In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s “The Frenemy of My Enemy,” Fitz finds himself in quite the sticky situation as he flees from the members of Gonzalez’s S.H.I.E.L.D., and is luckily snagged up by the unlikely team of Coulson, Hunter, and Deathlok. It’s here that Coulson explains to Fitz that in order to get closer to Hydra and their nefarious plans, they need to get in touch with the last man in the world they’d like: former agent Ward. Ward, of course, has changed quite a few times throughout the season, from trusted ally to crazed sociopath to crazed sociopath in a loving relationship, though I feel here that they downplayed that aspect a bit more than they should have. This, however, is a problem with this episode in general, and the show overall, in that there are just too many players on the board. Bringing Hydra back into the mix may be a good way to bring the team closer to the Avengers: Age of Ultron shenanigans but it feels a tad forced and could have taken a back seat for the rest of the season.
Off the top of my head, the factions the show is currently juggling include: Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D., Gonzalez’s S.H.I.E.L.D., the Inhumans, Hydra, crazy Mr. Hyde, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang who is caught in the middle like May, Simmons, and Bobbi. The idea of a S.H.I.E.L.D. Civil War is a good one, and feels earned with the problems that Coulson has had in the past, but throwing in the ulterior motives of Hydra on top of everything else is too much. It doesn’t leave any time to breathe, as the show somehow manages to move at a breakneck speed while also spinning its wheels. I wanted more time with Coulson and Ward, Cal and Skye, and even to look into Gonzalez a bit more as a character (and he is entirely absent this episode). While we should be moving towards an endgame with the season finale rapidly approaching, it seems as though new elements are being added in too frantically.
Touching again on Ward, the angle of his relationship with Agent 33 neuters him to an extent. Here we had a character who killed every member of his family and betrayed all his teammates. I literally have no idea what to expect from Ward, because his character has changed more times than Tony Stark’s armor. It was nice to see the twisting of the knife though with both Coulson and Fitz having to work with Ward, especially with Ward asking Fitz how he’s been, and calling Coulson “boss” at the tail end of the episode. I wish that we had been given more of an insight previously to the Ward/Agent 33 union, as it would have helped cement his new personality a bit more, but that’s one of the issues of this show. There’s not enough time to just sit back and take stock.
I will say one of the strongest points of the episode was giving Cal and Skye some family time. It was tragic to hear Cal’s plans for his wife and daughter before he lost his marbles, and the scene was played effectively with the two walking through Wisconsin, as viewers were waiting for Cal to snap at any moment. Kyle MacLachlan is his usual charismatic self here, fawning for days long gone by, while really bonding with his daughter and trying to keep his head on straight. Skye’s willingness to put her faith in him, despite his homicidal tendencies, says a lot about her character in that she desires having a family so much, that she is able to trust a man who is one step away from ripping apart anyone with his bare hands that gets in his way. Skye wants what’s best for her father and MacLachlan’s acting chops help to push the idea forward that he may not be an entirely lost cause. Eventually of course, towards the end of the episode, Cal loses it and begins taking down Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D., and anyone else in his path making it all moot and putting them back to square one.
Elsewhere, Coulson’s plan of infiltrating Hydra with a supposedly brainwashed Bakshi could have used some work, and it seems that this should have been an opportunity to throw his hat into the ring with Gonzalez’s S.H.I.E.L.D. much sooner. It would seem that, more than anything, he’s simply going solo on the mission because of his wounded pride, which, if so, could have been explored more. Agent Phil Coulson started off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the guy who is everyone’s friend, the guy who anyone could grab a beer with and share some laughs. As more of the horrors of his resurrection and his one-time insanity have come to light, he has drastically changed, and I wish we had more time to explore that. As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, I am 100 percent on the side of Gonzalez and his new S.H.I.E.L.D., as Phil has done a terrible job as the new director of the organization. I thought that Coulson would try to create an organization that believed in transparency, seeing the missteps Nick Fury had taken that ultimately led to their downfall, but he still sticks to the shadows and is ultimately rewarded for it, as he has been in the past. There need to be more consequences for him along the way due to his own mistakes, to stop the show from feeling stale and predictable.
All the teams on the field eventually amass, however, as Coulson, Ward and crew converge on Skye’s whereabouts, along with Hydra. Deathlok encounters the young Inhuman, Lincoln, in a nice little action scene, and Simmons and Co. back at Gonzalez’s HQ misunderstand exactly what is happening in a typical television cliche through Mike’s eyepiece. The show needs to move past these sort of things if it wants to prove it won’t fall into the pitfalls that plagued the first season. The next episode promises to have Ward reunite with the rest of his former teammates, which should make for some interesting scenes at the very least, as Coulson surrenders to Bobbi and Mack in the final minute.
In conclusion, I think this episode needed a lot of work and didn’t deliver the punches it could have. Too much was going on to let much sink in, and Hydra should have been an element already dealt with. Then again, it’s necessary in order to play into the Avengers sequel.
Episode Rating: ★★ Fair
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– Baron Von Strucker is a long-running Captain America villain, now head of Hydra, who will feature prominently in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. Just one more week for that one folks (unless you’re outside of the U.S., that is.)
– Skye discovering her full name here is a nice touch. Wonder when she’ll start going with the codename “Quake”?
– Seriously, whatever happened to Patton Oswalt?
– Cal: “I miss my tunes.”
– Ward: “Hey baby.”
Coulson: “Hey sweetie. Would love to catch up.”
– Cal: “I was expecting Gordo.”
Skye: “You can’t keep calling him that.”
– Cal: “Best day ever!”
– Coulson: “He’s not a cyborg, he’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent … with rockets in his arm.”