On Agents Of SHIELD, Revenge Is A Dish That Only Tastes Good To Psychos

Illustration for article titled On Agents Of SHIELD, Revenge Is A Dish That Only Tastes Good To Psychos

Last night's Agents of SHIELD was chock full of backstory, and we learned a ton about a handful of the show's villains and psychopaths. But the over-arching theme seemed to be revenge, and the ugly things that people do to get revenge for ancient injuries. Spoilers ahead...


"The Things We Bury" was a flashback-heavy episode, which filled in a ton of the details of how Reinhart, the Nazi scientist, became Whitehall, the Hydra leader. In a nutshell, Reinhart got hold of the Diviner (the object formerly known as the Obelisk) back in 1945, before he was captured by Agent Carter. And Whitehall basically forced a ton of prisoners to touch the object, until he found one who could survive contact with it: a woman, played by Dollhouse's Dichen Lachman.

Illustration for article titled On Agents Of SHIELD, Revenge Is A Dish That Only Tastes Good To Psychos

And once Reinhart is in custody, we get to see a couple great scenes of him being interrogated by the soon-to-be-spun-off Agent Carter, who hears his wild stories of aliens and artifacts and then decides that he won't get the deluxe "Nazi scientist" package — instead, she'll just let him rot.

Years later, in 1989, Reinhart finally gets released from a SHIELD prison by some Hydra agents inside SHIELD, and he picks up where he left off — and lo and behold, he finds that same woman again, no older than she was in 1945. Reinhart dissects her, in a skin-crawlingly explicit sequence, and eventually manages to extract her powers of eternal youth and give them to himself.

Illustration for article titled On Agents Of SHIELD, Revenge Is A Dish That Only Tastes Good To Psychos

That woman, apparently, was Skye's mother, and at the end of the episode we learn that Skye's dad (Kyle MacLachlan) found her mutilated body and vowed to find whoever had done this and inflict the same fate on him. Which means that his alliance with Whitehall is just a ploy, and he's actually just seeking revenge for his wife's death, and his separation from his infant daughter.


Also, MacLachlan's unnamed character provides a lot more backstory about the Diviner, on top of what Whitehall reveals in some of the flashbacks. Basically, blue creatures came down to Earth, and legends say they came to share gifts with us — but in fact, they were here to wipe out humanity except for a few chosen few, who could survive contact with the Diviner. (Were they Kree? Sure sounds like it.) And the Diviner is a key, that will allow a deserving person to get inside the city that Coulson was sketching.

Illustration for article titled On Agents Of SHIELD, Revenge Is A Dish That Only Tastes Good To Psychos

So Skye's dad wants revenge on Whitehall, and judging from his crazy ramblings, he seems to think he'll only be reunited with Skye in the afterlife. And meanwhile, Whitehall is still pretty pissed at SHIELD for keeping him locked up for 44 years.

Grant's unfinished business

Meanwhile, Grant Ward tipped way over into the "psychopath" side of things with his behavior in this episode. Grant tracks down his brother, the Senator, who's planning a naughty weekend with a paramour, and captures him. Then Grant marches him out into the middle of nowhere and forces him to dig up the well where they once threw their other brother Thomas — which was either Grant's fault or Christian's, it's still unclear which.

Illustration for article titled On Agents Of SHIELD, Revenge Is A Dish That Only Tastes Good To Psychos

Grant and Christian have lots of insane bickering, which gives us a window into their dysfunctional family life, and how good the Senator was at twisting everything around and getting inside Grant's head. (Which is another theme that comes up a lot in this episode, people who are good at manipulation and reality warping.) And then Grant holds his brother over the well, forcing him to admit that he was the one who instigated the whole "Tommy down the well" scenario, because Tommy was the only one their mom didn't torture.


And then you think that Grant is satisfied with his brother's confession, and that's all he wanted, and now everything's going to be all good — until you find out later that the Senator and his parents are all dead, in an apparent murder-suicide. And Grant used Christian's recorded confession to make it sound like he planned to kill his parents and himself. (It's entirely possible that Grant faked all this and Christian is alive, given that he was using this to get in with Whitehall.)

Illustration for article titled On Agents Of SHIELD, Revenge Is A Dish That Only Tastes Good To Psychos

In any case, by the end of the episode, Grant has apparently joined Whitehall's team, replacing Bakshi, whom Grant handed over to SHIELD last week. And Grant does appear to be a great fit for Whitehall's inner circle, given that they're both psychos who can hold onto a grudge or an obsession for decades. (Although I'm guessing Grant still wants to "prove" himself to Coulson, by infiltrating Hydra.) The final moment with Ward, Whitehall and Skye's dad all smiling at each other is just endlessly creepy.

Coulson's obsessions are actually paying off

Meanwhile, Coulson is being a good leader again, after having seriously gone off the deep end during the whole "carving on the wall" business. Early in the episode, Mack expresses some reservations to Lance Hunter about Coulson's erratic behavior of late, but then the rest of the episode shows a Coulson who's completely on top of things, even though he seems unpredictable to say the least.


Coulson has a plan to find the mysterious alien city that the Diviner opens up, so he can be at the finish line when Whitehall finishes his race, instead of racing against him. And his plan involves going to Hawaii, where there's a big satellite relay station, and using a button and a watch to induce an EMP, so the less secure backup station in Australia will go online — at which point, Fitz can tap in to the system and find the hidden city.

Coulson explains none of this to his people, instead giving them confusing missions regarding the button and the watch, and badgering Fitz to get better at installing a transmitter in under six minutes. (And they also pick up Coulson's dry-cleaning.) But in the end, his wacky scheme pans out, and Fitz actually performs well under pressure.


And when the mission goes sideways, as they always do, Coulson helps to save Tripp's life. They're attacked by Hydra goons, and Tripp gets shot. So Coulson is forced to team up with Skye's crazy dad, who sort of saves Tripp and sort of nicks an artery to make things worse — but then gives Coulson magic coagulants, so he can save Tripp while Skye's dad gets away.

Coulson is about to tell Skye all about meeting her wacky dad, but then their satellite search pans out, and they locate the city that Coulson and the others were drawing for so long.


Lance and Bobbi

The least successful part of the episode has to do with Lance and Bobbi working out their ex-marital issues while Bobbi is interrogating the newly captured Hydra agent Bakshi. Bobbi is trying to get under Bakshi's skin, using all her manipulative tricks, and this all reminds Lance of their marriage.


Plus Bakshi tries to throw her off the scent by alluding to the terrible things that Bobbi did to prove herself loyal to Hydra when she was undercover — which bothers Lance more than you think it would, given that he's been in this world for a long time.

In the end, Bobbi picks up on a clue that Bakshi drops inadvertently, and that's how the team figures out that Whitehall used to be Reinhart and that he's somehow immortal-ish. But Bakshi kills himself using a cyanide capsule in his cheekbone, and Lance suspects that Bobbi goaded Bakshi into suicide so he wouldn't blow the whistle on her.


All of this leads to a big relationship shout-fest, in which Lance says he'll never trust his ex-wife, but he'll never stop wanting to. And then they have sex.

All of which goes to show — everybody has unfinished business and old hurts and resentments. But where some people are driven to spend decades hunting other people down, or to kidnap and murder their family members, other people are able to rise above and have good old-fashioned post-break-up sex. There's a moral there somewhere.




My hot takes:

This was a strong episode. They really heard our complaints from last season – this one has one hell of a pace.

1. According to Bleeding Cool (http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/11/19/las…), this is probably Attilan, somewhere in/near the North Atlantic. If you look at the image I attached at the bottom of this post, it appears that the satellites were focused on Central/South America when the city was found. Was this intentional, or was the image of the Earth just rotating at that point when the city was discovered? Maybe they are leaving the Attilan reveal for the Inhumans movie, and are focusing on one of the many other Inhuman cells that exist on Earth. Or maybe Attilan will be in South America in the MCU. I mean, some groups did split off from Attilan to create their own societies, and some did "mingle" with the general population.

2. Skye's (THAT'S NOT HER NAME RRRRRRR) dad told Whitehall that the Diviner (as he calls it) has something inside it, is a key, and is more than a weapon. When he said "Oh, it has something inside it" I half expected him to wink at the screen. Terrigen Mist anyone? This episode was heavy with the Inhuman references. He also referenced "Blue Angels" that came down to Earth. We were given two purposes: Either to conquer Earth or spare a select few. I'm leaning towards the latter, given the Kree's reasons for creating the Inhumans in the first place. They were a weapon, so who cares about ruling Earth? Just come back and get some new weapons as needed.

3. Cyanide in the cheekbone? DAMN. That's some commitment. I know there is a lot of speculation that either Mockingbird or Simmons were brainwashed, and I think this episode ruled out Mockingbird. She joked about "compliance" and it seemed to throw him off guard. It's almost as if Hydra agents know about brainwashing, but NOT about "Compliance," given that it's the word to trigger the brainwashing. I think Mockingbird is safe. Simmons on the other hand, did not want to get near him. Interesting…

4. Good on Coulson for including Fitz by making him practice. It shows that he's still a valued part of the team. I loved Fitz's remark when Mac told him he could do it in his sleep: "I know, my problem is when I'm awake."

5. The humor in this episode was on point. "What's so special about this watch?" "If it starts leaking fluid, run." "Can I put this in my pocket?" "Do you want kids?" DUDE. I loved how Coulson told Triplett to make sure he brought back the blue tie, and it reminded me of Rocket when Skye asked what was with the tie, and he said "Audrey gave it to me and I spilled Poi on it" (Reference to the Cellist, nice). My favorite line: "Tesseract power?" "Sure! … I don't know what that is." We forget that even though aliens invaded New York over two years ago, no one really knows about the Tesseract.

6. Speaking of Coulson, he is a man with a plan. I like how he acknowledged Fury's lack of communication skills, and is starting to keep more people in the loop. That whole EMP thing was pretty cool. Also: ""He could always see five steps ahead, which was impressive for a one-eyed man." OH YOU.

7. Dude. Skye's (THAT'S NOT HER NAME RAAAREWR) dad's creep factor was off the hook. "Oh, I shouldn't have called you Phil, I shouldn't know that" was great. I also liked how he told Whitehall at the end that you have to look your enemies in the eye WHILE HE LOOKED WHITEHALL IN THE EYE. I immediately realized that he was after Whitehall, and the scene at the end in the woods confirmed it.

8. Nice callback to Undersecretary Pierce, and him being the one that ordered Whitehall's release. I'm convinced that he knew Whitehall was Red Skull's understudy, and waited until the right time to let him out.

9. WARD? GOD DAMMIT WARD. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE. He is a freaking great villain, and I hope he doesn't get redeemed. I hope he turns into Taskmaster at some point, because so far he seems more intimidating than Skye's (NOT HER NAAAAAAME!) dad and Whitehall combined. What's your angle working with Whitehall, Ward? DAMMIT.

10. Yeah so that lady is Skye's (NAAAAAAAAAAME) mom for sure. Or at least a relative. But probably her mom, given Skye's (!!!!!!!!!) dad's words at the end. She didn't age, so she's probably Inhuman. That leave's Dad's origins. Is he an Inhuman too, or something else? Also, how did she not age? Had she already been exposed to the Terrigen Mist, or something else? Does merely touching the Obelisk cause your traits to express themselves (in her case – longevity)? What does that mean for Reyna, who has also touched the Obelisk? SO MANY QUESTIONS!

Also, Whitehall was released and operated on Skye's (AHHHHHHHH NONONO) mom in 1989. Given that Skye (GRRRRR) was a baby when she was taken from the village, that makes her about 25-26 years old, depending on when she was born. Crazy that Whitehall was behind (or at least the reason) for the massacre at the village. FULL. CIRCLE.

11. That time lapse scene with Whitehall in jail was FREAKING AWESOME. Way to step up your game, SHIELD.

12. Simmons has a history crush on Agent Carter. So say we all.

13. Whitehall was able to access the lady's ability through surgery, because he took "everything" from her, and gave it to himself. This shows that the Inhuman traits can be accessed without Terrigen Mist, and leads into Age of Ultron. As we saw at the end of the Winter Soldier, Baron von Strucker was able to use Loki's Staff to create two "Miracles:" Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. I have a feeling they will be retconned as Inhumans. All the others that Strucker killed just couldn't survive the process. I wonder if Loki's Staff can see the Kree fingerprints on certain humans/Inhumans.

14. Remember the episode where Whitehall threatened Reyna to get the Obelisk for him, and he told her that he "operated on a woman on and off for a week?" WAS HE TALKING ABOUT SKYE'S (AHHH) MOM??? HOLY SHIT. If you watch the "experimentation," when he makes an incision blood comes out. That only happens if the subject is alive….

BONUS Age of Ultron / Agents of SHIELD nugget:

The second season of Agents of SHIELD debuted on September 23, 2014. The midseason finale is December 9, 2014. By then, 10 episodes will have aired with two breaks (the Marvel 75 special and Thanksgiving). Agent Carter is an eight episode mini-series that begins on January 6, 2015. Assuming it has no breaks, it will end February 24, 2015. Agents of SHIELD is scheduled to return on March 3, 2015.

Here's where it gets interesting:

Assuming there are no breaks for the rest of Agents of SHIELD's second season, given that this season has 22 episodes, the season finale will be May 19, 2015. That means there are AT LEAST three episodes that take place AFTER Age of Ultron.

We know that Baron von Strucker is Hydra, and will at least be the first antagonist in Age of Ultron. Agent Ward has already name dropped him this season, and at the end of last season right before Ward killed Agent Hand, she and Coulson discussed the various SHIELD bases that fell, including one in South Africa. So far it is assumed that Strucker is in South Africa.

What will those (at least) three Agents of SHIELD episodes after Age of Ultron comprise of? I have a feeling they will be similar to the episodes following The Winter Soldier: BONKERS.

There have been rumors that B.J. Britt (Agent Triplett) was seen on set of Age of Ultron in costume. This could signal that SHIELD's survival is revealed to the Avengers at some point, or that SHIELD helps in the fight against Ultron during the movie. Seeing how The Avengers are fighting holdout Hydra facilities in the movie (Strucker) and SHIELD's main focus is rooting out Hydra operations in the show (Whitehall), it is logical that their paths may intersect. If Triplett is openly working with Falcon at the end of the movie (it is said that Triplett and Falcon were on set in costume), then SHIELD is back in the fold, and Coulson's status is potentially revealed. They could still film a scene with Coulson to be edited in to the end, where he reveals himself to the Avengers, a la an end credits scene. Or maybe Hill accidentally name drops him. This could wrap up the whole "underground" theme for Season 2, and let Season 3 focus on some inhuman shenanigans.

Given that there are at least three episodes following Age of Ultron, that leaves open the possibility that we might get an Avenger guest star before the season is over. Stark, anyone? Maybe Cap finally signs those cards.