Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E20 Review: Scars

Terrigen CrystaloThings take a surprising turn in the wake of Age of Ultron, which saw the series playing a big role without putting movie-only audiences out of the loop. Conflict arises between SHIELD and the Inhumans–and not necessarily from the people we’ve been expecting. And we’ve still got the finale next week!

First things first–Age of Ultron. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it shouldn’t be a big deal, since this is all stuff from the show, but here’s your SPOILER WARNING.

I mean, where else could it have come from?

I mean, where else could it have come from?

Okay, so we know last week’s episode set up the opening sequence of the film, giving the Avengers the intel they needed to track down Strucker and free Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. But it seems that wasn’t the only bit of the film that Coulson had set up. This week it was revealed that the “theta protocol” we’ve been hearing about all season has been the refit of the helicarrier from the first Avengers. I had a feeling the second it showed up in the movie that Coulson’s team had something to do with it, even if they weren’t aboard. I’m really hoping that gets to be their new toy for next season, though. Way cooler than the Bus. As a tie-in, it works fairly well, but skipping straight from last week’s episode to this week’s, it almost feels like we’re missing an episode in between. What were Coulson and co. doing while Ultron launched his scheme? We didn’t get to see what they were doing during the events of the film, unlike The Winter Soldier tie-in. On the other hand, I don’t really know what else they could’ve done, aside from having Coulson cameo in the movie. But that brings with it a whole host of other problems, so… I guess they had to do it the way they did. It just feels odd, that’s all. End Spoilers.

Speaking of the Bus, it got the moment it deserved this week, even as Coulson rightly points out that “nothing good ever really happened on that thing.” Its destruction was too big of a thing to go unmentioned, so it’s good to pick that up.

Until the second the box was opened, I still wasn't sure if it was a trap.

Until the second the box was opened, I still wasn’t sure if it was a trap.

So the big purpose of this episode was to establish the basis for the conflict between SHIELD and the Inhumans. Coulson proposes a merger with the other SHIELD, giving them an oversight position. We already know that the “real” SHIELD has taken a very anti-powers stance so far, which sets it up to look like they’ll be the cause of any conflict. The episode plays off those expectations brilliantly–having them add Lincoln to the Index, sending Gonzalez instead of Coulson, giving Cal and Jaiying moments of what initially appear to be reason and rationality while painting Raina as someone whose warnings can’t quite be trusted. In the end, Raina turns out more like the mythological Cassandra, giving prophecies that no one will properly believe. It all culminates in the scene between Gonzalez and Jaiying where it’s obvious something’s going to go wrong, but watching it, you honestly can’t predict who will be the one responsible. In the end, everything Gonzalez had done on the show was justifiable, if dubious and overly reactionary at times (like last week). Olmos certainly did a great job playing him, as conveying that level of earnest reasoning and justification against the protagonists without coming across as a total dick is nearly impossible to balance. His death here is important, but still, sad to see Olmos go.

Moving on to other characters, Mack’s departure felt a little strange. He’s had a strong opposition to Coulson throughout the whole season, for some reason, and it hinges on this alien influence. I’m left wondering why–it almost seems like it’s setup for some backstory explanation that’s yet to come. Ward and 33/Kara are still in cahoots, unsurprisingly, but what’s going on with Bobbi is the big question. It’s pretty much a given that Kara is upset about mistreatment at Bobbi’s hands while she was maintaining her HYDRA cover, but exactly what is up in the air. Whether that’s setup for the proposed spinoff or something else entirely will have to wait until next week. Simmons, on the other hand, has doubled down on her behavior, maintaining that she regrets not having killed Ward. I bet Bobbi would agree with that right about now, eh? It makes for an interesting juxtaposition, with Ward having once acted as a HYDRA agent undercover with SHIELD, killing people like Victoria Hand as part of that, now accusing claiming Bobbi is a horrible person for doing things that… well, can’t possibly be as bad.

It's just too personal. There's gotta be more to this.

It’s just too personal. There’s gotta be more to this.

The most important here is Skye, who’s now stuck between the two sides. I’d be willing to bet she’s able to figure out the deception on her mother’s part… but her mother’s actions are understandable. Perhaps not justifiable, but understandable. Even within minutes of the episode’s end, I saw people comparing her to Magneto, and it’s a very logical comparison to draw. Both are among the oldest active members of their superpowered communities, survived World War 2 and suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Both believe that their people are incapable of peaceful coexistence with ordinary humans, and are willing to go to extremes to ensure that their side comes out on top. A false flag moment to spark a war is perfectly in character for either of them. Add on to that the danger posed by the stone-thing in the bottom of Gonzalez’s ship, and taking an extreme stance seems almost obvious. So what side will Skye end up with? The previews certainly made it look like she’d side with the Inhumans, but that’s hard for me to believe. She’ll end up with SHIELD, in my opinion, but the dangers of being Indexed and how threatening that is to her people is going to become a sticking point–almost certainly part of the buildup to Civil War.

All in all, a very entertaining episode which leaves a bit of the movies untouched, but proves that they didn’t really need to rely on it anyway. It’s quite full of twists and reveals as we barrel towards the two-hour finale, so hang tight as next week’s “S.O.S.” comes at us full throttle.

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