Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on a roll as the series delivers one of its best episodes yet.
Let’s bitch it out…
Last week SHIELD finally put to bed the whole T.A.H.I.T.I. mystery and opened the doors to a new mystery involving a strange city that the wall writing is pointing to. Instead of diving headlong into that storyline, however, ‘The Things We Bury’ turns out to be a carefully calculated character study that simultaneously advances the plot in a number of directions.
It’s a credit to the show that an episode like this can balance as many characters and storylines as it does. Sure a few members of the team, particularly those left behind at SHIELD headquarters, don’t get quite as much to do, but by spreading the wealth ‘The Things We Bury’ is able to cover significantly more ground and land a much larger pay-off as a result.
For me, the biggest pay-off involves Skye’s father, the Doctor (Kyle MacLachlan). This character has been a mysterious figure since his appearance in the season premiere and while we thought we knew that his agenda involved revenge against SHIELD for harbouring his daughter (Chloe Bennet), it turns out that he’s just as interested in making Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) pay. In hindsight, I’m a bit embarassed that I didn’t see the ending coming because Agents of SHIELD has laid the groundwork regarding Skye’s mysterious 084 status and the details of her destroyed home since early in the first season. Still, there’s something immensely satisfying about filling in the gaps in her origin story as the driving motivation for her father’s activities with/against Whitehall.
The closing line of dialogue about looking your adversary in the eye may be a bit spot-on as a result, but it also nicely contextualizes what’s happening in the room with Ward (Brett Dalton). If there’s a storyline on the outskirts, it’s Ward’s attack and subsequent murder of his brother, Christian (Tim DeKay). Ward’s own origin story is nearly as mythological as Skye’s – the insinuation has always been that the incident in which Ward abused his younger brother at the well was a defining moment in his development (his search for a father figure is what led him to Garrett and subsequently HYDRA). It’s fairly clear from his actions with Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) last week that Ward’s plan is to go undercover at HYDRA in order to ingratiate himself with SHIELD later in the season. Dealing with Christian kills two birds with one stone because it gets his foot in the door at HYDRA and takes out the man who was hunting him.
The fact that Ward murders his entire family is the latest indicator that this isn’t a character that can be redeemed. Christian was clearly a sleazy politician, and an emotional abuser, but that’s not an excuse to kill him. The fact remains that Ward is no longer Agent Handsome – he’s a mass murderer who, in this episode alone, murders three people. Is the world better off without them? Most likely, but that doesn’t discount the fact that Ward is still a traitor and a killer. There can’t be any going back for him…and it’s exciting that the writers appear to be sticking to their guns about this.
What’s so enticing about the three “villains” staring each other down at the end of the episode is that they each have their own agenda (made clear in the preceding 41 minutes). Whitehall is the most conventional of the three, but his back story is important because it offers us much needed information. Thus far he’s been little more than a bureaucrat with a penchant for mind-control (an angle which is nicely picked up in the interrogation between Bakshi and Adrianne Palicki’s Bobbi). Now, however, we have a better understanding of Whitehall’s (nee Reinhardt) connection to Red Skull and the more unsavoury scientific elements that the party is willing to engage in (RIP Dichen Lachman – you deserved better than a total gross-out autopsy after eluding Reinhardt for 44 years).
As it stands, this episode evokes an Indiana Jones vibe in its dual treasure-hunting storylines as everyone zeroes in on the “Blue Angel” city. The mention of temples and the power of the Obelisk suggests some pretty fantastic images to come as Agents of SHIELD continues its run of exceptional second season episodes.
- Between this and The 100, it’s been a bad week for Dichen Lachman fans. Girl needs a steady paycheck!
- I’m totally not counting that as a Dollhouse reunion because it was far too brief. Perhaps Enver Gjokaj (cast in Agent Carter) can spend some quality time protecting Lachman’s character in that village when the 1940s spin-off airs in 2015?
- My reaction when Tripp (BJ Britt) is shot? “They had better not kill him without doing anything with him this season.”
- Using Bobbi’s interrogation techniques to explore Bakshi’s history is pretty clever. Normally I’m an advocate of “show, don’t tell” but this is enough of a spin to feel fresh.
- Speaking of Bobbi, that hook-up with Hunter (Lance Blood) came much sooner than I had expected. Nice to see the two of them air their dirty laundry.
- Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) tough love technique with Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) produces the best results we’ve seen this season, even if it apparently does strain Fitz’s wrist.
- Finally, the continued brief scenes with Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) fill me with anticipation over her forthcoming mid-season entry. Atwell definitely has the charisma and the acting chops to anchor her own show and if tonight is any indication the secret SRS files should provide lots of interesting stories that can easily tie into present day Agents of SHIELD.
- Bobbi (to Bakshi, calling Whitehall milquetoast): “Now you, you’ve got that classic Bond villain thing going on”
- Hunter (watching Bobbi work through Bakshi’s past using her batons): “What’s wrong? You’re twirling.”
- Skye’s father (when Coulson asks if the Obelisk has a Tesseract power within): “Sure. I don’t know what that means.”
Your turn: is this one of SHIELD‘s best outings to date? Did you figure out the Doctor’s connection to Whitehall before the end? Who will betray the others first: Whitehall, the Doctor or Ward? Were you annoyed that Tripp got shot? And are you getting excited for Agent Carter? Sound off below.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hits the pause button and returns in two weeks on Tuesday, Dec 2 at 9pm EST on ABC. Here’s a preview: