After surrendering to Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) at the end of last week’s episode Coulson (Clark Gregg) was back at base and bringing Fitz, Hunter and Grant Ward with him, something which didn’t go down too well with well everyone but Simmons and May in particular. It turns out that Coulson has a trick or two up his sleeve as he manipulates ‘Real’ SHIELD into helping him free Deathlock (J. August Richards) and Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) who were captured by Hydra last week. Back in Afterlife, Gordon (Jamie Harris) returns with Skye (Chloe Bennet)and Cal (Kyle MaClachlan), who isn’t too happy at his ex wife’s plan to ditch him.
Unfortunately Cal’s return was swept under the carpet a bit too easily which was frustrating considering he pretty much blew Jiaying’s secret by yelling about how Skye was his daughter. J and Afterlife were pretty short changed this episode as the show runners focused on the obligatory Avengers: Age of Ultron set up which comes a bit too late for UK viewers, one of the flaws with Channel 4’s frustrating decision to air Agents of SHIELD so far after the US. This meant Afterlife was relegated to a few set up scenes for the end of the season as Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) became wary of Raina (Ruth Negga) and her abilities after she convinced Skye to save Lincoln with one of her visions. This resulted in Cal warning his ex wife to watch her back around Raina, as it appears Flower’s is back to her old ways of using those around her for her own ends. Could Raina be about to try and stage a coup?
Back at base, Coulson a.k.a king of sass manipulated ‘Real’ SHIELD and May (Ming Na Wen) into staging a rescue mission to recover Lincoln and Deathlock, proving that despite all his doubts, Coulson can manipulate and deceive people as much as Nick Fury can. Though it must be said, May wasn’t too happy at discovering he had been hiding visits to her ex husband. While she didn’t have much of a leg to stand on after spying on Coulson back in season one, it’s safe to say Coulson’s dialogue about making it up to May at length will have caused one or two Philinda shippers to go rushing to Tumblr.
It was nice to see Coulson getting in touch with his inner Black Widow this episode by using the rescue mission as a cover to gain intel on Von Strucker, which is something of an irony for Captain America’s number one fan. Not too sure the Captain would be a big fan of Coulson’s actions here. But it’s also oddly satisfying that Coulson should have gone to such lengths in order to back up the Avengers, even if it does mean having to sacrifice the bus and lie to his team. Now if only we could have the Avengers finally discover he’s still alive.
The destruction of the bus at the hands of Hydra had to be the highlight of the episode and one of the best moments of the series as May successfully piloted the quinjet through the debris to make Hydra think they had been successful. As sad as the destruction of the bus was, it finally rammed home that despite the team being reunited, the gulf between them all was far too wide for them to ever work together as well as they once did. Unfortunately Skye’s epic fight scene was the exact opposite of May’s flying scene as it was reminiscent of a video game which made it frustrating to watch, though it was great to see how far she’s come under May’s tutelage.
While the obligatory Avengers: Age of Ultron tie in plot points were well handled, Raina’s vision towards the end of the episode was rather more clunkier. The world will be changed forever; well that tends to happen every time there’s an Avengers movie out. It was less a vision and more a moment of let’s state the blindingly obvious. It didn’t help that there was no footage used from the movie either.
Amongst furthering the show’s plot arcs, Grant Ward yet again tried to justify his actions with his woe is me back-story and getting short thrift from the team as they were forced to begrudgingly work together. It’s good to see the writers not trying to redeem him, though Brett Dalton’s acting is yet again all over the shop as usual. Is Ward evil, misguided or a creepy weirdo? After a season and a half of being unable to pin him down thanks to Dalton’s inability to actually make a decision and stick with it, it’s hard to care. Surely the show runners sat down with him at some point and explained his arc to him?
While Simmons got the chance to fulfill her promise to kill Ward, the scene was something of a disappointment as yet again Elizabeth Henstridge was wasted as there were no consequences to her actions. It would have been nice to have had a moment for Simmons to think about what she’s done. After all, she is a doctor and she just killed someone in cold blood, even if it was by accident. However it was good to see her getting a bit of a fight scene as she took on Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) who tried to defend his boss. Ward’s disappointment line was a huge moment of hypocrisy, from a guy who thinks the best way to deal with everyone who has ever wronged him can’t judge someone else for going with a similar idea.
Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) is also another disappointment as Ward left her behind to reconcile with her past as a SHIELD agent. For a character who has no identity, it’s going to be hard for the writers to do anything with her with only 3 episodes left in which she will most likely end up on the periphery of the action. Like Ward, she’s a character who just doesn’t work, and her wide eyed innocence is hard to buy considering some of the things she and Ward have done together. Rather than having her suffer some rather suspicious brainwashing related memory loss, it would have been more powerful if she had similar issues of trying to reconcile her past with her present a la Natasha Romanoff.
Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) also proved that his ‘Real’ SHIELD isn’t as pure and as honest as he makes out. As Coulson revealed he knew all about the secret he was hiding in the cargo hold of his ship. His views about Skye, Deathlock and Lincoln showed that he’s clearly just as obsessed with powered people as with Hydra making him a hypocrite. The whole notion of the team voting on things was awkward; so much for protecting the innocent. It’s a good job Louie Walsh and Simon Cowell aren’t on the panel or the world would be doomed.