On the D/L – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Season 2 Episode 8 – “The Things We Bury”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has our characters with a clear mission. They are all singularly focused on finding the mysterious city revealed to them in the previous episode which causes them to employ a variety of approaches to achieve their objective.
There was a lot going on in this episode which caused the story to move on at such a frenetic pace. No time was given to allow the viewer to process anything or catch their breath. It could be argued that there was perhaps too much happening for a single episode but I actually felt that the majority of it was juggled pretty well.
The episode has a really effective title actually links to almost everything that is going on here. It literally refers to the well that Ward’s parents had covered up because of the negative memories it suggests. It can also refer to S.H.I.E.L.D classifying the files on Dr Whitehall as well as Dr Whitehall’s past itself. Hunter and Bobbi’s trust issues play into the idea of things being buried. The Doctor’s hidden agenda as well as the pain over the loss of the love of his life is something that has also been buried as well as the mysterious city itself.
We get a fascinating look at the back story of the mysterious Dr Whitehall who serves as something of a Red Skull stand in for the show. I have to say that Reed Diamond does a fantastic job of filling those shoes and manages to craft a really unsettling and enigmatic villain who definitely feels like a major threat to Coulson and his team. There’s a general nonchalant sadism about his character which works wonderfully. You really get a sense that he sees people as resources and doesn’t care about them beyond the use they can serve him. The scene where he savagely cuts apart the woman who turns out to be Skye’s mother was actually pretty shocking to the extent that I can’t believe it was allowed to be in this show. Whitehall was suitably detached through this which made it all the worse.
Seeing flashbacks to establish how he got to be immortal was a great choice and throwing Peggy Carter into the mix really lends this story a sense of legitimacy it might otherwise have lacked. It’s interesting how she seems to be the lynchpin holding the cinematic universe together at this point with roles in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as her own upcoming series Agent Carter among reported roles in Ant Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron. She’s certainly getting around lately which kind of makes her the new Nick Fury in that sense. Flashing back to the post World War II days gives the story a great sense of scope as well.
Kyle MacLachlan’s character gets a lot more to do than simply be mysterious this week. His scene with Coulson was fantastic with a sense of darkness to the comedic edge and outlining his fairly complex motivations. He wants to find the city but also wants to get revenge against Whitehall for what he did to Skye’s mother. It’s nothing new of course but it’s handled with enough sophistication that it really doesn’t matter. I’m fascinated to see where they go with this character and how he relates to the major players in this show.
Just a quick side note about the continual references to the city. I’m fairly convinced that it’s Attilan with the description of the aliens being very reminiscent of the Kree and their role in creating The Inhumans leads me to believe that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D might be where this concept gets an introduction. I certainly hope so because at this point it doesn’t make sense for the city to not turn out to be Attilan. It’s also be great to give this show an important role in the Cinematic Universe rather than resting on the fringes like it has up to this point.
Ward was great in this episode as he finally got to catch up with his brother. He was straight up menacing in his scenes here but I liked that Christian didn’t come across as at all terrified. He was a strong presence against his brother and we get a detailed exploration of their relationship as well as some information relating to Ward being the way he is. I like what’s being done with Ward this season with him having a clear agenda that’s not known to the viewer and seems random. It is clearly calculated but each move he makes is more surprising than the last. The fact that he can seemingly casually murder his family and be so cold about is a really terrifying thing.
Coulson was very much a man on a mission in this episode and I liked how a part of his top secret mission seemed to involve literally picking up his dry cleaning. Immature definitely but nicely in character for Coulson. The most interesting scene involves his analysis of Nick Fury’s methods and how effective they could be. I feel like Coulson is going to evolve into something of a hyrbid of Fury’s methods with his morality and somehow make that work in his favour. I like that there was some doubt as to Coulson’s sanity given his behaviour last week. It was an important plot point so I’m really glad they haven’t let this drop off. It remains to be seen what will come of it but for now it’s definitely present.
Not all of the plot threads worked well here. Bobbi’s interrogation of the prisoner felt like something of an afterthought. It wasn’t bad but didn’t get enough time to really become as interesting as it could have. The trust issues idea between Bobbi and Hunter felt really tacked on here and seemed awkward as a result as did Simmons being an Agent Carter fangirl. Even Fitz becoming more confident and regaining a bit of his old self was so far in the background that it seemed less important as a result.
An excellent and well paced episode that gives many of the characters some great stuff to do as they begin their search for the hidden city.
Dr Whitehall’s past is somewhat fleshed out through flashbacks featuring Agent Carter. These flashbacks lend a sense of legitimacy to the series and ties everything directly into the Cinematic Universe. Whitehall himself is an able stand in for the Red Skull and evokes the right amount of menace.
Ward’s plot where he confronts his brother is excellent. He seems so unhinged yet calculating that it’s impossible to predict where he’ll go next or what he’ll end up doing. He clearly has a plan and I can’t wait to see what it is.
Coulson’s role as director is further explored as he outlines things that worked for Nick Fury and tries to figure out how to make them work for him. He is clearly a man on a defined mission in this one and really helps to keep the pace of the episode slick.
Some plot points like Bobbi’s prisoner interrogation, her trust issues with Hunter and Fitz’ increasing health fade into the background and I wonder if they should have been left for a subsequent episode.