Still feeling the aftershocks of “Turn, Turn, Turn”, we finally meet Coulson’s cellist ex-girlfriend—but not before she’s in imminent danger. Having been let free from captivity during Garrett and Ward’s raid of The Fridge, a powerful villain with deadly powers goes on a war path that puts Phil’s one true love at risk.
One of the biggest plot points going into this episode, and the future of the series, is the release of the S.H.I.E.L.D. prisoners from The Fridge, one of them being Ian Quinn (David Conrad), and a number of them having superpowers. Should the series go to a second season, they’ll surely come into play, but for this episode, we’ll have to settle for one. Marcus Daniels (otherwise known as Blackout) is one such prisoner who Coulson knows by name, and targets for the team’s first apprehension… but first, they’ve got to go through “orientation.”
The episode starts out where last week ended, with Ward (Brett Dalton) finally meeting back up with the group for the first time since it was revealed to the audience that he was working for Hydra all along. His character is going through an interesting transition, for sure, but I really enjoy the mental toll that all of this seems to be taking on him. That anguish is taken to the next level when Eric Koenig (Patton Oswalt) reveals that each member of the team will have to pass a lie-detector test, one so complex that not even Black Widow could beat it. Interestingly enough, after almost failing the test, Ward passes the lie-detector test by insisting that he’s there to spend time with Skye (Chloe Bennet). So, does that mean that he legitimately has feelings for Skye? What sort of tangled web is he living in, and where does his loyalty really lie? My favorite line between them is Ward’s mention of his brother, calling back to “The Well”, in which he says that his older brother forced him to beat on his younger brother, because Ward was afraid of his older brother. Is something similar going on with Garrett, or better yet, is Garrett this older brother he keeps mentioning?
Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), while I’m happy that their getting more time to develop, I’m not sure I like the way their story is heading. At first, their relationship seemed like an inseparable pair, with no romantic feelings whatsoever. However, now that Agent Triplett (B.J. Britt) has been introduced as a possible love interest for Simmons, they are turning Fitz into a needy, jealous friend-who-wants-to-be-more. One of the things I enjoyed so much about their relationship was that there weren’t any of those feelings involved, and now they are turning it into a love triangle. My hope is that this tapers off, or at least turns into something along the lines of “I don’t want him to take away my friend.” Like Fitz, I hate (this) change, and I’d much prefer it went back to the way things were, while keeping Trip and Simmons together.
Having rekindled his fading faith toward the end of last week’s episode, Coulson (Clark Gregg) is back on the path of righteousness and living by the way he lived while a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. After finding out that Marcus Daniels (Patrick Brennan) was one of the escaped criminals from The Fridge, he assembles a team, and goes to take him out. This is when we meet Coulson’s cellist girlfriend, Audrey Nathan (Amy Acker), who also just so happens to be the recipient of Daniels’ affection, and it all becomes clear as to how they met in the first place. Not wanting to hurt her, Coulson is forced to stay in the shadows, much like he did after he was brought back to life. Unlike before his death, and before the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson seems to have a better grasp on the fact that nothing is ever completely safe. Oddly, after how much Coulson fights to keep her out of harms way, and insists that they will not use her to draw out Blackout, I was really confused by the scene in which they do exactly that. I may have missed it, but I would think that I would have noticed Phil agreeing to a plan that was literally the opposite of what he insisted on, so it felt out of place. Yes, we knew they would have to do this anyway, but it just didn’t fit what we’d already been told, and nothing was said to the contrary.
Melinda May’s (Ming-Na Wen) arc took an unexpected turn, as she decides to leave when she realizes that, while everyone else has a reason be there, she no longer does. Without Coulson’s trust, and having nothing more to offer an organization that doesn’t exist, she decides to handle some business of her own. Skye’s reaction to her leaving works as a nice way of talking about Ward’s double life without her even realizing it, and it was even better when Ward tries to explain his side of things through May’s example. In a way, the two characters aren’t much different, and yet, are complete opposites. May and Ward both hid their true motives from Coulson, but Ward did it for Hydra, while May did it for Coulson.
At the conclusion of the episode, any sense of security that was established in “Providence” is gone, and our team is once again divided. Skye discovers Ward’s betrayal, May has left, Koenig is dead, and Phil and the rest of the team are still in the air. The final scene, featuring May and our introduction to her mother, is made all the more interesting by the fact that she says she “just wants to talk to” Maria; Maria Hill, I presume. We know that Cobie Smulders will be appearing in the next episode, so this will undoubtedly lead to May meeting up with Phil once again, but what does she want to talk to Maria about, anyway? And what organization does her mother work for? Will that organization play a role in the shows future?
This episode managed to balance a new side story, which ties into the continuing main storyline, all while revealing more about these characters (May was married?), and dropping even more references than ever before. The mystery of how to beat a man who can just absorb energy led of my favorite references on the show so far, which was the most subtle way to work in Bruce Banner, but also played such a role in the conclusion of the episode. The show has been on a streak, mixing all of these elements perfectly, and while I don’t want to jump the gun too soon, I think we can expect all of those great things we originally did from this show. What did you think of this episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Let us know!
R.I.P. Eric Koenig