Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, episode 20, "Scars" REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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All I can say about last night’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is “wow.”  This show is absolutely living up to its “spy-thriller” billing as the twists and turns continue to come.  Because this episode came right after the Avengers: Age of Ultron U.S. premiere—and considering how much of a lead-in last week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode provided for the movie—I was expecting the episode to tie in a lot more to the events of the movie.  While that was the case to some degree (and if you haven’t seen the movie yet, there are a couple of minor spoilers in “Scars”), in reality the episode really separated itself from Avengers: Age of Ultron.  In fact, I almost wonder if we aren’t seeing the actual first shots of the Marvel Civil War right here.  This week’s episode is the last one before the season finale, and after this episode it is clear that the Marvel Universe—or at least this section of the Marvel Universe—is going to be changed forever by the season finale.  Whether it will be good change or bad remains to be seen.

As a heads up, this review will contain spoilers for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode “Scars” (duh) as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron.  You have been warned.

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The episode begins with a flashback to a year ago (which would be right around the time that Coulson began reforming S.H.I.E.L.D.) and lays out the explanation to Theta Protocol.  Conveniently, Coulson’s explanation to Gonzales’ board of Theta Protocol dovetails very nicely with the explanation of Fury’s “Helicarrier ex machina” save at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron.  When Coulson began to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury evidently gave him the location of the original helicarrier so that he could refurbish it as a secret weapon—an “‘in case of emergency, break glass’ type of thing.”  When Fury left the Barton farm and asked to “borrow” Maria Hill, it is clear that he was taking her, along with a few other former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, to the Theta Protocol location, where the helicarrier was already refurbished and ready for action.  Unfortunately, the episode does not explain where the helicarrier is currently; I suspect that we will find out eventually that S.H.I.E.L.D. now has it.  This was an awesome reveal; after seeing the movie I am glad that this is what Theta Protocol turned out to be.  One of the more “convenient” moments in Age of Ultron was Fury’s rescue; this gives it the back story it needed.

A minor plot in the episode—which is almost guaranteed to become a major plot sooner than later—was Coulson’s proposal of a merger between the two S.H.I.E.L.D. organizations.  Coulson proposed that he would continue as Director, with Gonzales and his board members acting as his “Council,” to whom he would be accountable.  As a fan I like the idea of all the good guys actually working together as one group.  However, I do not think this merger is going to work out long term.  We’ve already seen one person leave because of it—Mack, who does not trust Coulson after Fury used alien blood to mess with his mind.  I don’t know if any other agents will leave because of the merger.  But even beyond that, I see too much of an ideological gap between Coulson, who sees enhanced people as potential allies first and possible threats second, and Gonzales, who sees enhanced people as potential threats to be eliminated first and possible allies a distant third or fourth.  Of course, Gonzales was killed by an enhanced person, so I guess that sort of proves him right—or his followers will take it that way in any event.

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Would the meeting between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans have gone better if Coulson had been the S.H.I.E.L.D. representative?  I don’t know, but I don’t think so.  It appeared to me as though Cal and Jiaying had it all planned out before Gonzales even showed up.  Jiaying may have seen Coulson as having Skye’s best interests at heart, but she may still have decided that she would rather go down fighting than submit to S.H.I.E.L.D., and particularly the Indexing.  To be honest, I think the Index was the primary thing that triggered Jiaying to kill Gonzales with a synthetic Terrigen Crystal:  if you are on a list, then you can be tracked down and hunted at the whims of whoever is keeping the list.  That’s what happened in Nazi Germany, and it can also happen to the Inhumans.  Say that Hydra got hold of that list; they would track every single Inhuman down and either vivisect them or brainwash them.  I think the better option would have been for Gonzales to offer S.H.I.E.L.D.’s assistance to the Inhumans in keeping their locations hidden, protecting their people, and in turn asked for the Inhumans’ assistance in dealing with enhanced people who became threats.  That’s a better way to treat an independent people-group, as opposed to offering to brand them and put them down if they become threats.  The moment S.H.I.E.L.D. started talking about placing the Inhumans on the Index, I knew that they were not going to go for it.  I just didn’t expect Jiaying to go this far.

However, in retrospect we probably should have seen this coming back in “Melinda,” 2x17.  When Jiaying told Skye about Eva and what she was willing to do for her daughter, Katya, she was essentially telling us that she would do anything for her daughter—and that the Inhumans have learned the lesson that mothers will do anything for their daughters, regardless of how terrible it turns out to be, far too many times.  Jiaying lost her daughter as an infant when she was captured by Hydra and vivisected and her daughter was taken away and placed into foster care.  Now that she has found her daughter 25 years later, could you really blame her for reacting violently to the idea of her daughter being placed on the Index and possibly taken away from her again?  Could you blame Cal for his mistrust of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  In retrospect, I suppose we should have seen Jiaying’s decision coming; that it completely blindsided us (or at least me) demonstrates just how good this series has gotten at making us believe that the bad guys are really the good guys and vice versa.  I was expecting Gonzales to be the one who initiated a war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans; I thought that his “insurance policy” would turn out to be something related to that Kree “Doomsday Device” he’s been holding in his cargo hold.  Instead, the “insurance policy” was a trinket Jiaying intended to give to Skye, and he did not behave in an aggressive way toward Jiaying at all; he merely suggested that he be allowed to meet with her people and Index them (which, admittedly, was probably the worst thing he could have said to a woman who survived Hydra’s labs twice!).

They also did a very good job of building up Gonzales as the villain in this episode.  He’s never been particularly likable (or at least not to me) because of his habit of dehumanizing enhanced people and treating them as threats to be dealt with.  However, in this episode his whole demeanor toward the Inhumans is one of fear and mistrust because Raina and Gordon appeared on his ship searching for the Kree “Doomsday Device.”  That he even had it—regardless of whether or not he knew what it was—seemed to be placing him on a path toward trying to annihilate the Inhumans with it.  As soon as S.H.I.E.L.D. discovered the location of Afterlife, it was like his single objective was to go there and eliminate the Inhumans.  To him they were nothing but a threat, and I really did not like him for it.  And yet, when he met with Jiaying, he was relatively diplomatic.  He offered her a peace offering with the Chinese good luck necklace.  He acknowledged her suffering at Hydra’s hands.  He proposed that they find a way to coexist.  And at the end of the day, it looks like he was proved right.  He was killed by an enhanced woman.  And because of that act, it looks like S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans are headed towards Mutually-Assured Destruction.  I doubt that S.H.I.E.L.D. can take on what is essentially an enhanced army, but I don’t think the Inhumans can survive a full-on assault from S.H.I.E.L.D.  Unless someone does something drastic in the season finale, I don’t know if either group will survive in a meaningful way.  But I guess that’s why this is the season finale coming up!

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I guess the biggest shocker in the episode was that Raina turned out to have been right all along.  She may have been using her gift to manipulate people in order to make a power play—it is entirely possible that she was doing exactly that with the father at the beginning of the episode.  She may have been manipulative and narcissistic in her actions when Cal first met her.  She may be untrustworthy and someone that they need to beware of.  But at the end of the day, she was right.  Because Jiaying met with S.H.I.E.L.D., S.H.I.E.L.D. quinjets are going to rain fire on Afterlife to destroy it.  Raina knew it was going to happen, and because of her past misdeeds she was powerless to stop what happened.  It’s like the “Boy who cried ‘wolf,’” but it’s the “Inhuman who cried ‘vision.’”  I am very curious to see how this will play into the season finale:  will the Inhumans listen to Raina?  Will she be able to stop the two groups from destroying each other?  Tune in next week to find out!

The subplot with Kara capturing Bobbi and taking her to Ward was pretty interesting.  It is clear that Kara blames Bobbi for what Hydra did to her—even though we saw over the last couple of weeks that Bobbi was one of the few S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who treated Kara well.  What is Ward planning to do with Bobbi?  I suspect that this is setting up that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff starring Bobbi and Hunter, but it might also tie in somehow to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale next week.

All in all, I really enjoyed this episode.  There wasn’t a ton of action, but all the action included was well done.  The twists and turns in the episode between the characters’ allegiances and even who the “good guys” and “bad guys” really are were very well done.  I was shocked by those twists and turns—and yet they were hinted at all along.  I don’t know if I would call “Scars” the best episode yet, but it definitely sets up a shock-filled season finale.

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  1. Liking this series more and more.

    1. I enjoyed AoS from the beginning, but it has clearly stepped up its game this season with the real SHIELD reveal and the Inhumans.

      They need to get a season 3!

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