All of Coulson's hard work comes crashing down around him as the SHIELD vs. SHIELD war begins. Viewers finally learn how the "real SHIELD" got started, and get a hint about why that aircraft carrier is so important!
The episode itself was very strong. Not a lot of new Marvel Comics tie-ins (other than the name of the ship, which is kind of a big deal in a roundabout sorta way), but the plot is just steamrolling along.
It can't be said enough how different this season is from last, for better or worse. Last season had a lot of monster-of-the-week episodes, that lend themselves well to new viewers but are often unsatisfying for dedicated audiences, but lacked a strong central narrative until after the Captain America sequel when the last handful of episodes kicked butt. This season has been one status quo flip after another, keeping audiences guessing, but the ongoing narrative might hurt the show's chances at gaining new viewers as episodes like this one are heavily mired in the series mythology. That said, this was a really powerful episode, and the more new viewer friendly episodes, like the one with Skye's dad's band of losers, just weren't as engaging.
What do you all think: Should the show be large soap opera-like arcs that require viewers to watch every episode, or more stand alone episodes that could be enjoyed without the whole season?
Got off on a tangent there... back on track...
The Spoiler-light Recap: Coulson knows a couple of agents are up to no good, and they start making trouble in his neighborhood. There's one little fight and May gets scared. She has Agent Coulson get the heck out of there!
On with the Comic Connections
The episode opens with a flashback showing the origin of the "real SHIELD." When the Hydra uprising happened, SHIELD agents aboard the Iliad fought to the death to keep something in cargo out of Hydra hands. Isabel "Izzy" Hartley, Bobbi "Mockingbird" Morse helped rescue Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie and a few young agents named Case and Susanna (according to the credits), but failed to save Mack's friend Tim Maguire. They clear out Hydra agents (who are already annoyed by Nazi comparisons), then rescue Agent Robert Gonzales, who claims he fought off an axe-wielding Hydra loyalist. Bobbi, following Nick Fury's Protocol ASTA06, was determined to blow up the Iliad, and Gonzales agreed with her; expecting to go down with the ship, Bobbi gave Hartley the key to Franny's Saloon (shown in "A Fractured House") to give to Hunter. Hartley and Mack (who apparently had a coin collection as a kid) are encouraged by some early wins against Hydra - Hartley mentions that Vic (presumably Agent Hand) was securing the Hub (spoiler alert: Hand died). They convinced Bobbi not to set the bombs, and thus was born the "real SHIELD." Anyhoozits, the "Iliad" (named for the Homeric poem, obviously) is the name of the SHIELD flagship hellicarrier under Director Maria Hill in the comics, so here's hoping it can fly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well!
Although not shown, they also describe what happened at the Academy, where Agent Weaver had to fight off one of Hydra's Enhanced (re: Centipede) soldiers until Agent Calderon came in with Quinjets to save her. Whew, rough day.
Back in the present, Bobbi arrives at the Playground base in time to cut some wires on the Bus (Mack previously sabotaged some Quinjets) and gets to work throwing a wrench in Coulson's plans by planting a jumpdrive (presumably with nasty programming) in the Playground's mainframe. Mack, meanwhile, gets his first chance to look at Lola, but Coulson reveals he already knew about the secrets of Mack's remote controlled Little Lola (named this episode); it takes him a few seconds to realize Bobbi is in on it, but by then, she has her hands on Fury's Toolbox (that's not a euphemism), which is apparently made with Vibranium. As a reminder, Vibranium (in its various forms) is one of the most useful and versatile materials in the Marvel Universe. Recently all Vibranium on Earth was rendered inert in the comics as part of a really hardcore bluff-calling by T'Challa the Black Panther in a war with Dr. Doom.
May fights Bobbi, noting that the last person who betrayed her (Ward) received a broken larynx. The fight is all-too-brief, but it should be noted that the pair are (very nearly) evenly matched. May is the certified bad ass of Agents of SHIELD, but Bobbi's comic book counterpart is a fighter on par with the Black Widow and a long-time (if C-list) member of the Avengers to boot! Mockingbird's path from obscure Ka-Zar supporting character to hanging out with Marvel's major players was a long and convoluted one, but hey, it's comics.
Escaping May thanks to a cleverly timed EMP, Bobbi finds Simmons and tries to recruit her. Agent Simmons has been acting rather shifty of late due to her fear of superpowers, but she redeems herself nicely by being the only agent to take out Bobbi thanks to a clever ploy. Sadly it was all for naught, as Fitz, Simmons' erstwhile partner, failed to deactivate whatever program Bobbi installed in the base computers before "real SHIELD" showed up.
Although it's clear "real SHIELD" wants to keep Coulson's crew alive (unlike Hydra), May believes they are up to no good and trusts Coulson implicitly, so she alone escapes the insurrection, while the rest of the team are incapacitated by dendrotoxin gas (based on Fitz-Simmons ICER weapons).
Gonzales, now with Coulson at his mercy, says Coulson is a risk because of the alien DNA that brought him back to life, and notes that Project Insight, the program Hydra almost used to take over the world in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was Fury's idea. Despite those good points, Coulson is rightly suspicious of the "real SHIELD" and refuses to cooperate. It's another story for Fitz-Simmons, as their friend Agent Weaver is part of the cabal running "real SHIELD," and she is doing everything she can to indoctrinate them into the group. May allows herself to be captured after helping Coulson escape through a secret elevator (remember, this base has secrets from its time as Agent Carter's SSR base that even Mack's copy of the schematics don't mention.
Meanwhile, "real SHIELD" Agent Calderon is after Skye, and Bobbi goes with him to offer a friendly face. It seems the safehouse housing Skye is called the Retreat, also known as "the House that Banner Built." Skye figures this out on her own when she uncovers panels with some Hulk-sized punch marks. Agent Oliver (the bearded guy from last episode, named in this episode) and Weaver suggest taking Skye in, as she's a danger to herself and others. It's worth noting that last episode suggested Captain America stayed at this house for a while, and now we know Hulk stayed there first - wonder who else stayed there? In the comics, Banner has had various safehouses over the years because more than anything, sometimes he just wants to be left alone.
Skye was oblivious to all the cloak-and-dagger stuff, as she was busy being bored at the Retreat. She tried on Simmons' armbands which were said to have strange side effects, but eventually took them off without seeming the worse for it. She received a bit of a shock when Gordon showed up (the Inhuman we are assuming is Reader from the comics). He explained that a mentor helped him when he first went through the mist (alluding to Skye's mom, but not mentioning this fact to Skye), and offers to take her to place with other gifted people where she can learn about her powers. She hesitantly turns him down at first, though she does feel a bit better about her powers as she gets to mess around with waterbending a bit. Interestingly, Gordon in the show is very aware of his surroundings despite being blind, whereas Reader of the comics is completely blind when not using his powers to see by other means.
After a distressing call from May, Skye learns that "SHIELD" is out to get her, Skye attempts to run but runs afoul of Bobbi and Calderon. For the first time she purposefully uses her powers offensively, sending a shockwave at the enemy combatants, destroying part of the forest behind them and impaling Calderon with a piece of tree. Freaked out by the scale of her power, she whispers for Gordon who whisks her away to see other Inhumans. Again, Reader of the comics is not quite that powerful, although also something of a deux ex machine. When he found out his temporary charge Iso (Xiaoyi) was in trouble, he rushed back to save her, but his limited number of "readings" per day meant he couldn't' teleport or stop time, and was forced to use his wits to get her out of a jam.
At the episode ends, Coulson is on a strange beach somewhere (thought it was "Tahiti" for a moment, but nah...) where he just so happens to find Hunter (or rather, Coulson probably tracked Hunter through some unrevealed means). Despite Coulson having lost everything, Hunter agrees to be his agent (as of the moment, his only agent).
Next week: The fight to take back what is theirs!