This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
Well. That was unexpected.
Patton Oswalt promised that this episode, the first to follow Avengers: Age of Ultron, would be like a bonus scene from the second Avengers film (and here’s my review of the film: loved it. OK, moving on). As much as we love Mr. Oswalt, and it was so good to see him back as Agent Koenig again, this week’s Agents of SHIELD was not a cut scene from Age of Ultron, nor was it an aside, or even an epilogue. What it was, was a shocking beginning to the next chapter of Marvel TV as the season pretty much saved all its big surprises for this one.
All that Age of Ultron stuff was taken care of in the first act with a flashback reveal of the save the day helicarrier that Coulson was building for Nick Fury. So yeah, that big secret, Project Theta, that has been teased all season was a neat little plot point for Age of Ultron. After that, in the present, our cast sat around and watched a bit of B-reel footage from Age of Ultron and talked about how the world was saved by the Avengers.
The events of Ultron’s arrival caused Coulson and Gonzales to get on mostly the same page with Coulson staying as SHIELD’s director and Gonzales and company serving as advisors. This was good for everyone and the rest of the episode everyone played Magic: The Gathering. No, as awesome as that would have been, that was just not the case as the Inhumans still had to be dealt with.
It seems that with the end of HYDRA, Agents of SHIELD will transition completely into the place to world build the Inhumans. This week, we got more drama in the Inhumans city as Jiaying didn’t know who to trust, Raina manipulated Reader to spy on SHIELD, and SHIELD debated how to handle the sudden appearance of so many enhanced humans. People are more persnickety than ever over metahumans now that robot Hitler tried to destroy the word, so Gonzalez and company weren’t about to trust a whole civilization of Inhumans just because Skye said they were trustworthy.
“Scars” explored Raina deeper than ever before. Sonic the Precog (I’ve been waiting to use that all week) had disturbing visions of SHIELD quinjets attacking the Inhuman sanctuary, but of course, nobody fully trusted her because she is a master manipulator. A fact that Cal, Skye’s father, knew very well. So Raina’s visions, if they were true, went unheeded. This is where plates really started spinning and I won’t attempt to give you a full blow by blow, but let’s just say that SHIELD wanted to meet with the Inhumans, nobody trusted Coulson and his Kree blood to lead the meet and greet, so Gonzales did the honors.
We also had the wild cards of Raina and Agent 33 who finally seemed to be free of HYDRA influence. There was a ton of soul searching as everyone tried to decide if they should live and let live when it came to the Inhumans or go in guns a blazing. The Inhumans made a nice gesture of peace by handing Cal back to SHIELD and Jiaying decided to trust SHIELD and hold a parley despite Raina’s warnings.
Now, let’s pause to give Agents of SHIELD a good old state of the union. With HYDRA gone, there really was no big bad. Yeah, there’s Ward, but he seemed to be playing the wildcard role rather than the proper adversary, so with two episodes to go, where is the antagonist? Whitehall is dead, Bakshi is dead, List is either dead or in SHIELD custody (and they all sucked anyway) and Von Strucker is dead. Who’s left?
Well, this episode answered that question and it was shockingly awesome.
Many fans have compared Marvel’s use of the Inhumans on film and on TV to the role of mutants in the comics. This week took those parallels a step further. The SHIELD Index can be seen as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s answer to the Mutant Registration Act with SHIELD trying to find all those with powers in order to keep track of them. Now if you’re an Inhuman, let’s say one that was kidnapped and dissected by Nazis, you probably wouldn’t trust anything humans suggested when it came to tagging and tracking your people.
I believe Gonzales and SHIELD had the best of intentions with beings like Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Ultron, and others popping up, it would be best for a trusted organization to keep track of these things. We know we can trust SHIELD, with Coulson, May, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill on top, it is led by true heroes. But the Inhumans don’t know that, and Jiaying doesn’t know that.
And I don’t think Jiaying cares. She was the one Whitehall dissected, she was the one who had her daughter Daisy stolen from her, she was the one who spent years healing from the bodily atrocity HYDRA inflicted on her. As Gonzales sat in her office and tried to sell Jiaying on the Index, it was clear that this woman who was so tortured by HYDRA was not buying what he was selling. It also became clear who the new big bad of Agents of SHIELD would be.
If the Inhumans are Marvel’s multimedia mutants, then Jiaying is its Magneto.
In a moment that will define the second season of Agents of SHIELD, Jiaying exposed Gonzales to a Terrigen crystal, murdering him on the spot. She took it a step further by setting up a frame job to convince her people that SHIELD was attacking.
I expected some Age of Ultron clean up, but not that. Bravo, Marvel, you gave me an unforgettable week.
And things might get even better, because Agent 33 (who was disguised as May most of the episode) and Ward have plans of their own and Coulson and company are walking into a trap set by Marvel’s latest arch villain, a tortured and broken soul named Jiaying who desperately wants to defend her people.
So I guess Raina was right and I guess Skye will soon have to choose between family and duty.
– Hopefully everyone saw Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend, because this episode kind of spoiled some key points.
– Not a Marvel moment, but remember those awesome Star Wars bed sheets and pillowcases that Koenig was sleeping on? I totally had those as a kid.
– A nice nod to how many in the Marvel Universe view Tony Stark- as a dangerous maverick who has an equal chance in saving the world as he does destroying it.
– I loved that Cal gets his powers from vials of fluid. If you are going to use Mr. Hyde, go all out with the Robert Louis Stevenson riff, I say.