A new villain joins the team, the Secret Warriors come one step closer to fruition, who’s underground lab was that, and the Hellfire Club get a tip of the hat?! All this and more in this week’s Agents of SHIELD!
Dang but that was a strong episode. It had just enough winks to the comics, plenty of references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, great continuity with previous SHIELD episodes and any excuse to have more Peter MacNicol and Blair Underwood in this series is a good thing! More like this, please!
Spoiler-Light Recap: Simmons is missing! May is AWOL! Fitz is going off the reservation! Lance is on his own! Ward is causing trouble! So many things!
The episode opened with some British secret society in the 1830s holding a mysterious ritual involving strange stones. One hapless society member is chosen by his elders (apparently named Lord Thornally and Lord Manzini) to go into the chamber with the Kree monolith, only to disappear to who-knows-where. Now, obviously the society is meant to evoke groups like the (historical) Illuminati or the Masons, but with the fork-like symbol on their doorways, they certainly call to mind Marvel’s own secretive rich-boys club involved in various demonic, alien, and superhuman matters – The Hellfire Club. Now, as the club originated with the X-Men and has often had mutant members, who knows how that might affect the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in the comics, the Hellfire Club is involved in every aspect of the Marvel Universe, with one member being a former Sorcerer Supreme (the job most currently held by Dr. Strange) and another being Howard Stark, AKA daddy Iron Man.
Back in the present, Fitz discovers sand near the monolith that is a billion years older than Earth, all but confirming his theory that the stone could be a portal to another world. Coulson agrees, but says that means Simmons has been stranded alone on an alien world for months – they decide to rescue her anyway (that begs the question: What has she eaten?). So of course, they need an expert in quantum mechanics and Einstein-Rosen bridges, ideally one who could interpret historical artifacts. Man, if only there had been some Marvel movie that had centered heavily around Einstein-Rosen bridges and had expert physicists who were also familiar with ancient mythology… if only…
Well, since SHIELD can’t think of any scientists they may have worked with recently that were experts in both Einstein-Rosen bridges and ancient artifacts, they turn instead to Dr. Elliot Randolph, as he calls himself, the rogue Asgardian from the first season episode, “The Well.” Randolph, for those who don’t recall, was a low-ranking Asgardian working stiff who eschewed the ways of war to live as a more-or-less peaceful Earthling for the past several hundred years, under a variety of aliases. He’s not an “expert” on quantum mechanics or anything, but he knows a thing or two about traveling between worlds. Interestingly, Coulson refers to Randolph as an “alien” instead of a “god.”
Randolph, seeing the growing anti-superpowers sentiment among humans, is predicting some kind of battle, fought domestically, over the freedom of superhumans, so being the
coward pacifist that he is, he’s decided to wait the whole kerfuffle out in jail. Boy, this season sure seems to be setting up some major internal conflict between superheroes. Hope that sentiment doesn’t become too prescient.
Agreeing to work with SHIELD again, Randolph recognizes the Hebrew word מָ֫וֶת, which could mean “death” or “punishment” (according to Randolph). He saw it in an English castle in 1853, attending a costume ball (presumably put on by the same secretive organization mentioned earlier) while looking for interplanetary portals on Earth. After being distracted by (Hell)fire dancers, Randolph met a drunk man dressed as an owl who convinced him the castle held no portal, only some ritualistic killing device. This is likely just a coincidence, but in the official SHIELD comic chronicling the canonical adventures of Coulson, Fitz, Simmons, and May (occasionally joined by Daisy, Bobbi, and Lance) also includes some original cast members, like Agent Warrick – Owl-Headed SHIELD Agent of Mediocre Magical Abilities! In fact, in his most recent mission, he accidentally sent Agent Fitz to a parallel world, so that’s apropos!
Finding a secret passage in the clandestine old castle, the team uncovers what, for all intents and purposes, seems like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. Randolph and Fitz seem to confirm the place was built in the late 1800s (at the earliest), and Bobbi notes that it reminds her of the secret bunker under the Lourve (hope that comes up sometime!). For the record, yes, Dr. Frankenstein and his monster are both integral parts of the Marvel Universe.
Once they seem convinced the century-old, water-damaged, rusty equipment could be used to risk an interplanetary journey, Coulson calls for Mack to bring the monolith via Zephyr 1, which is presumably the call sign of the team’s new big plane (or perhaps one of the Quinjets?). Coulson also notes that he finally removed all of the SHIELD insignia from their vehicles (except the plane) to be a proper secret agency. Regardless, aside from being named for the west wind, Marvel had a 1940s hero named Zephyr Jones, who seemed very much to be in the mold of Buck Rogers and his knock-off Flash Gordon. Zephyr had two recorded adventures (that I’ve read anyway), in both of which he was trying to get to Mars, but he never quite made it! He did meet the Birdmen of Sunev (who the Marvel Atlas revealed were trading partners of Red Raven’s people) and space dwarves who mine star dust inside the sun of Cygni. The more you know!
As soon as they get the ancient mechanisms working, vibrations activate the monolith using a frequency Daisy’s vibration-sensitive powers can detect. Before everything goes pear shaped, Fitz instinctively fires a flare gun into the monolith’s portal. Despite getting a bloody nose from the experience, Daisy tries using her own powers to activate the monolith long enough for a tethered probe to go through – instead Fitz jumps in head first (science be damned!). Thank goodness this situation occurred just as Daisy had mastered her powers, as opposed to when she was breaking her own bones or merely powerless (I couldn’t find the TV Trope for this one, but it must exist). Thanks to the earlier flare, Simmons found the portal and Fitz, after a lot of distress, finds Simmons; the pair return just as the monolith crumbles.
Simmons recovers in one of SHIELD’s safe rooms, but she seems to keep a sharpened stick (bone?) with her at all times. Good thing sleeping Fitz is there to keep her company.
Coincidentally, Mack keeps calling Fitz, “Turbo,” and now Daisy is “Tremors.” Too bad he doesn’t just call her “Quake.” Also, Randolph has heard of Inhumans, but he hasn’t heard from them in a very long time… interesting.
Speaking of Inhumans, earlier in the episode Daisy and Mack discuss the potential Caterpillar team (hinted at in last season’s finale) with Melinda May’s ex, Dr. Garner (from “One of Us”). Garner, it seems, doesn’t think any of the candidates, not even Joey from last episode, are ready to be, as he calls them, “Secret Warriors.” He does note, however, that Daisy is clearly ready to be a leader, as she seems to be taking to that role. Of course, the Secret Warriors were Daisy’s original team in Marvel, all made up of recruits Nick Fury had catalogued in his Caterpillar file – name drop! Also, it’s worth noting, that in the comics, teenage Daisy “Quake” Johnson was the youngest director of SHIELD ever, a position she held for quite some time before ceding it back to Maria Hill.
Meanwhile, Lance Hunter was out looking for the wayward Ward, when his search lead him to Sun City, Arizona. There, in a little retirement village, Melinda “Meli” May is slumming it with her dad, William May (played by James Hong!), trying hard not to get involved with spies and espionage. We learn young Melinda was competitive ice skater justly obsessed with Dorothy Hamill, but that her heart is really in fighting. Lance explains that his “associate” from Leavenworth (presumably the prison) pointed him in the direction of Sun City, and after some cajoling, convinces Melinda to join him in some Ward-hunting.
Where is Ward during all this? Out torturing old Hydra agents to build a new Hydra, of course. He and his right hand man Kebo head to Ibiza, Spain, to track down “The Kid,” AKA Alexander Braun, aka Werner von Strucker, son of notorious Hydra leader (and Age of Ultron cameo appearer) Wolfgang von Strucker. As part of his initiation, young Werner murders Kebo, and Ward welcomes him to the new Hydra. Ward, apparently, wants to become Werner’s mentor in much the same way he was mentored. For the record, in the comics Werner was the lesser of Strucker’s offspring – he only lasted a few years before he got offed. The more well-known and popular (for lack of a better descripter) Strucker kids are the Fenris Twins. Who knows, maybe they could show up later? Oh, and Werner’s boat is the Typon II, named for the Greek monster, who is also a figure in Marvel Comics.
As the episode ends, Werner joins Dr. Garner’s psych class at (the fictional) Culver University. Ominous!
See you all next time!
Kevin Garcia is a professional educator and freelance writer whose work has appeared in Marvel Comics, the Associated Press and on various blogs. As a fan, he doesn’t get paid to write Secrets of SHIELD posts about Marvel shows – or any other geeky posts for that matter – but hey, wouldn’t that be nice?