The Agents of SHIELD are back with a vengeance! The team ruthlessly demolishes its opposition while the Inhumans continue to evolve - especially the eyeless man and the Girl in the Flower Dress!
Man, that was a fairly strong episode - something much needed following the fan-favorite Agent Carter mini-season. Suspense, action, spills, thrills and plenty of nods to the comic books. Just what the doctor ordered.
This episode also marks the return of episode-based art pieces - essentially comic book covers for each SHIELD installment. This week's art is by none other than Quake (Skye) creator Gabriele Dell'Otto! Pretty damn cool. Keep 'em coming prodocers!
Last year's Art of Level 7 was a great addition to the series, but sadly not included in the DVD set - maybe that'll change this season.
Now, the Spoiler-Light Recap: Skye and Raina have been changed forever, but what does this mean for the fate of the world? And a head of Hydra has been chopped off, so how many will grow to replace it? All this, and the team deals with the loss of one of their own - with bloody revenge!
On With the Comic Connections
First things first, in a scene strangely reminiscent of the X-Men films, we see young Gordon in 1983 struggling to adjust to his existence as an Inhuman following Terrigenesis (yes, they actually use the word!). It's assumed that "Gordon" is Reader, the newly revealed Inhuman from the Marvel series called Inhuman, but this has yet to be officially confirmed. So far though, we know Gordon can sense new Inhumans from around the world, teleport, and freeze time. These are all among Reader's abilities, but Reader accesses each ability by reading Braille-like cards. In the comics he is limited to one "read" at a time, and can only "read" a limited number of times per day. Gordon doesn't seem limited in this way (as of yet, anyway).
We also learn Skye's mom's name: Jaiying. It seems the long-lived Jaiying was a teacher of young Inhumans for "generations" before Whitehall chopped her up. She trained Gordon and worked with fellow Inhuman Yat-Sen. Neither of these names seems directly related to established Marvel characters - in the comics Quake (Skye)'s mom was a prostitute named Jennifer Johnson (but give it a retcon or two and this could change). Interestingly, Reader worked for a similar organization that sought out and trained young Inhumans in the comics, the Ennilux Corporation, which is a cross between a mob family and a multinational business. Reader stopped helping Ennilux when he learned young Inhumans were disposable commodities to them, so one wonders if this could play into Agents of SHIELD.
Back with the main SHIELD crew, the team is still reeling from Agent Trip's death as each member blames themselves for their "loss" to Hydra in Puerto Rico. Mack distrusts Coulson after his temporary alien obsession, Simmons distrusts Gifted superhumans because of the deaths attributed to the Obelisk/Diviner (aka Terrigen Crystals), and Skye distrusts herself and whatever she has become. Simmons has been cleaning up in Puerto Rico, preparing to flood the abandoned Inhuman city, but when she sees the Terrigenesis-transformed Raina kill a few of her agents then tests Raina's DNA, she lends credence the team's worst fears: these new superhumans could be part of an epidemic! Skye tries to allay fears by pointing out that the Avengers are superhuman (namedropping the flagship franchise), but Simmons notes that other superhumans have already died (or caused death), including Donnie Gil, Chan Ho Yin and Creel. All this plague talk makes Skye nervous, causing her to unconsciously instigate slight tremors - earthquake powers activating!
Interestingly, just as SHIELD believes they lost in Puerto Rico, the leaders of Hydra believe it was Hydra that lost in Puerto Rico (buncha' losers all around). With Whitehall shot dead by Coulson, the remaining leaders in "this region of the world" meet to discuss Whitehall's possible replacement. The Hydra roundtable includes Dr. List, Octavian "Lighthouse" Bloom, the Sheikh, the Baroness, and the Banker. Following (off-screen) input from Baron (von) Strucker (that guy in the mid-credits Captain America: The Winter Soldier scene), they first suggest Whitehall's right-hand man Sunil "Warship" Bakshi, but he hasn't been seen in months (because SHIELD captured him). List warns his fellows against underestimating SHIELD, but in the same statement suggests they each try to end SHIELD "permanently," which is the very definition of underestimating SHIELD. Huh. List also commits himself to following in Whitehall's footsteps by studying superhumans. Despite their rather specific names and titles, none of these Hydra operatives are ringing any Marvel continuity bells, however their meeting room is reminiscent of Hydra meetings (which included Whitehall) from the Secret Warriors series that focused on conspiracies connecting Hydra and SHIELD. There are, it should be said, plenty of sheikhs, baronesses, and bankers in the Marvel U.
Which leads us back to Bakshi, who failed in his previous suicide attempt. Coulson offers to trade Bakshi to Gen. Talbot (former SHIELD pursuer and Hulk comic book character) in exchange for some sort of leniency towards SHIELD activities, which works for Talbot since Bakshi is wanted in connection to the wedding massacre. This leads to an elaborate Mission: Impossible-style ruse, convincing Bakshi SHIELD's top brass was taken down by double-crossing Hydra agents, only to be triple-crossed by mercenaries. The whole set up works, as Bakshi heads straight for Bloom, who decides the whole confusing situation is justification for killing the other Hydra big wigs - specifically the Baroness, the Banker and the Sheikh. Basically everyone except for Dr. List and von Strucker. Soon after, Hunter and Bobbi kill Bloom and re-arrest the even more mortified Bakshi, who is quickly shaping up to be the most incompetent competent Hydra boss ever.
Of course, as all this goes down, Hunter delivers the line sure to cause a bit of a titter: "Is every Radio Shack a Hydra outpost? I always suspected." So now we know the real reason Radio Shacks are closing up - SHIELD took them down.
Back at SHIELD's Playground HQ, Simmons is more determined than ever to wipe out all superhumans lest more end up like Trip. Fitz, on the other hand, realizes that Skye is something "inhuman" and needs protected until cooler heads prevail, so he hides her new secret. Skye may look as great as ever, but her DNA has new macromolecules and she feels more distant from the others than ever before. Fitz, serving as peacemaker, says that she's different, but "there's nothing wrong with that."
Ah, but what about the other Terrigenesis-altered Inhuman? Raina is now covered in "thorns," feels like "gravel" inside, even cutting herself as she moves. She is repeatedly compared to plants (going along with her previously established "flower" motif), and Skye's dad Doctor Zabo will have nothing to do with her. She's despondent and ready to commit suicide-by-SHIELD-agent, when Gordon swoops in, freezes time and declares her beautiful before whisking her away. It is still unclear if she is meant to be a specific Inhuman from the comics. Visually she looks like Avia, an Inhuman with no established powers (so essentially a blank slate for producers). Power-wise she seems more like the Nuhuman Naja, but that seems unlikely as Naja has much more snake or reptile-based powers, and doesn't seem very plant-like. Time will tell.
Finally, there's the big, bad secret of this episode: Bobbi's conspiracy. This has been building for some time, and Lance knows something is up. Bobbi tries (successfully?) to throw him off the trail by claiming this is just a support group for survivors of the Hydra uprising that she and Mack are two embarrassed to talk about, but it seems Mack's little RC version of Lola holds the key. Although mini-Lola doesn't fly, it does scan Coulson's office for Fury's Toolbox from the first season finale. Earlier in the episode, Mack asked for the Playground blueprints, citing his fears over an airborne alien virus, but that was all part of he and Bobbi's plan to gain access to the Toolbox. What are these two up to?
See you next week, same SHIELD time, same SHIELD channel!