Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E5 Review: A Hen in the Wolfhouse
This week’s episode kept the streak going, while addressing some of the lingering mysteries, introducing a highly anticipated new character, and confirming a ton of fan theories. Plus, the reunion we’ve all been waiting for, even if it was a bit short.The episode opens with a wedding reception, where a particularly awful toast is being read. Champagne is being distributed, the camera singling out a few military personnel. They then try to take a sip, and are shown to start turning to stone exactly like the waitress did back in episode 2. The why is then revealed–it’s a HYDRA experiment, pulled off (as we later learn) by examining the waitress’s recovered body. Continuity! The military personnel, it turns out, were part of an anti-HYDRA task force, so even though the experiment failed they still took out some enemies. HYDRA likes to play it risky like that.
As Coulson briefs the team on this event, Skye spots some of the alien writing on his desk, but he brushes her off. She’s kinda getting tired of doing all this investigating while half the mystery is withheld from her, and she makes that pretty clear. Coulson pulls rank over it, but as everyone leaves, May warns him that treating Skye like that is a bad idea. Now, we drop in on Skye’s dad, who’s doing some backalley surgery when Raina shows up, still shaken over HYDRA’s threats last week. She asks him for the Obelisk back, in the hopes that she can give it to HYDRA for now to save herself and worry about getting it back when she’s not at the top of the death list. Skye’s dad is not very understanding and grabs Raina by the throat, even as he implies that she’s basically his adoptive daughter, which lines up with a fan theory about Raina and Skye. And while Raina is scared of Whitehall and HYDRA, she’s clearly just as frightened by him. She warns him about “losing control” and he sends her off, making it clear that he cares about only one thing: getting Skye back. He also says that isn’t her real name. Hmm…
Catching up with Simmons, she and her skittish boss are called to a big time meeting where Whitehall shows up and they discuss the experiment. He asks Simmons directly what she thinks of the Obelisk research, and she answers as best she can, confirming his suggestions about weaponizing the turn-to-stone effect. There’s an interesting moment here where Simmons thinks of how much damage HYDRA can do with something like this, “killing millions,” and her boss can only smile at the thought. It helps drive home the fact that even a lot of these low-level HYDRA guys are just as sociopathic as Ward.
Speaking of Ward, Skye visits him after Hunter suggests to her that he might have some clues as to what Coulson’s hiding. He assumes it’s about her dad, but she doesn’t care about that, or at least doesn’t let him know if she does. He does mention that Raina is the one who told him, though. Skye finally shows him the alien writing, and he recognizes it as Garrett’s mad scribblings, and he’s been able to put 2 and 2 together to connect it to the GH formula. For a second, he seems earnestly worried that she might be writing the alien symbols too, but no. He then makes the “transformation” sound suitably scary, in what I suspect is yet another attempt at getting into Skye’s head and giving her reason to doubt Coulson. Maybe they ought to lock the door to Ward’s cell if they don’t want everyone down there chatting with him all the time.
Skye immediately runs upstairs to confront Coulson about the alien writing’s origins, and he admits that he’s been carving them, too. Then he reveals that the reason he hasn’t told her about it while making her study them was to see if that might trigger her urges to write crazy alienspeak. Since she clearly hasn’t, Coulson throws out his guess: Skye already had that alien DNA in her, so it didn’t affect her the same way. Which matches up perfectly with the popular fan theory about her as one of the latent Inhumans. Not saying that Inhumans are confirmed or anything, but she likely is part-alien and that much, at least, is. That’s when they’re interrupted by a call.
As Raina heads to the HYDRA headquarters, presumably to beg to be spared, she recognizes Simmons, and manages to get a photo of her dropping a message off for SHIELD. She’s calling Coulson in hopes of arranging some kind of deal in exchange for not exposing Simmons to HYDRA, who found the message somehow (I suspect she tipped them off discreetly) and are now aware that there’s a mole. This is when we get our first glimpse at Bobbi Morse, AKA Mockingbird from the comics, who’s acting as a HYDRA enforcer, trying to root out the double agent. Simmons who still has another foldy-plastic-message-thing in her desk, quickly hides it in her boss guy’s drawer, causing him to take the fall (and knowing HYDRA, probably be killed). The heat may be off for now, but HYDRA won’t be satisfied for long.
Raina meets with Coulson in a fancy restaurant, where the rest of the team is watching and listening. She tries to talk Coulson into working together, but he’s a little sore with her for some reason (the torture? probably the torture). Raina says that they want the same thing, although just what she means by that isn’t quite clear. The context implies it’s related to Skye, but I suspect there’s a double meaning there which we’ll find out later. She puts on a timer–in 2 minutes, all HYDRA employees will be emailed that picture of Simmons, and she’s as good as dead. All that he has to do to stop it is let her take Skye to meet her father. Coulson doesn’t go for it, and May has to physically restrain Skye to keep her from running out to give herself up. But as the timer gets lower, Raina gets a bit panicky, tipping her hand. I assumed this meant she was bluffing, but nope. The photo appears on every HYDRA computer, causing everyone to stare at Simmons as she enters. Bakshi comes for her, and she tries to run, but to no avail; she runs right into Morse… who then whips out these two weapons and beats up the guards accompanying her. Turns out she’s also a double agent placed there by Coulson, specifically to watch over Simmons. Why two? Because Morse couldn’t access the research files, and HYDRA apparently does practice some form of departmentalization, unlike every other bad guy organization ever, who typically just leave every piece of info they have accessible to anyone in the building at all times. Good job averting the cliches. Morse and Simmons make their epic escape, but we don’t actually see Morse holding off Bakshi, leading some to wonder if perhaps she’s been brainwashed as well. That remains to be seen, though, and she seems fine as they jump off the building and land on a cloaked Quinjet. They really are putting those cloaks to good use, huh?
Raina’s shocked that Coulson didn’t give in, but she’s out of moves. She begs him to take her in, figuring that SHIELD might be the only ones capable of protecting her from HYDRA. Coulson has a better plan–tag Raina with a tracker, and use that signal to locate Whitehall when he inevitably comes for her. But he might still save her, providing she’s useful and points them towards Skye’s dad. She does, and Skye immediately runs off to that location. He’s nowhere to be found, and the place is mostly empty (except for the bodies of his surgery patient and client from earlier), but he left some cameras behind, through which he watches Skye express her disgust at these murders. There’s a nice moment of Papa Coulson again, much like in episode 3, which serves to really piss Skye’s dad off.
Everyone returns to base, and Fitz gets his long awaited reunion with the real Simmons. It’s a little short, and not quite as satisfying as we might have hoped; I’m guessing we’ll see more of this next week. It’s also revealed here that Bobbi Morse is indeed the ex-wife that Lance Hunter has been complaining about so frequently for the last few episodes, drawing the episode to a close with the confirmation of yet another fan theory. Skye chats with Coulson one last time, and as he shows her the huge wall of alien writing he’s created so far, she posits an alternate theory–it’s not writing, it’s a map.
The tag shows Skye’s dad walking right into Whitehall’s office and taking out the two guards effortlessly before revealing the Obelisk, and showing that he knows far more about it than anyone else. That knowledge could be HYDRA’s, so long as they team up to kill Coulson. Wow.
The episode was just as great as every other so far this season, with some great action scenes featuring our newest badass lady, Mockingbird, and a lot of high tension games of wits between Raina, Coulson, Skye’s dad and HYDRA. Watching the photo get sent out was a particularly great “holy shit” moment, as it definitely seemed like there was no way out of that. We’ve also finally got Simmons back with the rest of the team, and a new member to boot. While the main plotlines this season have been moving along strongly and are very interesting, it’s really the little moments like Papa Coulson and sociopathic HYDRA mooks that make it stand out as good. As long as those continue, I think the show has a bright future ahead.
Next week, “A Fractured House.” Also, the first Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer!