The show introduces a big time superhero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the appearance of Mockingbird! Also, who or what is Hellcow!? And for that matter, what is Skye? Let's look at the evidence and speculate away!
Not a bad episode overall, though Mockingbird's reveal did seem a bit rushed after all the post-Comic Con buzz. Still, some great comic book shout-outs, and those are always welcome by fans.
Spoiler-Light Recap: Things build to a head quickly as the ragtag SHIELD, the nefarious Hydra and the mysterious Doctor and Raina all cross paths - with one of Coulson's team caught in the crossfire! For all the major players to make it out of this one alive, they're going to need a superhero. Good thing there's one nearby...
On With the Comic Connections
Let's start with the big name from tonight's episode: Mockingbird. Agent Bobbi Morse was introduced this episode as Hydra's internal hound dog, searching out spies within the spy organization, but she's secretly a mole for Coulson, watching Simmons' back. As soon as the chips are down, she busts out her trademark fighting clubs and kicks butt with the best of them (even pulling off a Black Widow-esque spin in the hallway). We also learn that she's the crazy ex-wife Lance Hunter keeps talking about, but apparently she isn't all mean, as she's also the reason Coulson decided to trust Hunter even after his indiscretions. The comic book version of Bobbi Morse was introduced, not as a butt kicker, but as a quiet and unassuming biochemist (not unlike Simmons). Overtime the blonde agent developed more and more fighting skills, eventually taking a costumed alias for herself and sporting twin fighting sticks. In the comics she was Hawkeye's wife for a long time - now his ex - but they still work together well. Perhaps most interestingly, she was "dead" for over a decade in the comics, only to have it later revealed that the dead Mockingbird was a Skrull imposter, and that she was alive and (almost) well in space. She'll be an amazing addition to the team, but one wonders if she'll get a chance to shine alongside Hawkeye in the Avengers films. Probably not, but a fan can dream.
Back to the opening scene for a sec. We get the ill-fated wedding dinner of Pete and Mariya Leitner. Pete and his Navy buddies are part of an ant-Hydra unit, which makes them fair game as far as Hydra is concerned. Apparently the wedding party included people like Aunt Cindy and somebody nicknamed H-Bomb. Obviously no relation, but there's a Marvel hero named A-Bomb, although he's better known to most comic fans by his alter ego Rick Jones (and as of recent events, that's how he'll be known again for a while...). Rick Jones, by the way, does exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as he was referenced in the Incredible Hulk movie.
It's weirdly prophetic that the best man's speech included a line about "people seeking change, hoping to become something else, something better," as that's exactly what Hydra was hoping when they infected random party-goers with Obelisk-residue. Much to Hydra chief Whitehall's chagrin, all they achieved were a few dead naval officers - but what exactly was he hoping for?
The lead in the Obelisk-power project is Dr. Lingenfelter, but Whitehall seems to think Dr. Simmons (it's good to use the title now and then) might have better ideas. He also makes an allusion to the Red Skull when he mentions their "founder" and his obsession with the Tesseract (the Space Infinity Stone, as canny viewers know). Simmons though, knows just how deadly the Obelisk could be, so she reaches out to SHIELD for help.
Before that though, there is a fun little nod to the fans where Simmons and her colleague Kenneth Turgeon study samples of red milk from "Bessie," something Simmons calls a "Hellcow." Of course, this is Bessie the Hellcow. Bessie was a normal cow until a really desperate Dracula once happened by her barn, feeding off her and (unintentionally?) transforming her into a vampire cow. Yes, that Dracula. And yes, she does stalk the night with bovine horror. She's tangled with Howard the Duck and teamed up with Deadpool. Plus, hey, she's a superpowered cow, so that's cool.
The Doctor, meanwhile, was helping some mercenaries or hitmen or something (whoever they were, they were enemies of someone called Big Rick). It seems that's his day job, but he has some anger issues. We aren't told exactly what these issues are, but apparently it causes him to violently unleash superstrength. He considers this part of himself a "monster," and in this episode whenever he's about to snap, he's bathed in reflected green light. So... we wouldn't like him when he's angry... why does that sound so familiar? And on top of that, he's a doctor who doesn't us his real name (or hasn't yet) and secretly helps people. Huh.
Anyway, other than these red herring hints (since he's obviously not a Hulk), we don't get much more info on what exactly he is, but apparently he's promised to help Raina become whatever her grandmother used to tell her fairy tales about. Hmm... fairy tales of people with powers... more on that in a bit. The most famous "fairy tale" in the Marvel Universe is probably the one told by Kitty Pryde in Uncanny X-Men #153, but "real" superhero stories have been retold as fairy tales over and over again. See also the story of Wolverine's adopted daughter from Wolverine #82.
Skye - which isn't her birth name, as the Doctor reminds us - investigates the alien glyphs some more and learns not only of Coulson's connection, but of Garrett's connection and the loss of sanity Garrett seemed to suffer because of the strange visions. This naturally makes her worry about Coulson, but more troublingly, why didn't the same thing happened to her as she was exposed to the same stimuli? Coulson theorizes she might have some alien DNA... hmm.... Anyway, she has a theory about those markings: they're part of a map. A star map?
Back to the Hydra plot. Raina leaves Hydra some breadcrumbs about Simmons' double-agent status, leading to Kenneth's false arrest. Did Simmons just straight up frame a guy knowing he'll be brainwashed or killed? Well, at least we learned a few scenes earlier that he believed mass murder was "awesome," so maybe he's an acceptable loss.
Raina uses Simmons as a bargaining chip, but Coulson'll have none of that. He mentions the time she had him strapped to a memory machine, and makes it clear he won't negotiate with blackmailers. He'd rather compromise the safety of one of his closest agents - Simmons - than help her out. Harsh. On the other hand, Mockingbird was his ace in the hole. When that tactic fails, Raina tries to join SHIELD as she's desperate to escape Hydra (and probably the Doctor too). She probably should've led with that, as she might've had more success, but c'est la vie. Instead, Lance plants a tracking device in Raina so they can follow her (or her body) once Hydra captures her.
Meanwhile, Mockingbird breaks cover and breaks Simmons out of Hydra. She tells a few Hydra grunts to follow Protocol 6-8-5 because Hydra was compromised, then fights her way out by get Simmons and herself onto the cloaked Quinjet, which we learn is called SHIELD-218 (just like the Bus is SHIELD-616). Oddly, the subtitles say "Team Bravo" instead of SHIELD-218, but ah well.
Back on base, Fitz no longer needs his deluded Simmons visions, as the real thing is back in his life. I half expected the Not-Simmons vision to show up again anyway, but thankfully that didn't happen. Wonder if he'll tell Simmons he was checking Mack out, both consciously and unconsciously?
Even with that settled, there's still the matter of Skye's dad. He ran before Skye could find him (why?) but apparently he's disturbed by the fact she found the dead "patients" he brutally murdered. Coulson wonders if that's what Agent Lumley meant when he said "death follows" Skye around.
The Doctor's not the only one on the run. Since SHIELD was obviously aware of Hydra's heavily-branded base, Whitehall chose the greater part of valor and relocated his operation. Interestingly, the Doctor introduces himself to Whitehall first, voluntarily giving up the Obelisk - apparently called the Diviner - in exchange for their partnership in the destruction of Director Coulson.
Bonus 1: Speculation Time
Okay, so a lot of this has been telegraphed since last season, but let's just break down what we know so far about Skye's true origins. She's from somewhere in China. She and Raina are of the same type. Raina heard fairy tales that she believed meant she would one day be transformed into something else. This is apparently related to the Big Blue Guy and the alien glyphs. Whatever is causing people to die, Hydra seems to think would transform people instead, and whatever it is, it didn't kill Raina. So what does all this mean? The obvious answer seems to be that Raina, the Doctor and Skye are Inhumans, that the Diviner might be a Terrigen crystal, and that it kills most people because they don't have Kree-enhanced DNA.
Inhumans were a secret society that hid for decades in China before relocating to the moon and later New York City (among other places). They don't transform during puberty like mutants, but instead are put through a Terrigenesis process that unlocks their true potential and gives them superpowers.
This seems so obvious, but there is one thing preventing this theory from being 100 percent foolproof: Marvel has hinted at a potential Inhumans movie. If there were to be an Inhumans movie, it's probable they'd want all the Inhuman lore to be established by the writers and director of that, rather than the producers of a TV show. On the other hand, maybe it would help to get the idea of Inhumans in viewers' heads before unleashing it on the big screen?
Bonus 2: Special Thanks
Along with the usual list of thankees are artist John Buscema, writer/editor Mark Gruenwald and writer Steve Grant.
John Buscema was one of the seminal artists of Marvel's formative years, as he guided the Avengers and even Conan the Barbarian into greatness. Sure, he gets overshadowed by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but thanks to the late, great John Buscema (and his brother Sal Buscema), these characters reached their real halcyon days.
Steven Grant didn't create Bobbi Morse, but he did help name her Mockingbird. He also helped guide a lot of Marvel's transitional period in the 1980s as the company expanded and crossovers became the norm. He even co-wrote the original Marvel Universe crossover, the Contest of Champions!
Then there's Mark Gruenwald. He was a prolific writer and a well-honored editor who, among other things, helped found the Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe. These were indispensable tomes back in the day, with meticulously researched and editorial-approved entries on all manner of Marvel characters.
And hey, there's a new one coming out soon and I helped contribute! (I know, not much of a segue, but I'm excited!)
Anywhoozits, see you guys next time!