Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “A Hen in the Wolf House”

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S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps the ball rolling this week with character-driven plot lines tailored to accelerate the second season’s story arc. The momentum welcomes newcomer Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird. Admittedly, I have little knowledge of both the actress and the character from the comics so I had the privilege of being wowed by her reveal. I knew that Mockingbird would eventually be a part of the show, but I didn’t know which episode she would appear in. So when she appeared onscreen as an intimidating mole-sniffer for Hydra, I took her at face-value. Which was a pretty underwhelming impression. With Simmons in the middle of the proverbial “wolf house”, I expected another adrenaline-infused spy hunt story. However, what ended up happening was Simmons making obvious mistakes while trying to maintain her cover, and Palicki’s character dumbly overlooking them. Not to rain on Simmons this episode, her hot-seat moment with Whitehall was a prideful moment for any Jemma fan, as was her ice cold framing of her lab partner; but it seemed like the writers could have come up with a better trap to let Simmons fall into other than leaving incriminating evidence in her work area. Things immediately made much more sense when Palicki whipped out two battle staves and revealed her true identity as Simmons’ appointed protector. The fight scene echoed back to Black Widow’s first debut in Iron Man 2, reigniting my love for kick-ass Marvel ladies.

Sadly, the episode lost most of its suspense after this moment, with the reassuring feeling that yes, Coulson always has a plan. Raina returns in this episode in an effort to get Coulson to hand Skye over, so she can take her to her father, so he can give Raina the Obelisk, so she can give it to Whitehall and Hydra and save her own life. She threatens to expose Simmons’ cover as leverage, however since Coulson knows he has Agent Morse in the mix, he lets it happen and counts on her to get Simmons out safely. From that point on, the episode dives in to the mystery of Skye and her father. Finally! I am beyond excited by Kyle MacLachlan’s performance in this episode, and with the promise that he’ll be a returning presence in the show. He brings a unique flair to the role, exhibiting an otherworldly wisdom wrapped around a dark and barely contained rage. We still don’t even know who he is exactly, and he’s already one of my favorite characters.

Mockingbird gets Simmons back to the Bus where we find out that she is Lance’s ex-wife he’s been talking about. I figured his ex-wife would pop into view at some point, and I’m expecting my interest in Lance to warm up now that he’s going to be working side-by-side with the “She-Devil”. So after only five episodes, Simmons double agent story seems to be prematurely over. I wonder if this was always the plan, or if the writers decided it wasn’t working. Either way, I was hoping for Simmons to drive herself deeper into the Hydra infrastructure, but at least this means we get the FitzSimmons reunion we’ve been waiting for, right?

NOT REALLY.

Simmons is reunited with Fitz, who seems to have let go of his hallucinations and is considerably stutter-free. Before anything of meaning can be said, the camera cuts away after an palpably awkward greeting. Seriously?? I get that their changed dynamic will probably be an on-going thing, but to not even give us a hug? Something? Stick a knife in my face, that would be less painful. Also worth noting is Fitz’ subconscious acknowledgment of Mack as a fine piece of man, and Simmons complete enthrallment with Bobbi. “She’s amazing.” It’s not a strong indication of the writers maybe exploring bisexuality with FitzSimmons, but wouldn’t that be neat?

Lastly, Skye and Coulson’s relationship took a starring role in the episode. The two are in a difficult spot with their new role dynamics, with Coulson having to keep secrets and give orders, and Skye needing to mind her place and respect authority. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop Skye from challenging him when she becomes concerned for his own well-being. Skye’s a smart cookie, and she’s been onto Coulson’s habitual alien carving for awhile. In this episode she cracks the case open after talking to Ward, who recalls Garrett’s deterioration. Ward’s immediate reaction is to ask if the alien carvings are hers, with real fear and concern. Then, relief. I’m convinced Ward is legit at this point. Skye confronts Coulson about how the GH formula may have given Coulson sinister side-effects at the cost of his resurrection, and in a funny moment Coulson implies that Skye may be an alien. She was also injected with the GH formula, but has not shown any similar symptoms, meaning she is having a different reaction than Coulson and Garrett. Maybe it’s because she already has it in her DNA? There’s a running theory that S.H.I.E.L.D. may be used as a platform to introduce Marvel’s “Inhumans” franchise into the MCU. We’ve already seen Kree in both the show and in Guardians of the Galaxy, and with the inclusion of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel must be looking for a way to avoid the “M” word, since Fox Studios essentially owns all their mutants on screen. Skye could very well be our first Inhuman, and she may even be one that’s recognizable from the comics, since her father reveals Skye is not her real name.

Skye comes very close to finding her father before the end of the episode, but instead finds two dead bodies, narrowly missing him. However, he watches through cameras as Coulson consoles her, hugging her like the father MacLachlan’s character never was. Hearing his daughter call him a monster, he vehemently agrees in frustration, breaking his iPad (along with the hearts of Apple fanatics everywhere). He drives off to vow vengeance on Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D., aligning himself with Hydra and giving Whitehall access to the Obelisk. Whitehall and Skye’s father are easily the two most sinister villains the show has seen, and seeing them together can only be bad news. Based on how MacLachlan frenetically murdered the Hydra guards who tried to stop him, he’s going to mesh well with Whitehall’s cavalier cruelty.

Next week we’ll not only get a liberated Ward, but the premiere of the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer. I’m bouncing up and down with excitement, BRING ON THE TRAILER.

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