Much of "THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN" is predicated on a pair of ideas that I'm not sure have even half as much truth in them as AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D seems to think they do. Firstly: That at this point, people are still expecting/demanding this series to drop everything and bend over backwards to reference whatever is currently happening in the Marvel movies. Secondly: That there's enough lingering nostalgia for the series' Season 1 incarnation that a contrived re-grouping of The Original Team Arrangement will be a big pop.
It's not an episode without it's charms (there's a RAID-inspired long-take shootout sequence for Skye that probably rates as Chloe Bennett's best action moment thus far) and it says something about how far the series has come that my reaction to an MCU tie-in episode is "Guys, everyone knows The Avengers are fighting a robot this weekend. Can we get back to the story at hand?;" but it's distracting none the less.
SPOILERS and more after the jump...
Continuing from last week, Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D and "Real S.H.I.E.L.D" have set aside their differences (or so it seems) in order to drop the hammer on a HYDRA base where Dr. List is conducting experiments on abducted Inhumans (the ads are finally calling them that, at least) and also Deathlok as a "satellite program" of what Baron Strucker is up to over in AGE OF ULTRON. Skye wants to go help, her mother (Inhuman safe-space leader Jaiying) is against it for "let's not let the world know we're here" reasons.
The decision gets made for them when Raina, having figured out that her "nightmares" are actually the power to see the future, outs Skye as Jaiying and Calvin/Mr. Hyde's daughter and reveals that she's "supposed" to go help. And so we get an awkward "Season 1 reunion" middle-act wherein Ward rejoins Skye, Coulson, May, Fitz and Simmons on The Bus to go take on the bad guys and ruminate over how much their relationships have changed in the interim.
This is all well and good, and the "storm the base" stuff works in the scrappy, low-tech terms the series has by now mastered (again, Skye's one-woman-army bit is a seasonal high point). Unfortunately, the tie-in stuff rears it's head in a way that's both annoyingly intrusive (so wait - all of S.H.I.E.L.D, random individual people and a bunch of The Avengers' sidekicks/friends can know Coulson is alive... but just not The Avengers themselves for some reason?) and also not intrusive enough (Team Coulson is essentially doing pre-rinse for ULTRON's pre-credits battle against Strucker, just in a less-expensive location with a less-expensive HYDRA guy.) I'm hesitant to mark things down too much here, because it feels like "What is Theta Protocol?" will be an ULTRON-fallout thing, but for now it's all very awkward.
(Sidebar: Without spoiling, there's an "All is lost... wait, no it's not!" beat in the finale of AGE OF ULTRON where the Agents could've shown up for totally logical, sensible reasons; and it felt like a missed opportunity that they didn't. I mean, if they wanted to leave out or "background detail" Coulson so as not to have to deal with that whole can of worms; some combination of May, Skye, Fitz, Simmons, Hunter, Bobbi, Mac, The Koenigs etc could've been onhand easily. It would've gotten a huge pop from the diehards in the audience while not affecting non-viewers one way or the other.)
On the other hand, the goings on do seem to introduce (re-introduce?) a new complication that could have pretty interesting implications: Since the return from break, the idea that some kind of dark switch has been flipped on Simmons' moral compass has cropped up intermittently, but for awhile it seemed to be limited exclusively to her feelings about how to deal with Enhanced ("powered people") threats... but that no longer seems to be the case: She inserts herself into the field mission with the expressed intent of revenge-killing Ward, but instead ends up murdering HYDRA lackey Sunil Bakshi instead - with Ward being aware of this and going on the run again.
That's... interesting, if they do anything with it. I'm not sure I'm 100% sold on the idea of Simmons going "evil" somehow, but I'm interested to see them try it.
- I know I sound like a broken record here, but Ward still isn't interesting. He only briefly became interesting once his Ken Doll blandness was revealed to be have been a cover in Season 1, it hasn't carried over into his role as a general bad guy and this new idea that he's angling for some kind of redemption arc ("returning" Agent 33 to S.H.I.E.L.D for her own good) isn't helping either.
- Glad to see the mystery of what The Icarus (Gonzales' ship) is hiding in its cargo hold turn up again, if only because I like that I still have no clue what it actually is (Mar-Vell or The Abomination remain my hopes.)
- Blowing up The Bus for good should've felt more substantive than it did. I get that it's meant to be an ironic punchline to the "return of Season 1" thing, but it didn't really land.
Yup. Surprising absolutely nobody, "SCARS" appears to be the beginning of Good S.H.I.E.L.D and Bad S.H.I.E.L.D coming to blows over how to respond to the existance of The Inhumans, who we're finally calling that by name. This is the first real step in AGENTS' first turn at laying foundations for events in the Cinematic Universe (re: establishing The Inhumans as the MCU's X-Men/Mutants stand-in) rather than reacting to them, so it's going to be telling to see show that goes.
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