Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 5, "A Hen in the Wolf House" RETRO-REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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You know how you might be expecting things to go a certain way, but you’re worried that it will not?  And you know how the story might take a sharp left turn and make you think that it will pull the rug completely out from under you?  And then you know how the story can turn around and give you exactly what you were expecting all along but it still feels new and surprising?  That’s pretty much this episode.

“A Hen in the Wolf House” has a ton of stuff going on, but it is impressive just how well it handles all of its different subplots, and especially its introduction of a fan-favorite comic book character and Avenger.  It gets pretty exhausting trying to keep everything straight, but I think that the final product makes it all worth it.

Reminder:  Retro-Reviews contain potential spoilers for all of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seasons 1 and 2 (plus everything else to-date).

The first subplot is Hydra’s efforts to weaponize the Obelisk (which they don’t actually have) and use it to create weapons of mass destruction.  This leads to a test run at the wedding dinner of a member of an elite U.S. Navy unit tasked with hunting down Hydra (Navy SEALs?).  All of the party guests drink champagne laced with the alien-metal-derivative, but only 8 of them are killed (6 Navy); some of the others get sick but survive.  Though the Hydra scientist responsible for this experiment thinks this is still something of a success, both Bakshi and Whitehall strongly disagree with her.  Whitehall calls most of his best scientists—including Simmons and her supervisor (Kenneth)—to a meeting to discuss options.  Simmons notes that because the alien metal will react to tissue differently, they would only be able to weaponize the Obelisk if they actually had the Obelisk in their possession.  However, as soon as the meeting is over, Simmons leaves a message for Coulson on a flex screen in their dead-drop location.  This connects with the second subplot.

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 Raina went to Skye’s father (still only known as “the Doctor,” though I’m going to call him “Cal” because it’s easier) to ask him for the Obelisk so she can turn it over to Whitehall and save her life.  Cal refuses to give it to her, and she decides to go to Whitehall and beg for her life.  However, as she is entering the building, she sees Simmons and realizes that she is working undercover for S.H.I.E.L.D.  Raina follows her, takes a picture of her with the flex screen, and tips off Hydra that there is a mole in their organization.  She then arranges a meeting with Coulson to force him to let her bring Skye to Cal (at which point Cal might be willing to either give her the Obelisk or offer her protection) in exchange for ensuring Simmons’ safety from the Hydra sweep.  However, Coulson refuses her offer, tags her, and sends her away, hoping to use her to get to Whitehall.  Consequently, Simmons’ cover is now blown.  This gives us our major plot for the episode.

At the Hydra building, Bakshi and the head of Hydra security, Morse, start a witch hunt to find the mole.  Morse starts interrogating Simmons at her desk to find out where her loyalties lie since there is no evidence that Simmons ever supported Hydra before the uprising.  However, while she is doing so, an agent discovers flex screens in Kenneth’s desk (hidden there by Simmons) and he is taken away.  Simmons is still pretty shaken, however, and goes to the bathroom to calm down—and Morse is waiting for her when she leaves the stall.  Still shaken, Simmons goes back to her desk only to find that the picture is on everyone’s computer screens.  She runs, pursued by Bakshi and a pair of security officers, and runs into Morse with 2 more officers.  However, Morse suddenly pulls out a pair of batons, knocks out the officers with her, and reveals herself to be another undercover agent working for Coulson.  Morse (“Bobbi”) tries to get Simmons out without raising any alarms, perhaps hoping to maintain her cover.  However, she has to blow her cover when Bakshi finds Simmons and the two of them escape together by jumping off the roof and onto the cloaked quinjet, piloted by Trip.  On the way back to base, Bobbi explains that she was there to keep an eye on Simmons, and that before leaving she’d taken Simmons’ hard drive, meaning that they now have copies of just about all of Hydra’s research.

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Back at the base, we get the culmination of what seemed to be a running joke for the first 4 episodes of the season—Hunter’s demon-spawn ex-wife.  It turns out that Bobbi is the ex-wife!  I actually liked this twist, considering that Bobbi’s ex-husband from the comics is actually Clint Barton, who is in the movies and probably won’t be showing up too often on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  This makes even more sense now that we know Barton to be married with 3 kids!  Having both Bobbi and her ex-husband on the show gives them a means to explore all of those relationship dynamics that were so important in the comics.  Remember:  Bobbi and Clint have a terrible relationship in the comics, complete with multiple breakups, divorces, and the like—and yet they are founding members of the West Coast Avengers and trainers for the Great Lakes Avengers.  I suspect that exploring this dynamic may be the goal for the recently-announced Marvel’s Most Wanted.

I really like Bobbi’s character in this series, and especially this introduction.  I remember at the time when it was announced that Bobbi Morse would be the head of security for Hydra there were rumors flying around about how that would work.  Some people called it correctly, but there were also some who thought she would be a Hydra believer who switched sides eventually or that she was brainwashed into compliance.  When it turned out that she really was undercover for Coulson, I was actually somewhat surprised because she played such a convincing Hydra goon!  And at the end of the day, that’s really Mockingbird’s character in a nutshell:  able to convince people that she is something she is not.

There are two other subplots to talk about with this episode.  The first is the subplot with Cal.  When Raina meets with him it is clear that he has control issues of some sort, and they are very serious if his murder of both his patient and his patient’s friend is any indication.  After Raina tries to blackmail Coulson, Skye goes to the location that Raina gave them to try to find her father.  However, Cal is not there but instead is watching on the surveillance cameras from his car.  Skye is devastated that she couldn’t even get a glimpse of him—and Coulson comforts her, something that upsets Cal.  Then May finds the dead bodies and Skye realizes that Cal is a “monster.”  Cal then drives off in a rage and brings the Obelisk (“Diviner”) to Whitehall and proposes an alliance to destroy Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D.  Throughout this season, Cal played the role of antihero to a “T.”  Half the time he seemed to have good intentions, but then he went and made an alliance with Hydra to kill Coulson.  He had no compunction about killing, and even seemed to do it for fun.  He was definitely disturbed and didn’t necessarily want to be doing everything he did.  And yet, in the end he wound up on the right side.  In fact, when you look at all the villains from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, Whitehall was really the only one who fit the definition of a true villain; Ward, Cal, Raina, and even Jiaying to some extent were more along the lines of an antihero.  This is something we haven’t gotten a lot of from the MCU movies, though Loki fits the antihero mold in Thor.  I’m excited to see what they are going to do with the villains in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3.

It's these guys!
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The other subplot is with the alien writing.  Coulson is still looking for answers, but refuses to give Skye all the information she wants.  However, after talking to Ward, Skye realizes that Coulson himself is the source for all of the new alien writings and confronts him.  He finally opens up to her and explains that he started carving after he first saw Garrett’s carvings, and that it really just “happens.”  Skye is confused because both Coulson and Garrett were injected with the GH-325 and both of them are carving these symbols, but she is not carving them and she was injected with that same substance.  Coulson explains that he believes that he and Garrett both experienced or are experiencing a negative reaction to the alien DNA now in their systems, and that Skye is not having a negative reaction because the alien DNA was already there.  In other words, he suspects that she may be alien.  I think this is when the fan theory of Skye being an Inhuman really started to gain traction, especially in my mind.  After all, “blue alien” probably means Kree (especially after Guardians of the Galaxy), and the Inhumans are essentially humans with Kree DNA markers thanks to ancient genetic experimentation.  This would explain Skye’s mysterious origin, and possibly make the “Diviner” a Terrigen Crystal.

Coulson finally reveals everything to Skye, and she tells him that she has a theory:  “It’s a map.”  But what it is a map to is still unknown.

I really liked this episode, and especially how it introduced Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird, onto the show.  In my mind this series was already important to the MCU, but allowing a comic book Avenger to make her debut on the series definitely gives it an additional degree of credibility beyond simply the Marvel logo.  I don’t know if Bobbi is ever going to show up in the movies, but it would not surprise me in the least if she does (though at this point without any rumors coming out, I doubt she’ll be in Captain America: Civil War).

The reunion between Fitz and Simmons seemed a bit anticlimactic, but considering everything the two of them had been through recently—and considering that she ran off and left him—it was pretty powerful for her to approach him hesitantly and him to be withdrawn.

All in all, this episode put a lot of pieces into place which will pay off in future episodes.  The alien writing is coming to the forefront of the series.  Cal is now working with Hydra.  Raina is somewhere out there scared for her life.  All of these things will pay off sooner than later.

What was your favorite part of this episode?  Do you want Bobbi to appear in a future movie, and if so, when?

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