Agents Of SHIELD: 2.19 The Dirty Half Dozen
Lots of movies have prequel tie ins, books and comics that led up to the big event on the cinema screen. For The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, The Dirty Half Dozen was that prequel. By the end of the episode, the thrilling opening attack on the HYDRA base at Sokovia was set and the threat of Ultron was teased through Raina's premonition of the grim future to come.
If Agent Coulson's resurrection remains unresolved on the big screen, his involvement in the Avengers Initiative was key to the show; the Theta Protocol teased over the last few weeks was the evolution of the Initiative following the fall of SHIELD, with a very much alive Nick Fury masterminding everything from the shadows. The reappearance of Maria Hill, the mention of 'the twins' and the records of the experimentation using Loki's staff set up everything nicely and left a big smile on my face.
It was interesting to see the evolution too of the ever-changing face of SHIELD. Coulson was no longer acting as director but he was working with Gonzales and revealing his secrets - I assume relating to the Avengers - so that the two seemed to have formed a truce by the episode's end. The same could not be said for Coulson and May who seemed to be drifting further apart. Coulson's seemed genuinely surprised that she had taken a seat at Gonzales's table but the lies he had kept from her had already done the damage. At least Lance and Mack seemed to be re-bonding after the whole 'capture and torture incident' a few weeks back. A round of drinks didn't make everything right, but it was certainly a start.
Of course the highlight of the episode had to be the old team getting back together. Considering it took new characters like Bobbi, Lance and the late Tripp to make an engaging dynamic on the show, there was something very bittersweet about seeing Coulson, May, Fitz, Simmons and Ward enter the bus and the reunion with Skye. It shows how far they have grown as characters that I looked forward to seeing the old team back in action considering there wasn't much dynamic in the early pre-HYDRA episodes.
It was only fitting that we got one final briefing on the Bus with the original team - as awkward as Ward's attempts to connect with his former friends was - before the plane was blown up in the thrilling attack on the arctic HYDRA base to save Mike Peterson and Lincoln from List's brutal experimentation. There was something rather tragic about the Bus being ripped apart; we hadn't seen it in action for a while but it was still the home for these characters from the very start of the show.
The assault on the base didn't quite match up to opening battle of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but then this was just the tease for the fall of HYDRA. Skye got to impress Ward with her newfound powers and the long tracking shot of her taking HYDRA soldiers with only the skills May had trained her with was particularly impressive. Everyone got their moment to shine; Fitz disabling the missile defence system, May taking out three HYDRA soldiers with her gun while barely looking at them and Simmons saving Mike. Skye even got another cool scene where she revived a flatlining Lincoln with just the vibrations from her hands. My only disappointment was that we didn't get to see Gonzales's men fly in to blow the base up after Coulson's successful completion of the mission. Perhaps the remaining budget was being saved for the two-part season finale.
Then there is the death of Bakshi - revealed to be still working for Ward - at the hands of Simmons. The SHIELD agent of season one would never have considered killing anyone in cold blood, but season two Simmons has been tarnished by her experiences and is a very different character. She had no hesitation about using a particularly nasty device to murder Ward and barely showed any remorse against accidentally killing Bakshi instead. With her antagonism towards super-powered people I hope someone can pull her back before she because the latest casualty of the original SHIELD team.
Over in Afterlife, Skye's parents began to unravel in different ways. Cal is struggling to fight his inner demons and seems to be truly unaware that he is not welcome in Afterlife. Jiaying meanwhile is a lot colder than we first assumed. Her refusal to help Lincoln put Skye in the firing line and later she seems to genuinely perceive one of her own - Raina - as a threat, telling her very harshly that she needs to be the one to decides what actions are taken on the back of her premonition. As a viewer, I certainly don't trust her. She could go either way -ally or villain - and I suspect it will be the latter.
With the events of the Avengers movie coming into play, I am excited to see how the consequences of Ultron's actions have an effect on the show. HYDRA is seemingly in its dying days I am intrigued to see who will step up next as the big series villain; they may have stayed in the shadows until now, but my money is on the Inhumans.