This week on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D … Coulson tries to save his lost love from a super-powered villain. May makes a tough decision. And Skye makes a startling discovery.
This week’s mission
Coulson takes a team to save his former love, Audrey Nathan (Amy Acker), from a villain who has the ability to absorb energy from everything around him. Meanwhile Ward tries to convince Skye to decrypt the hard drive containing all the team’s research data.
Getting to know you
Putting aside the central HYDRA storyline for a week, this episode focusses on Audrey Nathan, the cellist Coulson loved but had to leave behind, and Ward’s attempts to get Skye’s hard drive decrypted. But before launching into the main body of the story, Koenig’s orientation process, putting each member of Coulson’s team through a lie detector test, provides a series of revelations which range from the trivial to the insightful, including:
- Skye doesn’t have a surname, but she was given the name Mary-Sue Poots at the orphanage she was given to. (In the name of God, why?!?)
- Grant Ward’s middle name is Douglas, Melinda May‘s is Qiaolian – and she was married once.
- When asked the box-on-a-desert-island question, Simmons answers, adorably, “the TARDIS”, while Fitz responds, tellingly, “Simmons”. Which comes as little surprise given how petulantly he behaves around Antoine Triplett, who he views as a rival for Simmons’ affections.
Ward arouses enough suspicion for Koenig to draw his gun on him, but evades the test by answering Koenig’s demand to know why he’s really there by answering with the half-truth, “Skye”. It’s a neat workaround, but it’s also weak writing to believe that Koenig would let Ward off the hook so easily.
Lies, damned lies
Realising that the escaped Marcus Daniels will go after Audrey, Coulson flies to her aid with Triplett, Fitz and Simmons. He leaves behind Ward (to recover from his injuries), Skye (to track the Fridge escapees) and May – because he no longer trusts her after discovering she concealed her knowledge of his resurrection from him. However, he then proceeds to conceal his previous relationship with Audrey from the rest of his team, and himself from Audrey so as not to open up old wounds. Ultimately he realises that he needs to forgive May, but she has already left Providence.
In the end, Daniels is stopped and appears to explode. Although Audrey comes to no harm, S.H.I.E.L.D. is cast in an even more dubious light as Daniels reveals that he wasn’t being contained at the Fridge, but was subject to tests to make him even stronger. Nick Fury’s going to have some questions to answer if Coulson ever catches up with him.
Skye discovers Ward’s secret
Other than the fact that she ends the episode on the Bus alone with Ward, with the rest of the team having no idea where she is, this is a pretty good week for Skye. She successfully hacks into the NSA’s satellites to access a visual feed of the Fridge break-out. It’s she who realises that Koenig is using their newly issued lanyards to track their movements. And, upon discovering Koenig’s dead body and realising that Ward must be HYDRA, she holds herself together and plays along when confronted by him, knowing that she cannot otherwise escape or overpower Ward. It’s a reminder that she brings a unique skill-set to the team with her hacking experience and ability to improvise outside the box.
She has pulled the location-specific encryption stunt before (right back in the pilot), although this may just be a ruse to buy her some time. Regardless, she now has a little breathing space to formulate a new plan or for Coulson and the others to find her.
This was an enjoyable enough episode, but suffered from two major issues. Firstly, it felt like a clunky and slightly indulgent sideline from the main HYDRA arc which has been building nicely for the last few episodes. And secondly, there were a few too many hackneyed tropes used to move the plot conveniently on: Ward’s too easy deception of the lie detector test the slowly resolving pixellated images from the Fridge which give Ward just enough time to erase them before they give him away, and Daniels himself, who proves to be more of a plot device than a genuine threat.
The character Marcus Daniels has appeared a number of times in the Marvel comics, taking on the supervillain identity Blackout.
Agent Koenig reveals that Agent Triplett is the grandson of a Howling Commando, a comic-book WWII elite squad commanded by Nick Fury. In the comics, Koenig is a member of this unit. He is killed in combat against HYDRA, just as the TV version is killed by HYDRA agent Ward.
May’s mother is taking her to see ‘Maria’ – presumably Agent Maria Hill, who has made numerous appearances in the comics, the movies The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the pilot episode.
Also namechecked during the episode: Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Bruce Banner (The Hulk), whose gamma ray technology is used to battle Daniels.
Nothing bad ever happens when you work with something called ‘Darkforce’.
Is that a hint of sarcasm there, Phil?