Sunday, April 26, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D./Age of Ultron Tie-In Episode: Who's Involved?

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This week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will air just three days before the U.S. premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it looks like AoS is gearing up to provide a major lead-in to the Age of Ultron—specifically its first Act, when the Avengers will (most likely; I haven’t seen it yet) be taking on the Hydra forces of Baron von Strucker.  I think we can safely say that this is the crossover Marvel has been teasing between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Who’s excited?  I’m excited!

If you don’t remember the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., here is a quick summary of where we are and how we got here.  Obviously, there will be spoilers for every Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode to date.

In the midseason finale, “What They Become” (2x10), Skye and Raina were transformed by Terrigen Mist:  Skye developed the ability to control object’s natural vibration; Raina grew thorns all over her body (and was recently revealed to have a form of precognition or clairvoyance).  Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that there are secret Inhumans living among us, among whom are Skye’s mother, Jiaying, and Gordon, an Inhuman with the ability to teleport.  Skye, Raina, and Cal were all taken to the Inhuman city Lai Shi (“Afterlife”), where Skye and Raina learned to control their powers.

In the midseason premiere, “Aftershocks” (2x11), Coulson put a plan into action which saw all of the Hydra heads except Liszt kill each other in a fit of infighting.  Liszt escaped, along with Daniel Whitehall’s research on powered people—research which he has been using in an attempt to create his own powered people.  Sunil Bakshi, Whitehall’s second-in-command, was captured by Coulson before being freed by Ward and Agent 33/Kara, who brainwashed him into serving them as part of their plan.

Meanwhile, a second S.H.I.E.L.D. group led by Robert Gonzales emerged and attempted to take over Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. organization with assistance from their moles within Coulson’s team—Bobbi and Mack.  Coulson escaped and brought together Fitz, Hunter, and Mike Peterson, aka Deathlok, to track down Liszt and use his information to find Skye.

In the most recent episode, “The Frenemy of My Enemy” (2x18), Coulson’s group teamed up with Ward and Kara to place Bakshi and Deathlok undercover with Liszt in hopes that he would lead them to Strucker.  However, Hydra instead tracked down Skye and Cal in Milwaukee (by tracking Gordon’s teleportation ability).  Hydra attempted to capture Gordon, but instead captured Deathlok and Lincoln (an Inhuman friend of Skye) while Skye, Cal, and Gordon teleported back to Lai Shi.  Coulson in turn allowed Bobbi and Mack to take him back to Gonzales in custody.

Now we come to “The Dirty Half Dozen” (2x19), the episode immediately before Avengers: Age of Ultron.  In this episode it is fairly clear that Coulson and Gonzales will decide to work together for the greater good in order to track down Liszt and rescue their people, specifically Deathlok and Lincoln.  This is going to bring together members of four different groups in conflict against a fifth group.  So in anticipation, this is a quick rundown of the different groups that will be involved in this conflict, the characters, and their motivations.

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Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D.

            Group Background
After the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Fury tasked Coulson with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. the right way in order to combat the threat of Hydra.  Coulson’s team from the first season (minus Ward) became the nucleus around which Coulson rebuilt S.H.I.E.L.D., though between the seasons he added a large number of other loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who had escaped the Hydra uprising.  Coulson set up his base in the Playground, one of Fury’s secret bases.

In recent weeks, Coulson has been forced out of the Playground and on the run by Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D.  Consequently, he had to make a deal with Ward in “The Frenemy of My Enemy” (2x18).

            Characters Involved
Coulson – The leader of this group.  He escaped from Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. in “One Door Closes” (2x15) and is now attempting to retake S.H.I.E.L.D. from Gonzales.
Fitz – An original member of Coulson’s team.  Escaped from Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. and brought Fury’s Toolbox to Coulson.
Hunter – The newest member of Coulson’s team and Bobbi’s ex-husband.  Escaped from Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. in “One Door Closes” and went to work for Coulson.
Deathlok (captured) – An enhanced cyborg S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was forced to work for Hydra in the past.  He has been working with Coulson for 6 months trailing Liszt.  He was captured by Hydra in “The Frenemy of My Enemy” when Bakshi seemingly turned on them.

Coulson was originally trying to track down Liszt to use his knowledge to find Skye so he could make use of her powers in his conflict against Gonzales.  However, now that Deathlok has been captured, Coulson needs to get into the Hydra base in order to rescue him and prevent Hydra from conditioning him into becoming a Hydra soldier.  Plus, his goal ever since reforming S.H.I.E.L.D. has been to stop whatever Hydra is doing.

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Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D.

            Group Background
Prior to the Hydra uprising, Gonzales was the commander of a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft carrier (helicarrier?) named the Iliad.  During the uprising he was attacked by Hydra agents who attempted to kill him, though he fought them off (he was gravely injured in the battle).  Isabelle Hartley and Bobbi Morse were sent by Fury to help him and ensure that the carrier’s dangerous cargo did not fall into the wrong hands.  They, along with Mack, joined Gonzales and the loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents remaining on the carrier in reclaiming the ship from Hydra.  Since then Gonzales and his board have been staying off the radar and keeping tabs on Coulson through their spies.  Recently they invaded the Playground, drove Coulson into hiding, and took over his S.H.I.E.L.D. organization.

            Characters Involved
Gonzales – The leader of this group.  He believes that secrets are dangerous to S.H.I.E.L.D.  Secrets allowed Hydra to infiltrate it, and secrets can bring it down again.  He also believes that Coulson is dangerous because of the process by which Fury brought him back to life.
Mack – Infiltrated Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. to spy for Gonzales.  He was very close with Fitz before the deception came out.  In “The Frenemy of My Enemy” he agreed with Bobbi that Coulson may have been in the right, but noted that the truth needs to come out.
Bobbi – Infiltrated Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. to spy for Gonzales.  She is close with May and was close with Simmons before the deception came out.  In “The Frenemy of My Enemy” she noted that they shouldn’t be hunting Coulson down and should instead be fighting Hydra.
May – May has the longest history with Coulson.  However, she was hurt by Coulson’s secrecy, specifically in keeping “Theta Protocol” from her.  As a member of Gonzales’ board, she wanted to prove Coulson innocent at first, but now she really wants to get to the truth.
Simmons – Though she helped Fitz to escape with the Toolbox, Simmons is now starting to regret having done so.  She is still loyal to Coulson, but I think discovering that some of her work involved upgrading Deathlok, along with discovering how many of Coulson’s trips were covers for secret trips, has made her start to question him.  When she hacked into Deathlok’s eye implant and saw Coulson working with Ward, I think it shocked both her and May.

This group’s motivations are most diverse of the five.  Gonzales’ primary motivation right now is his desire to get to the truth of Coulson’s plans.  He wants a united S.H.I.E.L.D. to take on Hydra, but he wants a united S.H.I.E.L.D. first.  The others are a little less certain.  Some are very interested in taking on Hydra.  Some are also very much opposed to the entire concept of powered people.  In general, however, I think that the members of Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. want to take out Hydra and stop all of their plans (especially those involving powered people).

Ward and Kara

            Group Background
Ward was a traitor on Coulson’s team in season 1 who revealed himself to be Hydra.  When Garrett was killed and he was captured, he was only interested in helping Skye by bringing her to her father.  When Skye rejected him in “What They Become” (2x10), he and Agent 33 (a brainwashed S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) went off on their own.

            Characters Involved
Ward – A former S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra agent who is not working for anyone now.  Though he was once interested in Skye, his feelings for her are much different after she shot him 4 times.  He is working his own angle in all of this, one which aligns with Coulson’s but probably not entirely.
Kara/Agent 33 – A brainwashed S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who went to work for Whitehall, she was left purposeless after Whitehall’s death.  She wears a mask which allows her to assume different personalities, but she is still in the process of rediscovering herself.
Bakshi (turned?) – Whitehall’s second-in-command until being captured and eventually brainwashed by Ward as part of his plan.  On Ward’s orders he infiltrated Liszt’s organization.  However, at the end of “The Frenemy of My Enemy,” he ordered a pair of Hydra agents to stun Deathlok and Lincoln to take them in.  As of now we do not know whether he is still under Ward’s control, or if he has broken free of his programming and is working for Hydra again.

Ward and Kara’s motivations are the least clear of all the groups.  They may be trying to infiltrate and take out Hydra to find closure for what Hydra did to them.  They may just be interested in getting as far off the grid as possible.  Whatever their motivation is, it aligns closely enough with Coulson’s that they can work with him, at least up to a point.

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The Inhumans (note:  As far as I can recall, no one has called them “The Inhumans” yet; that is the name given to them in the comic books)

            Group Background
The Inhumans are the descendents of a group of early humans who were taken and experimented on by the Kree.  They were intended to become weapons in a cosmic war, but were soon abandoned and left to their own devices.  Since then they have continued to live in secret alongside the normal humans.  They appear identical to normal humans until they take in the Terrigen Mist, which unlocks unique genetic material within them, transforming them and giving them superpowers.  For the most part they live among the humans until their transformation (and those who retain their human appearance may continue living among the humans afterward).  However, they do have cities, refuges, and sanctuaries scattered around the world where they prepare for and undergo the Terrigenesis process.

The Inhumans are governed by a group which we only know so far as the “Council of Elders” or “Elders,” whose primary concern is to maintain the Inhumans’ secrecy and culture.

            Characters Involved
Jiaying – The leader of the Inhuman refuge/stronghold Lai Shi, as well as possibly a member of the Inhumans’ Council of Elders.  She has the gift of an extremely long life (as well as some degree of healing factor), a gift which she has used to guide countless generations of Inhumans through Terrigenesis.  Jiaying is also Skye’s mom and Cal’s (ex) wife.  She was captured by Daniel Whitehall in 1945 and only saved from vivisection by the timely arrival of the Howling Commandos.  She was then recaptured in 1989 and vivisected by Whitehall in an attempt to uncover the secret of her longevity.  Cal put her back together afterward.  At this time Jiaying is most interested in the preservation of her people’s safety and secrecy.
Gordon – A teleporting Inhuman, Gordon is primarily responsible for maintaining the Inhumans’ secrecy.  He is the only one who knows the Inhumans’ locations and where their cities are.  However, “The Frenemy of My Enemy” revealed that Hydra has discovered how to track his teleportation through the effects of Quantum Tunneling.
Skye – A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who transformed and gained the ability to hear and affect objects’ natural frequencies.  She is torn between her S.H.I.E.L.D. duty and interest in learning about herself, her family, and her people.
Raina – An enigmatic descendant of the Inhumans who has worked for Hydra in the past to reach her own goals.  Raina transformed at the same time as Skye.  She has thorns all over her body and has also developed a form of precognition or clairvoyance.
Lincoln (captured) – Skye’s Transitioner (Inhuman who helped her body through the post-Terrigenesis changes).  He has the ability to control static electricity.  In “The Frenemy of My Enemy” he was sent to follow Skye and Cal and was captured by Hydra after getting into a fight with Deathlok while trying to hold off the Hydra team.
Cal – Not an Inhuman, but Jiaying’s (ex) husband and Skye’s father.  He has super strength and anger issues.  He’s going to be especially angry that Jiaying intended to leave him in Milwaukee.

The Inhumans, particularly Jiaying, will be very concerned by Lincoln’s capture, especially coming on the heels of the revelation that a non- transformed Inhuman disappeared recently.  Given Jiaying’s history of having been captured twice and vivisected once by Hydra, when Skye tells her that Lincoln was captured, and that Hydra is responsible, Jiaying may very well go on the warpath to rescue Lincoln.  However, because the Inhumans’ secrecy is also of prime importance to her, she may be unwilling to risk drawing too much attention, even if the reward is saving Lincoln from a horrible death.  Regardless, I think that Jiaying is very likely to take at least some action to rescue Lincoln.

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            Group Background
After the Red Skull’s presumed death at the hands of Captain America and the Allies’ victory over Germany in World War II, Hydra effectively dissolved.  Some Hydra Heads and scientists, such as Werner Reinhardt (who later changed his name to Daniel Whitehall), were imprisoned by the S.S.R./S.H.I.E.L.D.  Others, such as Arnim Zola, eventually went to work for the S.S.R./S.H.I.E.L.D. as part of Operation Paperclip.  Those who went to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. began to rebuild Hydra from within S.H.I.E.L.D., eventually emerging from the shadows during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Since then they have been consolidating their power and expanding their influence, though hunted down by Coulson, the S.H.I.E.L.D. remnants, and the Avengers.  At present, five of the six slots for Heads of Hydra are vacant; there are only two (known) Hydra leaders remaining:  Liszt and Strucker.

            Characters Involved
Liszt – The last remaining “Head of Hydra.”  Liszt has continued and expanded Whitehall’s experimentation with powered people.  I’ve said this before, but I believe him to have been working directly for Strucker all along on this series.  Presumably, he is taking Bakshi, Deathlok, and Lincoln to his/Strucker’s base in Eastern Europe (noted in a preview clip as actually being in the Arctic).
Baron von Strucker – The ultimate leader of Hydra.  Strucker has been performing experiments using Loki’s scepter from The Avengers in an attempt to create super-powered soldiers.
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch – The product of Strucker’s experimentation with Loki’s scepter.  Quicksilver has super speed and Scarlet Witch has a grab-bag of mental and telekinetic abilities.  We might see them in “The Dirty Half Dozen,” but they will probably be saved for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Hydra’s desire is the complete subjugation of the world.  To do this they have been experimenting for decades on different mythical, technological, and biological means to achieve absolute power.  And that’s about all you need to say about Hydra’s motivations!


I hope this helps to explain all of the characters who could potentially appear in “The Dirty Half Dozen,” where they fall in the conflict, and their motivations.  I may have missed a few things in terms of lead-up, so if you notice anything missing, put it in the comments.  I’m excited to see an all-out S.H.I.E.L.D.s and Inhumans vs. Hydra fight this episode!

So which of these groups are you most interested in seeing in the fight?  Of the ones listed, who is your favorite character?  How do you see the episode ending in a way that builds up to Avengers: Age of Ultron?  How closely do you think it will tie-in with Age of Ultron?

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