Agents of SHIELD – Season 2 Episode 19
“The Dirty Half Dozen”
The six original Agents of SHIELD cast members work together on a mission to rescue Deathlok and Lincoln as well as take down a branch of H.Y.D.R.A. in the process.
Having the original cast members back together for an episode was really cool and helped to highlight how far the dynamics have shifted since they were last together in the first season. The episode made Ward something of the central figure as he represents the biggest change in how these characters interact. He has tried to kill all of them at one time or another and the betrayal is still very raw for the entire team who all loathe having to work with the guy.
Ward calls them out on it and delivers what appears to be a sincere speech about how he is the one responsible for breaking up the family and tries to blame his troubled upbringing for that happening. I don’t really believe the sincerity for a second because I’m at the point where I just assume Ward is lying every time he opens his mouth. It’s served me pretty well so far.
It’s good that the team weren’t won over by his impassioned speech with May making the point that they’ve all had problems in the past but none of the rest of them became psychopaths as a result. It’s a good point and I’m glad that nobody suddenly trusts Ward because he talks a good game. It’s an alliance of necessity and convenience rather than actually wanting to work together. Introducing conflict into the team definitely makes the whole thing feel a lot more real and there’s a certain volatility to the group interactions.
Beyond the universal mistrust of Ward there are shades of the trust between May and Coulson starting to break down. May isn’t pleased with the idea of working with Ward but her time working with the “real” S.H.I.E.L.D. has made her privy to information that makes it appear that Coulson isn’t exactly on the level. May and Coulson have an interesting discussion about trust and how that is a tricky subject at the moment. Coulson is suspicious of May for working with Gonzales and reminds her of the line she had to Nick Fury that was kept secret from him. May has just as much reason not to trust him so their partnership is on thin ice at this point.
I never thought I’d say this but I enjoyed Fitz and Simmons interacting in this episode. Their relationship has definitely evolved following Fitz’ brain damage and they appear to have far more mature interactions these days. For the most part their hatred for Ward is what they have in common and Simmons seems to be very passionate about following up on her promise to kill him. This surprises Fitz a little but he doesn’t protest too much.
I was actually really impressed when Simmons took her opportunity and tried to kill Ward. She was interrupted by Bakshi who got disintegrated for his trouble but Simmons was definitely going to do it and that says a lot about how far her character has come. The fact that she shows no remorse for being responsible for Bakshi’s death is interesting as well. Apparently she’s detached enough to off bad men and not be sorry about it. Maybe some guilt will appear in subsequent episodes but I hope they develop the fact that she’s becoming colder.
Going back to Ward, he’s always an interesting one in the sense that his agenda is impossible to figure out. It’s always clear that he has a plan but never clear what the plan actually is. Everything he does keeps me guessing and I really like that. In this case he’s keen to help Coulson so that he can help Kara get better or so he says. I think there must be more to it but he does genuinely seem to care for Kara and look out for her well being. His gesture of leaving her with S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to indicate that he cares but I’d almost be willing to bet that she’s a plant for him in some way that will become clear later on.
Skye’s inclusion in the proceedings was probably the best use of her yet. Her sense of responsibility makes her want to do everything she can to make sure Lincoln gets to safety as well as Deathlok so she convinces Jiaying to let her go back to her teammates and join the rescue attempt. Sky definitely proved invaluable here as she controlled her powers to take out some H.Y.D.R.A. soldiers and handled herself more than capably in a really cool single take action sequence.
These single take action sequences are something that seem to be really popular in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Daredevil was applauded for having a really cool and visceral one and they are used in both Avengers movies to great effect. Having one in Agents of SHIELD is not something I ever expected to see but it worked brilliantly. As sequences go it looked great and it really shows how far Skye has come in her journey to become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. This is probably the first time I’ve genuinely believed that she is one of them.
In general the set piece moments in this episode were really cool. It is a shame to see “The Bus” destroyed like that but all the stops were definitely pulled out to make this episode look great. It was well shot and dynamic in the way that these sequences were portrayed.
Coulson’s role in the episode was interesting. There’s always a hint that he’s got something going on that nobody else is in on. It was shown when he refused to leave until he downloaded some data from H.Y.D.R.A’s computers and it reminded me a lot of Black Widow at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as Fury’s explanation of missions needing compartmentalisation in order to maintain a maximum level of security. Whether that’s the best idea any more is up for debate and Gonzales represents the other side of that argument but Coulson is definitely up to something and it’s keeping the intrigue levels high wondering what it is.
I really like the dynamic that currently exists within S.H.I.E.L.D. at this point. The idea of an uneasy alliance between the two factions is working really well so far and I like the idea that Coulson has to keep himself useful by offering just enough to keep Gonzales on side. Giving him the toolbox is fair enough but I’m not sure that slipping the information that Fury is alive into the mix was something that he should have done though. I wonder how Coulson would feel if people went around telling the Avengers he was alive despite his constant insistence not to. I do wonder how far Gonzales’ obsession with people with powers will go.
In some ways having the original 6 characters together on one mission felt a little contrived. It took a few convenient movements to get them in that situation but the episode did more than enough with it to make up for it. There’s no believable reason why Bobbi wasn’t involved though. Hunter fair enough due to injury but Bobbi hasn’t had an awful lot to do action wise in the past few episodes so I was confused as to why she didn’t at least ask to be on it.
Given that Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out in the U.S. on Friday it’s no surprise that Agents of SHIELD would want to link into it in some way. The show has had a mixed history with connecting to the films as they come out in the past with the Thor: The Dark World tie in being clumsy and superficial. The Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie in was very well done and hugely significant to this show so how did this one stack up?
Actually pretty well for the most part. Coulson’s secret mission turned out to be the information on Strucker’s base that he gives to Maria Hill who then gives it to the Avengers so that they can go after him. It’s a small tie in but a significant one and doesn’t overpower this show with overt references to other things. On the same token this doesn’t need to be seen to understand the opening to Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s pretty much the perfect tie in as it moves things along without stepping on any toes. The connecting tissue comes in the form of Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill who appears in the film so acts as a nice bridge between that and this show here. I’d love to see more of her in this show or in the upcoming spinoffs. We’re still in the dark about the mysterious “Theta Protocol” but apparently it’s ready and Coulson isn’t sharing what it is with his team quite yet. The fact that Maria Hill knows about it is something I find interesting. I wonder if it’s something that Nick Fury is involved in too.
Back at the Inhuman camp things seem to be turning a little uneasy. Cal’s return has clearly had some effect on what’s going on as his outburst talking about their daughter turns a few heads. I could sense a growing unease within their ranks at how much interaction they were having with the outside world. It also appears that Jiaying’s leadership is soon to be called into question as it is slowly coming out that she is abusing her position where her family are concerned. Coupled with Raina’s visions this whole part of the show is becoming more and more interesting.
A really strong episode that allows the original cast members to be all together for the first time in what feels like forever.
This works really well as the dynamic within this group has shifted so significantly since they last worked together. Everyone hates Ward and refuses to trust him after his betrayal so his presence creates a real feeling of volatility to the whole mission since Ward’s agenda is never clear.
Having the whole team react to Ward’s presence in different ways really sets the tone for the episode and I thought it was interesting how Simmons was willing to make sure that she followed up on her promise to kill him and would have actually done it if Bakshi hadn’t gotten in the way. Simmons lack of remorse at offing a bad man like that adds more layers to her character as well.
May and Coulson’s fractured relationship is proving to be fascinating with each of them having reasons to doubt the other. Coulson is suspicious because May is working with Gonzales and May doesn’t trust him because of recent findings pointing to the fact that he’s up to something.
The general uneasy alliance between the 2 S.H.I.E.L.D. factions is working really well so far and is dripping with opportunities to create tension and drama as they struggle to find common ground. Coulson and Gonzales are representing the two sides of this conflict and I like how it’s playing out so far.
Skye was used really well in this episode with her desire to help Deathlok and Lincoln winning out over whatever her mother wishes for her. Her contribution to the mission involving her using her powers as well as her skills in a really cool single take action sequence was all just awesome. I had never quite believed that Skye was a proper agent until this point.
In some ways it felt a little contrived having the 6 original cast members back together but I didn’t really mind as the episode makes really good use of the storytelling potential. Having said that, there’s no real reason why Bobbi shouldn’t have been on that mission.
I found it really clever how this episode set up Avengers: Age of Ultron by Coulson finding the information on Strucker’s base that he passes onto Maria Hill who will then give it to Stark. It’s always good to see Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and it gives us another mention of the mysterious “Theta Protocol”.
Back in the Inhuman stronghold there’s a growing sense of unease at Jiaying’s leadership as it’s becoming clear that she is putting her family above the rest of her people. I suspect this will result in some challenges to her leadership sooner rather than later.