Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 episode 14 review: Love In The Time Of Hydra

This week's Agents Of SHIELD had plenty to like, if not much happening in terms of action...

This review contains spoilers.

2.14 Love In The Time Of Hydra

This week’s episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. reminded me of one thing – pieces being moved around on a chess board while the players gear up for some more interesting moves later on.

That is, if chess were a weird four-way game where Coulson, the ‘real’ S.H.I.E.L.D., Grant Ward and HYDRA could all move slowly towards attempted victory despite not taking much ground each time. Okay, maybe it was more like the early stages of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

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While that may sound like a bad thing, it wasn’t entirely. The fact there was no major immediate threat to Coulson’s core team left a lot more room for little character moments and guest stars in Love In The Time Of Hydra.

The best character moments included Fitz giving Simmons a piece of his mind and Bobbi letting Lance leave. These characters often get side-lined, so more time spent with them was welcome. On the guest star side of things, this week’s finest offering was surely Brett Dalton, reprising the cool-but-unhinged Ward for the first time in quite a few weeks.

Ward hasn’t always pushed the right buttons for this writer – both pre-HYDRA and when S.H.I.E.L.D. held him prisoner – but now that he’s off the grid enacting a strange plan, the character has suddenly become a lot more engaging. Dalton has handled the transition well, still allowing glimpses of the old Ward (when Agent 33 transformed into Skye, for example) but not veering back into his previous bore-inducing ways.

In a similar way, General Talbot has become a lot more likeable now that he’s broken from his original mould a little. Initially acting as a thwart for Coulson, he came across like a rehash of General Ross from The Incredible Hulk. Now that he sees Coulson as an ally against Ward and the other threats beyond his control, actor Adrian Pasdar is given a lot more to work with. The scene where he tried to find Agent 33 in his line-up of female employees certainly earned a chortle from this writer.

While the plot that brought Ward and Talbot back into proceedings wasn’t exactly that thrilling – Agent 33 is difficult to like, especially when the familiar faces she draws on distract from her as a character – it was clearly a necessary step in Ward’s plan. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting them to kidnap and hypnotise Bakshi, and I’m quite intrigued to see where the strand goes, even if it wasn’t ground-breaking entertainment this week.

Speaking of ground-breaking, the recently Quake-ified Skye’s didn’t do much to keep your attention this week, did she? Even though Coulson and Skye have been friends since the first couple of episodes of season one, there didn’t seem to be much emotion between them this time, even in the scenes where he told her a sweet Lola-themed story and she asked him to be a friend. Maybe it was the script, maybe the actors were reigning it for a reason, but I found that whole strand a little superfluous this time around.

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Again, obviously Skye is being moved to set up future events in some way. However, we cant help feeling that five seconds of dialogue saying ‘we’ve moved Skye to a secure location’ could achieve the same outcome as this episode in much less time.

Even when compared to Skye’s house-moving, the introduction of ‘The Other S.H.I.E.L.D.’ was just plain boring – they’ve got meeting rooms, they’ve got chairs, they’re just like the normal S.H.I.E.L.D. As a revelation that was teased by Mac and Bobbi for quite a while, we were expecting a little more here. We could have guessed that they were plotting to kill/dispose of Coulson, we didn’t need about half an episode to work up to that fact.

All in all, this week felt like a bit of a prelude to another episode. With fat trimmed, it could probably have been cut down to a pacey twenty minutes rather than a low-on-action hour. Ah well, the time with Ward was appreciated.

Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, One Of Us, here.

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