Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Recap, Episode 7: ‘The Writing On The Wall’
After a one-week hiatus, Agents of SHIELD returns with an episode about math. And look, I'm not trying to be mean here, but I understand that an hour earlier in the night, the Flash stripped down to his underoos over on his TV show Shoe. (They use the Arrow naming convention, right?) So Agents of SHIELD really needs to step up its game if it wants to be competitive in the increasingly crowded superhero TV market. Lance Hunter in a Speedo, at the very least.
This week's episode, 'The Writing On The Wall', was directed by Vincent Misiano and written by Craig Titley, and guest stars both Cougar Town's Brian Van Holt and The 4400's Joel Gretsch, who are two handsome grizzled blond men that you probably thought were the same person until this exact moment. Psych. Here's our uniquely formulated "SHLEID" recap.
A nice lady takes home the man I will insist on calling Pennycan (Brian Van Holt) for a glass of wine and some adult friend fun. Pennycan shows her his Kree math tattoos and stabs her to death, which is certainly adult but neither friendly nor fun.
Meanwhile, at SHIELD, Coulson (Clark Gregg) is carving Kree math in the walls again, and Skye (Chloe Bennett) recaps the story so far; Ward (Brett Dalton) knows the secrets about Kyle Machlachlan, who has the alien doorstop that's linked to the Kree math that's linked to the Kree goop that brought Skye and Coulson back from the dead. Everyone caught up? Good. Let's have an episode.
Coulson and Skye investigat the murder and discover that the victim was making Kree math paintings. Also, she was a SHIELD agent who was already dead. Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) conducts a post-mortem that reveals that the victim had Kree goop in her blood -- and so did her killer.
With all Kree goop records lost, Coulson submits to the same tortuous memory recovery process that Raina once tried to use on him. This allows him to recover his memories of his time as overseer of the TAHITI program, which successfully brought six test subjects back from the dead (or the near-dead) by filling them with Kree goop -- but also successfully imprinted them with a maddening compulsion to draw Kree math on everything and eventually lose their minds. The only solution was to erase their identities and give them new lives.
Pennycan was one of these goopers, and eventually, of course, so was Coulson.
The returning memories make Coulson erratic and uncontrollable. Skye tries to lock him in the basement cell, only for him to toss her in there and go after the other remaining gooper, Hank Thompson (Joel Gretsch). And because it's a TV show, he arrives just in time to be too late. Pennycan clobbers Coulson and ties up him and Hank in the barn. He reveals that his memories returned to him when he would cut himself -- and he went around cutting up the other goopers to try to get their share of the memories as well.
Hank escapes with his family. Coulson and Pennycan fight. Skye and Mack arrive just in time to almost have to shoot Coulson so he won't kill Pennycan, but they don't have to, because it turns out Hank's train set or whatever was the last part of the Kree math jigsaw, and everything's cool, man. Everything's jake.
Back at headquarters, Coulson reassures the cast and some random extras that he's not crazy, and now he knows that the Kree math was actually a blueprint for a city. Anyone injected with the goop was implanted with a homing signal to return to that city; so now they have to find it.
Meanwhile, in the B plot, the rest of the cast follow escaped traitor Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) across country. They track him to a bar, where he rendezvous with HYDRA's Mr Bakshi () -- but when they go in they find that Ward has tied up Bakshi and left him as a present for Coulson.
In the kicker, Ward calls Skye on Bakshi's phone and promises to send her more presents. (PS. He's probably going to try to murder his senator brother.)
I think this means the Coulson resurrection story is over. It's over, right? We kind of know everything, right?
I mean, technically we don't know if that dead Kree is really a dead Kree, and we don't know what Kyle Maclachlan is, or what his doorstop is, or what Skye is, but we know the extent of Coulson's involvement, and why he was writing Kree math on the walls, and he says he can quit any time, so I think we can tie a neat little bow on that part of the storyline. Thank the Living Tribunal.
So that's the highlight of the episode, for me. One of the show's most tedious mysteries is finally over, and we can move on to the already more intriguing mystery of the strange alien city. Could it be Attilan?
Yes. It's probably Attilan. Everyone's already worked out that it's probanbly the Inhuman city of Attilan.
Let's go ahead and call it Attilan.
Other highlights? I liked when Joel Gretsch caught that knife. And Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) looks good in a cowboy hat. (Didn't he temporarily "leave" last episode? Evidently not, but they certainly seemed to frame it that way.)
Have you noticed how Adrianne Palicki's Agent Morse has chemistry with absolutely everyone on this show, because she's a very natural and gifted actor?
Well it turns out even she doesn't have chemistry with Ward. Their flirty animosity in the bus scene was the first time in this show that Mockingbird didn't sizzle, because Grant Ward is a dead zone. He used to have a beard as a substitute for charisma. Now he doesn't even have the beard!
At the end of the episode Ward has the temerity to diss Coulson's new recruits, claiming he's "hard to replace". Try going away for a while and we'll see how true that is, Wonderbread.
And after some good fight scenes in the last few episodes, this episode we saw two middle aged guys brawling in a shed, and it was not a high-octane thrill ride. It was a dad fight.
PS. Coulson went crazy and shoved Skye in a cell and held an innocent man at gunpoint in this episode. It's a shame he's already the boss, because the way perforance reviews seem to work at SHIELD, this surely qualifies him for a promotion.
I'm giving Mack (Henry Simmons) his own section of the recap now, because lord knows someone has to give him some attention.
This episode I actually had to reassure myself that Mack was interacting with characters other than Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) to reassure myself that he's not another Fitz hallucination. That's how insignificant Mack's screentime has been! Mack actually drives a car in this episode and I still wasn't 100% sure he was real.
I've given up on Triplett (BJ Britt), who seems to be entirely vestigial at this point, but Mack was a new character this season. They must have had a reason for introducing him! Seven episodes!
Early in the episode, Skye refers to her "crime scene junkie" friend Micro; almost certainly a reference to the Punisher's sometime sidekick Microchip, created by Mike Baron and Klaus Janson.
Brian Van Holt's Pennycan (actually called Sebastian Derek) doesn't seem to be based on any Marvel character -- but I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong. At the end of the episode we learn that Joel Gretsch's Hank was originally SHIELD agent Cameron Klein, who is a Marvel character; a SHIELD technician from the Captain America comics, creared by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway.
But the big introduction this episode was Attilan, the hidden Inhuman city created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Sure, maybe it's K'un-L'un or Lemuria or Transia, but I think we'll all be pretty surprised if it's not Attilan. And that's a pretty big deal.
What makes Attilan a big deal? Attilan, a technologically advanced hidden city populated by a secret pseudo-human race of people who were given superpowers by aliens, is a wildly fantastical concept -- especially compared to the scale this show usually shoots for. If Agents of SHIELD gets to run with this idea, it could revolutionize the show.
Is Agents of SHIELD going to run with this idea? I doubt it. It took the show this many episodes to find the plan of the city; imagine how long it's going to take them to find the actual city. With the Inhumans movie four years away, and Agents of SHIELD unlikely to be on our screens in four years, there must be a limit to how much Inhumans fun this show gets to have on its meagre TV budget.
Are we going to get the Punisher in Agents of SHIELD? Let's face it, they can't give that guy a fourth shot at a movie. But the Punisher is an awkward fit for the Marvel comics universe; he'd be an even weirder fit for this show. I'm filing the Micro reference alongside Man-Thing and Hellcow in the "nice idea, never going to happen" bin.
Pennycan thought Coulson was dead, and Hank had a wife and kid in his assumed identity, so did the TAHITI project exist before the Avengers? But didn't Skye say the TAHITI project was created specifically to revive an Avenger? I mean, maybe Hank adopted the kid, but still, this timeline is pretty confusing. Are we meant to think the "revive an Avenger" story is a lie? I'm so confused.