The real S.H.I.E.L.D. Since it was revealed that Bobbi and Mack’s secret is not that they’re covertly working with the Avengers (like we might have thought) and rather that they’re working for a different operation of suits altogether, we’ve theorized what “the real S.H.I.E.L.D.” might be. Was it S.W.O.R.D.? Was it an undercover organization led by someone like General Talbot?
As it turns out, “the real S.H.I.E.L.D.”, headed by a man named Gonazles (Battlestar Galactica‘s Edward James Olmos), is a group of agents (including Fringe’s Kirk Acevdeo, who seems to be popping up all over these days), working underground and behind the scenes because they don’t like Coulson being in charge. They’re close with Bobbi and Mack, they still think Fury’s dead (or at least, they’re pretending if they know otherwise) and they blame Coulson for the death of Tripp — as well as Skye and Raina’s transformation, and also for the untimely death of Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless), someone that Gonzales was apparently close to. It’s interesting that Coulson is the one repeatedly telling Skye not to blame herself for the damage she’s caused with her powers, while there are numerous people who are blaming him for all the things that he’s telling her not to worry about.
Mack brings Hunter into the “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” world, despite the fact that Hunter is wary of their intentions based on their secrecy. While Hunter vows that Bobbi would never allow for this (protip: don’t talk about your exes behind their backs, Hunter), Bobbi and Mack are revealed to be gathering intel on Coulson, whom they believe has been compromised. That part isn’t so much of a surprise to us as much as the trustworthy part is – but I’ve always believed that Bobbi and Mack (or at least definitely Bobbi) have Coulson’s best intentions at heart, and would never truly do something malicious that could bring him down. And to be fair, Gonzales has a point…though he’s also operating from the outside world, which means like most situations similar to this one, we only get about half the story.
Bobbi ends up appealing to Hunter alone, which turns into a heated discussion about their relationship. While Bobbi maintains everything she felt for him was and still is real, Hunter is feeling slighted by the fact that she could distrust Coulson in the first place, and is also upset that she’s been keeping secrets from him. I’m not ashamed to say that one of my favorite Bobbi and Hunter scenes came out of this episode, and it didn’t even involve sex – or Bobbi throwing sticks in someone’s face. The emotional connection between these two characters is so strong that it resonates no matter what they’re doing together.
Hunter asks her to leave with him, but she can’t – she has a loyalty to finish out her job here, however it ends. Hunter tries to run, though he doesn’t get very far because apparently they’re on a moving barge. He manages a way off, however, which leads Gonzales and his team to panic. They don’t want Bobbi going back in to S.H.I.E.L.D. because they’re afraid Hunter can now blow her cover, especially given his anger. But with Mack already a suspect of sneaking around thanks to May’s eagle eye and Hunter’s disappearance, Bobbi has no choice – and now that Mack has alerted them about Skye’s situation, they need someone on the inside. (Besides, she’s Mockingbird. She doesn’t need the 12 hours she’s been given. She only needs 6. Atta girl, Bobbi.)
“Love In The Time of Hydra” promised us the return of Grant Ward, a character that we haven’t seen since the fall finale. It didn’t disappoint – Ward returned as not only the embodiment of the Best Boyfriend Ever, having taken Agent 33 under his wing, he also returned seemingly as the new face of Hydra. With Whitehall dead, it’s really a chance for Ward to carve out his own path both as a character and with his loyalties…and I think it’s safe to say that based on this episode, Ward is done answering to anyone but himself, which should prove interesting down the road.
When we last saw Agent 33, she had been abandoned by Whitehall and also was in a bit of a predicament, having had half her face removed thanks to laser mesh mask issues. The two cut their pancake date short to abduct a guy who can apparently fix these kind of things, and the man manages to laser on another type of mask that hides Agent 33’s imperfections. And stabilizes her vocal process. And lets her replicate the face of another woman, based on her preferences so that she can be anyone she wants. I’m pretty sure this is the coolest kind of tech ever, and I’m also pretty sure it would solve my own emotional problems, which probably means it should be outlawed. Much of this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been people finding themselves and learning “who they really are” – and even though she’s on the periphery, this absolutely extends to Agent 33, who spends most of the episode trying to find her footing in a world where she has no idea what to do, except cling to the person who has come to her rescue. She thinks that Ward is incredibly well-adjusted for all his abandonment issues (HA), so it’s no wonder that she tries so hard to win Ward’s trust, most notably by pretending to impersonate Skye to get his attention. (That moment also allowed many SkyeWard fans their happiness – even if it wasn’t the real Skye, it’s clear that Ward’s intentions and emotions were there, and he’s still into her. He’s still in love with her. He still can’t let her go.)
And what of Skye? May’s ex has recommended her to be removed from S.H.I.E.L.D., a decision that May agrees with despite the fact Coulson feels otherwise. Skye’s abilities aren’t man-made, they’re not something she was born with and can’t control. She’s kind of like the Hulk (a wonderful Avengers reference between FitzSimmons in a scene that made the Marvel nerd in me delight in happiness), and she’s an unfortunate causality of something she didn’t ask for. (Also, as Fitz reminds Simmons: Hulk saved the world. And yes. Yes he did.)
Coulson ends up taking Skye to a safe house for people with powers (complete with all the safety procedures in place to account for powers), though he can’t at first tell her where they’re doing. In the process of their journey, he gives her the story of Lola, and it’s heartening to see a little bit of human!Coulson come through here as he talks about his favorite thing in the world — a strange yet cute way to father-daughter bond. The good news of being pulled of active duty is that Skye (kind of) gets her gauntlets! Well, they’re really gloves, and it’s what Simmons has been working on to help Skye attempt to control her powers. And what she’s subsequently clashed with Fitz on, as the two apparently have very, very different ideas of how to react to someone becoming a superhero.
Ward uses Agent 33’s vulnerability to convince her to extract revenge on the man who made her life miserable: Bakshi, who is being held in Talbot’s care. Thanks to Agent 33’s face, she’s able to impersonate Talbot’s wife in order to get past security, which then allows her to change into a guard, which allows her to break out Bakshi with Ward’s help. At least to Talbot’s credit, he realizes what’s going on pretty early into the whole heist, but there’s apparently going to be a lot of make-up taco nights to account for the fact that Talbot freaked out so much on his life he didn’t trust her.
And our tag? In a continued journey towards revenge, Agent 33 (who has embraced her new, disfigured face and has gained Ward’s approval) is now the one brainwashing Bakshi. This can’t end well.
Odds & Ends:
- Anyone want pumpkin pancakes now? Because I crave pumpkin things on a regular basis, but damn, I’d really like some pancakes.
- Easter egg of the night, and one not exactly Marvel related: during the flight to the safe house, Coulson offers Skye some red vines. Red vines were Walter Bishop’s food of choice on Fringe, and Charlie on Fringe was one of Kirk Acevedo’s best known roles for years.
- Another fun Avengers easter egg, because this episode was full of them: Coulson tells Skye that Captain America spent some time at the special cabin after his de-icing. I’m waiting for the head canons to go wild with that one.
- Look how good Coulson has become with tech! Remember when he could barely figure out how to swipe a hologram and it was one of the best moments of the show’s first season? Now he’s a regular pro. Four for you, Coulson, you go, Coulson.
- “Down on the DL.” “The downlow?” “The disabled list.” “Oh yeah, that makes more sense.”
- Skye playing Operation – a classic subtle moment. What’s the point of Operation? Don’t let the tongs touch anything as you’re removing things. (Also another fun Marvel easter egg, if you stretch that far: Tony tells Pepper in the first Iron Man that removing his arc reactor is just like playing Operation. Which Pepper has apparently never played. That’s another story entirely.)