Last week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we were forced to sit through that mostly transitional episode that occurs in nearly every series right before they wind up with a huge bang. Also, when last week’s episode aired, Avengers: Age of Ultron was still to be released. Now the movie has hit the theaters and we’ll get the chance to see if it directly affects what happens in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. So far, we have S.H.I.E.L.D. 1 and S.H.I.E.L.D. 2 still trying to figure out who’s really in charge. We have Skye getting better with her powers. The Inhuman-esque folks on top of peaceful mountain have their own thing going, one that might be severely disrupted by the knowledge that Jiaying is Skye’s mom and that Cal is her father. And Ward ran off, leaving Kara behind to be welcomed back into the S.H.I.E.L.D. family. But what’s going to happen this week? If the preview is to be believed, we’ll be seeing a big showdown between the mountaintop Inhumans and at least one version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Let’s see if they delivered on their promise, shall we?
We begin with a brief flashback, to one year previous. Coulson is meeting with the Patton Oswalt twins, Billy and Sam and they’re talking about Theta Protocol. The answer to this riddle? It was the construction of the helicarrier used in Avengers: Age of Ultron. With that expositional bit of reveal out of the way, we return to our regular program.
Back in the present, the events of Avengers 2 are winding up. With the destruction of Ultron and the knowledge that Coulson was part of the solution (if only in a remote way), Gonzalez is ready to talk business. So Coulson takes over as the director and the rest of them get to hang out on the council and make sure he doesn’t screw things up too badly. And it isn’t long before Coulson gets to test this new power structure, as the Inhumans from the mountain come a-callin’.
Raina has yet another vision, this one of an evil stone. Jiaying and Gordon know about said stone, though only in passing. It’s some sort of Kree failsafe that could be used to destroy all the Inhumans if need be. As it turns out, that stone is on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s boat. S.H.I.E.L.D. has no idea what the damned thing is, other than it’s alien in origin, but Jiaying is pretty shaken up about it, so she sends Raina and Gordon in for a closer look. Naturally, S.H.I.E.L.D. sees the pair wandering about their boat all sneaky-like. They also happen to track Gordon when he leaves, giving them a trail right to happy-Inhuman-mountain-land (aka Afterlife).
So then it’s up to Coulson and his new council to figure out what needs to be done. Most of them want to march in and go to war with the super-powered hermits, but Coulson is a bit smarter than that. He wants to arrange a meeting with them and, if things go well, put them on the index. Reason wins out and eventually Skye is sent back to convince her mother that there needs to be a sit-down. Unfortunately, the council also decides that Gonzalez is the man to do the negotiating instead of Coulson, so the chance of conflict is already escalated from the get-go.
In the meanwhile, Raina has a vision that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to blow the living crap out of all the mountain people. She says that if Jiaying is allowed to be the negotiator, things will go bad. But Cal’s been talking bad about Raina since day one, so nobody trusts her. Instead, they see it as a power play and lock her safely away.
When Gonzales and Jiaying finally sit down to chat, things seem to be going well. Then Skye’s mommy gets a bit uptight with the idea of being indexed by S.H.I.E.L.D. Needless to say, things go quite poorly from that point on and there is little that can be done to prevent a full-scale war at this point.
In the background, we have a couple of other things going on. Mack decides that Coulson is too much alien for him and that he can’t be trusted, so he retires from duty. And Ward comes back in a big way to help Kara kidnap Bobbi while the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. is right in the middle of their Inhuman negotiations. To what end? I guess we’ll have to wait a little longer for that answer.
All-in-all, this was a really solid episode. It built up for the war that is to come with a steady increase of tension. I liked that they didn’t just go with the cliché “Raina is still evil!” thing and instead put a bit of a spin on it. In truth, they’ve been building up to it, though Jiaying’s willingness to let crazy-ass Cal do as he pleases still comes as a bit of a surprise. I mean, the dude’s obviously cracked.
I’m also starting to warm up to the idea of Simmons being a proper hard-ass. It’s been a clumsy ride, one that they should have executed by using more Fitz and Simmons conversations, but it’s finally beginning to take proper shape. It also makes perfect sense that working for S.H.I.E.L.D. would change people and that sometimes those changes can be quite unpleasant.
There weren’t any big explosions or major conflicts this episode around (well, aside from Jiaying going over the rails), but each scene managed to bring us closer and closer to what promises to be a very exciting conclusion. Once again, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven that it did indeed deserve a second season and that the writers, actors and other folks involved have learned a lot in their year-and-a-half of working on the show.
Next week, ‘S.O.S.’ brings us the war we’ve been waiting for. It’s S.H.I.E.L.D. ingenuity versus Inhuman super powers and Skye is stuck in the middle. Will she route for her mommy or for surrogate daddy Coulson? We’ll have two hours to see what happens, but in the meantime here’s a 30-second preview.