel? Really? I’m a big hypocrite I guess because I really, really want to know what the heck is in the silly thing.
While this very cool SHIELD drama was unfolding, we were also treated to the opening salvos of an Inhumans story as Reader (who the show refers to as Gordon, so I guess I will too) pays a visit to Skye in her remote retreat. This was the first time Skye got an understanding of what she has become, and as Gordon spoke, Skye seemed to become less fearful of her transformation. If this is any early indication, and I know we really have a long way to go before the Inhumans film, the Inhumans will fit in very well to the overall tapestry of the cinematic Marvel Universe.
This whole powers thing has made Skye a much more dynamic and interesting character when compared to the snarky hacker of last season, as there are now real stakes surrounding every choice she makes. This week, we were treated to Skye unleashing her true might as that jerky Agent Calderone fired on Skye with a real gun after being ordered by Morse to only use an icer against their target. Skye struck back with a wave of seismic energy that was awesome to behold. When Gordon appeared to take Skye away to meet others like her, it created quite the cliffhanger. Will we soon be meeting some familiar Inhumans?
As important as the Skye stuff was, she wasn’t the only agent to get the spotlight this week. As I said before, we now understand why Mack and Morse have sided with Gonzales as we got to see their experiences during HYDRA’s attack. We also got to see the acumen of one Jemma Simmons as the cute as a button scientist took down Agent Morse single handedly. She did the whole nervous scientist thing till she did what even Agent May could not do: make the always dangerous Morse drop her guard and then drop him on the floor.
We also got to see Fitz and Simmons have a reconciliation of sorts as they were captured by SHIELD 2.0 and found comfort in each others’ arms. A quiet but perfect little moment that allowed for some brilliant character work in the midst of all the espionage and Inhuman chaos.
Agent May got her chance to shine this week as well as she played a Wolverine styled role against this makeshift Hellfire Club, running free in the besieged bus and saving Coulson from Gonzales. We also got to see a brief fight between May and Morse, and it was quite the thrill to see Marvel’s two most kick ass females not named Natasha go at it.
The most poignant scene of the episode was the meeting between Coulson and Gonzales. It fleshed out Gonzales and showed just why he will not follow Coulson’s vision of SHIELD. After seeing SHIELD fall to HYDRA, who can blame Gonzales for not trusting a man with alien blood, particularly when the blood was forced into Coulson by the one man Gonzales trusted the least, Nick Fury?
But as the sweeper at episode’s end showed us, even through his crew has been captured, Coulson is not alone since he met up with Morse’s ex-hubbie, Agent Hunter. So now all Coulson has is one jilted ex-lover to free his team. Considering what May, Fitz and Simmons can pull off when pressed; Gonzales might not have a chance.
Skye was holed up in a retreat built by Bruce Banner and designed to contain the Hulk. That’s just how powerful Skye is now.
Fury’s treasure chest was made of vibranium. With Ulysses Klaw set to debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron, every mention of this super alloy could become more meaningful moving forward.