This review contains spoilers.
5.15 Rise And Shine
Waitaminute. General Hale is HYDRA. Hale. HYDRA. Well played Marvel, well played.
So last week Fitz broke bad and embraced the Framework side of his personality, basically putting in play one of the worst villains SHIELD has ever faced in any reality. It was pretty obvious we’d see the fallout of the arrival of dark Fitz this week, and we did, but we also get so much more.
How about HYDRA High School? Yeah, I would watch the heck out of a weekly HYDRA High series in a hot minute, and, this week, we get a taste of the most evil institution of learning in the Marvel Universe. Rise And Shine is separated into a number of parts. First, we get a flashback to the 1980s and the childhood of General Hale, a brilliant young woman who attends a deeply hidden HYDRA school. She attends class with a young Jasper Sitwell, is rivals with a young Baron Von Strucker, and is taught by Doctor Whitehall as Marvel hits us with tonnes of awesome HYDRA Easter eggs.
It’s all like Riverdale by way of Hitler Youth and these brief moments we spend with young Hale truly adds depth to the character. It is revealed that Hale had the potential to be the leader of HYDRA but is only seen as the sum of her lady parts. Whitehall has built a machine, a machine that can infuse a person with any element.
There were more Easter eggs as Whitewall discusses the potential of merging a person with the Red Skull’s Tesseract while Hale counters with the potential to merge someone with alien technology. Whitehall is impressed by Hale’s thinking, but ultimately just wants her to give birth to the young person who will eventually be used in Whitehall’s device.
Flash-forward to two years ago and Ruby Hale. Through General Hale’s story we learn how the not-so-good General ended up in the Air Force and the sacrifices she had to make for Ruby. And listen, there is some sympathy for the Hale family, but I’ll never forgive blondie for maiming Yo Yo, y’hear? Anyway, it seems that two years ago, General and Ruby Hale seemed much closer than they do now. But Ruby has a rebellious streak in her as she refuses to go through the HYDRA initiation and kill her dog.
Remember, a few seasons back, Ward revealed that to become a HYDRA agent one must shoot a dog. Well, Ruby refuses which seems to suggest that she may not be a dedicated HYDRA drone. Indeed, Hale and Ruby are a different kind of HYDRA, they are dedicated to the cause but don’t seem to subscribe to the dogma of Whitehall, Ward, and Von Strucker, which may explain why Hale is willing to team with Coulson to help combat whatever alien threat is on its way.
After the Ruby flashback, we get to check in with General Talbot. Remember, Talbot was shot in the head by a Daisy Johnson LMB last season. This week, Talbot makes something of a recovery and is taken by Hale to the old location of HYDRA high. There, he is subjected to Hale’s interrogation, and even though Talbot is a boob, it hurts to see him so vulnerable.
Talbot isn’t the only HYDRA guest as Coulson is also taken to HYDRA high and told of Hale’s story and fears. Hale reveals her secret origin and shows Coulson a device given to HYDRA by the Chitauri after the invasion of New York. Hell yeah, we’re getting some MCU deep cuts up in here. Hale also reveals that the device has allowed HYDRA to contact an alien cadre known as the Confederacy who agree to defend the Earth from a coming invasion if HYDRA gives the Confederacy access to Gravitonium and Inhuman warriors.
Which brings us to HYDRA’s ultimate plan. It wants to use Whitehall’s machine to infuse an Inhuman with Gravitonium in a project known as – wait for it- the Destroyer of Worlds.
So now we know how Daisy may have been “gifted” with the powers that will allow her to crack the world. Now, Fitz’s actions seem to have some serious repercussions. As for Fitz, May wants Fitz to help find Hale and Coulson. Fitz has been imprisoned for his actions against Daisy, and is willing to take his punishment.
May wants to use the suddenly even-more-brilliant Fitz to outthink HYDRA villains versus villain. Daisy wants no part of Fitz after having her nervous system pulled apart, so Fitz is the centre of all sorts of conflict at SHIELD HQ. Except for Simmons, of course. Simmons knows her new husband is good, that there is no way he could ever become Framework Fitz.
Fitz himself isn’t so sure and doubts his inner light, so Simmons reveals that Deke (who is sadly absent from the episode) is their grandson. This allows Simmons to explain that they cannot be broken apart or hurt because they survive into the future to have a daughter who in turn births Deke. But when Simmons reveals their chronal invulnerability, it has a more ominous tone than it should. Yo Yo also feels that she is invincible and I have a feeling something terrible is going to happen to prove them all wrong before too long.
This episode is something I didn’t know I wanted until I got it, a flashback to HYDRA high school, a peek into the MCU before Iron Man, and a origin story for General Hale, a villain who has been a bit one-note until the reveals of Rise And Shine.
This episode is world-building at its finest as the Confederacy is an intriguing group with countless potential. What alien races are involved and how will their interest in Earth impact the future? Which begs the further questions, is the invasion the Confederacy warns HYDRA about the arrival of Thanos? If so, this is the closest the Marvel films and Marvel TV have intersected in a long time. Plus, Hannibal Lecter Fitz just adds an element of dread to the series.
As we motor to the last quarter of the season, the arrival of the Confederacy, Hale’s plan, and evil Fitz all add elements that could give us the most memorable ending of a season of Agents Of SHIELD yet.