Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s “Love in the Time of Hydra” started with Agent 33 and Ward enjoying a nice meal with one another in a small town diner. Pulling a scene straight out of Pulp Fiction, the two brandish their guns and kidnap a doctor who can help with 33’s facial problems. For those who may have forgotten, Agent 33 was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent brainwashed by Hydra, who strapped on a cybernetic mask to impersonate Agent May, only for the mask to be damaged, permanently bonding to her face and giving 33 quite the nasty scar, while not allowing her to revert back to her old self. Here, the two antagonists play house, hanging around a hotel room after murdering the doctor who helps her, and experimenting with her new abilities via changing her face to look like Skye’s.
On the agents’ side, we’re presented once again with the conflict of secrets tearing the team apart. Secrets, I might add, that could very easily be avoided in a lot of cases, which is what makes these scenes something of a slog to get through. Coulson is monumentally screwing things up here, and these are lessons one would think he would have learned following the many disastrous situations his team have found themselves in the past two seasons. Did keeping secrets from his teammates really ever make their lives better? Did it ever really help them accomplish their goals? Phil seems to be continuously running into a brick wall, making the wrong decisions more often than the right. It was nice that he was able to recognize — eventually — that Skye’s powers made her a threat to the team and she needed to be isolated (when he started arguing with May that Skye should stay, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes over the whole thing).
This swings us around to the “real” S.H.I.E.L.D., lead by Edward James Olmos’ Agent Gonzalez. Here we’re given a potential S.H.I.E.L.D. “Civil War” scenario, where a fractured segment of the organization does not believe that Coulson is the best man for the job. Ultimately, they’re kind of on the money with this one. Between the alien incidents, the lies, the insanity, the carvings on the walls — to say nothing of his resurrection — I don’t know if I would trust this guy being director of a worldwide crime prevention organization myself! I do find it odd that they wouldn’t take a more direct approach to handling the situation and simply talk with Coulson face-to-face, but we’ll have to see where this all leads and ultimately what it is they’re attempting to do. If we’ve learned anything from the show, it’s that usually nothing is what it seems. Through this drama, we were also given some of the funniest lines of the night from Hunter, who was dropping one-liners like nobody’s business. It added a nice balance to the proceedings overall, juggling the drama with that usual Marvel Studios’ wit.
While all of this is happening, 33 and Ward decide to put some demons to rest by breaking into an Army base to recover one of the former heads of Hydra, Bakshi. I don’t think that the chemistry was really there between these two antagonists, and it certainly didn’t help that Ward has become increasingly less insane (guess you can attribute this one to offscreen character development) as it takes an edge away from him. The infiltration did give us the best part of the episode, with 33 disguising herself as a number of personnel, and even Talbot’s wife, to gain entry into the base. Talbot, in an attempt to put an end to the assault, gathered all the women under his command and began asking them questions only the real ones would know. The general makes the wrong assumption about one of them and begins pinching her cheeks, attempting to take off the “mask” in a very Scooby Doo moment that got a chuckle out of me.
Another worthwhile moment of the episode was Fitz finally calling out Simmons on her recent behavior. It was an interesting thought that perhaps Simmons was so hard on Skye due to the fact that she just couldn’t handle the monstrous changes that the brash, young scientist perceived taking place in her, and in a roundabout way, unable to deal with the brain damage that Fitz had gone through at the end of the first season. The metaphorical debate between the two toward the beginning of the episode, with the dynamic duo using Captain America and Hulk as arguing points, was a nice touch. It was a way to subtly work in the Marvel Universe without beating us over the head with the shared continuity. I do find it a little strange that ultimately Fitz’s mental problems have somewhat been swept under the rug, as he’s come a long way from stuttering basketcase to fully functional operative in a short amount of time.
In this world where we now find our agents in of teleporting Inhumans and super-powered villains, it was somewhat disheartening to come crashing back to a scenario that feels very Season One. Ultimately, this latest installment helped to move the story along and had a good moment here and there, but was weighted down by its imperfections and well-trod narrative roads.
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– Revealing 33’s real name to be Kara throws my theory out the window that she would turn out to be the Iron Man villain, Madame Masque (her first name is Whitney)
– The gloves and casts that Skye wears in the episode make her like quite like her comic book counterpart, Quake, minus the short hair.
– The scene between Skye and Coulson on the plane, sharing twizzlers, talking about Coulson’s father and the origin of Lola was top notch.
– Ward: “Was really looking forward to those pancakes.”
– May: “I can agree with my ex.”
– Hunter: “Where to now? To see the Wizard?”
– Hunter: “Perhaps we could have discussed this alone, without Hufflepuff looking on?”
– Coulson: “Ankle bone’s always the toughest.”
– Skye: “Just to be clear, I’m the Corvette in this story?”
– 33: “But you seem so well adjusted.”
– Talbot: “Little early for Taco Tuesday?”