Wow. Soap opera dramatic tension, life-and-death struggles, evil and good twins - Agents of SHIELD is on a roll. All this, and the Inhumans worldbuilding is connecting to Guardians of the Galaxy universebuilding.
Man, that was a fun episode. Working off what had been established throughout the season so far, the team's social dynamics are getting as engaging as the high-tech espionage - and more high tech espionage appeared in this episode, so win-win.
More importantly for the long run, the series has basically laid out everything we need for the Inhumans without actually using the word "Inhumans." Are we in for some bait-and-switch or will some series regulars get revealed as Inhumans? Let's see where we're at so far...
First, the Spoiler-Light Recap: Following a long and painful trail of clues, the team seeks out an ancient hidden source of alien power, but the bad guys have the other parts of the puzzle. Who will live and who will die as all the players enter the field?
Before we start, let's talk about Mack. He's been trying hard to be everyone's best friend: he helped Fitz come out of his shell, he supported Lance when he was moaning about his ex, he shows concern for the emotional wellbeing of Lance and Bobbi (as he's seen how mutually destructive they can be), and he's tried his best to get Fitz and Simmons to be Fitz-Simmons again. All that good will does not bode well for a character in a Whedon-produced series.
The show opened with an odd dream sequence in which Skye obsessed over an alien-glyph covered music box and her surrogate mommy and daddy figures (May and Coulson). Odd because it was clearly a dream, but not a so-real-you-thought-it-wasn't-a-dream kinda dream, and yet not David Lynch level weirdness either. EDIT: Jay Shepard and others pointed out something that I had to go back and double check to confirm. The calliope playing the music in the dream sequence is totally playing "Daisy Bell," which was one of the first things a computer ever "spoke" for a demonstration by IBM (and more famously, the last thing HAL 9000 sang in 2001: A Space Odyssey). Either the producers are yanking our chain because fans think Skye might be Daisy Johnson a.k.a. Quake, or they are hinting that she is the superpowered young SHIELD agent from the comics.
Mack built his own remote-controlled Coulson-and-Lola toy hoping it would impress the non-toyetic Coulson so the mechanic can work on the real flying car. Fitz is saddened to learn that the toy does not also fly. Here's hoping we get to see a use for this tiny car.
Back to all the soap opera drama: With all of the parent figures, rekindled loves and estranged friendships, one of season one's close connections seems to have fizzled this season. Simmons, who previously seemed smitten with Trip, treats his chest wound with nary a flirt, and Trip seems to have likewise cooled toward the scientist he previously seemed interested in. Ah well, it probably would've added an unneeded complication to the whole Fitz-Simmons split.
Exposition in this episode is provided by the Echo-Chamber (seen in the first episode and named in "TAHITI"). We learn that the hidden city is not in China, but in the largest city in Puerto Rico.
Trip speculates that this might be connected to the Bermuda Triangle or Atlantis. Coulson ignores the Atlantis comment ('cause who knows, maybe Namor could become part of the MCU someday), but he notes that SHIELD "solved" the Bermuda triangle case in the 1980s. In the Marvel Universe (the comic version) there have been a variety of explanations for Bermuda's triangle, but the most well-known is Isla de los Monstruos, one of (at least) two "Monster Islands" on Earth-616 (the other being home to Pacific-based kaiju). The Atlantic island has been home to the villainous Mole Man and the heroic Infinity Watch team (which included the Guardians of the Galaxy's Gamora and Drax among its members). As it turned out, the site was the location of ancient Deviant technology (long story, but they are a subspecies of humanity that have more in common with alien Skrulls than modern humans).
While Coulson takes half the team to Puerto Rico, May takes the other half to Vancouver, Canada, to keep the mysterious Raina out of Hydra hands. When we last saw her, Coulson was prepared to use Raina as a sacrificial lamb to track Hydra's movements, but as soon as they realize she's an asset to Hydra connected to the Diviner/Obelisk device that can be unlocked at the hidden city, they do everything possible to keep her out of enemy hands. That includes sending the Koenigs after her, as Billy is officially joined by his "brother" Sam on screen after the two appeared together at Comic Con. Like the departed Eric before them, these two are identical in looks and personality (though both swear the other is the shorter brother). Confronted by this improbable similarity, Agent Trip asks how many brothers there are, and the Koenigs claim 13 in all, before laughing the number off. How many Koenigs are there, and are they actually brothers? They sure seem like LMD androids, but this has yet to be confirmed.
One of the Koenigs pulls out a handy umbrella that turns into a cloak of invisibility. We could always use more SHIELD gadgets on this show, good to see one used here.
Agent 33 also returns. The erstwhile SHIELD agent was first seen in "Making Friends and Influencing People" where Hydra boss Whitehall thoroughly brainwashed her, and in "Face my Enemy" she disguised herself as Agent May before getting a nasty facial scar and being left for dead. Here we learn her nanomask (named this episode) was apparently damaged in such a way that she permanently (?) has May's face (with new scar) and some electronic static to her voice. Here's hoping the team eventually frees her from Hydra's grip, but man, she'll be severely messed up by that point. On the production side of things, having the same actress play May and Agent 33 probably saves on budgetary concerns.
Before the Puerto Rico mission starts, Bobbi and Mack, who knew each other before joining Coulson's group, discuss Bobbi's ex (and current) lover Lance and decide not to bring the poor sap "in on that other thing," whatever that means. Sounds ominous. In Puerto Rico, Bobbi meets up with her contact, a local politician named Diego. Man, she knows people everywhere.
Thanks to Diego's old floor plans, the team goes into Castillo de San Cristobal, a fort finished in the late 18th century, but with sections dating back hundreds of years. Specifically, they need the sentry tower of a garrison in the deepest section, built in 1634. It seems there a legend called la Garita del Diablo, which the team translates as "The Devil's Sentry." While this is an actual legend from Puerto Rico, it ties in nicely to Marvel continuity. First the silly connection, then the more serious one.
On a purely coincidental level, Marvel does have a villain called Diablo and he does have a centuries-old base in Puerto Rico. He is a 500-year-old alchemist who dreams of world domination but is often overshadowed by other would-be despots. He is not likely to show in the MCU since, although he has menaced the entire Earth repeatedly, he is most often associated with the Fantastic Four. Fun fact: Diablo keeps healing potions in his mustache, so if he's ever incapacitated, all he needs to do is suck on his mustache hairs to be revived as if he had a senzu bean.
More relevantly, the Kree use giant robotic Sentries to protect their interests. Sentry 459 has been on Earth for tens of thousands of years quietly observing human (and Inhuman) development; he was present when the first Inhuman underwent the transformative Terrigenesis process. Each Sentry is like a cosmically powered Sentinel, but while the purple Trask-designed robots might menace mutants for a while, the Kree-designed Sentries are planetary engines of destruction that would take a whole team of Avengers to defeat. In this episode, Mack apparently merges with Kree-influenced technology to become a human Sentry, something that also happened in the alternate future reality of MC2 when a human named John Foster became the Earth Sentry. While the Earth Sentry was a great hero, things don't work out so well for Mack.
The Sentry connection is further confirmed by Raina, who relates her story to Skye. It seems Raina met Skye's father ("The Doctor") while she was running with a group of "freaks" in Thailand. The Doctor told her she wasn't a freak, and instead reinforced her grandmother's fairy tales about blue angels who fell from heaven granting gifts to special people. "The ancients called them Kree." Well, there you go, actual on-screen confirmation that the Host (aka the blue guy from the Guest House in "TAHITI") was Kree, and a connection to the Guardians of the Galaxy film that introduced the Kree on screen (although they were first mentioned by name in the MCU in episode "Yes Man"). All signs are pointing to Skye and Raina's people being the Inhumans, but Marvel does own a team of downtrodden characters called the Freex. They were part of the Ultraverse, purchased by Marvel in the mid-90s and not heard from since, though fans would be interested in seeing the Ultraverse return.
After shrugging off some ICER bullets and taking electroshocks from Bobbi's billy clubs, Mack/Sentry falls to his apparent death down the 100 foot drop into the temple. I say "apparent" because very few deaths are truly final in a comic book-inspired universe, especially when you don't see the body (and sometimes even then). Still, it's tragic to see one of the few genuinely nice people on this show bite the big one, and it seems even more unfortunate that the first long-time cast member to die is Mack. Sure, other SHIELD agents have died, but Hartley and Hand weren't part of Coulson's inner circle for more than an episode or so.
Audiences are left with the development that Ward (and Hydra) have taken custody of Raina and Skye, have the Diviner and know where Coulson and the team are. Not a good set up to be in.
We finally get to find out