It’s a tough day to be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Family ties and hard truths rule tonight’s episode as a new maybe (?) villain is revealed.
Hydra is proving itself to be a very problematic sibling for S.H.I.E.L.D. A metaphor that doesn’t go unnoticed as they decide to crash a meeting at the U.N. Oh—and kill indiscriminately, which frankly is the number one reason no one invites German scientists to parties. This sets off a chain of events that lead to S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives going underground all over the world. Why won’t anyone trust S.H.I.E.L.D.? Ugh, the problems of being a covert operation structured to work in the shadows.
So Hydra agents, dressed as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and lead by the Mohawk Mercenary, turn the tables and get Talbot’s previously undisclosed senator buddy to speak out against our heroes. May, Hunter, and Bobbie (Mockingbird, not Mockingjay by the way—I am getting way too excited about upcoming film releases… more on that later) set off on a mission to infiltrate a Hydra arms builder and gather intel before the entire free world can hunt down S.H.I.E.L.D. Bobbie is back to blonde, Hunter is back to snaking around, and May is back to conveying more in one look than most characters can express in a two page monologue. We get a chance to see Bobbie in undercover mode, while Hunter points out how every good skill she has as a spy made her a horrible spouse. May pretty much sums up how I imagine most people feel about Hunter’s whining, now that we’ve seen Bobbie in action. “You know I don’t like you, right?”
He proves to be the kind of unlikeable that we can all live with, when he and May save Bobbie once her Hydra cover identity is blown. A note here to Hydra’s admin team: If someone in your security-dependent evil organization turns out to be a double agent, let’s make circulating their picture a top priority instead of waiting an indeterminate amount of time (I’m assuming a week here) to get all of our operatives on board. Ultimately, the team ends up at a compromised S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house, where we see some pretty awesome couples fighting from Hunter and Bobbie. However, the fight that really pulls out all the stops is the one between May and Mohawk—who turns out to be the kind of villain that favors weapons (in this case a knife on a chain) that only seem plausible in the comic book universe. In the end, Hunter says he thinks it’s time to leave S.H.I.E.L.D., but Bobbie makes it pretty clear that she’s all for him staying. Will he or won’t he? Either way, it’s nice to see a couple of exes having each other’s back for a change.
If you’re wondering what Ward’s up to when he’s not being interrogated by Skye, apparently it’s prison simplified cross fit. He wakes up at 5:13 on the dot every morning and trains. That will definitely come in handy as we discover the identity of Talbot’s deep-pocketed senator. Christian Ward. Yep, Grant’s very own sadistic older sibling has been funding General Ross Junior this entire time, and seems to hate S.H.I.E.L.D. and the gang even more than Ward himself. After the Hydra attack at the beginning of tonight’s episode, Senator Ward declares open hunting season on S.H.I.E.L.D., which forces Talbot to defend Coulson’s team. Whoa, character development!
Eventually, Coulson confronts the Senator and we get an intercut scene that, at the very least, is going to bring up confusing feelings for Ward supporters. While Grant reminds Skye that his brother is a borderline psychopath (you remember the well incident, right?), Christian explains the monster that lives inside Grant to Coulson. Which one’s a villain, and which a hero? Are they both villains? Both just broken children? Who knows, but I love to see a villain this skilled at manipulation. Who it is we’re not yet sure, but that reveal could be pretty great.
And now, a special mention for some cool character choices in tonight’s episode. Simmons reveal (about how she left the team because Fitz is worse around her) is a great choice, and very fitting for her character. Seeing some more tolerance from Talbot gave a character that had previously fallen a bit flat, some new depth and purpose. Finding out Coulson is an only child will give fans tons of new psychology to explore. Still, the stand out has to be Tim DeKay as Senator Ward. The first episode for any new character is a challenge, but to play a character that has to throw doubt not only on himself, but on another established character? That, my friends, is a nuanced performance.
We closed last night with the Age of Ultron trailer. After last week’s leak, fans were nervous about what Marvel might have in store for us. What we got was a combination scene/trailer that did not disappoint. For those of us who couldn’t make it to SDCC, and didn’t have the heart to search out leaked versions, we got to see the infamous hammer lift scene. While I’m a bit miffed at the cannon divergence from Steve actually being able to lift Mjolnir, Age of Ultron overall looks amazing. Oh and James Spader sounds amazing—a perfect balance of dark, smoky villain and metallic buzzing feedback… which reminds me, I’m way behind on The Blacklist.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.