Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 3 Episode 8
“Many Heads, One Tale”
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD moves forward with the disparate plotlines and manages to bring them together in a way that feels mostly satisfying.
There was a lot going on in this episode but none of it ever really felt overpowering or undersold the story that they were trying to tell. As usual the characters broke up into smaller groups with a specific agenda but ultimately they were all after the same goal without really knowing it.
The connecting tissue in this episode comes from Rosalind and Coulson who have some complicated feelings to work through after spending the night together. Coulson thinks that Rosalind is at the point where she completely trusts him and his heart and head –to use a corny description- are in conflict as his gut reaction is to trust her but all of his S.H.I.E.L.D. training tells him that he shouldn’t. Naturally he goes with his training and does everything he can to investigate her to find out if she is telling the truth about everything or not.
His role in the whole plan is to keep her distracted by an all access tour of his S.H.I.E.L.D. facility to repay her for getting to see her facility –no, that isn’t a euphemism- last week. Their professional relationship is very much built on giving something to get something back which makes sense considering she works for the government and S.H.I.E.L.D is no longer recognised by it. Rosalind is choosing to trust Coulson with certain things because she thinks that giving him the information will ultimately benefit her.
The tour of the facility is pretty much what you’d expect from these two characters by now. Rosalind looks around to see what extra information she can pick up and Coulson purposely misdirects her while the two of them flirt with each other. It’s good to see that giving into their attraction hasn’t softened the tension between them in any way.
Real progress starts to be made when Coulson confronts her about the apparent lies she has told him and she completely throws it back in his face with some really cutting remarks. Judging by what she says and the obvious pain in her voice when she calls him out for apparently taking advantage of her Rosalind is genuinely hurt by Coulson’s betrayal and genuinely wants to work with him. Constance Zimmer manages to make Rosalind appear vulnerable without losing any of the strength associated with the character.
Clark Gregg’s performance indicates that Coulson feels terrible about how he has made Rosalind feel but he has to work to remind himself that it could all be an elaborate deception on her part. His instincts tell him that she is being genuine but his training tells him that people can be really good actors when they want to be and Coulson has been burned my misplaced trust in the past. Just look at Ward for a very terrible example.
Rosalind’s comment about Coulson having no emotions and only using people for his own benefit is one that cuts him deeply. Following up with him metaphorically stabbing people in the heart because it literally happened to him is another brutal accusation that Coulson can’t really disagree with. So much has happened to him that he has gotten away from the “nice guy” that he used to be before he was made director of S.H.I.E.L.D. He may have the best of intentions and a desire to do good but the way he treats people to get to that point needs some reviewing.
I get the impression that this conversation with Rosalind is something of a wakeup call for him as he plainly realises that he has completely misjudged the situation. It turns out that she was unaware what was going on in some areas of her facility as some things happen above her paygrade that she doesn’t need to know. Rosalind is also in a situation where she is being lied to and the fact that it’s happening under her roof makes it even worse for her. She is clearly a woman who likes to remain in control so having things happen behind her back is completely counter to that.
The information is uncovered through the efforts of Bobbi and Hunter who have backup from Daisy and Mack. The cover story this week is that Bobbi is an FBI agent and Hunter is a smartass IT guy who takes explicit instructions from Daisy on what to say and how to manipulate the computer to gain access to their system. Hunter plays the part to perfection and, as always, has some fun with his cover identity. It’s good to see the characters do spy stuff now and again and it’s been a while since we saw Daisy do her Hacktivist thing. It’s refreshing to see her take on the role she once had in the show and still have that be part of her character.
Nothing new was learned about the characters here but their role in the story was to get the information while undercover so the scope for development was quite limited. It does lead to a really cool action scene involving Bobbi’s high-tech batons culminating with Hunter’s low-tech sucker punch with a fire extinguisher.
Everything seems connected to Gideon Malick who is pulling all sorts of strings. He is high up in H.Y.D.R.A and has connections to the government so he is really playing both sides without anyone being the wiser. He the one responsible for the secret project on the restricted floors of Rosalind’s facility and knows a lot more about H.Y.D.R.A. than anyone is even aware of.
There’s a significant information dump around this character as he talks to Ward about H.Y.D.R.A. being an organisation that has apparently existed for centuries. I was hoping that the Ram symbol would turn out to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the organisation Zodiac and that could still be the case but it seems that H.Y.D.R.A. are firmly behind absolutely everything.
Part of their plan involves creating more Inhumans to use for their own means because I imagine having super powered henchmen is an attractive prospect for an evil organisation. As an aside, the fact that fish oil capsules are used to create Inhumans will never cease to be hilarious.
There’s also discussion of a very old Inhuman that is on that world on the other side of the portal who serves as the leader of H.Y.D.R.A. Looks like my dreams of the planet being Ego: The Living Planet won’t come to pass unfortunately but I am interested to see who this Inhuman turns out to be and if it is anyone famous from the comics. Nothing really comes to mind at this point for me but I will keep thinking on it.
Gideon Malick is a great character and Powers Boothe plays him with a great amount of menace. He does sometimes seem over the top but I find that quality endearing. There’s a sense of fun in his sadism and he clearly takes enjoyment from what he does. I guess being involved with every major organisation that are fighting against one another while they are oblivious to your involvement is a good position to be in. Now that the S.H.I.E.L.D. team are on the case with the addition of what Rosalind knows I imagine his anonymity will be short lived.
His conversation with Andrew was a really good scene. I liked that Andrew saw through him almost immediately considering what he knows about how pharmaceuticals work. He knows that a cure is years off at best and can tell that it is probably the last thing that Malick wants. He clearly wants Lash on his side and will do whatever it takes to get to that point.
Ward has been pretty quiet of late but comes back with a vengeance in this episode. Gideon sends in people to kill him which of course proves pointless given Ward’s considerable combat skills and his ability to torture people for information. It doesn’t take long for Ward to find him in a secret location which earns him enough respect to be told the truth. Brett Dalton clearly has a lot of fun playing Evil Ward and that makes him infectious to watch as he casually does horrible things without even an inkling of guilt.
Having the information about the origins of H.Y.D.R.A. and their ultimate goal to reunite with their leader is exactly what Ward needs. It seems to be a matter of having something powerful enough to survive the alien world so this puts Ward on the trail of bringing Lash out and –I’m guessing- put him to work against the Inhuman on that planet. Ward’s scene with Andrew shows that he is more upfront in his methods but also that they are on the same page ideologically. I’m really excited to see where this goes.
May is worst affected by having to bring Andrew down last week so has gone all silent. It has caused Lincoln to feel that she has it in for him because he was the one to bring Lash out. It was a nice moment when May apologised to Lincoln on Andrew’s behalf because he killed his friends and tried to go after Lincoln as well. There have been plenty of vulnerable moments for May this season and they have proven to enhance the character.
Fitz and Simmons are the strongest part of the episode again as their relationship gets even more complicated. She becomes frustrated with guilt over her conflicted feelings and he is frustrated with her for pushing him away. He finally confronts her about it and it turns out that Simmons is annoyed with him for not being more annoyed. She feels that she has betrayed him in some way with Will and that Fitz should be more upset about it which of course he is but doesn’t want to admit it and make the situation worse. They make an important step forward in their relationship when they kiss but there is clearly a lot to resolve before they get to a more comfortable point where they can both be happy. I really liked seeing them research using old books. It reminded me a lot of the early seasons of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer where most episodes would have them thumbing through old books to find information on the evil of the week.
The episode doesn’t return to Fitz and Simmons often which actually makes their scenes more effective. It would have been so easy to fill the episode with them constantly being frustrated at each other while essentially going around in circles but since the scenes are so infrequent each of them allows things to progress significantly.
An excellent episode that brings together the different plotlines in interesting and organic ways.
Rosalind and Coulson hold the episode together as much of the story happens around them. Coulson is distracting Rosalind while his team check into her facility to find out if she is lying or not. He feels that she trusts him but is torn between his desire to trust her and his training that tells him he should find out for sure before making that leap.
The tour of the facility is pretty much what you’d expect from these characters. She tries to find out everything she can while he keeps as much hidden and possible and all the while they flirt. It’s good to see that giving into their attraction hasn’t made their relationship lose its edge.
Progress is made when Coulson confronts her about the apparent lies she has told him. Rosalind comes across as really vulnerable as she appears to feel completely betrayed by Coulson who seems to have taken advantage of her for her own ends. Constance Zimmer makes Rosalind very vulnerable without losing her strength in these scenes.
Some of her remarks around Coulson being unfeeling clearly hurt Coulson as he can’t really disagree with her. Pointing out that that he figuratively stabs people in the heart because it literally happened to him is a brutal comment but again it cuts Coulson deep as it is at least partially true.
This information is found out by Bobbi and Hunter who go undercover as an FBI agent and a hacker respectively in order to break into Rosalind’s system. There’s not much opportunity to develop them as characters here as they are undercover but it does lead to a really cool action sequence involving Bobbi’s batons.
It turns out that there are things going on in Rosalind’s facility without her knowledge at the behest of Gideon Malick who has influence with both the government and H.Y.D.R.A. without anyone really knowing his true agenda. Powers Boothe plays this character with just the right amount of over the top menace. Malick is clearly someone who enjoys the sadism he is responsible for as there is a sense of fun to all of his interactions.
There’s a massive information dump around this character as he reveals the true origins of H.Y.D.R.A. to Ward which seems intimately connected to the alien world and the entity that lives there. I wonder if the entity will turn out to be a pre-existing Marvel character.
Ward has been somewhat absent lately but makes up for that here with some great scenes. His easy takedown of Malick’s goons is perfectly natural for him and the way he casually finds Malick’s secret hideout is amusing. Brett Dalton clearly has a blast with Evil Wards and that makes him infectious to watch.
Both Ward and Malick have very different interactions with Andrew but the goal of using Lash for their own dark purposes is clear. Both scenes are really effective in their own way as it highlights the similarities as well as the differences in the methods of each of them.
May’s apology to Lincoln on Andrew’s behalf because she feels responsible for Andrew killing Lincoln’s friends while coming after him. It’s unexpected but completely makes sense. May has shown a lot of vulnerability this season and it’s a good fit.
Fitz and Simmons are the strongest emotional part of the episode as they spend much of it dancing around each other with how frustrated they are making one another. Simmons is annoyed at Fitz for not being angrier with her as she feels that she has betrayed him with Will but Fitz is frustrated because he feels he can’t say anything. They take an important step forward when they kiss but they clearly have a long way to go before they can be happy together.
There’s lots in here that set things up nicely for the coming episodes. I’m excited to where the show goes from here.