Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. raises the stakes to an all-time high (even higher than last year in “Turn, Turn, Turn” (1x17), if that’s even possible) in its most recent episode, “The Frenemy of My Enemy” (2x18). Coulson turned for help to the most unlikely source—Grant Ward. Skye took a trip down memory lane with dear old dad… which did not end well for anyone involved. The two S.H.I.E.L.D.s have been on a collision course ever since Coulson escaped from the Playground, and their little game of “cat and mouse” is pretty much at an end—confrontation is coming, and it won’t be sunshine and roses. And funny enough, it’s all happening just in time for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to tie in with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will hit U.S. theaters next Friday. It is truly a good time to be a Marvel fan!
The episode picks up right where last week’s teaser left off: Fitz is on his way to rendezvous with Coulson, Hunter, and Deathlok. The scene with Fitz escaping from his tail by running across the street, up the stairs, and into the cloaked quinjet was a pretty good introduction to the episode. Sadly, I think the most humorous part of the episode was when one of Fitz’ tails ran smack into the cloaked quinjet. From there the episode was pretty much all deathly serious. Amazingly, this episode did a lot for Fitz with very few scenes. This scene showed him to be a capable agent—and was then put into perspective by the quick scene of him strapping on his gun and fumbling to put it in the holster. Remember, Fitz is not a field agent; he’s doing a lot of this stuff for the first time
The very next scene saw the payoff of “Ethan,” the Inhuman introduced in the middle of the previous episode as a non-transformed kid who was going to go backpacking for a few days. In reality, he was captured by Hydra (specifically by Liszt) shortly after Gordon dropped him off. He was experimented on for 37 hours before finally dying. At this point it becomes clear that not all is right in the Inhuman group. Somehow this kid was captured, and the last one to see him alive was Gordon. We learn later on that Hydra has developed technology which can find the locations where Gordon teleports, but at the time I admit that I was suspicious that either Gordon or Jiaying was somehow involved with Ethan’s capture. We have learned that both of them are “wildcards” according to our understanding of the “sides” in this conflict: they are fiercely loyal to the Inhumans and extremely distrustful of outsiders—whether from S.H.I.E.L.D. or from Hydra. In retrospect the idea that either of them would be willing to send one of their own to death by torture is ludicrous, but it says something about the writing of this series that we could actually believe it.
Turning to the other major plot, I find it fascinating that after all of the deception and betrayal Mack and Bobbi are seriously considering that Coulson might be in the right—and May is seriously considering that Coulson might be in the wrong. From Mack and Bobbi’s perspective, whatever else might be going on, Coulson has been fighting Hydra from the beginning, and they’ve actually been hindering that goal with their intervention. I wonder if by the end of the season we will see them switch loyalties from Gonzales to Coulson—and in fact I suspect that by the end of the season we will see the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. conflict resolved, one way or the other. At the same time, we see May and Simmons being torn apart by their conflicting loyalties to Coulson. May is no longer interested in fighting for Coulson—she is only after the truth. I suspect that she hopes the truth will be favorable to Coulson, but everything in this episode makes it clear that she was hurt by his betrayal of her trust in hiding an entire operation from her. Simmons on the other hand is still loyal to Coulson—and to Skye (can we put “Genocidal Simmons” to rest yet?). That May betrayed her trust by letting Bobbi in on her secret (that Fitz made off with the real Toolbox) hurt Simmons deeply. In fact, I don’t think Simmons trusts May anymore. It’s amazing how well these last few episodes have torn the team apart. I only wonder how—or if—they are going to put the team back together again when this is all over.
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The other team that is not looking so great is Skye’s Inhumans. Jiaying decided to send Cal away—and in a shocking turn of events Skye doesn’t want her to. Skye’s reasoning seems to be twofold: she’s afraid that if he thinks they are abandoning him then he will start hurting people, and she is actually starting to feel empathy for his desperate search for his family. She did many illegal things while trying to track her family down. She was changed by the search. And she didn’t have any memories of a happy family; Cal did. I really like just how much Cal’s character has developed over the last two episodes. Previously we had seen a lot of him as a mad sociopathic doctor. However, now we see bits and pieces of what he must have been like before all of this happened—before his wife was killed/nearly killed, before he had to put her back together, before his daughter was taken and he went mad trying to put his family back together. He was a good man, volunteering for Doctors Without Borders. He was a loving and caring husband and father. Now that his family is back together, he is actually happy—the most genuine (and not terrifyingly so) happiness we’ve seen from him this entire season. When Skye asks to join him in Milwaukee, he is ecstatic—and only more so when he gets to have his “daddy – daughter date” with her. The whole scene is bittersweet because we know that it can’t last. Skye is at the same time curious about her father—and I think even a little happy to have this nice moment with him after all their previous interactions were so terrible—and buying time for S.H.I.E.L.D. to show up and take Cal into custody so he won’t hurt anyone. Jiaying might still have some feelings for Cal (very well hidden), but I think she is terrified of what he has become. She is too concerned for the safety and secrecy of the Inhumans to allow Cal to remain with them. And I think the saddest part is that Cal is completely oblivious to the fact that his family is not back together. This makes him easily the most fleshed-out (and tragic) villain we’ve gotten on this show—though Ward comes close.
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I like how Ward was introduced in this episode: he’s not killing people or doing anything psychopathic—he’s picking up a potted plant for the house. Then the gets the call that his girl was captured by Coulson’s team (setting up a somewhat amusing exchange between Deathlok and Agent 33/Kara about the mask and Mike’s “winning personality”), and Ward feels that he has to come get her. When he and Coulson were sitting and negotiating, it was pretty clear that neither of them were telling the full truth. Coulson offered to let Ward go free after wiping his memory with the T.A.H.I.T.I. machine—and unless he hasn’t told us something, the T.AH.I.T.I. machine was destroyed in “T.A.H.I.T.I.” (1x14) when the Guest House was blown up. And as soon as Ward agreed, it was clear that he was playing his own game—which begs the question, what is his game, and what were he and Kara going to do with Bakshi before Coulson called? I wonder if we will find out the answers to those questions before the end of the season. That his endgame aligns well enough with Coulson’s war against Hydra is very curious; I’m not sure whether or not that bodes well. Of course, it wouldn’t have been a Ward plan if there weren’t a couple of deviations from the script, namely Bakshi offering Mike to Strucker as a peace offering (all as part of his effort to get close to Strucker, of course). I really want to see how all of this is going to play out.
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The final act of the episode was absolutely insane. We discover that Hydra can detect Gordon’s teleportation locations—explaining how they were able to snatch up Ethan. Liszt’s Hydra team (with Bakshi and Deathlok along for the ride) follows Gordon, Skye, and Cal to Milwaukee and manages to track Skye and Cal to Cal’s old office building. While at Cal’s building we learn that his original surname was “Johnson”—and Skye even tries out the name “Daisy Johnson” for the first time (can you say “fan service”?)—and that Cal changed his surname (to “Zabo,” perhaps?) after losing everything. And now we know how they have different last names! Lincoln is also in Milwaukee following Skye on Jiaying’s orders to make sure that she stays safe. Coulson follows Hydra to Milwaukee in the quinjet and brings a team (he, Ward, 33/Kara, and Hunter) into the building to find Skye. Skye calls May to bring in a S.H.I.E.L.D. team to bring Cal in, May traces her call, and Bobbi and Mack go to investigate. All of this sets up a huge confrontation between Coulson and Hydra—but not all of it in this episode. Cal takes out a number of Hydra agents before returning to Skye. Lincoln takes out one Hydra agent before fighting Deathlok—and both of them get stunned and captured by Hydra agents acting on Bakshi’s orders. Gordon appears to take Skye back to Lai Shi, with Cal tagging along at the last moment. May and Simmons hack into Deathlok’s eye implant just in time to see Coulson working with Ward. Though there was quite a bit of action, I get the sense that there is even more action on the horizon next episode. Is Bakshi acting under orders from Ward to get inside Hydra by having Hydra stun and capture Deathlok and Lincoln, or did he break free from his brainwashing and turn on Ward? Will Mike and Lincoln be okay? I suspect that we will get the answers to those questions next week. Whether they will be answered on Tuesday or Friday, however, is the better question.
The end teaser of the episode of course sets up next week: Coulson returns to Cal’s office after Hydra left and waits for Mack and Bobbi to show up. He tells them to “take me to your leader.” Next week we’re going to see him and Gonzales have a confrontation, and they’re going to have to agree to take on Hydra together. I think at this point we can say for certain that Hydra is the tie-in between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers: Age of Ultron. And I can’t wait to see how it plays out next week.
In all, I was very happy with this episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It builds up the tension not only with Mike’s and Lincoln’s capture by Hydra (setting up the Inhumans to work with S.H.I.E.L.D. to rescue them), but also with the level of mistrust between the members of Coulson’s original team. However, even more than the tension-building and stage-setting, this episode stands out for how well it builds up both Ward and Cal as sympathetic “villains” who might be redeemed—or might not be. Who would have thought when we first met Cal that he could become a redeemable villain? I certainly didn’t see that coming!
So what did you think of “The Frenemy of My Enemy”? What do you think Ward’s plan is? How do you think next week’s episode—and the Age of Ultron tie-in—will play out? Let me know in the comments!
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