Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E6 Review: A Fractured House
With the Avengers: Age of Ultron scenes and trailer attached, I think we all expected something special in this episode to hook new viewers. And it’s a great episode still, I just can’t help but wonder if last week’s might have been better suited for gaining new viewers.
The episode opens with Talbot speaking before the UN when a “SHIELD” team breaks in and kills several representatives before escaping. Even Talbot, who barely survives, suspects this isn’t really SHIELD, but a senator speaks out about taking them down, to hide his connections to SHIELD–Senator Christian Ward, older brother of Grant Ward and already established as a douchebag. But can we really trust anything Grant said before the HYDRA reveal now?
Everyone has to double check with Coulson to make sure this isn’t a rogue SHIELD faction, but they’re all fairly certain it’s HYDRA. Coulson sends Simmons and Fitz to dig through the hard drive she recovered last week, and sends May, new team member Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird), and Hunter on a mission to find out who developed the weapon used in the attack, which seems to be based on the Obelisk’s stone powers. Which means it’s time for an uncomfortable plane ride between the two former lovers. Skye goes down to talk to Ward, hoping to find out something useful about his brother, but he once again manages to turn the tables on her. It’s interesting, knowing that Skye is aware of his tricks and yet still keeps falling for the bait. One thing is clear, though: Ward really is frightened of his brother. Almost as much as Skye is by her father. Coulson cuts their conversation short, however, with a warning to Skye about letting Ward get to her.
With May’s team arriving in Japan, they set out to find the scientist who Simmons thought might be developing the weapon. They decide to send Morse in to try to make use of her HYDRA cover, even though there’s a pretty significant chance that the target, Toshiro, might already know of her betrayal. But as it turns out, they have some history, and Hunter has to watch her flirt and toy with him to get the information they need. Which he comments on the entire time; it’s clear that he feels like their marriage was no more real to her than an assignment like this one is, and yet there’s no indication of that on her part. At least, so far. And Toshiro does confirm that the tech in the weapon is based on the Obelisk, but only seconds later a message arrives telling them to kill Morse. Yeah, didn’t expect that cover would last long. May and Hunter sweep in to her rescue, except she insists that she didn’t need it and the two get into a lover’s quarrel with an unamused May watching from behind. The dual “shoot then keep arguing” was pretty well executed, though.
We finally get the moment alone between Fitz and Simmons that everyone’s been waiting for, but it’s not an end to the heartbreak that is Fitz’s arc this season. Simmons tries to treat him as if he’s the same, and finishing each other’s sentences was definitely something they did in season 1, but now that only serves to frustrate Fitz. And Simmons is struggling to deal with it, too, because she feels as though she’s being very understanding, and yet he’s still snapping at her. The real Simmons is nowhere near as patient and adoring as his hallucination was, and that’s causing him even more problems. Then add in the fact that he still doesn’t fully know why she left, and it’s a real mess between them. Luckily, Mack comes in to check on Fitz as Simmons excuses herself.
Coulson pays Ward’s brother a visit, and implies that he’ll let the public know about how HYDRA’s in the family if he doesn’t change his focus. And when Coulson tries to mention the “Well” story from season 1, Senator Ward says it’s a lie, and that Grant does nothing but lie. But meanwhile, Skye talking to Grant Ward in the basement (without supervision) is told that it’s the Senator who lies about everything. And honestly at this point, I expect both of them to be sociopaths, so it wouldn’t surprise me if both were right. Intercutting the two scenes, however, is very effective at making both appear questionable and forcing you to wonder who’s telling the truth, if any. Ward starts dropping some backstory on Skye: the village that was slaughtered, the one she was found in, was actually all HYDRA. And while Skye and her mother were there, Skye’s father arrived too late to save them. And he went crazy and killed everyone there. As he later found out, Skye was still alive, and it’s time to reunite the family. That’s when Skye flips it around: her family won’t be the ones reunited. Ward is to be transferred to his brother’s custody as part of the deal. No more basement dwelling for him!
Simmons returns with tea for herself and Fitz, only to find Mack and Fitz making a breakthrough together. She’s clearly getting the feeling that she’s been replaced… and yet it’s not her fault she was gone. Why does it have to be so tough for them? Because it’s damn good drama, I suppose. The HYDRA team posing as SHIELD is now on the way to take out the Belgian representative, the leading voice of the reasonable side in the UN. May’s group isn’t far behind, however, and it’s about time we get our action scenes in.
Coulson goes down to talk to Ward. Ward tries everything he can–earning some points for his intel, claiming to be part of the team still (which really hits Coulson’s berserk button), and tries to make him feel bad by pointing out how his brother will utilize this for political gain. But Coulson just does not care. He certainly isn’t going to fall for Ward’s tricks, and he does get one last jab in by saying the two brothers are more alike than they’d care to admit. Then he’s called up to the office–it turns out that the weapons used in the attack, while designed to operate like the Obelisk, were originally created by a HYDRA scientist in the 1940’s, who just so happens to be the grandfather of this “reasonable” Belgian representative. And the HYDRA connection seems to have been passed down the family line. His reasonableness was a ruse, to lure SHIELD into thinking they’d be safe in Belgium, and now that many of the agents in Europe have gone dark at the Belgian safehouses, HYDRA is taking them out. And May’s team is still on the way.
Hunter walks in and distracts the HYDRA team long enough for May and Morse to break in through the windows and start kicking ass. Hunter just barely saves Mockingbird from one of the stonifying-bombs by tossing a HYDRA guy in the way, and May is off to fight with the leader of this HYDRA team, Scarlotti and his whip-sword thing (based on yet another comic villain). Very cool fight scenes all around. But SHIELD still lost a lot of agents to this trap today, so it’s far from a win.
Mack and Simmons get a scene together, where they discuss Fitz. Mack claims that the only thing he’s scene make him worse is her; and she says that that, in the end, is really why she agreed to leave and go undercover. To give him space, in the hopes it might help him improve. As if this needed more heartbreaking self-sacrifice to it. Ward is dragged off, while his brother gives a speech to the UN about how HYDRA and SHIELD are different; Talbot’s men meet up with May to take the HYDRA team into custody, as proof that it was a false flag operation. He even offers May his hand in consolation, indicating a degree of respect has grown. But the second Ward is turned over to the FBI, he dislocates his thumb and takes out all the guards. And yet, there was a zoom in on the cuffs, showing they were a little loose, and Coulson was looking over Ward’s SHIELD file… so perhaps it’s not so unintentional after all. Ward’s free, and the FBI sucks in the MCU, apparently. Take that, Mulder and Scully!
The tag shows a man getting the alien symbols tattooed across his torso, presumably the same man who carved them on the back of the painting from episode 4. How did he come in contact with the GH serum, or alien DNA? A mystery for next time.
This episode is pretty great, all things considered, but it seems like it’s so wrapped up in the seasonal story arc that I wonder if it was the best choice for pairing with the Avengers 2 trailer. Perhaps the intrigue throughout will catch people’s interest and get them to go back and watch the first few. Who knows? Still, it’s a great affirmation of Bobbi Morse’s character and a solid episode with some important connections all around. Next week, no episode, but it should be back in 2 weeks with “The Writing on the Wall.”