Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Recap, Episode 6: ‘A Fractured House’
Welcome to season one, episode two of Mockingbird, the awesome new Marvel TV show starring Adrianne Palicki as kick-ass superspy Bobbi Morse. It could be everything anyone ever wanted a live action Marvel TV show to be!
Unfortunately and inexplicably this new show is saddled to Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, a show that spent an entire season being so terrible that its ratings seem to be in freefall. With the full official arrival of Mockingbird (and an extended Avengers: Age Of Ultron trailer), does the show deserve to see its fortunes turn around? Find out in our "SHLEID" recap of episode six, 'A Fractured House', directed by Ron Underwood and written by Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc.
We open with Brig. Gen. Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) addressing the United Nations with a "boy, there sure are some superheroes, have you seen 'em?" speech, only to be interrupted by a buff sleazy Eurotrash-version of Channing Tatum and his band of mercenaries, armed with deadly little aerobees that use Kyle MacLachlan's alien doorstop technology to turn people to stone. The merc, Marco Scarlotti (Falk Hentschel), pretends he's SHIELD, but shhh, he's really HYDRA.
All of this is just too much for United States Senator Christian Ward (Tim DeKay), who has been steering and bankrolling Talbot's anti-SHIELD crusade in America. Now he wants the rest of the world to hound them as well until there is nowhere left to hide. (I'm sure his constituents in Massachusetts are wondering when he's going to stop grandstanding and address the state's beverage container recycling law ballot measure.)
Senator Ward is, inevitably, the big brother of our pal Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), psycho traitor, third-rate Hannibal impersonator, and shirtless workout champ. Skye tries to get dirt on the elder Ward from the younger Ward, but has to suffer through his usual, "I'm a nice guy, why won't girls date me?" baloney, plus whatever spoon-fed info about Skye's parents the writers have decided Ward can tell her this week. Now we're told Skye's mom was murdered in Hunan by HYDRA agents, and her dad, Kyle MacLachlan, got angry and slaughtered everyone. So maybe he is a Hulk?
Meanwhile, in the Mockingbird TV show, Agent Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki), her ass-kicking pal Agent May (Ming-Na Wen), and her ex-husband Agent Hunter (Nick Blood) go on a field trip to track down the mercenaries. At their first stop in Japan, Morse reuses her busted HYDRA cover to mack with a weapons designer (Brian Tee). That doesn't work out great. There's a fight.
Somewhere in politicsville, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) has a nice conversation with Senator Ward, in which he tries to persuade him to back off on his crusade, and the senator tries to convince Coulson that Grant is a little twerp, which doesn't take much convincing. According to the senator, Grant wasn't the victim of fraternal bullying (as we saw in flashbacks in the episode 'The Well'); he was the bully.
Naturally, Coulson agrees to hand Grant over to his brother so he can be publicly executed after a show trial to boost the senator's approval numbers. In exchange the senator will call off the SHIELD hunt and publicly declare that SHIELD is no more. All of this is terrible, but we'll get to that later.
Meanwhile, in the Mockingbird TV show, the mercenaries go to Bruges to murder some SHIELD agents at a safe house. There is some business with a politician whose grandfather was a Nazi scientist -- I didn't really follow it -- but it leads Team Mockingbird to the safe house, where there is some pretty good fighting involving a knife on a long chain. And when the dust settles, Talbot shows up to formally renounce all of his characterization up to this point. Hooray, everything is perfect!
And then Grant Ward gets walked through the SHIELD base, eye-humps the entire cast, and escapes his chains while in transit. This is terrible news. It means even more of that guy.
In the kicker, Brian Van Holt of Cougar Town got some tattoos.
This is the first episode that's shown us Bobbi Morse in full hero mode, and I loved pretty much everything about her, from her Star Wars t-shirt (nice cross-marketing synergies, Disney) to her verbal sparring with her ex-husband, to her more literal sparring with HYDRA goons. Morse, May, and Hunter make a great team.
This was also one of the few times we've seen a decent pseudo-supervillain henchman in the show. Marco Scarlotti could have just been a random henchman, but the show brought in a serious stunt performer in dancer Falk Hentschel, gave him a signature look and a signature weapon, and let him have some fun. Morse and Scarlotti are both characters from the comics, and the show conspired to make them bigger and bolder than the characters around them
Other highlights of the episode: Elizabeth Henstridge was great at showing Simmons' struggles with Fitz's post-trauma personality (I think we're meant to sympathize with him, but she made it easier to sympathize with her), and Hunter calling Bobbi "Bob" was maybe my favorite thing.
This episode aired on the day that Marvel made a raft of movie announcements -- effectively confirming that Attilan and Wakanda are places in this fictional universe, and Thanos is coming, and so is Ragnarok, and so is Carol goddamn Danvers -- so it was a little embarrassing that the episode opened with Talbot's speech about the Chitauri attack New York in the first Avengers movie, and all these darned superpeople running around.
Why embarrassing? Because while the world Talbot describes is the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- and we know it's only going to get bigger -- it's not the world of this show. This show has never shown much interest in addressing the scars left on the world by the Chitauri attack, or really letting us see how superheroes have changed the world, or even really in embracing the existence of superhumans at all. As an answer to the question, 'What would it look like for spies to operate in a world populated with superhumans?', Agents of SHIELD has always felt half-baked.
But even if I set that particularly massive bugbear aside, this episode had other problems. Morse reusing her HYDRA cover is so dumb that it forces the audience to wonder if both she and HYDRA are utterly incompetent. (To be fair, the answer regarding HYDRA looks like a firm "yes" at this stage.)
I'm sure some covert agenda was driving Senator Ward's willingness to wholly abandon his SHIELD vendetta in exchange for getting his hands on his brother, because on the face of it that's not a sensible trade. But shouldn't Coulson see that too? And even if he doesn't see it, isn't sending a prisoner away to be executed as a political prop utterly monstrous on its own terms?
Then again, Talbot's crusade against SHIELD never made sense either. I mean, if Talbot and Senator Ward are both HYDRA, then it makes sense -- but what was their cover story, prior to this episode's staged terror attack? "SHIELD is bad because it was compromised by HYDRA"? HYDRA is still out there! Go fight HYDRA!
PS. Mack (Henry Simmons) and Trip (B.J. Britt) did basically nothing at all this episode, as per usual.
Having lost its Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer debut exclusive to a leak last week, Agents of SHIELD debuted an extended trailer on Tuesday night, with a cut of the much-talked about hammer-lifting scene that was shown to fans at San Diego Comic-Con. It's a fun little scene, and you can see that extended trailer here.
Thor wears a jacket. It's pretty cute.
With all these people being turned to stone, am I the only one wondering when Grey Gargoyle is going to show up? Is Kyle MacLachlan Grey Gargoyle? He's not nearly French enough.
Instead we get a different old school villain this episode, Marcus Scarlotti -- based on the comics' own Whiplash, and created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan for Tales of Suspense back in 1968.
You may recall that the Marvel Cinematic Universe already introduced Whiplash. He was the villain in Iron Man 2, played by Mickey Rourke. But that guy was actually based on the comics' Crimson Dynamo, and now there's a version of Whiplash based on Rourke in the comics, while the original Whiplash, Scarlotti, sometimes goes by Blacklash.
The Agents of SHIELD version doesn't use either codename, nor does he actually have a whip, but he has a knife on a chain, and that's still pretty cool. (The May/Scarlotti fight was solid, but I do wish we'd seen Morse and her batons get in on that action.)
This episode also introduces several new characters who don't appear to be based on comics characters -- most notably Senator Christian Ward, though we've seen him before as the sadistic kid in Grant Ward's flashbacks that may or may not be real memories. (I think?) The arrival of Tim DeKay on the show begs the obvious question; when is his White Collar co-star Matt Bomer going to make his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut? That Agent Carter show could use a Dominic Fortune, right?
Also introduced this episode: Brian Van Holt as the mysterious villain 'Pennycan' (no, sadly he's just credited as 'stranger') and Brian Tee, as Toshiro Mori, necessarily no relation to Norubo Mori, the character he played in The Wolverine. Sorry to hear about your surname shortage, Japan.
Is Hunter gone? At the end of the episode he packs his bag to give "Bob" some space. Given that we only got one episode of these two bouncing off each other, it would be a tragedy to lose him so soon. But I suspect he's taking a break so he can heroically ride in and save the day in a future episode.
Which of the Ward brothers is the bigger psycho? I didn't get a "master manipulator" vibe off the senator, but he's surely meant to be suspect. They each say the other is a monster; I say they're both right.
Did Grant Ward's "the well" flashbacks happen or not? We saw them; that's usually a sign that a show means for us to think a thing happened. I'd have to re-watch the scenes (and I'm not going to), but did they ever identify which of the kids in that scene was Grant? I think they did, but they'd be pretty clever if they didn't, and misdirected us to assume he was the victim and not the bully.
Was Agent Walters meant to be someone? One of the SHIELD agents who gets killed by Notwhiplash is a woman named Walters, which probably caused palpitations for thousands of She-Hulk fans. They didn't just kill Jennifer Walters, did they? (I'm 100% certain they didn't, and the name was just a coincidence. But for just a second there...)
Does the Inhumans movie announcement tell us anything about the future of Agents Of SHIELD? I've always thought the show is aiming for a Kree connection with Skye and her father, but the other popular theory is that she's an Inhuman. Maybe Attilan is somewhere in Hunan?Can we have more Scarlotti please? I liked him.