Thursday, March 26, 2015

Don't Quite "Love" MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Article originally written for Seat42F.

Last night on MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., two people find “Love in the Time of Hydra.” Maybe. At the same time, another relationship or three nearly completely dissolve and things continue to build towards a semi-unknown showdown. What does the rest of the season hold for the team? I certainly don’t know.

Ward (Brett Dalton) finally shows back up, in the company of Agent 33 (Maya Stojan). Ward decides to take 33 under his wing, and step one is to nab Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) and torture him. The problem is, Bakshi is still in Talbot’s (Adrian Pasdar) custody and 33’s face replicator isn’t working. These are surmountable tribulations, and it isn’t long before 33 is trying to repay Ward for his help by allowing him to finally have sex with Skye (Chloe Bennet). Well, have sex with 33 wearing Skye’s face and possibly May’s (Ming-Na Wen) voice, though Ward may just be over Skye and ready to move on with the real 33.

33 and Ward make a creepy pair, and if Ward’s affection for Skye has really and truly evaporated, they are dangerous foes. I’ve been pleased at MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.’s decision to keep Ward around full-time, even if he’s not in every episode, and the set up for him in “Love in the Time of Hydra” elicits a general feeling of fear and uneasiness. It’s not clear what this duo’s plans are, but they are definitely up to something sinister.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has more than Ward and 33 to worry about, though. They also must fear S.H.I.E.L.D. Or, the other S.H.I.E.L.D. See, Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos, Battlestar Galactia), Agent Weaver (Christine Adams, Terra Nova), Agent Calderon (Kirk Acevedo, Fringe), and others decide that Nick Fury keeps too many secrets, and that Director Coulson (Clark Gregg) is going down the same wrong path. Bobbi (Adrianna Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) apparently agree with them, and because they’ve infiltrated our heroes so fully, this could spell trouble, especially if they act at the same time Ward does.

Hunter (Nick Blood) might be able to warn Coulson and company, but will it be in time? He manages to escape his captivity on a ship in the middle of the ocean, twelve hours from land by the sub he steals. Bobbi says she only needs six hours to do whatever she’s going to do, which doesn’t exactly point to the outcome Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. will want. But considering Bobbi says her affection for Hunter is true and she does let him escape, might she be a double double agent, working for Coulson while pretending to work against him?

Let’s hope so, because Coulson is distracted by what’s happening with Skye. He takes her to a cabin where she and the rest of the team can be safe, separated, while they figure out what to do with her. The “vacation” is not punishment, even if she kind of feels like it is. It makes logical sense to isolate her, given how Skye shakes the base down repeatedly, a barely controllable Hulk in their midst. But if there really are two dangers coming at S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson may regret sending away his best weapon, as Skye has talents none of his other agents have. Although most of alt-S.H.I.E.L.D. seems ineffective, Hunter easily overcoming the whole group of them, Bobbi is anything but, and we still don’t know for sure whose side she is on.

“Love in the Time of Hydra” has all of the moving pieces mentioned above, but those aren’t the only threads weaving through MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Something the show does well is balance a variety of segments who all have their own motivations, letting them clash at the perfect, sometimes unexpected, times in spectacular showdowns. Roughly two-thirds of the way through this season, it seems likely that will happen again soon.

In the meantime, this installment does serve various characters well. The scenes between Hunter and Bobbi, between Ward and 33, between Coulson and Skye, and between Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), the last of which are still on the outs, make for compelling personal drama. What more could you want?

Well, something. I love this show, but lately it’s felt like there’s just a little something missing for me. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is because all of the stuff I talk about above is exciting. Maybe some of the characters are a little flat or the pacing is slightly off, but season two has just not quite been clicking like the latter half of season one did. When I figure out exactly why that is, I’ll surely let you know.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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