Wow. Talk about a 180. Coulson and Crew have gone from tools of the man to running from the man, completely changing the dynamic of the show - for the better!
(I almost said "for the marvelous" but that seemed a bit on the nose.)
Although many claimed this series wasn't exactly Whedonesque, despite being a Joss Whedon-produced show, the series seems to have achieved that. Ragtag band? Check. Fighting against the Man? Check. Quirky but strong female leads? Check. Betrayal and deaths of characters fans liked? Check and check.
The Spoiler-light recap: Just minutes after last episode, the team struggles to pick up the pieces of SHIELD before taking off to parts unknown. Is everyone thought dead, really dead? Are people they think they can trust actually trustworthy? Who knows? Mysteries are to be addressed (if not necessarily answered) in the frozen north, and in the Fridge (no, not that one).
Oh, and if it still needs said, there are still Captain America: The Winter Soldier spoilers here.
Centipede agent Raina, the titular "Girl in the Flower Dress," was left in prison making origami flowers, but Ward broke her out to give her a flower dress from the Clairvoyant. That was nice. He whisks her off to Havana, Cuba, where Ernesto the Hydra barber lets them into one of Hydra's secret bases. I have been waiting eighteen episodes for SHIELD's barbershop base to show up, and it's a Hydra base. It's still great to see it on screen! In the comics, the SHIELD barbershop has been around since the beginning - an unassuming business that, with a few clever pass phrases, served as the entrance to SHIELD's greatest secrets.
Meanwhile, with SHIELD crashing down around everyone's ears, Coulson was left in charge of the Hub. He calls on some SHIELD-loyalist named Agent Martin while news reports talk about the SHIELD files Black Widow released in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. News reports describe human experimentation, WMD stockpiles and massive cover ups. Not a nice thing to be in charge of.
This apparently includes four confirmed secure SHIELD bases. Assuming the completely trashed Triskelion is not counted as "secure," that includes the Hub, the Cube and two undisclosed bases. The map from "Turn, Turn, Turn" seemed to indicate bases in West Africa (presumably the Sandbox from "FZZT") and Saudi Arabia were also secure. BUT WAIT! I hear you asking, what is "the Cube"? The Cube was introduced in Grant Morrison's Marvel Boy series and has since shown up in various other Marvel media. It's where Earth's authorities secretly hold numerous alien prisoners and technology. Garrett seemed to think it wasn't important enough to waste Hydra time, so either it isn't as important in the MCU, or he just doesn't know what it really does.
Of course, when congress calls for an investigative panel (as seen in Winter Soldier) and they call on USAF Colonel Glenn Talbot to send a peacekeeping force to take control of SHIELD. In the comics, Talbot is the (currently) deceased ex-husband of the Hulk's estranged wife, ex-son-in-law to the Red Hulk and brother of the current Gray Hulk. That's a lot of Hulk relatives! Naturally, Talbot was leader of the Hulkbusters, a "peacekeeping" military unit in charge of taking down the Hulk.
Rather than face the music as the guy in charge when the walls come crashing down (like the man in the above video), Coulson decides to run with his tail between his legs, enacting what he calls the Odyssey Protocol - so named, one presumes, for the 10 year journey of Odysseus, who led a ragtag band around the known world battling monsters in the hopes of someday finding a safe harbor. It does seem rather like a captain abandoning his ship, made all the more troubling when Coulson says he wishes other SHIELD agents abandoned with him, but he does have a valid excuse in that he is one of the few most qualified to hunt down Hydra. Interestingly, Coulson encourages agents do as he does, and steal - sorry, "commandeer" - government vehicles on their way out.
Coulson does not want to extend his circle of trust to Agent Trip, but on Simmons' insistence, Coulson acquiesces (much to Fitz's chagrin). Here's hoping he stays part of the team!
We quickly learn that Coulson's plane, the Bus aka SHIELD-616 has no cloaking technology, a few days worth of food rations and busted fuel lines - but at least they have internet! If they keep the Bus next season, it will be interesting to see how they hide and refuel it on a regular basis.
On the upside, they still have magical hacking abilities as Skye goes through the Internet and erases all evidence any member of Coulson's team ever existed (this after Black Widow just leaked "all" of SHIELD's secrets). Makes one wonder how many other SHIELD supporters are deleting other details as soon as they pop up.
Back with the Hydra hopefuls, the show confirms that Season One Big Bad "Centipede" is a Hydra side project, although "Flowers," or rather Raina, had no idea. She is at first hurt that Garrett isn't the psychic mastermind he pretended to be, but she eventually seems to accept it. Raina has always been presented as crazy, but without her heroworship of the Clairvoyant, she's a lot more human, and as a result, potentially more interesting as a villain.
Garrett namedrops Black Widow when he describes Ward's deep cover as better than Romanoff's. For example Hydra Ward hates the New England Patriots, but SHIELD Ward doesn't - shocking! More shocking however is that Ward's obsession with Skye seems genuine and that Garrett has plans for a certain cellist in Portland! Garrett also mentions that he stole several drugs with different numbers from TAHITI (as seen in "TAHITI"); presumably these are also of alien origin.
On an upside, Garrett confirms that the shootings of Bob and his partner - the two "security chuckleheads" working at Fury's secret Guest House, were committed by he and Ward. So, does that mean Coulson's off the hook for the deaths of these two non-Hydra agents?
While Hydra Agent Kaminsky over-enthusiastically Hails Hydra, Garrett learns Hydra lost the Cube but decides to raid the Fridge instead. While there are some really obscure characters named Kaminsky, there is, perhaps more significantly, a long-time Marvel writer named Len Kaminski. His run on Iron Man deserves particular attention.
We learn a bit more about Ward's past. For example he was recruited by Garrett while still a teenager, and although he didn't choose to join Coulson's team, he gladly threw himself out of a plane for them and got intimate with May in order to secure the team's trust. Sneaky, sneaky.
Back on the Bus, Coulson - who we learn was recruited by Fury fresh out of high school - receives a mysterious signal telling him to go to coordinates 49 27 41 -80 3 40. According to Google Maps, this is somewhere in near Little Porphyry Lake, Ontario. In the Marvel Universe, it seems like any time there's a secret base in the Canadian wilderness, it's connected to Weapon X. In this case it's home to a secret Fury base run by lanyard-wearing Level 6 Agent Eric Koenic! While the TV version is kind of a goofball - having been sequestered since the Chitaurri attack on New York (i.e. The Avengers movie) - the comic book version was a Nazi agent who defected to join the allies, got a chance to live a long time (like most of Fury's friends) and was briefly director of SHIELD. Koenic calls his base "Providence," which in the comics was once a Sealand-like nationstate run by the mutant Cable. Koenic reveals to Coulson (and only Coulson) that Fury is not dead! Shocker of shockers! But no one can be told because Fury has instituted Full Eclipse Protocols (whatever that is).
While May doesn't know about Fury, she does reveal she knew someone other than Fury was in charge of TAHITI. Trip, meanwhile, reveals he's read Moby Dick (and that Fitz hasn't). Kinda fun tidbit: an alternate reality version of Deadpool once took it upon himself to travel to alternate realities and kill literary characters, including the white whale himself!
At the Fridge, which is at an unidentified location with a nice beach, Ward and Garrett take out dozens of SHIELD agents.
We learn that, just like his comic counterpart, Garrett is something of a cyborg and that Garrett once arrested "Johnny Horton" - a man with lion paws - and dropped him off at the Fridge personally. In the comics, Horton is the Griffin, who is so downtrodden as a villain that once when his intelligence was lowered to that of a domestic animal, he was the "steed" of Marvel hero Namor the Sub-Mariner. Can't wait till this guy shows up on the show!
We learn that the Slingshot is a lie! Fury had secretly been keeping alien technology and other goodies at the Toy Store (perhaps this is what they meant by taking their "toy soldiers off the shelf" way back when). Garrett takes a plasma particle beam and Ward finds the Beserker Staff.
Garrett also releases a bunch of prisoners, including Blackout, who we'll learn more about next episode.
By the story's end we learn that Quinn has been put back in charge of Gravitonium (presumably unaware that Dr. Franklin Hall is inside the sample) and that Ward has rejoined Coulson and Skye at Providence. Presumably Hydra also knows where Providence is. Ah well, it was a great secret base while it lasted.
This episode included a brief look at Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie is looking better and better.