Welcome back to the ComicsAlliance post-show analysis for Agents of SHIELD, the spy show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is where we break down each episode using our unique S.H.L.E.I.D. recap system — recapping the show, looking at highlights and lowlights, and exploring the show’s relationship to both the comics and the wider Marvel movie world.
This week, the agents and the Descendants are on a collision course; everyone tries to trick, manipulate, and position everyone else; and someone doesn't make it out of the episode in one piece. 'Scars' was directed by Bobby Roth and written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc. The episode and this recap contain spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron.
There's an awful lot packed into this episode as the show barrels towards its two-hour season finale (and isn't it nice to see this show do a little barreling?), but the stripped down version of the episode's plot is this:
Raina (Ruth Negga) had a vision about a weird bomb/rock that Jaiying (Dichen Lachman) recognizes as a Kree device for wiping out their people, whom the Kree regard as a failed experiment. Gordon (Jamie Harris) teleports Raina to the rock's location, and it turns out it's locked up in the SHIELD boatycarrier of Robert Gonzalez (Edward James Olmos). Their arrival does not go unnoticed by SHIELD, and Raina and Gordon flee before they can get shot.
So now the Descendants know that SHIELD is a threat to their existence, and now SHIELD knows about the Descendants, and worse, SHIELD knows where the Descendants are, because they tracked Gordon's teleporting signature.
As Skye (Chloe Bennett) has a foot in both camps (well, her entire body in both camps, really), she offers to make the introductions between the two sides. Coulson wants to represent SHIELD at the summit, but Gonzalez and May (Ming-Na Wen) think he's too close to Skye, which he is, so Gonzalez goes in his place. Raina warns Gordon that the summit would end with SHIELD raining fire on Afterlife if Jiaying represents the Kreeople, but no-one trusts Raina.
Turns out they should have trusted Raina, because after a tense conversation between Jiaying and Gonzalez, in which Gonzalez makes it clear that he'll put the Kreeople on the SHIELD index, and unwisely compares his bad leg to Jiaying being cut up and stitched back together, Jiaying shatters a terrigen crystal laced with that weird metal that kills non-Inhumans. Gonzalez turns to crumbly stone. Jiaying shoots herself with his gun so she can claim he shot first, willfully triggering a war between SHIELD and the Inhumans. Boom, it is on.
As another salvo in this war, Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) volunteers to be handed over to SHIELD to stand trial for his crimes, as a gesture of good faith between the two camps. But he swigs several bottles of his Mister Hyde formula before he's handed over, so we all know how that's going to go.
In a mostly separate thread, the de-brainwashed Agent 33 turns out not to be de-brainwashed, because you can't de-brainwash love, or something. 33 blames Morse (Adrianne Palicki) for her being turned by HYDRA, because Morse was undercover at HYDRA at the time (I think?). On the way to Afterlife, 33-disguised-as-May lures Morse to a spot where Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) is waiting to shoot her with a night-night gun. He shoots her with a night-night gun.
Almost every character ended this episode in a very different place from where they started, and that's great. Raina's done with the commune. Jiaying's done with peace. Gonzalez is probably very dead. Skye is convincingly torn between two worlds. Coulson's back in charge at SHIELD (on which, more later), which is a shame, but SHIELD has never felt less like it has a place for him, and that's good. Ward is now surely set on his villainous course. And best of all, Cal is about to get his rage beast on. It's time for everyone to stop being polite and start getting real.
If you were keeping track of who's a secret bad guy, it turns out Gonzalez wasn't, just very ideologically hidebound (though that often makes for great villains); Jiaying was, because she'll lie to start a war; and 33 still is, despite my brief hope that she'd be redeemed. I'm disappointed about 33, but Jiaying being devious and Gonzalez being dust feels like the best outcome for both of them.
I confess, my favorite bit in the whole episode is when Raina and Gordon found the Kree bomb rock and it turned from solid to liquid and back. That looked cool. Set it off, let's see what happens.
Hey, apparently these Descendant people are called the Inhumans. Did you know that? Of course you did. But Skye drops the name to SHIELD like it's what they've been calling them the whole time, and I just got used to calling them The Descendants, so I'm pretty annoyed about the anti-climactic way the word was finally slipped in. I can only assume there was some kind of embargo against using that name before Age of Ultron came out, even though the movie doesn't mention them at all, maybe as a misdirect.
But here we are, suddenly using the word 'Inhumans' like it's no big thing.
You are very frustrating, Agents of SHIELD.
Speaking of actual Marvel references; you'd barely notice it, but this episode logically and necessarily takes place after Age of Ultron, so there are several references to how, you know, Ultron happened, and that was a thing, and boy, we're all just living in a post-Ultron world now, it's all so different. (You may recall that last week Coulson gave Maria Hill the location of Loki's staff. If you saw the movie, you'll know the Avengers found the staff by raiding every HYDRA base on the planet. But the Coulson story, sure, that's cool too. You're contributing, Phil.)
Post-Ultron, Gonzalez tells Coulson that he is such a Tony Stark (and also a Miranda), because of mumble mumble Ultron mumble mumble. It's a very loose recapping of a movie Gonzalez clearly hasn't seen. This segue would have been smoother if Coulson had taken a Buzzfeed test. "It says here you're a Tony, and your Avengers boyfriend is Hawkeye."
I think Mack (Henry Simmons) has been the subject of my 'E' section more than anyone, so it's apt that he gets that honor one more time (maybe) to mark his exit from the show. Yes, after doing basically nothing all year, Mack has quit Coulson's SHIELD because he doesn't trust him. Oh no, who can we get to cover all the zip and diddlysquat that Mack was providing for this show?
Maybe this means Mack will ride in to save the day next week, which is often why people quit teams. But there's a good chance Mack is just gone, because the show really didn't know what to do with him, and it couldn't kill him. No-one wants to be the show that killed both its black agents and both its lesbian agents but somehow kept Fitz and Ward and Coulson lurching around.
Meet Theta Protocol. In a brief opening sequence, we discover what Coulson was really doing on the sly all those months ago when he put 'Theta Protocol' together. No, he wasn't gathering super-powered people (except Skye and Deathlok, obviously); he was building a Helicarrier. You know, just in the shed, with old bits and bobs. A secret off-the-books Helicarrier, using money he'd saved for an attic conversion, and his winnings from the scratchcards.
This is the helicarrier that saved the day in Age of Ultron. So, there you go. Phil Coulson, still officially dead, is also still very important. Next episode there'll be a scene where we find out every time Thor throws Mjolnir, Coulson catches it and throws it back.
And because Coulson made a Helicarrier out of old pop bottles and double-sided tape, he gets to be director of SHIELD again. Jammy bugger. We made a helicarrier too, and we didn't get to be director of anything.
"Cal, tell me honestly, can we trust SHIELD?" I love that Jiaying asks this question of Cal, and his answer is basically, "I hate Coulson with all my soul, but he's so cool and noble and handsome." One liar asking another liar to tell her honestly if another liar is trustworthy. Spoiler: You're all monsters.
How did no-one notice that two Agent Mays took out two Quinjets? I hate to call your security protocols into question, SHIELD, but if the same person can fly two military jets out of the same facility without raising eyebrows, you should at the very least put a sign-up sheet on the fridge.
What's the significance of the necklace? Gonzalez gave Jiaying a necklace as a gift; it's a charm that she was going to give to her daughter, which SHIELD recovered from Whitehall. But does it hold some greater significance that I'm missing? Ooh, did Gonzalez transfer his consciousness into the necklace before he died, so he can take control of Jiaying when she wears it? (That's not how this show works, is it?)
Does Jiaying always keep a terrigen crystal in a box on the mantel behind her desk? I thought these things were precious, which is why there are so many Descendmans hanging around waiting for a chance to transform, but she straight up wastes one on Gonzalez when she could have used any one of the many regular murder methods to kill him.
Where's Graviton? The gloopy rock reminded me; we haven't seen that guy since his origin story. Or what I thought was his origin story. Was that his whole story? This show does remember that it created Graviton, right?
The Flash got a psychic gorilla this week. Not a question, just an observation.
Next week: Two whole hours of 'you and him fight'.