Agents of SHIELD has, thus far, not delved into the bad guy’s backgrounds too much. We know Whitehall was a Nazi, and that Skye’s Dad is, well… Skye’s dad, but that’s basically it. Now, at last, we’ve taken the time to flesh out not only their backgrounds, but to a certain extent Bakshi’s as well, and the whole show benefits from it. We also have to deal with this tease that “someone’s going to die” which has been running all week. Thanks, Sweeps.
We start off this week with another flashback to World War 2, this time 1945 Austria, when HYDRA still had the obelisk. Whitehall is forcing people he’s taken captive into touching it, just to see what happens, which is a pretty Nazi-mad-scientist thing to do. They seem to be Chinese, so I guess he’s brought them a long way to do this testing in Nazi territory. One of them, a woman, actually survives touching the obelisk, and for a moment he’s stunned. But unfortunately for him, this particular flashback seems to be set during the first Captain America movie, so the news arrives that Red Skull is dead and the Allies are on their way.
Catching up with the team, May’s back at the base and Coulson is out on the Bus, a switch from how it’s been the last few weeks (and probably for the best, as it mixes up our home and away teams some for different character interaction). Fitz and Trip are with him, in addition to Skye. They’re headed for Hawaii, where Coulson has them running a bunch of weird errands as part of a plan. May’s team at base, meanwhile, are focused on interrogating Bakshi, who was handed over by Ward in the last episode. Morse is in charge of that, which really makes you nervous given how long she had been hidden in HYDRA. She poses the possibility that he may be brainwashed, and we as the audience have to wonder if perhaps she was, too. Hunter and Mack are watching her, and while Hunter’s all obsessed with her, Mack’s a bit more worried about Coulson. After having to point a gun at his boss, he’s not convinced everything’s back to normal. That gets hush-hushed, however, when Simmons enters. Also, Morse says Bakshi looks like a “Bond villain,” which is a pretty funny in-joke to the fact that Simon Kassianides actually was one. And like any good Bond villain, he’s a tough nut to crack. But he does slip, and implies that Whitehall knew Red Skull. Simmons thinks there might be some left over SSR files on Whitehall here, since this base they’re working out of used to belong to that SHIELD precursor, so they get to work looking through paper documents. The horror!
Simmons manages to find a file on “Werner Reinhardt,” a name that Whitehall was called in the flashbacks, but a lot of the data on him is gone (presumably erased by HYDRA prior to their emergence). It’s cute to see how much Simmons respects Agent Carter, too. May takes her down to a vault full of hidden files that they’ll have to dig up. For us, though, it’s flashback time: more 1945, after Whitehall has been captured by SSR. He wants a deal, like some other notable German scientists, but he’s too much of a monster for that. No, he’ll spend the rest of his life rotting in a SSR/SHIELD jail cell. He also mentions a story about “blue angels from the sky coming to conquer mankind,” and with a new TV Guide article, they’re confirmed as the Kree. It turns out this flashback is a recollection being told to Skye’s Dad, who scoffs at the word “conquer” and says the proper translation is closer to “end.” Watching him and Whitehall interact is very interesting, as it’s giving us a clear indication on what makes the two of them different. Skye’s Dad is a man with a vendetta, and nothing more. Whitehall is… well, not exactly visionary, but he’s a man with goals and a plan for how to achieve them, even if they’re evil bad guy goals. That’s not to say that Skye’s Dad isn’t plotting and scheming himself, but it’s all to very personal ends, as opposed to Whitehall’s philosophical, Nazi-like “cleanse the Earth” desires.
Ward has managed to take his brother captive, and they’re going on a little walk in the woods. How lovely, right? They discuss their family history, their apparently abusive parents. Senator Ward tries everything he can think of to get his brother to take pity on him, but it’s not working. As they make their way back into the woods, they finally stop, and Ward hands his brother a shovel–they’re going to dig up the old well, where Grant Ward claims his brother the Senator made him torture and (nearly?) kill their younger brother, as was stated in season 1. It’s just been covered up, so it won’t take much digging to get down there.
Fitz is practicing at the task Coulson gave him, which will be a very important part of this upcoming mission that they’re out on, but he’s getting frustrated as he can’t make the 6 minute timer. He’s worried it’s busy work, but since Skye was out delivering a watch and Trip was given a button, that’s hard to believe. Coulson also gets to namedrop his cellist love interest whom we first heard about in The Avengers, which is a bittersweet reminder of what he’s lost. May’s team, in the mean time, has finally found the box containing the data on Reinhardt, and his file here actually contains a picture, allowing them to finally connect the dots once Simmons sees it: Reinhardt is, somehow, Whitehall. We get another flashback, of Peggy Carter tossing him into SHIELD Jail for 44 years, where he gets old and no one ever speaks to him, until one day in 1989, a HYDRA-loyal SHIELD agents come and set him free. Why? Well, there’s something he needs to see. (Also, he’s freed by “Undersecretary Pierce,” presumably Alexander Pierce from The Winter Soldier. It’s all connected, indeed.)
They take him to his old base in Austria, and bring a woman in–the same woman as we saw in 1945, and completely unaged. Whitehall rips her apart to find out her secret, and somehow manages to rejuvenate himself through it. Then he discards her body in the woods, ready to start again. Morse takes what they’ve learned here back to Bakshi, trying to push him into revealing more. But having seen how much they’ve been able to figure out already, he smashes his head into the desk, apparently releasing a cyanide packet embedded in his skull. Harsh. They try to save him, but even by the end of the episode it’s unclear if he’ll survive.
Finally catching up with the Wards, the senator has unearthed the well. He keeps denying everything Grant Ward says, and you know what? I believe him. Of what we’ve seen of the two characters, Grant is far more likely to lie and has constantly been twisting everything he does to fit his own viewpoint. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that the flashback of the well wasn’t how it happened at all, that instead, he was the one torturing the younger brother of his own free will. That over the years, he’s simply remembered it differently until finally he was completely innocent and this single moment is what led him down this dark path. But I don’t buy that at all, and I really hope Marvel follows through on it because there are plenty of hints that he’s lying and anything the Senator says to the contrary is just lies desperation. Grant threatens to throw his brother down the well if he doesn’t accept the blame, so he does to avoid plummeting to his death, and for the moment it seems okay. It’s only at the very end of the episode that we learn Grant killed both is brother and his parents in a fire and framed it up as a murder-suicide. That’s the act of a really dark and crazy man.
Time for Coulson’s team to break into a site in Australia, which will come online when the button and watch get close to each other (code-named Paddington and “Time Lord,” which is extra funny since Skye’s Dad is officially known on IMDB as “The Doctor”) generating an EMP. The Hawaiian site breaks down, the Australian one goes up, and surprise! HYDRA’s already here. It opens up into a firefight, and Trip is hit. Good news: a doctor is in the building. Bad news: it’s Skye’s Dad, and Coulson doesn’t recognize him initially. Skye’s dad sets up the situation so that basically, Trip’s life is dependent on him holding it together, and therefore they can’t stop him. They exchange a small amount of information, namely that Whitehall really doesn’t know what he’s playing with, but a question remains: how did he and HYDRA know that Coulson would be headed there?
Luckily, it seems like Trip will live (take that, Grim Sweeps-er!), and they’re able to use the satellite system to locate the city. We get one more flashback from Whitehall, as he talks to Ward (!) and Skye’s Dad, who are all excited to be together for very different reasons. As it turns out, that unaging woman was Skye’s mother, and Skye’s Dad knows Whitehall is the one that killed her. Ward’s run back to HYDRA for a second chance, cementing his evilness in my book.
This was yet another very good episode, although not quite as strong as last week (which would be hard to top). We found out about the backgrounds of Bakshi, Whitehall, and Skye’s Dad, as well as Ward, giving all our villains the fleshing out they so very much needed. No SHIELD next week, because… duh, Thanksgiving, but we’re back in 2 weeks with “Ye Who Enter Here.” The city awaits!