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“The Dirty Half Dozen,” the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lead-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron aired last night, and all I can say is “wow.” I think this was my favorite episode yet for the incredible character development we got thanks to Ward’s inclusion on the team (spoiler alert! But not much of one), the furthering of the conflict between Coulson and Gonzales, and the incredible action scenes. That this episode was airing just three days before the U.S. premiere of the biggest movie of the year was obvious all through, but it did not feel distracting. In fact, the lead-in which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provides actually helps make me even more excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron—if that’s even possible.
The episode begins and ends with Raina and her visions. The first one is of Gordon injured, Lincoln captured, Coulson and Ward together, Skye rescuing Lincoln. The vision itself actually drives much of the action on the Inhumans’ part: Skye and Raina use the vision to convince Gordon to drop Skye off at the Bus so she can join Coulson’s mission to save Deathlok and Lincoln. I find it fascinating that this is the first time the two have been in the same place together and actually cooperated in the entire series. Before now they’ve been adversaries to each other, and at best uneasily cooperated. Here, however, they are both working together. I don’t know whether Raina was working with Skye to save Lincoln because that’s what she really wanted or if she has another motivation. Cal’s conversation with Jiaying seemed to imply that he suspect that she might have an ulterior motive. Raina might become the next enigma wrapped in a mystery on this series, now that Ward may be moving on.
Deathlok and Lincoln bonding in Hydra prison was an interesting scene to include. Lincoln is rather distrusting of Mike—but then, the Inhumans are naturally distrusting of outsiders—while Mike tries to befriend him. They both talk about “their people”—Lincoln hopes that “his people” will not come to get him because it would put them at risk; Mike knows “his people” are stupid enough to try it. Their talk about trying to escape together was a bit of a red herring. I thought they were going to actually succeed in doing something together, but I guess it was not meant to be in this episode. I wonder if their bonding will become an important factor later on. If the two of them, Skye, Bobbi, and Hunter (maybe throw in Kara, too) all go off together on a mission, I think that team will become my new top option for an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff series.
Coulson and Gonzales actually had two different confrontations in this episode. In the first, Coulson made a deal with him to let him take his people to rescue the prisoners. I think we are finally getting to know Gonzales as a “villain” now. Throughout his conversation with Coulson, Mike Peterson is a “thing” or “it.” He dehumanizes Mike, the same thing he does with Skye. He views all enhanced people as dangerous threats to be studied and feared first and foremost, not as potential allies. I think that is going to be the deciding factor between Coulson and Gonzales. Gonzales does not treat enhanced people as humans; Coulson sees them as people. And I think that Bobbi is starting to recognize that aspect of Gonzales and become disillusioned with it. That Gonzales is willing to send in Coulson’s team without her because he’s willing to risk their lives—and not hers—is only one more nail in the coffin.
The main conflict of the episode, at least the first part of the episode, is between the members of Coulson’s team. Coulson and May argue about Theta Protocol, leading Coulson to admit that he was going to Andrew for counseling to cope with his alien writing. Ward comes into conflict with everyone—and causes conflict between the others over their opinions of Coulson’s decision to work with him. I like how this is testing the relationships between the original team members since this is the first time we’ve seen them all together since “Turn, Turn, Turn” (1x17). Ward appears to be happy that the team is back together, while no one else seems happy to see him; they all mention that they wish Skye had killed him. Simmons in particular is getting a little frightening with her obsession with trying to kill Ward. Ward’s comment after she made the attempt was very fitting: she has changed a lot since he dropped them in the ocean. Again, this does not make her “Genocidal Simmons,” but it does make her a little more suspect as far as her motivations are concerned.
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While Coulson’s team is getting pulled apart by Ward’s reintegration, the others are starting to make amends. After the way they parted, I was wondering whether Hunter would ever make up with Mack and Bobbi; after this it looks a lot more promising. I think Hunter forgiving Mack for his part in everything is the first step toward him also being able to forgive Bobbi for what she did as well. And if the two of them are going to be involved in the spinoff together, I suppose a reconciliation between them is inevitable. Bobbi talking to Kara was another fascinating scene, especially in light of Ward’s decision to leave Kara with S.H.I.E.L.D. in hopes that she will reintegrate in. I think Bobbi might be a little suspicious of Kara—and especially of her dependence on Ward—but I like how this shows us another side of Bobbi. She is willing to give someone like Kara who was brainwashed into serving Hydra a second chance. This whole S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. plot has fleshed out Bobbi’s character quite a bit.
The whole second half of the episode was full of action. I was actually a little saddened when Hydra shot down the Bus and it exploded. They’ve rebuilt the Bus at least a couple times before—generally after it took substantially less damage. However, I don’t think it’s getting rebuilt after this. May’s ability to set the quinjet down with minimal damage while still keeping up the appearance of being nothing but debris was pretty awesome. It was fun seeing Skye take out a pair of Hydra agents with her powers, though her scene taking out at least a dozen Hydra agents to rescue Lincoln was far more action-heavy—and I think the better of the two. She is turning into a very capable agent—powers or no. It wasn’t very clear exactly how Skye saved Lincoln’s life: she either triggered his electric power which shocked his heart, or she used her own powers to make his heart vibrate and start. Either way, it was a pretty cool scene. I didn’t really expect Lincoln to die, but they’ve done crazier things on this show!
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I was actually a little surprised that both Deathlok and Lincoln survived the ordeal. They never hinted that we would see a major character death, but it just seemed like the kind of thing they would do: let one of them be killed by Hydra to drive home how huge this threat is. Instead, the major character who dies is Sunil Bakshi—at Simmons’ hands—driving home how much she has changed since last season. Not only is Simmons a more capable liar and field agent, but she is far more willing to get her hands dirty and kill those whom she believes are threats to her and those she cares about. What will this mean for her character going forward? I can’t wait to find out!
Ward’s confession that he most regrets destroying the team with his actions is fascinating. I’m not sure whether he meant it, but he certainly appears to mean it. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but I think Ward is the most interesting character on the show. He’s not working for Hydra. He’s not working for S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s an “independent contractor trying to make amends.” What is he trying to make amends for, and why? That is the biggest question still. Why is he so focused on helping Kara? Was he being serious when he said that he wanted Coulson to help Kara, or is this yet another part of his plan? Either option has its merits. But if he truly left Kara with Coulson because he wants what’s best for her, then that would be a huge step for his character. Up until now he has had very little connection with other people; whatever connection there was came from either what they had done for him or what they could do for him. And yet Skye was different last season, and Kara is different now. If he actually cares for her—to the point of doing what’s best for her even though it means he loses her—then that shows that he really can still love in spite of everything he has been through.
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The episode ended with a double lead-in/foreshadowing of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Between the two, easily my favorite was Coulson’s confrontation with Gonzales. He gave Gonzales the Toolbox—but only until Fury shows up to reclaim it. The look of shock Gonzales gave him after that revelation was awesome. Clearly Gonzales did not expect to ever see Fury again. Does this mean we will get a cameo from Fury before the end of the season? I suppose after last year it wouldn’t be an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale without a Fury cameo! However, until Fury returns to take back the Toolbox, Gonzales is going to have complete access to it. Given his mistrust of enhanced people—and given that the Toolbox includes information on (and the whereabouts of) just about every enhanced person S.H.I.E.L.D. knows about—what might he do with that information?
Following this confrontation, Coulson took a call from Maria Hill and gave her some apparently crucial information. He told her that Hydra has Loki’s scepter and that Strucker has it in Sokovia, along with the location. Then she asked about Theta Protocol and he told her that it is ready, followed by “Time to bring in the Avengers.” Are “Theta Protocol” and the Avengers synonymous? I don’t think so; that wouldn’t explain a lot of what Coulson was doing for Theta Protocol. I wonder if Theta Protocol involves Coulson recruiting potential Avengers for Hill. The other option is that the two are completely unrelated. In any event, this might have been the (second-) coolest tie-in between the TV series and a movie that they’ve done yet. This right here was the lead-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron that I was hoping for: Coulson calls Hill and tells her to send in the Avengers to take care of business. We may not see that conversation as a part of Age of Ultron, but that doesn’t make it any less crucial to the movie. This explains all of the information about the Twins which Hill is able to share with the Avengers, as well as how she knows where to send them. Those who are not watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can still see the movie and understand it, but those of us who are watching AoS get to see all of the build-up which they can’t include in the movie due to time constraints. All of the previous tie-ins between a movie and the series have happened after the fact: S.H.I.E.L.D. cleaning up, characters from the movie dropping by, etc. This time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually set up the movie. The last time they did that was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, though we didn’t realize it until after the movie came out.
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The other part of the Age of Ultron lead-in—leading to the other part of the movie, Ultron—wasn’t as great in my opinion. Raina went into something like a trance while having visions of Loki’s scepter causing destruction and metal men tearing apart their cities. To me that seemed a bit on the nose, though her acting during the scene was actually pretty good, which made up for it somewhat. However, the important part of that scene was not the Age of Ultron foreshadowing in her vision; it was her conversation with Jiaying before the vision started. Jiaying came to talk to her and said that she needs to bring any visions to her first before anyone acts on them. However, Raina responded by telling Jiaying that she thinks it is time for someone new to be making the decisions. Is this setting up a conflict between Jiaying and Raina for control of Lai Shi? I think Jiaying can come out on top of that challenge based on age—knowledge and experience count for a lot. However, Raina’s precognition along with Cal’s public revelation of his relationship with Jiaying (and consequently the fact that Skye is Jiaying’s daughter) could make Raina a formidable opponent for Jiaying. This plot may be settled by the end of the season, but I think all of the other things that need to be resolved will push this to the beginning of season three. Of course, they’ve surprised me in the past with their ability to resolve multiple plots in very few episodes; they’ll probably do it again!
All in all, I thought that this was one of the best—if not the best—episode of the show so far. “Turn, Turn, Turn” (1x17, the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in) may give this episode a run for its money in terms of pure shock value for Ward’s betrayal. However, I thought that the character development, conflict-building, and action sequences in this episode were some of the best in the series so far. And from the looks of it, next week and the two-part season finale will be even better still.
What did you think of “The Dirty Half Dozen?? Do you think Ward genuinely regrets tearing the team apart and is really trying to make amends for that, or do you think he’s got an ulterior motive? What was your favorite Age of Ultron tie-in/lead-in moment from the episode? How do you think Age of Ultron will connect with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (looking at the other side of the equation)?
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