Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 15, "One Door Closes" EXPECTATIONS

Image Courtesy www.comicbook.com

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns tonight with "One Door Closes" (2x15) at 9:00 PM Eastern/Pacific.  What do we expect from tonight's episode?

Note:  There will be spoilers for both the previous episode (“Love in the Time of Hydra”) and the previews for the upcoming episode (“One Door Closes”).

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Death in the MCU

Image Courtesy www.clipartbest.com
Potential spoiler ahead for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, episode 15, “One Door Closes.”  Oh, and there are also a couple shockers from the comics in the next paragraph.  You've been warned.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about comic books, it’s that death is never permanent.  There aren’t many characters in the comics who haven’t experienced this at least once:  Captain America, Beucky Barnes, Iron Man, Thor…  Even characters whose deaths were emotionally significant (such as Gwen Stacy) are not immune to being resurrected when the plot demands it—Gwen Stacy was “resurrected” last year as “Spider Gwen,” an alternate-reality Spider Man.  We’ve discovered that the same holds true in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I only bring this up because Lucy Lawless is set to guest star in this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “One Door Closes” (2x15).  You should remember that she played S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Isabelle Hartley in “Shadows” (2x01).  However, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I thought the way that episode ended left very little opportunity for her to come back.  Remember:  she picked up the Diviner and her hand started turning black and dying almost immediately.  She didn’t change right away, so Hunter and Idaho rushed her to the SUV and left to bring her to a hospital.  En route, Hartley convinced Hunter to amputate her arm, which he seemed to have succeeded in doing; however, their SUV was flipped over when Absorbing Man attacked them and turned himself into a man-sized speed bump.  At the beginning of the next episode, “Heavy is the Head,” Hunter checked on Hartley and Idaho and found that they were both dead with their eyes open and glassed over.  That episode ended with Hunter and Coulson attending Hartley’s funeral.  In other words, she’s pretty much as dead as anyone can be in the comics.  So how can she be appearing in “One Door Closes”?

This got me thinking:  what other characters have “died” and then returned to the MCU?  Surprisingly, almost every movie has at least one character who “returns” from the “dead.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

What's the Deal with the "Real S.H.I.E.L.D."?

Image Courtesy www.twitter.com/AgentsofShield

Warning:  Spoilers for “Love in the Time of Hydra” (2x14).

This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Love in the Time of Hydra” (2x14), saw the payoff of a huge plot point from the first half of the season when Mack took Hunter to the headquarters of the “Real S.H.I.E.L.D.” and introduced him to his boss, Robert Gonzales.  This answered a lot of our questions about Bobbi and Mack—among other things, they’re not Skrulls.  However, we seem to be left with even more questions now:  Who is Gonzales?  Why are Bobbi and Mack working for him?  What is the point of this second S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Was that really an honest-to-goodness helicarrier that they were on!?!?!

We don’t know a lot about the “Real S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but we can piece some things together from “Love in the Time of Hydra,” as well as a few of the earlier episodes.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

All About the Defenders

Marvel TV is beginning its expansion into Netflix in just a couple of weeks on April 10 with the release of the full first season of Daredevil, which will follow Matt Murdock’s evolution from a blind lawyer with enhanced senses into a masked vigilante dealing out justice against the criminals the legal system missed.

In anticipation of Daredevil’s release, I’m going to publish a series of articles over the next three Thursdays to talk about some of my thoughts regarding the Marvel/Netflix shows, connections to the larger MCU, and the future of Marvel/Netflix and the Defenders.  If I can, I will follow it up with reviews of Daredevil season 1 (we don’t have Netflix yet, though we will probably get it before the end of the month).

First up is a *brief* summary/description of each of the title characters, along with connections between them and other characters who have appeared or will appear in the MCU.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 14, "Love in the Time of Hydra" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

Image Courtesy
Tonight’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Love in the Time of Hydra” (2x14), gave us our first look at what Ward and Agent 33 have been doing since the midseason finale left him with a pair of gunshot wounds and her listless without a leader.  In addition, we received further information about the “Real S.H.I.E.L.D.”  Coulson also brought Skye to a cabin in the middle of the woods which served as Fury’s “safe house” for gifted individuals.

The episode had a lot going on, as just about every main character played a key role, along with important secondary characters like Talbot, Ward, Agent 33—even Bakshi—and then they introduced a number of entirely new characters as part of the “Real S.H.I.E.L.D.” reveal.  On the first watching, the episode is extremely busy.  On the second watching, however, the major themes come out and it is much easier to see how the episode coheres as a single narrative.  If you were confused by it on the first viewing, I highly recommend viewing it again and looking for how the different subplots come together around a couple of related themes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 14, "Love in the Time of Hydra" EXPECTATIONS

Image Courtesy

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should publish something on Tuesdays before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I wasn’t sure what to do.  So here’s the idea I’m going to go with—at least for now.  What am I looking for in tonight’s episode?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns tonight with "Love in the Time of Hydra" (2x14) at 9:00 PM Eastern/Pacific.  What do we expect from tonight's episode?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What's up with the "Real S.H.I.E.L.D."?

Image Courtesy www.comicbook.com

Warning:  Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode “One of Us” (2x13)

So this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, “Love in the Time of Hydra,” looks like it will shed even more light on the mystery surrounding Bobbi and Mack.  Ever since the first half of this season there’s been something up between them.  They hinted a couple times at having an agenda beyond pure loyalty to Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D.—and they even hinted that Agent Hartley was involved in that plot somehow (could this be how Lucy Lawless will reappear in “One Door Closes”?).  That hidden agenda was there under the surface from the beginning of the season, but it really started coming to the forefront after Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned from its midseason break.  In “Aftershocks” (2x11), Bobbi and Mack had an in-depth conversation about their mission, and Hunter confronted Bobbi about it while they were in the SUV waiting for Bakshi to make his move.  Then at the end of the episode Mack scanned Coulson’s office to locate Fury’s “toolbox,” which they are going to try to steal.  In “Who You Really Are” (2x12), it all started coming to a head:  Bobbi and Mack had a heated discussion about bringing Hunter into the fold and about “pulling the trigger” on something.  When they were facing off against a Kree soldier and an Asgardian warrior, Bobbi made a comment about “calling in some real backup.”  The episode concluded with Hunter finally confronting Mack, demanding to know, “who is ‘backup’?”  Mack reacted by putting Hunter in a sleeper hold.  As soon as that happened, it was only a matter of time before we would learn what those two were doing.

And we did learn at the end of “One of Us” (2x13):  They work for “S.H.I.E.L.D.… the real S.H.I.E.L.D.”  Wait… what???  What is this new S.H.I.E.L.D. and what does it mean for Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Let’s run through some of the possibilities.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Skye's New Therapist--An Avenger?

Image Courtesy en.wikipedia.org

Warning:  Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode “One of Us” (2x13) (and for The Incredible Hulk, though I’m pretty sure everyone’s seen it who’s going to see it!)

In Tuesday’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “One of Us,” Coulson and May brought in a psychiatrist from Culver University to meet with Skye and evaluate her control of her abilities and her emotional state following the traumas of meeting her father, being captured, gaining powers, and seeing Tripp die.  The psychiatrist, May’s ex-husband Dr. Andrew Garner, observed Skye on the Bus, talked with her, and watched her in action in the field.  His evaluation was… not promising.

According to Dr. Garner, Skye is not controlling her powers; she’s actually directing all the force inward against her own body.  Consequently, when she was burying her powers in Wisconsin, she hurt herself by rupturing capillaries in her hands and causing hairline fractures all down her arms.  Because she’s not controlling her powers well, Dr. Garner gave S.H.I.E.L.D. two prescriptions:  Skye needs to be seeing a therapist (not him), and she needs to be away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and all its attendant stresses.

That got me thinking:  Who could be Skye’s therapist?  I think I have the answer!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 13, "One of Us" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

Image Courtesy
This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “One of Us” (2x13) managed to both exceed my wildest dreams and leave me slightly disappointed.  It continued a number of important subplots, gave us an exciting and entertaining fight scene involving the "super villain team," and even left us with some hints and teases for future developments, particularly with the Inhumans and Bobbi-and-Mack subplots.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How We Can See the Inhumans on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Image Courtesy

You know how everyone’s been complaining about the lack of costumed superheroes on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—and the lack of super powers in general?  I don’t think we need to worry about that any more.  In the first half of this season we met our first bona fide costumed superhero in Adrianne Palicki’s Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird, and in the midseason finale we met our first bona fide super-powered hero in Chloe Bennett’s Skye, aka Daisy, aka Quake.  And the dearth of superpowers is rapidly giving was to a positive glut of them in the form of the Inhumans!

Warning:  Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What Do We Know about the Inhumans (Or “That Funny-Looking Blue Guy (Sure Plays a Mean Clarinet)”)

Image Courtesy

Wow.  We found out a lot about the Kree, the Inhumans, and their shared past in the last episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Who You Really Are.”  However, how much do we really know?  Let’s recap.  Warning:  Spoilers ahead for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and the comics.

Lady Sif of Asgard and Vin-Tak of the Kree descend on earth—Vin-Tak to hunt down those who were changed (meaning Raina and Skye), and Sif to hunt down Vin-Tak.  They fight, Sif has a bad run in with a neuralyzer from Men in Black, Coulson and team help her figure out her mission, and eventually Vin-Tak winds up as a S.H.I.E.L.D. prisoner.  Vin-Tak then has to explain his mission to Sif, Coulson, May, and Skye.  What follows is my *rough* transcription of their conversation:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 12, "Who You Really Are" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

Image Courtesy:

This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showed us why this TV series needs to exist.  It gave us a massive data-drop on the Inhumans, the Kree War (in the comics it was with the Skrulls), and the dangers which the team (and the Inhuman civilization) face.  And this is so far the only place we’ve seen characters from the Thor corner of the universe interacting with characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy corner of the universe—and doing it with humans.  Where else would that really make sense?

Like “Aftershocks,” “Who You Really Are” follows up on narrative threads from the midseason finale—in this case specifically the signal sent by the Diviner when it activated.  That signal was picked up by an eyeless Inhuman we now know to be “Gordon,” but it was also detected by a Kree (Vin-Tak), who came to Earth to investigate it.  Heimdall saw him arrive and sent word to Odin (whom I assume is still Loki), who sent Sif to investigate, intercept, and bring the Kree back to Asgard.  Sif confronted him, fought him, and when she looked to have the upper hand, he hit her with his weapon to wipe her memory.  This sets up several amusing moments where an amnesiac Sif doesn’t recognize or remember the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, doesn’t know who Thor is, and has no idea who she is or what she is doing on Midgard.  Coulson’s mention of “Thor” actually sets up an amusing moment when Sif doesn’t know who he is, but can’t hide a reflexive smile.  Coulson plays it off with “Who can understand the Asgardian mind?” to which May responds “I can.”  It somehow doesn’t surprise me that Sif would have feelings/a previous relationship with Thor (something Thor: The Dark World strongly hinted at), or that May would be able to interpret Sif’s smile.  Of course, all of those light moments were necessary to keep the episode from being too dark because most of the rest of the episode was deathly serious.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the MCU, and Tie-Ins

Image Courtesy

Given Lady Sif’s reappearance this week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I thought this would be a good time to explore some of the other tie-ins between Marvel’s small-screen offerings and the movies.

When Marvel announced that it was expanding the MCU onto TV with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I was ecstatic since I’d loved The Avengers and gone back to watch/re-watch all the Phase 1 movies to get ready for it, along with the Marvel One-Shots.  With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I wasn’t exactly expecting us to get 1/3 to 1/2 of a Marvel movie every week, but more of a look at how the ordinary people dealt with living in a post-Loki world, with the promise of tie-ins and cameos from all over the Marvel Cinematic Universe (along with the comics).  And for the most part—freshman jitters aside—Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered on those promises, particularly the ability to tie-in to Thor: The Dark World and The Avengers.  The “official” tie-in episode with Thor: The Dark World, “The Well” (1x08) isn’t exactly one to write home about—specifically the part that actually ties in to the movie, when the team is literally picking up the pieces after Thor’s battle with Malekith—but at least the main body of the episode gave us another taste of Asgard.  In fact, I would like to see Professor Berserker and his staff reappear on the show some time in the future, perhaps as part of their tie-in to the events of Thor: Ragnarok in November 2017 (assuming that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. receives third and fourth seasons, which look to be good bets if they continue with the Inhumans story line and lay the groundwork for some of the major movie events like Civil War and Infinity War).  As long as it’s a good story, that is.  Please, no more Ward, Fitz, and Simmons as glorified trash collectors.

Thor: The Dark World and “The Well” aside, Marvel has actually made significant use of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to tie in with the movies; we just didn’t realize it or recognize it at the time.  Some of the tie-ins, such as the “Pilot,” are really obvious; others are not nearly as obvious.  I’m going to try to mention all of the tie-ins, though I’ll spend most of my time talking about the less-obvious ones.  If I miss any, feel free to let me know in the comment section.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Genocidal Simmons?

Image courtesy www.comicbook.com

Warning:  SPOILERS for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 11, as well as previous episodes.

The Internet (or at least the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-related corner of it) has been abuzz this week with “Genocidal Simmons.”  Quick Recap:  In the most recent episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., she made the somewhat startling request to Director Coulson that the team hunting for Raina be given orders to bring her in alive or dead.  Then when talking to Skye she called the process of Terrigenesis a “contagion” at best; a plague at worst.  In her estimation, it needs to be understood, but only for the sake of eradicating it—along with anyone who “suffers” from it.  Everyone’s response has been something along the lines of “No!  She can’t wipe out the Inhumans!  She wants to commit genocide against an entire race!  Noooooo!”

Don’t worry.  She’s not genocidal.  Or at least not intentionally.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 11, "Aftershocks" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

Image courtesy
In their first episode back, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. deals with the fallout from the midseason finale which saw a member of the team killed, the main villain from the first half of the season killed, a pair of other villains/wildcards escape, a final villain/wildcard transformed into a super-powered “creature,” and a member of their team revealed (to the audience, anyway) as a bona fide superhero and occasional Avenger.

However, the episode does not wallow in the past, simply rehashing what happened; instead, the characters must move forward.  They fight their way through their grief over Agent Triplett’s death before bonding over beers and stories.  Coulson himself finds closure in returning Tripp’s old S.H.I.E.L.D. spyware to his mother and seeing her pictures of Triplett and of the Howling Commandoes.  These somber moments make the action scenes stand out in sharp contrast and give meaning to the episode’s conflict.

The main action of the episode comes from Coulson’s plan to draw out the remaining Hydra forces following the death of Daniel Whitehall, one of the “Heads of Hydra.”  We are introduced to 5 other heads:  “Mr. Bloom,” the “Sikh,” the “Baroness” (speculated to be the wife of Baron Zemo), the “Banker,” and a man who seems to serve as Baron von Strucker’s liaison.  At the beginning of the episode these five discuss possible candidates to fill Whitehall’s position, with the Liaison stating that von Strucker believes Sunil Bakshi to be a good candidate.  They then note that S.H.I.E.L.D. will probably try to move against them—which somehow doesn’t put them on their guard against Coulson’s plan to tear them apart from within.

Coulson offers Bakshi to Col. Talbot as an olive branch in exchange for assistance with Hydra.  He and May then bring Bakshi out into the open where they stage a rescue attempt led by Lance Hunter, who whisks Bakshi away to a “Hydra outpost” (“Is every Radio Shack a Hydra outpost?”  Did Radio Shack actually pay for that namedrop?  I don’t know if I’d be more inclined to shop there because they were called a “Hydra outpost.”) where he retrieves a burner phone to contact “Mr. Bloom.”  Hunter “turns on” Bakshi and says he was hired to get rid of Bakshi and Bloom as soon as they’d made contact.  Bakshi begs for his life and has Hunter bring him to Bloom.  Bloom contacts the Liaison, suggesting that the other heads may be trying to cut Bakshi, Bloom, and the Liaison out.  Bloom agrees to handle the situation and contacts sleeper agents who assassinate the other three heads.  As soon as it’s done, Bakshi sends men to kill Hunter (and Bobbi), who break into the compound, kill Bloom, and take Bakshi prisoner.  As a side note, when is Lexus going to start selling an SUV with armor plating, bulletproof glass, and a row of anti-personnel machine guns built into the sides and rear bumper?  I would definitely buy that!  Give it Lola’s hover capability and it would be the perfect family car!

Hydra is definitely not down for the count after this; they may not even be seriously damaged from a global perspective.  We know very little about the 4 Hydra heads that were cut off in this episode:  Were they responsible for the Western Hemisphere?  America and Europe?  California, Oregon, and Washington?  The south side of San Francisco?  Regardless, whatever region of the world they were overseeing will be seriously crushed by their loss and the resultant infighting as new heads emerge to claim part of the pie.  However, this will only matter within that particular region of the world.  Think of it like the American Revolution:  At one point the British Army controlled 9 of the 13 colonial capitols, but it didn’t actually matter except in those nine colonies/states.  Hydra is still going to be around to combat S.H.I.E.L.D.; the Liaison and von Strucker will see to that.

Of course, the only thing that anyone is really talking about this week is the Inhumans plot thread.  The episode was essentially bookmarked by the introduction of an Inhuman boy named Gordon (whom I will think of as the new Inhuman called “The Reader” until they tell us otherwise).  The first shot of the episode comes 14 hours after he underwent Terrigenesis, lost his eyes, and gained the ability to teleport.  We see him in a full-on panic attack, teleporting uncontrollably around a room.  My first thought on seeing the room is that it must have been designed specifically for this purpose:  newly-transformed Inhumans can experiment with their powers and learn to control them with little chance of hurting themselves or others.  A woman walks in to comfort him, who is revealed to be Jiaying—Skye’s mother.  Her ability is described as very slow aging, a gift which has enabled her to guide several generations of Inhumans through Terrigenesis.  That she is such a caring and nurturing person makes her eventual vivisection by Whitehall all the more unconscionable.

The scene turns from a child learning to control his powers under guidance to two more “children” (Skye and Raina) who are equally terrified by the Terrigenesis and have little guidance in understanding what has happened.  In Skye’s case the rest of the team has little comfort to offer her in terms of what happened to her—they don’t understand it any more than she does.  Simmons is particularly unhelpful; she is under the impression that the Obelisk may have unleashed a plague or contagion of some form which could turn anyone who contracts it into a hideous creature like Raina.  Skye’s only source of comfort is Fitz who, despite his fear of her seismic abilities, hides her changed DNA and comforts her when she breaks down sobbing.

Raina apparently had somewhat more “mental preparation” for the transformation, but is still shocked and horrified by her appearance, taking it out on 5 S.H.I.E.L.D. techs.  When she finds the Doctor, he spends more time gloating and literally jumping for joy at the thought of “Daisy’s” transformation than worrying about Raina.  When he finally turns to her “problem,” he essentially tells her to get lost; she’s not his problem anymore.  Raina leaves him, contemplating suicide.  She actually makes two different attempts at ending her life:  first by walking out into a busy road, and second by telling the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents sent to bring her in that either they will kill her or she will make them kill her.  The situation didn’t exactly turn out the way she wanted, however.  No sooner had she made that threat than Gordon/Reader teleported in next to her, extended a force field around them which knocked the agents back, and teleported away with her.  Side note:  Did anyone else think of Cary Elwes when Gordon appeared, said, “It’s okay, beautiful.  I’ll show you the way,” and whisked her away?  My first thought was his character on Psych:  “Such panache.”