On the D/L – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Season 2 Episode 9 – Ye Who Enter Here
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D continues the plot to find the hidden city and ensures that the team in over their heads on several levels throughout.
First of all it’s looking more and more likely that the hidden city will turn out to be Attilan which means that Skye and Raina should turn out to be Inhumans. All of the signs are pointing that way now. The Kree are mentioned by name which more or less solidifies that connection for me. How exciting that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D will blaze that trail in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and introduce such a huge element. Assuming this all works out the way I want it to of course.
There’s a great sense of urgency in this episode as there’s a definite race against time to be the first to enter the city. Coulson’s team have a bit of a head start but Whitehall and H.Y.D.R.A are less than a step behind them. As a result the plot moves quickly and the stakes are continually raised to keep the tension palpable.
Particular highlights included the Mexican standoff between the team left on the Bus and the Ward led H.Y.D.R.A group. This was a great moment where the strong personalities of Ward and May maintained a holding pattern until Skye made the sacrifice that would ultimately save all their lives. As with any other episode this season I find Ward to be really fascinating. He’s not working with H.Y.D.R.A because he believes in their cause that much is clear but his own agenda remains a complete mystery. Getting Ward and Skye in a situation where they are going to share screen time is a good move given how good their scenes have been this season but I am left wondering if Ward cares about her or if he knows more about her origins than he’s letting on and wants to exploit that in some way. He seems to be playing both sides to his own ends and that’s all very compelling.
Another highlight was Mac’s transformation into a brute force antagonist who attacked his friends after contact with some mysterious symbols. Mac is a big guy so it’s great to finally see his size put to good use and make him a legitimate threat to everyone around him. Bobbi is well used in this scene towing the line between not wanting to hurt her friend and having to protect the team. Bobbi is shown as someone who is willing to do what it takes but remains compassionate and regrets these cations. That’s something that helps make her a great character.
She helps feed into one of the central themes of the episode. The idea of “acceptable losses” is brought up on several occasions and is really tested here. Bobbi has a conversation with Coulson about what Fury’s methods would be in a situation like this. Fury was obviously a pragmatist and had accepted that he will lose people on given missions so assigns a number he will deem acceptable to lose based on the parameters of the mission. This is fine and makes perfect sense given the work that S.H.I.E.L.D regularly does and how much danger their operatives find themselves in. Coulson’s stance on no loss being acceptable also makes sense as it fits his character perfectly but it has been proven that the realism of the situation will creep up on him.
This happened in the first episode of the season when he was forced to make a sacrifice because the cloaking technology was something that his team needed and it happens here when he finds himself forced to order Mac be shot when it becomes clear that he can’t be stopped any other way. I like that he’s not naive enough to think that there’s always a way out of a situation without losing anyone.
A lot of work has been done this season to show how different Coulson’s methods are to Nick Fury’s and this issue provides a really good example of this. It seems clear that any death’s suffered on a mission is something that Fury wouldn’t spend too much time grieving over. He’d accept that it’s part of his job and move on whereas Coulson has bonded with his team on a personal level because that works better for him so any losses will be felt by him on a deeply personal level. These aren’t simply his subordinates, they are his friends and in most cases have been hand chosen by him because of his personal affinity with them. The show is having Coulson tow the line between emotional connection and duty really well.
This theme is nicely reinforced when Skye gives herself up to save her team mates and friends. She recognises that in this instance she is the “acceptable loss” and does what she feels she has to do. Those around her recognise that as well when letting her go with minimal resistance to the plan. At the end of the day the team are more effective alive and shot out of the sky.
I really liked the scene between Simmons and Bobbi where they discussed Simmons connection with Fitz. It was great how Bobbi applied her interrogation techniques to recognise when Simmons was being evasive. The fractured relationship between Fitz and Simmons is being nicely played in general and it’s a good choice to not have this resolve itself so quickly. Some interesting parallels were drawn between Simmons’ situation and Bobbi’s relationship with Lance. There is definitely some depth to all of this and it’s working well to craft a group of characters worth caring about.
Seeing Agent 33 return still wearing May’s face was a really nice touch. Even better that it was damaged. There was something unsettling about the way she looked and she came across as a nicely credible threat. Her fight with Skye was really fun to watch though I have to question how Skye managed to get that skilled. Agent May had trouble with Agent 33 in a prior episode so I don’t think Skye is quite that good yet. Still an awesome action sequence though.
My favourite scene was Skye’s conversation with Raina. I found this to be a pleasant surprise as Raina has historically really irritated me. This interaction is filled with a haunting subtext that heavily implies the connection these characters have. Much of the discussion centers on heritage and does a nice job of tying this show into the bigger picture. It was exposition but was done really well. I found myself hanging on Raina’s every word as well as Skye’s reaction to it all. Chloe Bennet’s performance was great here as she played a Skye struggling to contemplate her place in the universe.
A couple of minor missteps brought this episode down a little. The main one being the use of Patton Oswalt’s character -or should I say, characters?- Koenig. Apparently there are 13 brothers, clones, Life Model Decoys or whatever they are and we see multiple Koneig’s on screen interacting at once. These scenes are filled with standard Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D awkward humour that feels hugely out of place. The most offensive example being when one of the Koenigs comments on how weird it would be to see your face on someone else as one of his brothers(?) is revealed. It’s such a forced joke and to have this in our face with no explanation is somewhat frustrating.
Another fantastic episode that furthers the main story threads while making time for the characters to develop.
Plenty of information was given about the city that has become their objective but everything was still left nicely mysterious. The pieces are really in place for next week’s midseason finale.
There’s a great sense of urgency in the story as the team race against time to locate the city with H.Y.D.R.A hot on their heels. Whitehall continues to function as a great foil for Coulson and his team and Ward continues to be completely enigmatic and unpredictable.
A really effective scene between Bobbi and Simmons helps to connect what their characters are dealing with on a personal level. Moments like this help to build the characters as a group of people worth caring about.
The episode does a really good job of exploring the central theme of “acceptable losses”. Coulson offers the main route of exploration for this theme through his methods of leading being different from Fury’s. Coulson’s ethos on “acceptable losses” is very different to his practical stance on it. We see through his actions here that he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his team.
Some missteps bring this down a little like some of the forced Koenig humour that sticks out like a sore thumb among the other smartly written scenes. He hasn’t been seen in a while and most of his scenes were very awkward here. There’s a mystery to his character that the show seems to be laughing about rather than developing.