Intense fight scenes. Fast moving plot. The raise of character stakes. Forgive me for sounding a little enthusiastic, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is really, really good right now – so good that every week, I have to sit back and reflect on that fact.
“…Ye Who Enter Here” set the stage for next week’s mid-season finale, which will probably open up as many doors as it closes. And given the fact that we’re stepping into some pretty interesting territory (Inhumans, anyone?) I’m super excited to see what the creative team is going to throw at us…and what we have to look forward to.
Last week’s episode left Skye in a precarious place emotionally, after Coulson and Trip ran into her father on a mission. The implications of that were made clear in the first few moments of the episode, as we experienced Skye’s dream – running around looking for Coulson, reminding him they have to open the mysterious box. In her dream, Skye watches Coulson and May leave a baby as a “sacrifice.” Her freak out leads her to pick up the box in question, which affects her the way the Obelisk would. It’s quite apparent that Skye is watching a version of her childhood play out, and that she’s clearly affected by her father’s newfound presence in her life more than she would ever admit to.
Mack, meanwhile, has spent his time creating a remote control version of Lola (complete with a little Coulson). He runs into Fitz while observing Bobbi and Hunter in their post “we just had rugged hot sex” state and is a little less than thrilled about their renewed closeness, but all I can think of during this scene is how fast people are going to ask about when we’re going to get a remote control version of Lola with a tiny Coulson. (Hey Marvel…get on that. It’s only been less than 24 hours since the episode aired.)
Trip is being patched up by Simmons and also fulfilling the requisite shirtless male quota while asking about Skye’s father. Skye mentions that she can’t shake the vibe that something really bad is about to happen, which is pretty much what Mac implied earlier when he was watching Bobbi and Hunter. Coulson gathers the group to talk about what the Obelisk is and why Whitehall wants it, and shares where they’ve managed to find the secret city. It’s underwater in Puetro Rico, and Coulson is determined to destroy it before Hydra realizes it’s there. It’s a valiant plan, but like Skye and Mack, I can’t shake the feeling something bad is going to happen.
In Vancouver, we get a glimpse at what Raina’s been up to since her escape from Coulson and “capture” by Whitehall: she’s apparently being tracked by Agent 33 (disguised with a nano tech mask to look like Agent May, because apparently she’s obsessed the woman.) While on the run, she’s saved by Koenig brothers Billy and Eric (Patton Oswalt) as well as Koenig’s super awesome invisible Tardis-like umbrella (another marketing thing Marvel needs to get on. I’ll be waiting for you at the booth on preview night at San Diego Comic Con.) Good news for Raina: she gets a lanyard! Bad news: You can tell that despite her situation, she totally does not want anything to do with S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson contacts Billy who tells him about Agent 33, while May and Skye watch the report about Senator Ward. Skye wants revenge, but Coulson decides to send her and May to extract Raina instead, presumably to keep Skye from going to the city.
Bobbi, meanwhile, is attempting girl talk with Simmons. In what ended up being of my favorite scenes of the night, she tries her best to get Simmons admit why she’s avoiding Fitz. She also calls her out on her feelings for him, and we get the full story of what happened following their rescue after the finale, the details of which we’ve never really been afforded until now. Like her science bro counterpart, Elizabeth Henstridge is absolutely killing it this season – though it’s helpful that Adrianne Palicki could have chemistry with a brick wall, which makes their interaction that much better. Bobbi tells Simmons she should be honest with Fitz about her feelings, while in another moment that made me feel too sentimental, Skye hugs Coulson goodbye.
While on the way to Puerto Rico, Mac tries to talk to Bobbi about Hunter, asking her if she’s brought him in on “the other thing” since they lost Hartley. And that’s all we get on that, other than Bobbi being very insistent they don’t. I’m not exactly sure where that conversation is going, because every theory I have (such delving into Mockingbird’s history with Hawkeye) makes no sense in the context of the conversation. S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t drop subtle bombshells like these without reason, though, and so we know an explanation is coming, especially since it looks like the Hunter/Bobbi relationship will be continuing.
May and Skye arrive to rescue Raina, where Skye gets to have a spectacular and incredible fight with Agent 33. I have yet to feel cheated out of one confrontation that didn’t feel genuine or leave me breathless — the stunt team and choreographers are really putting in overtime this year, and it shows. Raina realizes that Whitehall has the device and wants her to hold The Diviner, but she also knows that The Doctor believes Skye can hold it as well. Raina attempts to escape back into the hands of Hydra agents, but May smartly runs them over with her van…though not before Agent 33 picks up that Raina has a tracking device on her, which she smartly relays to Whitehall.
In Puerto Rico, Coulson and Bobbi are undercover as tourists as they prepare to meet one of Bobbi’s contacts. As they search for the city, she questions his motives, and the scene feels like one of the most important exchanges of the episode. It’s refreshing to step outside of the team and see interactions between people like Bobbi and Coulson, two people who have a history with S.H.I.E.L.D. and with Fury in a different way than other people do. I loved that the conversation allowed Bobbi to express her wariness about Coulson’s intentions, given how Fury acted on most occasions, and it’s these small character-building moments where S.H.I.E.L.D. has really shone this year.
On The Bus, Mac is the unfortunate result of an awkward third wheel as Fitz and Simmons desperately try to avoid each other’s presence. Mack finally gets fed up and leaves them to confront each other, though it doesn’t end up with either one of them admitting their feelings. Instead, it ends up with Fitz telling Simmons he’s going to leave so she can run the science division. He thinks with his injury he’s not capable enough, explaining to Simmons, “I can work for you, I just can’t work beside you.” Cue my tears, because this whole relationship has been such an intense rollercoaster, and every time I think we’re heading towards a resolution, it only gets more complicated.
Coulson and Bobbi join the rest of the team in the cave as Simmons tells Mac and Fitz about the “Devil’s Sentry” legend, where several guards vanished from the seemingly impenetrable fort. Mack decides to go down into the hole despite no one knowing what’s there, and you know this isn’t going to end well. (Sure enough, Mack gets down safe enough but upon touching the alien writing on the ground, all hell breaks loose.) In what looks like an incredible painful transformation, the code works its way into his skin and the team pulls him up, finding that he’s a very different Mack than the one they sent down moments before. This Mack is volatile and angry and doesn’t seem to feel pain – he sends Coulson flying across the room and engages in another intense fight that all but makes me realize how much of a love I have for Bobbi Morse. Seriously. If there’s one good thing that’s come out of the additions to the cast this season, it’s Palicki, who has brought her A-game and 200 percent to every single episode, especially where her combat sequences are concerned.
Simmons nearly ends up on the receiving end of another potential death, but Bobbi subdues him by stunning him with her batons and then knocks him into the pit (bless Fitz’s heart – he really did try to save her, and I was kind of hoping for some big gesture where he did save her.) Coulson orders them to seal it up, despite Bobbi’s protests. It’s a toss-up whether or not we’ve seen the last of Mack, but like Deathlok last season, my hunch is that there’s going to be some final confrontation even if they do manage to bury him.
Back on The Bus, Raina talks with Skye about her father, telling her “he’s quite misunderstood.” I think that’s being generous, but Raina goes on to describe how she met The Doctor in Thailand when she was on the run, and how he took her in and gave her a home. Raina insists that they’re not alien, just “special,” derived from a group of people who believe in a legend about the Kree. (Though some of this information had been revealed in interviews leading up to the episode, hearing Raina say the word out loud was still exciting for my nerd brain.) Raina tells Skye that The Diviner will lead the worthy to the Temple, because only the worthy are allowed inside. As for those that aren’t? Well, tough luck for them. I enjoy how the show is giving Raina more to do this season, rather than just using her as a pawn, or having her play a throwaway role in building the mythology. As someone who thought she was incredibly underused last season, I’m really pleased to see her taking more of a center stage role this year.
It doesn’t take long for Skye to put together what Raina’s telling her. She tries to warn Coulson but is intercepted by Whitehall’s men – and Ward. Raina agrees to go with Ward, but Ward won’t leave without Skye, who elects to give herself up despite May’s protests (but not before Raina gets Skye to give them the tablet with the map of the city on it.)
As Agent 33 updates Whitehall on the situation, she informs him that Ward took Skye. Turns out that surprisingly, Whitehall wasn’t so aware of Ward’s own agenda, especially after Agent 33 tells him that Ward has let the plane go. He gives her an order to “fix it,” aka “shoot the plane down” — which means next week, we’re totally in for an hour that will be pretty tense. Fasten your seatbelts, agents…this going to be one hell of a ride.