The latest installment of this solid series sees different threads of plot, all hurtling towards the same point of hopeful story satisfaction.
Bobbi Morse interrogates Bakshi which after Zero Dark Thirty or The Shield this seems more like a slightly more intense job interview or an awkward podcast. The team then pounce upon his answers with the desperate and irrational insight that would make newspaper psychics proud. Upon digging through two entire files seemingly at random accuracy the team then discover that Reinhart who was a Nazi scientist that discovered the Obelisk/Divine/newest foreboding name of doom, is actually Whitehall and has not aged. He was imprisoned by Agent Peggy Carter before being released years later by Alexander Pierce who was Robert Redford’s suited villain of political evil in ‘Captain America 2′. These scenes promote Carter before her big break and again cement the foundations of this show in the lush, sturdy land of Marvel. Mack is shown again to be questioning the sanity of Coulson which quite a well written grounded view of a bizarre situation as he and Hunter worry about the head of Shield. It gives a positive chunk of individual thought to potentially background characters.
Agent Grant Ward appears at his brother Christians summer house who has just enough time to finish a slimy phonecall of lies at turn us all against him after last weeks carousel of trust.Grant forces him out into the woods to dig up the well where their brother died and demands a confession that Christian coerced Grant into letting him die. A nice emotional tug of war ends with Christian breaking down and confessing he wanted their brother dead as he was the only one not abused. This is not ‘Good Will Hunting’ and the Grant Ward school of therapy involves mostly spades and dangling people down holes. Grant then breaks out the least reassuring smile since the Grinch and leads his brother back “home”.
Coulson meanwhile is enjoying leading his team of Triplett, Skye and Fitz complete with insecurities and petty banter, like a school trip with Kevlar. Coulson gives a great speech about Fury being a step ahead and instead of keeping up with Hydra he wants to meet them at the finish line. It’s a well acted speech that makes a great point and shows Coulson evolving as a leader and becoming like the heroes he idolised. Fitz is a circuit board away from a montage as he practices installing a transmitter with his weak right hand to become part of the mission again, it’s tastefully done with un-soppy support from Skye and Trip. Trip must have been very good this year as he also get about 3 lines of script for Christmas! On the mission though the one writer that obviously hates Trip gets him shot by a bullet carved from purest convineince. Skye’s dad appears and is now credited as ‘The Doctor’ just to enrage British sci-fi fans or maybe confuse them into watching. He poses as a innocent nearby doctor and helps Trip before blowing his cover to cover by an innocent mix up of words that is quite nice in it’s simplistic nature. He and Coulson then growl at each other and play tug of war over a ‘number one dad’ mug for Skye, then ‘The Doctor’ cuts Trip’s vein and leaves Phil and Fitz to save him. The random information Fitz gathered is basically a ‘win file’ and gives the team the location of the city. Oh and Hunter and Morse sleep together and people’s disinterest about this is almost audible in it’s resounding lack of surprise. The script leading up to it is actually quite tidy but the result takes away more than it adds to our character’s dynamics.
Whitehall meets with ‘The Doctor’ and Grant Ward who discuss Coulson’s team who Ward nicely refers to knowing “like family” to Skye’s dad. ‘The Doctor’ also calmly raves about wanting everyone to die so he can be reunited it the afterlife, the kind of insane, ridiculous claim that only a true comic villain can pretend makes sense. This is sadly quite lazy and doesn’t make his mission seem very clear and passionate. The show inserts flashbacks to Whitehall in the war finding a woman (another Whedon favourite, Dichen Lachman of Dollhouse) who is not killed by the Obelisk but activates it, upon his release she is still the same age and so in his surgery of grimness he “takes everything” from her to reverse his aging and dumps her body. This is important and inserted very blatantly in a ‘plot twist by numbers’ sort of way. ‘The Doctor’ when speaking about his talk with Coulson says to Ward that it’s important to look his enemy in the eye as he looks at Whitehall. It’s more of a glare and carries as much subtlety and tact as a drunk Ellen DeGeneres being fired from a cannon. ‘The Doctor’ is then shown in a flashback of his own finding the body of his wife which was of course the woman that Whitehall had autopsied his eternal youth from. The most annoying fault is Whitehall’s script, it needs a little more character without being too jokey and unpredictable as Skye’s dad has that type of villain pegged. Whitehall lacks any venom and his phrase of discovery “requires experimentation” is a little too pulpy.
The episode ends with Ward speaking his sacrifices and commitment as Whitehall sees a new bulletin announcing a house fire which killed Christian Ward. This i pretty effective but tips him off too much as an out and out villain instead of an almost lovable rogue or anti hero as the writers have painstakingly painted him inch by inch. Expect this story to unfold as a ruse to gain favour.
The verdict: This episode lacked a lot of the bite in previous episodes but had some tasty dialogue and set pieces. Some of the moments and twists were too obvious and poorly set up and Coulson’s ‘important’ mission gets lost a bit in the flurry of activity. This is a filled episode but the effects are diluted as a result.