After a turbulent start Agents of Shield now begins to settle down into a potentially fun but manageable scenario. Hydra and Shield must now race around the world in an arms races, seizing people and ‘assists’ like a deadly game of monopoly!
Simmons is shown to be alive, skipping happily through her mocha chino fuelled morning with cartoon birds practically singing around her carefree head. That is until it’s revealed she is undercover in Hydra a lowly scientist. Coulson advises her to make friends over dinner and she tells him she has spotted a picture of Donnie Gill in a Hydra file. Donnie Gill was the guy in the first series who Simmons and Fitz saved as he tried to control the weather. In the process he gained powers of freezing objects and people, but is definitely not Iceman although with Iceman’s powers but without actually being Iceman.
Gill fights off Hydra agents and attracts the attention of Shield and Hydra to send a message. Hydra take Simmons as a test of her loyalty as she has Gill’s trust from saving his life in season one. Shield and Hydra descend upon the ship and Hydra activate his brain washing behaviour control. Skye shoots Gill who falls from the ship but Skye allows Hydra and Simmons to escape so Simmons can gain their trust. Whitehall, the head of this Hydra branch is shown brainwashing Shield agent 33 throughout the episode without success until the end where she delivers a file to him and states she is “happy to comply”.
This is a perfectly fine episode which is a relief. I like the idea of an asset race but this is a formula and a formula could send this how spinning back into mediocrity. The script is still fairly snappy but the tempo is discernibly slower than the last episodes which its odd as its meant to be a race to Gill and therefore dilutes the drama.
There’s a welcome return from Ward who is at rock bottom in Shield’s cell although this only means he has a surprisingly trim beard and his prison clothes allow him to flex his arms at every opportunity as he broods at Skye. The anti-chemistry is still there as Skye asks him for information and does a great job of struggling to stay distanced and comfortable. Ward tells her about brain washing but admits his actions were out of choice as he aims to win back her trust, although Hayden Christiansen is more likely to win an Oscar. Gill the Frostboy isn’t the greatest character but the fugitive angle is believable and fine and the effects nice as freezes anyone who stands in the way of his angry, emo rage. A nice touch of brutality is where he freezes a man only to shatter and kill him in fairly vivid and unnecessary fashion. I enjoyed this, not as i am just a sick puppy but it’s shows he’s been pushed to an out and out villain now as oppose to a misunderstood Frankenstein’s monster as is so common these days in media.
Fitz is at his insane best as thankfully the series continues to show him struggling and wrestling with his inner Simmons. The editing is very good to show how his thoughts make his communication awkward and how it translates to others as disturbing behaviour. It’s a great take on an inner struggle and we see his perspective while getting an equally great view of his teams perception of him. Fitz feels out of the loop and in his snooping he finds Ward’s cell. This is well acted as Ward pile justifications up like a moral Jenga at the greatest of ease as Fitz breaks down. Fitz then ‘shows’ Ward what he suffered as he takes the oxygen from the cell until Fitz mentions Gill’s name. Ward tells him that Gill is a previous agent of Hydra and all they have to do is re activate him. Fitz leaves Ward alive to warn the team.
There are a couple of missed opportunities here though, one is Skye wrestling with the fact she has yet to kill as new member Hunter and Mae warn her of the impact. This is a neat way of fleshing out her character and reminding her she is still new and on a emotional journey instead of her being an instant, just-add-water badass. When she shoots Gill I found myself expecting her to struggle and even though she does a bit at the end we find out Gill froze and his body is missing, this is Marvel speak for a return and geek speak for a total cop out. Gill is an uninteresting character and should have been sacrificed for the fleshing out of Skye’s development.
The brainwashing from Hydra also feels lazy, and although it helps paint their face in the scary tones of the evil corporation it could hurt the series more. This could lead to convoluted and convenient stories as the villain Whitehall promotes Simmons and secretly considers brainwashing her. This feels like the slippery slope to corner cutting and we are mere steps away from clones or time travel.
The team still bonds well and they aren’t shying away from having a lot of characters involved. Tripplet is mostly just a background member to raise and eyebrow or carry things and Mack is yet to be vaguely explained, these two could use some attention in their own right. The ending is a nice hook with Ward telling Skye her father is alive and he hopes to take her to him one day. This hints at an end goal and an overall plan for the series and sums up the episode well. Mae gets to stun Hunter to stop him mistakenly taking out Simmons as a running joke of revenge, after he stunned her in episode two. This is tidy and fun although Hunter is generally more slimy than a squashed frog as he shamelessly spouts his English charm around like verbal cologne.
This is a mediocre story but it’s mere background noise to the slowly developing story and characters and that’s fine. Instead of hurtling aimlessly it feels that much like Hydra, Marvel have a plan. Not sure if Marvel would like me comparing them to Nazis but I couldn’t resist the line….
The verdict: A standalone story that is safe and largely uninteresting. The groundwork is being laid though for an involving story with developed characters so this episode feels more like an investment than a failure.