Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 9, "Ye Who Enter Here" RETRO-REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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After “Ye Who Enter Here” all the pieces are in place for an epic midseason finale.  The episode began with S.H.I.E.L.D. poised to strike a major blow against Hydra, but by the end of the episode the tables have been turned and Hydra is in possession of everything they need to unleash a potential Armageddon on the world.  And both S.H.I.E.L.D. teams are in grave mortal danger.  Obviously we know how the midseason finale is going to go, but watching this episode again was a lot of fun for how they set things up and include little foreshadows of what is to come.

Reminder:  Retro-Reviews contain potential spoilers for everything to-date.

The episode begins with Skye in the middle of a nightmare about being abandoned as an infant by May and Coulson, her surrogate parents.  I wasn’t entirely sure what all of this meant at the time except that she is feeling her abandonment by her real parents acutely today, but feeling it as though her surrogate parents had been the ones who abandoned her.  Looking back on it after seeing the second half of the series, however, I can see how this is almost a foreshadowing of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s treatment of her after she was transformed—they practically abandoned her by putting her in an isolated room and then hiding her away in a cabin in the woods before everything got turned on its head by the perceived-attack by S.H.I.E.L.D. against the Inhumans and subsequent Inhuman attack on S.H.I.E.L.D.  I’m not entirely sure how the music box fits in—if it comes back in the second half of the season, I don’t remember it right now—except that a music box hides something which you can’t see until you unlock it.

This quickly gives way to the two main plots of the episode.  The first is that Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. know where the alien city is and are going to go there, assess it, and destroy it before Hydra can reach it with the Obelisk and unleash whatever weapon of mass destruction the Obelisk is supposed to trigger.  I’ve really liked how well this has served as a focus for season 2:  it has been a natural progression from trying to figure out how Coulson was brought back to life to discovering the alien writing and then trying to understand the alien writing.  Now that they know what it is, they are tracking down the alien city to which the writing was directing them.  Knowing how everything plays out, I’m really excited for the follow up to this episode, when the whole plot comes to fruition and we get our first major introduction to the Inhumans.

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Meanwhile, Raina is in Vancouver, back to her old ways of “convincing” people to do things for her.  She sees Agent May in the same coffee shop with her and approaches her, but the woman she saw turns out to be Agent 33.  33 tells her that Whitehall wants to meet, but Raina runs away.  En route she sees Sam and Billy Koenig, who use a cloaked umbrella to hide her from Hydra and get her back to a safe house.  They realize that Hydra was trying to capture her, not kill her, and decide that it is time for them to bring her in.  This means that Coulson needs to split up the team, with May, Skye, and Hunter going to extract Raina and the Koenig brothers while Coulson, Bobbi, Mack, Fitz, and Simmons go ahead of them to the alien city.

The extraction scene with Hunter, May, and Skye dispatching all the Hydra agents was a lot of fun—especially the fight between Skye and Agent 33.  However, there were a few places during that fight scene when I couldn’t tell which tactical-gear-clad brunette was which, and that made the fight somewhat confusing.  It was really good, but I think having either Skye or 33 wear a slightly different suit would have made the fight easier to follow.

Following that fight, Skye and Raina have a moment alone, during which Raina tells Skye all about the Diviner—she is able to touch it (and according to her father, Skye can touch it also), it draws them to the temple, and it is connected to a legend of blue aliens who fell from the sky.  This is also the first namedrop of the Kree on the series since Sif mentioned them as one of the many blue aliens in the universe way back in “Yes Men” (1x15).  I think this was the point when it became clear to those familiar with the comic books exactly what was happening:  even if we didn’t realize that the Diviner was actually housing a Terrigen Crystal, we could figure out that the ancient city was Kree and that the temple was a Terrigenesis chamber where an Inhuman would be exposed to the Terrigen Mist and transform.  I remember there were theories going back quite a ways about the blue alien being Kree—and even some speculation about the Inhumans—but this was when it became most clear.

Skye, Raina, Hunter, and May escape in the Bus and head down to Puerto Rico to join Coulson’s team at the alien city.  However, they are attacked in midair by Hydra, which followed the tracker which Coulson had implanted into Raina.  I’m a bit surprised that S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t disable the tracker as soon as she was on the Bus, but I guess they were counting on Hydra not to know about the tracker.  Ward boards the Bus and takes Raina (willingly) and Skye (less willingly) with him.  Ward gives May his word that if Skye and Raina join him, Hydra will not destroy the Bus—and surprisingly he actually follows through on that promise.  Too bad for him that Whitehall overruled him the moment he found out Ward had left the Bus intact.  Next episode, we’ll get to see how the Bus survives this “surprise” attack from Hydra.

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However, this episode Coulson’s team has even bigger problems to deal with.  In Puerto Rico they locate an airshaft that leads to the underground city.  The airshaft is in an old garrison attached to a conquistador-era fortress (San Cristobal), which is said to be haunted because according to legend a group of guards flat-out disappeared in the middle of the night.  Coulson’s team goes to the garrison, cuts a hole in the floor to give them access to the underground city, and sends the DWARFs down to map it out—they short out.  They then send Mack down, and he’s fine at first—until he gets curious and starts tracing the stone markings on the floor.  Then the markings get engraved into his skin and he starts screaming in agony.  The team pulls him back to the surface, but it’s too late:  he has enough time to warn them to “run” before his eyes go bloodshot and he attacks them.  Icers have no effect on him, but Bobbi is able to stun him with her batons, which knocks him back down the hole.  I really liked all the horror elements they included in these scenes—everything from the editing, which synced this up with Skye and Raina’s conversation about the Diviner showing who was worthy to enter the city, to the scene of Bobbi being forced to fight and presumably kill her best friend, who fell into the hole and whose body was never seen.  This whole sequence is really cool.  Now the question remains, what happened to Mack?

There are still a couple of other minor points to discuss with this episode.  In the first place, there are several character scenes which help to further Fitz and Simmons’ relationship.  Bobbi asks Simmons about it, prompting her to explain what had happened and why she left.  It wasn’t because of what had happened to him; it was because she was so confused by what he had said and the fact that she didn’t have an opportunity to process it before everything happened.  They still both seem to be very broken, but this episode also gives some hope that they will return to something like the way they were:  they have a moment in the garrison when Fitz is looking for a word and Simmons finishes the sentence for him.  It’s not much, but that’s something they were doing every other scene in season 1 and which they hadn’t done (aside from fake-Simmons) up to this point in season 2.  Theirs has always been an interesting relationship, so I am very curious to see where it will go in season 3, especially with this mystery surrounding Simmons’ fate at the end of season 2.

The other minor point is the subplot with Mack and Bobbi.  There are a couple of moments which hint at their ulterior motives for being on Coulson’s team.  First there’s the introduction of the remote-controlled Lola, which comes back in the second half of the season.  This is followed very shortly by Mack making a comment that “storm’s coming” while looking at Bobbi.  I’m assuming that he’s thinking about how they are going to have to betray Coulson, and that will complicate matters significantly.  Then the two of them talk in the cockpit of the quinjet about some secret mission which Bobbi does not want to bring Hunter in on.  What is this?  We don’t find out at this time, but it becomes a major plot in the second half of the season.  Finally, Bobbi is worried that Coulson will want to recover the alien weapon instead of destroying it—which is exactly what Fury would do.  When Coulson tells her that he has no intention of recovering it and every intention of keeping civilian casualties to 0, Bobbi remarks that Coulson really isn’t Fury.  I wonder if this is why she is so conflicted about what they are doing for Gonzales in infiltrating Coulson’s team and stealing the Toolbox.

Overall, I like how well this episode sets up the midseason finale.  There are some fun action scenes, a few good character moments, and even a couple of major bombshell drops with the discovery that this is setting up the introduction of the Inhumans.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out in the midseason finale!

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