Another major Iron Man villain makes his debut, characters are developed and hints are dropped - is SHIELD getting closer to what fans are asking for? It's SHIELD vs. a pastiche of Real Genius in this week's AOS!
Personally, I think this was one of the strongest episodes yet (if you can ignore Coulson's rather cheesy closing speech).
First things first, the spoiler-light recap: Nefarious acts bring Coulson's Comrades to the SHIELD Academy of Science and Technology. Can they uncover the villain-in-the-making before any cadets lose their lives? And what's with all the secrets about Coulson and Skye? Wouldn't you like to know.
Now, the Marvel Connections:
We'll get to the Marvel villain in a bit, first some housekeeping.
As with "The Hub," we get to see more of the inner-workings of SHIELD here. This is one big organization. It has several academies in different (no doubt undisclosed) locations, with the jock-filled Operations academy often at odds with the nerd-filled Sci-Tech campus. Then there's the Academy of Communications, the non-threatening liberal arts of super spies.
Then there's the Wall of Valor, a memorial to fallen SHIELD agents at every academy. Skye helpfully notes that among the names is Bucky "Let's Name Drop the Next Marvel Movie" Barnes. Neat!
This episode we met Agent Weaver, faculty of the Science and Technology Division academy. She fulfills her job well enough. And that's all there is to say on her so far. There was also a second mention of Professor Vauhgn, having been mentioned last in "The Asset." If he ever appears, there's a good chance he could be Gilbert Vaughn, scientist and father of Wendell Vaughn, superhero and SHIELD agent. Then there's the grooviest place at the Sci-Tech campus, The Boiler Room, and unofficial open-secret among students and staff where all of the coolest nerds go to party.
In their speech, Fitz-Simmons mentioned SHIELD predecessors, the Strategic Scientific Reserve from World War II, last seen in the Marvel one-shot film, "Agent Carter."
In terms of main cast character development, Coulson is predictably darker this episode, but perhaps less predictably, May's armor is beginning to crack as she shows outright concern for Coulson, respect for Skye and really, really, really wants to tell people she's shtupping a 32-year-old - and yet she does it while maintaining her badassitude. She even puts on her glasses Horatio Caine-style.
Fitz seems notably darker this episode - he gives various people evil eyes, he's mean to Skye (his established crush) - is this just left-over frustration from recent episodes, or is there something secret going on under the surface? He also spoke very highly of Hydra (name-dropped along with AIM)... hmmm. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it.
The series bad guys are definitely being built up, as Ian Quinn of Quinn World Wide makes a return appearance after "The Asset." It's interesting, in that he pays people to develop supervillain tech and would willingly hire villains for the right jobs. He's basically fulfilling the role that might have been served by Justin Hammer or Obadiah Stane in the comics, both of whom are too connected to the Iron Man movies for a TV show like Agents of SHIELD to spotlight. Oh, and he works with the Clairvoyant - because of course he does.
Meanwhile, we learn more about Skye's mysterious past. One thing fans keep saying over and over again is, "Why should we care?" And, to be honest, up till now there wasn't much of a reason. Now we learn that Agent Linda Avery, the dead woman who dropped Skye off at the orphanage, worked with on-the-lamb former-agent Richard Lumley. It seems Skye was, for reasons unrevealed, an 0-8-4 discovered in Hunan Province, China, but an unrevealed organization (please don't be Centipede or the Clairvoyant) hunted down everyone who knew about the child, torturing and killing all of them (except Lumley, so far). Now, everyone who knows anything about the child (re: Skye) dies a horrible, horrible death.
Interesting enough to keep fans in on the "mystery of Skye"? Maybe.
The big question is, who is the "force to be reckoned with" who was out to get baby Skye? I'm sure it isn't, but I'm really hopping, that it was either the Great Wall or Atlas, organizations connected to the unfortunately named Yellow Claw. In the current comics, the organizations have split, with Atlas being a more-or-less philanthropic organization headed by former SHIELD Agent Jimmy Woo, and the generally-pretty-evil Society of the Great Wall headed by Woo's ex-squeeze Suwan, now known as the villainous Jade Claw.
On a personal note, I've know a lot of people in the foster system, and it seems like every foster child's dream to learn they were bounced from home to home, not because of any personal, emotional or domestic issues, but because they are the chosen one who needs moved for everyone's safety. Nothing more to say on that, just thought it was interesting.
So anyway, that was the B-story, back to the A-story.
This episode introduced audiences to Iron Man villain mainstay, the Blizzard! In the comics, Donnie Gill is a down-on-his-luck small-time crook who inherited the mantle of Blizzard from a dead villain who once called himself Jack Frost. Blizzard's greatest appearances to date have been as a member of the Thunderbolts, a team of supervillains trying to be superheroes, with varying levels of success. Sadly, it didn't work out as well as Donnie hoped, and he's been hanging in the Bar with No Name again since then.
For the TV version, the first version of Blizzard's ice generator was designed by Fitz-Simmons, as the youngest cadets to graduate the academy some time earlier. It was rebuilt and upgraded by 18-year-old prodigy Donnie Gill, and at the goading of cadets Seth Dormer and Callie Hannigan. The trio scheme to bring Fitz-Simmons back to the academy to finish the work they started before said work gets sold off the Quinn, but by the time the dust settles, Seth is dead, Callie is presumably headed to prison (or at least expelled) and Donnie has superpowers! It seems odd that his comic book counterpart had the arguably more realistic power-suit-related powers, instead of internalized ice generation, but whatever works.
Strangely, Donnie is sent to the Sandbox, first mentioned in "FZZT," rather than the Fridge. From what we've been told so far, the Fridge is for individuals, and the Sandbox is for materials - but these things are subject to change.
This episode added special thanks to David Michelinie, Bob Layton and Mark D. Bright. These creators, and especially Michelinie and Layton, had a long tenure on Iron Man, creating many of his signiature storylines, including the Ghost, who sort-of appeared in the "Repairs" episode. The duo recently returned to Marvel to revisit some of their classic characters in an all-new story - something more creators deserve the opportunity to do!
Whelp, that's it for now. Next time, Stan Lee!