Marvel's Agents of SHIELD finally introduces mental powers into the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Wait, no, that's not right. It introduces magic! Well, not really. Okay, here's one better: this episode introduces one of Iron Man's most persistent villains!
The belated Secrets of SHIELD is here, after the official io9 recap, too. This weekly column - focusing on comic book connections more than episode summaries or good/bad reviews - is for my own amusement mostly, and if anyone else wants to chime in, the more the merrier.
Spoiler-light recap, from Hell! Something mysterious is happening to a maligned scientist, and it's up to Coulson's team to save her - as long as they can stop spreading rumors about each other, playing pranks on each other, and making each other feel bad, long enough to help her out. Childish, indeed.
Anywhozits, on with the Easter eggs:
The story opens up in Batesville, UT. Wikipedia says that Batesville is or was a real city - but I hate linking to Wikipedia if I can help it, so instead, here is someone's family history that includes the history of Batesville! Strangely enough, a newspaper clipping later in the episode says "Batesville, IL," so that is what it is.
More significant, perhaps, is the presence of Roxxon in this episode. In the comic books, the Roxxon Energy Corporation is a none-too-subtle jab at big businesses that steam roll over the little people. Unlike a lot of comic book bad guys, Roxxon doesn't have a single person who could be held to blame, and is more of an entity unto itself that just keeps getting involved in evil things. One version of Iron Man's origin (and it has fluctuated over the years) suggests that Roxxon is responsible for the deaths of Tony Stark's parents!
In this episode, a Roxxon gas station explodes and a particle accelerator is apparently being used to open unauthorized portals to other dimensions. The sign on the gate says the company is StatiCorp while the newspaper suggests it is part of Accutech, which is itself part of the Roxxon corporation. Those guys get their oily hands in everything. Roxxon previously appeared in the Marvel Cinematic U as part of the gas station Coulson pumped at in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer."
The rabbit hole gets a bit deeper here when you consider that the comic book version of Accutech built a particle accelerator that Roxxon wanted, but that Stark eventually bought. Roxxon even hired Ghost -a mercenary that can disappear and walk through walls - to purposefully sabotage the project, but he ended up going nuts and taking things too far. Hmmm... more on this in a bit.
For the record, Ward and May are totally hooking up. Also following up on earlier episodes: the Night-Night gun is used here without having it introduced earlier in the episode. Progress! Also interesting: we have an update on the Fridge's location. It's a six hour plane ride north from Utah. So... Canada?
During the episode Coulson uses one of his relics, a signal watch, and Fitz-Simmons unleash "Golden Retrievers," small golden orbs that seek out targets. Nice little touches, although it'd be nice if they got a bit more explanation.
While investigating the particle accelerator incident, Coulson introduces Skye to SHIELD protocol for meeting new Unregistered Gifteds, namely: Index Asset Evaluation and Intake. Since IAEI doesn't sound as cool as "SHIELD," Skye suggests calling it the "Welcome Wagon," and Coulson counters that she should come up with a more official name later, ideally one that is a punny acronym.
Fitz-Simmons describe pranking as an important part of academy life, and try (mostly unsuccessfully) to prank Skye. Fun little tidbit here: pranking is an important part of any Marvel team book! All of the teams of done it at one point or another, but the archetypical prankster of the Marvel Universe will always be Johnny Storm. When not Fantastic Fouring around, the Human Torch spends much of his off time playing horrible pranks the Thing, often involving (intentionally or not) the Yancy Street Gang.
This episode's main story revolves around Hannah Hutchins, a quality control engineer that many blamed for the deaths of Jack Benson, Frank Delacorte, Arlene Willoughby and Tobias Ford (named "Trost" in the newspaper article). Through the course of the episode, we learn that Tobias isn't as dead as we thought, and is actually the one behind the deaths and the strange subsequent disturbances.
It's interesting that this episode, as with previous ones, skirts around the issues of mental powers (a mainstay in the Marvel Universe, especially when it comes to mutant-related topics) and magic. Hannah is not telekinetic, although Fitz-Simmons have discussed the possibility before, and Hannah believes demons - real, biblical demons - are haunting her.
Demons are, naturally, a very real threat in the Marvel Universe. Hopefully, if and when Ghost Rider officially enters the Marvel Cinematic fold, we'll get to see more of them. If not there, there's always Doctor Strange.
Instead, however, Tobias' sabotage unintentionally cracked open the walls between dimensions revealing a world that he calls "Hell." The episode is quick to point out more connections to Thor: The Dark World, referencing portals witnessed by Londoners in that movie (including a fiery one to Muspelheim), so it's possible that is what Tobias saw, or maybe even Hel itself. Other possibilities include the Darkforce Dimension or Belasco's Limbo, both dimensions known to be layover points for teleporters. Given my druthers, I'd prefer to think of Tobias as visiting the Dark Dimension, home of the Mindless Ones. Aside from being a freakishly hellish place, the Mindless Ones are rumored to be part of the planned Doctor Strange movie.
Whatever dimension it is, connection to it gives Tobias the ability to disappear, teleport and become intangible, and to top it off, several characters flat out refer to him as "Ghost." This is the introduction of a semi-famous Iron Man's villain (mentioned several paragraphs up), and unlike the introduction of Graviton, this one wasn't announced in advance! Interestingly, the Ghost's real name has never been revealed, so maybe his name is Tobias.
The only thing protecting Hannah from Tobias is the Vibranium-shielded Interrogation Room, which Skye lovingly refers to as a "Nightmare Box," another sly tip of the hat to Marvel.
Interestingly, while both Hannah and Tobias are sure their respective troubles are religious in nature, Skye, who was raised by a nun named Sister McKenna, reveals herself to be an atheist. As a political side-note: she is not attacking anyone else's belief system, just stating her own, so, more power to her! Recently, several Marvel scientists, including Reed Richards, Hank Pym and the Beast, have come out as atheist, something some have found incongruous with the fact that all three of them have literally met gods and been to Heaven or Hell (in Richards' case, both). While the Fantastic Four story was poorly handled, in most of these cases, these are people who take an analytical view of the universe - even accepting there are things they can't yet explain - but who, like Skye, do not judge other people for their beliefs.
We finally learn what Melinda May's Budapest is, and it's Bahrain. Apparently, years earlier an Unregistered Gifted had a cult of followers and several hostages, and it was up to May to fix everything. Although she technically succeeded, earning the nickname of "The Cavalry," the pyrrhic victory caused her to become more introverted. Also, Coulson was there on that fateful day. That man's in everything.
So in the before-the-credits-but-we'll-pretend-it's-post-credits "stinger," the team is playing Upwords, a stackable version of Scrabble, using standard spy words like "espionage," but also Marvel references like "Strange Tales" (the comic that SHIELD premiered in), "Tales of Suspense" (the comic that Iron Man premiered in) and Zodiac, which, aside from being a major SHIELD threat, has already appeared in the MCU in the "Agent Carter" Marvel One-Shot attached to the Iron Man 3 Blu Ray. Neat!
Next week may be a rerun, so Secrets of SHIELD may dive into earlier entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Advertising the competition Bonus:
Oh, and, have you guys seen this? It's a wiki, so I'm immediately suspicious of it, but it seems to be made with some Marvel insight, so perhaps a way too subdued form of viral marketing. Either way, it seems like they want to put me out of a job!
Wait - I'm not getting paid for this anyway...