On the D/L – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Season 2 Episode 6 – “A Fractured House”
Trouble arises in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D when an attack on the United Nations by H.Y.D.R.A is blamed on Coulson and his team. This causes the government to declare S.H.I.E.L.D a terrorist organisation and start to hunt down the limited ranks.
Given the binary antagonist structure of this season -one being H.Y.D.R.A and the other being the legitimate government- an episode like this was inevitable and for me, very welcome. I like the idea that Coulson and his team aren’t recognised by the government which makes it their job to hunt them down.
I did think the H.Y.D.R.A frame job seemed a little obvious when I saw it given the extreme actions taken by literally disintegrating members of the U.N. but I was appeased when Talbot pointed out that based on his experiences that really isn’t Coulson’s style. I continue to be impressed with Talbot in general as he is being written as a layered character who follows orders but also has his own values and beliefs as well as possessing an above average level of common sense. There is also a sense of honour to him shown when he is clearly sympathetic when May tells him how many operatives were lost. Even though they are on opposite sides Talbot still respects the unit mentality and how loss will be dealt with among them. It might be a little soon for them to be seeing eye to eye but it’s a fairly powerful moment nonetheless.
A nice piece of continuity is thrown into this episode. In the last season Ward opens up to Skye about his abusive older brother who is now a senator. We meet Ward’s brother Senator Christian Ward (Tim DeKay) here who tells Coulson a different version of the story that Ward told Skye. This episode does an effective job of reminding the audience of that story as it is retold to Skye with a hint of desperation in Ward’s voice but given his history we as the audience are less inclined to believe that, much like the characters. Having the senator being Ward’s brother added some personal stakes to the situation and allowed Coulson and emotional angle to exploit in order to get what he wants. It’s also clever of Coulson to appeal to Senator Ward’s fear of losing his political career if certain details were revealed. It did provide something of a neat explanation to get the government of their back for a while but at the same time the emotional resonance was spot on.
Hunter and Mockingbird’s sitcom level bickering is something of a mixed bag. Hunter’s apprehension to being sent on a mission with her stuck out as being unprofessional and entirely out of character for Hunter who is normally a guy who just rolls with the punches. There’s plenty of chemistry between Blood and Palicki and there were some good moments like the two of them shooting someone with barely a look in the middle of an argument. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t but thankfully the stuff that works is really good. Mockingbird is a welcome addition to the team.
The scenes between Fitz and Simmons worked really well here. Simmons tried to pick up their former relationship where it left off but this causes Fitz some upset as he doesn’t like the fact that she doesn’t acknowledge that he is different as well. Their friendship has been damaged by Simmons leaving since it caused Fitz to feel abandoned and retreat further into himself. The change in this dynamic is perfectly illustrated by his natural interaction with Mac while Simmons only upsets him. She does react maturely in the end though and the scene where she thanked Mac for helping him out in her absence was really genuine.
Skye is showing signs of unraveling. Clearly her prolonged interactions with Ward have made a big impression on her and are causing her to lose focus. It became clear in this episode that Ward has Skye right where he wants her in the way that he teases information about her father and makes alterations to his stories in just the right way to manipulate her. Brett Dalton is doing such a good job of playing Ward as a menacing Hannibal like figure and I’m glad they haven’t started trying to redeem him. Certainly this episode pushes him far beyond that.
The action scenes were nicely tightened up from last week. Mockingbird and Hunter fighting together was really nicely choreographed and exciting as well as being effectively intercut with May’s fight in the next room. The change in the characters and the increase in field trained agents has been a great asset to the series in terms of the action.
Some aspects of the show still feel a little awkward. As I mentioned above I felt that this episode wrapped things up a little neatly in terms of getting the government off their back as well as Talbot’s acceptance of the loss of 6 agents for Coulson’s team. Neither of these things feel truly earned at this point and only further the plot through necessity. There was also a completely out of character moment where Simmons threatened to kill Ward should she see him again. I get that Simmons was nearly killed and Fitz permanently damaged because of what he did but this felt so out of place for her to say that.
A solid episode with a good story. Including Ward’s senator brother added a nice personal stake to the antagonistic force of the government that faces the team. Talbot is also well used and suitably humanised in this episode despite the fact that his acceptance of the S.H.I.E.L.D team seems to be moving a little quickly.
Some of Mockingbird and Hunter’s interactions feel fairly awkward but some of them work really well. The actors have great chemistry and make their scenes together memorable. I really like the alteration in the Fitz and Simmons dynamic that is framing Simmons as something of an outsider to the team at this point since Fitz has befriended Mac as the one he trusts. A lot of interesting things are done with Ward and flesh him out as being a fascinating character who is developing nicely.
Some inherent neatness in the resolution of the story and out of character moments feel a bit clumsy but generally the show is onto a winner this season with a few kinks to be ironed out.