As the series reaches its penultimate episode, the drama-knife gets twisted in deeper and deeper as characters unhinge - making for entertaining viewing. Who will live, who will die?
This episode's art by Emma Rios. I cannot stress how much I'm enjoying seeing cover art for each individual episode of Agents of SHIELD.
Marvel, keep doing this next season!
This episode is not quite as strong as the past several episode, but it still stands as a strong episode. Considering "Ragtag" served mainly as exposition for the up-coming season finale, it has still pretty dang interesting.
Spoiler-light recap: Ward recalls his formative years as Garrett's protégé, Coulson and the gang use archaic spy gear to track down Hydra, and some of our favourite characters find themselves without a paddle now that there's no agency to back them up.
Let's start with Ward's backstory. Some 15 years ago (when Ward was a young teen), it seems he set his house on fire - possibly an attempt to murder his even-more-vicious older brother (although he denies it). While he awaited trial for attempted murder (with the possibility of being tried as an adult) in the Juvenile Secure Unit, Plymouth, Massachusetts, Ward meets with Garrett, who makes him an offer he can't refuse. SHIELD/Hydra agents spring Ward from juvie, and it's off to Garrett's private duck pond in the woods for training. Ward is left with Buddy the dog and little else for six months - and although I was convinced he was going to eat the dog, he managed to fend for himself before Garrett returned. Five years later, Garret, Ward and Buddy continue to train. Garrett reveals he nearly died after an IED exploded near Sarajevo (10 years before he met Ward), and tells Ward not to fully trust SHIELD, and to join Hydra. As soon as Ward officially enters SHIELD, Garrett orders Ward to kill Buddy, although the audience his left wondering whether Garrett or Ward finally pulled the trigger.
During one of the flashback scenes, Garrett jokes that he's "not a mind-reader," an obvious allusion to his later title as "the Clairvoyant." The Massachusetts setting may also be something of an allusion, as Ward's family has previously been compared to the Kennedys.
After Deathlok travels to Bogota to kill Columbia's notorious drug lord Alejandro Castillo, AKA El Dogo, by punching his head off, news reports ask if he is "man or monster?" This question has come up numerous times for the Thing and the Hulk, most notably in the amazing Fantastic Four #51 by Stan and Jack. "Dogo" is apparently a dog breed from Argentina, but it also means "small" in Swahili. I only know the latter fact because when I had the opportunity to give the obscure Panther Cub character a secret identity, I searched around until settling on calling him T'Dogo - it seemed appropriate.
As a reward for doing the job he was forced to do, Garrett orders Hydra Agent Zeller (not shown on screen) to stream video of Deathlok's son Ace in a Hydra-protected cell somewhere (presumably directly into Deathlok's eyes). Isn't that nice?
Meanwhile the vigilantes of SHIELD decide to invade Cybertek (the company that turned Mike Peterson into Deathlok) to learn more about Hydra's secrets. They hit the company's Palo Alto office with the help of Trip's grandfather's Howling Commando kit (donated by Trip's mom)! I really hope they name Trip's grandfather soon.
The kit includes:
- The original Beta Handheld Hypno-Beam
- Transisterized Blast Gun
- EMP disguised as a joy buzzer
- Laser-emitting cigarettes
- A lapel pin that uses UHF band radio to search for data
- Quarters that hide walkie talkies and tracking beacons
Many of these devices first appeared in Strange Tales #135 and #136 from 1965, so calling them antiques seems appropriate, despite their retrofuturistic appeal. It's also worth pointing out, as mentioned before, that back in the 1960s, Stan Lee thought transistors could do just about anything, so most of Tony Stark's gadgets (and Stark designed most of SHIELD's gadgets) were "transistor powered."
Skye asks if these were ordered off the back of a comic, and while modern comics might have ads for other comics, clothing brands and movies, back in the day, you could order almost anything out of comic book. Fitz could probably even get a monkey, like he's always wanted.
At Cybertek in Palo Alto, Coulson (as ex-SHIELD Agent Theo Tittle) and May (as ex-SHIELD Agent Dr. Roum) meet with evil (?) scientists Diaz and Ott, senior VP of R&D. Interestingly, Ott and Diaz have no qualms about the fact that they willingly hire Hydra agents. I guess if you'll hire from SHIELD (a known terrorist group), you can hire from Hydra (a known terrorist group). By the by, Coulson also uses the alias Pablo Jimenez this episode - he's just using up those pseudonyms like they're going out of style.
Ott-Diaz admit they designed the "Sleepy-sleep" aerosol dendrotoxin grenades seen in "TRACKS" based on Fitz-Simmons ICER bullets. It'd be fun to see these guys return as nerdy nemeses to our good guy geeks.
Going through Cybertek's hardcopy files, Coulson and May uncover new secrets. For one, Cybertek has a file on "Brand Corporation Security." The Brand Corporation, is of course, one of the many branches of Roxxon (a company with known ties to Hydra), and where the Beast worked when he first turned all furry. Head of security was Buzz Baxter, a teen comedy character from the 1940s who nowadays goes by the villainous name Mad-Dog. They have another file on "Metrobank Correspondence." Metrobank was often involved in plots by the Nth Command as they tried to rule global markets and fought with various incarnations of Deathlok.
The files also reveal that Project Deathlok dates back to 1990, which is funny in a way, as the original Deathlok comic, published in 1974, took place in the far future year of 1990 - long after the war of 1983 began (as shown in the image above). For the show, however, we learn that Garrett was the first Deathlok: Patient Zero, Model 01, Version 01. Although the implants kept him alive after that IED hit, they couldn't do so indefinitely, and he has been given a prognosis of just a few months left to live.
Back at Hydra, Raina loses more faith in Garrett when she realizes he's out to save his own life, not help "special people," but she notices that Skye has something unique about her blood - as does Raina herself. We're not told what this is exactly, but we learn that "monsters" tore apart the town in Hunan Province, China, where Skye was found, apparently looking for their baby. More on this, as it develops.
Taking a breather between missions, we see more of Fitz being unable to process the truth about Ward and Skye asking May to teach her some of that Hate-Fu she's so good at. The team tracks Cybertek shipments from Brazil, Cambodia and Syria to Havana, Cuba, and take the JumpJet straight there.
While most of the team invade Ernesto's barbershop of evil, Fitz-Simmons try to take back the Bus using DWARFs. Yes, according to the subtitles, the little remote drones they've been using to investigate various things are not called "Dwarves" but "D.W.A.R.F.s" making one wonder what that acronym stands for. By the way, nothing to do with nothing but SHIELD in the comics actually had artificially grown "dwarves" that worked in the more secretive recesses of the Hellicarrier. Kinda creepy - both the hooded dudes and that SHIELD would just have them around.
Unfortunately Fitz-Simmons get caught by Ward, and after Fitz severely injures Garrett, Ward is ordered to "put down" the scientific pair. He does so by locking them in an airtight room and throwing them into the Caribbean. The Level 7 art (seen at the top of the page) seems to reveal what their fate will be next episode, but still, it's kind of a Bond-villain murder attempt, isn't it?
To save Garrett, Raina opens up his cyborg body to discover the Centipede serum she created inside of him, and injects him with an artificial batch of GH-325, something that she suspects won't go as well for him as it did for Skye. Between her comments that the alien growth hormone was compatible with Skye's blood and the bit about the "monsters" looking for their baby, it sure seems to imply Skye might be somehow Kree-related. Tellingly, Garrett says the new serum allows him to feel "the universe," which is an apt description of "Cosmic Awareness," an ability many space heroes (and particularly Kree heroes) tend to have.
Back in Havana, Coulson does his thing with a secret door and discovers Hydra's computers just in time to get caught by Hydra Agent Kaminski using the Berserker Staff and what seems to be several Deathlok/Centipede soldiers. Ruh-roh...
Quinn, meanwhile, is no longer a wanted man as he was arrested and detained by SHIELD, an agency that lost all credibility following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Quinn offers to sell a couple of generals thousands of Super-Soldiers like Deathlok. Will they take the bait?
There were no new "special thanks" in the credits this week, but Dick Ayers, who was thanked previously as the co-creator of Agent Koenig, passed away this past weekend. He will be missed.