Synergy, thy name is Disney…
The latest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins with a nod, deliberate or otherwise, to this week’s big nerd holiday: Star Wars Day. We open with a shot of Patton Oswalt’s lanyard-loving Agent Koenig lying in a bed bedecked with vintage Star Wars sheets (apparently having just woken from visions of droids dancing in his head). We soon learn, however, that we’re watching a flashback to one year prior, soon after the events of season 1, and Koenig is helping Coulson with the mysterious project “Theta Protocol.” We immediately learn it’s actually the helicarrier with which Nick Fury saves Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Yes, last weekend’s omniblockbuster is again referenced. And if last week’s episode, “The Dirty Half Dozen”, could be viewed as a prequel to the film, “Scars” can be considered a kind of sequel.
In the wake of Fury’s actions, Coulson is deemed a hero by Gonzales and Bobbi. Even May, who was so angry he left her in the dark about his secret project, finds her sympathies slowly aligning once more with her old friend and director. That’s more than can be said for May’s feelings towards Skye. Here the SO learns that her charge’s mother leads the Inhumans in Afterlife; and it’s easy to read May’s conflicting emotions in Ming-Na Wen’s face. Deep down inside she’s happy her surrogate daughter has found peace with others like her. But she’s saddened to lose her to a woman she’s only just met, even if that woman is her mom.
Coulson is also a little too close to Skye to serve as an effective arbiter between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans (whose name is finally spoken aloud on the show). Gonzales has located their secret base by tracking their teleporter Gordon, and he decides to speak with the woman in charge. Good thing too. Because sending the crusty cane-wielding veteran to meet with Jiaying doesn’t go well at all. A feeling of dread permeates the entire episode, but kudos to writers Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc for making the violence erupt from a place we least suspected it.
Since she was introduced as 1.) the one character on the show most brutalized by HYDRA’s Daniel Whitehall, 2.) a wise leader, and 3.) Skye’s mother, there was little reason to doubt Jiaying’s intentions for her daughter and people. Raina, on the other hand, has been oozing duplicity since season 1; and since her transformation this season she’s been drowning in a sea of self-pity and bitterness. So of course we don’t trust her when she begins using her visions — which, in so far as Ultron goes, proved to be correct — to manipulate Gordon. Especially when her refrain is “Something terrible is going to happen unless you do what I say.” But whether or not she truly did plan to use the Inhumans to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. we don’t know. Instead, we’re treated to the site of Jiaying, whose own scars run even deeper than Raina’s, using a homemade Diviner to go Old Testament on Gonzales, then making it appear he struck preemptively by shooting herself with his weapon and declaring war.
Regarding Gonzales’ death, one could argue it’s a convenient way to remove Coulson’s chief rival for authority. Though beforehand the two directors had appeared to make all the peace they’re capable of with each another. In any case, the table is now clear for the S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff show starring Bobbi and Hunter.
In addition to revealing Jiaying’s dark side in full, this week’s episode also marks a further evolution in Cal, who again comes off more sympathetic than his ex. In “Scars” his feelings for Skye and her mother are so strong he voluntarily gives himself up to S.H.I.E.L.D. as a show of good faith. Or so he says. Methinks those vials he’s brought with him to the organization’s headquarters are part of a larger plan. With only one episode left this season, odds are we’ll find out what he’s cooking next week.
— I very much want to have Koenig’s sock drawer.
— “This way we’ll have a cool underground base and a boat.”
— When Mack resigns, he tells Coulson he can’t work for him. Thus begging the question of who will be in charge on the new show, where he, I’ll wager, will join Bobbi and Hunter.
— S.H.I.E.L.D. may not feature as many established superheroes as Marvel fans would like, but it’s gotten damn good at using its connections to the events taking place elsewhere in the MCU to advance its own story. Evident when Gonzales mentions Tony Stark’s initial belief in Ultron as a means of preventing Coulson from meeting with Jiaying.
— I’ve given up trying to figure out what Ward is planning. When he left Agent 33 in the custody of S.H.I.E.L.D. last week, I believed the reasons he gave for doing so. Silly me.
— “I hope your mother is everything you wanted her to be.” Burn.
Next week: Skye battles May as her mom leads her people to war, in the two-hour season finale!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).