This review contains spoilers.
2.19 The Dirty Half Dozen
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s tie-in episodes are often a little difficult. Sometimes they come across a little ‘no, no, really – Thor was just here! Like, minutes ago!’ Thankfully, though, on occasion they’re much better, with the episodes surrounding The Winter Soldier remaining arguably the best content the show has ever produced.
How did this week’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron episode fare, then? Well, to be honest, somewhere in between the two, but leaning in the positive direction. Winter Soldier-era S.H.I.E.L.D. aside, this is probably the next best allusion to the movies we’ve ever had.
Both iterations of S.H.I.E.L.D. teaming up to attack a HYDRA base, with Dr. List inside, where experiments are being conducted on enhanced individuals? “Blummin’ heck, that’s the Age Of Ultron base, right?” you might have asked if you were paying less-than-complete attention.
In fact, if you’d popped out to make a quick cuppa and missed the scene where List mentions that there’s actually a whole other base many miles away (where the more expensive Age Of Ultron cast members are hanging out), you could’ve happily spent the whole episode thinking that we were on location awaiting the Avengers’ imminent arrival.
Of course, though, rights issues don’t quite allow that to happen, so we’ll have to settle for a very similar base, including similar people, doing similar things. In all honesty, that’s close enough, considering that the resultant episode was pretty ruddy entertaining.
Skye using her powers twice – to a) wipe out some HYDRA agents and b) restart Lincoln’s heart – was very cool, and visually well accomplished, while her combat-based infiltration scene (framed with a slick tracking shot) reminded us of both Joss Whedon’s amazing tracking shot from the original Avengers and the incredible one-shot fight scene from Daredevil episode 2.
As far as Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. action goes, we’ve rarely seen better than that. Marvel movies are often full of air-punching fan-pleasing moments, and this felt like the very welcome TV equivalent of that. As did the reveal that Coulson’s real mission-within-a-mission (Winter Soldier boat scene style) was to locate Loki’s sceptre.
Speaking of actual movie interconnectivity – List was great (Henry Goodman was given more space to breathe, which he worked with very well), Maria Hill’s Skype cameo was fairly cool (despite seeming like a cheaper alternative to actually bringing her in) and Raina’s foretelling of ‘metal men who will tear our world apart’ was a nice touch, too. That scene wasn’t vital, but it certainly helped ramp up the tension.
Our only qualm with the connectivity stuff? That there was no show-down between List and Coulson, which seems like a wasted opportunity to bring Clark Gregg painfully close to a reunion with Cap and the other Avengers.
All in all, though, The Dirty Half Dozen was a thoroughly entertaining episode, thanks in equal part to the tie-in stuff, some solid action and several strong character moments. Ward’s return was handled well, too, although something needs to be done about Simmons’ growing unlikeable-ness.
One question, though: what do we think Theta Protocol actually entailed? Obviously it relates to the Avengers, but we can’t quite work out how. Any ideas?