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Thursday, April 30, 2015

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Get "Dirty"

Article originally written for Seat42F.



“The Dirty Half Dozen” embark on a dangerous mission in this week’s MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. Coulson (Clark Gregg) turns himself in to Gonzales (Edward James Olmos), but instead of locking Coulson up, Gonzales agrees to let Coulson and his people infiltrate a Hydra base in the Arctic to rescue their friends. The question remains, though: what will happen when Coulson gets back?

“The Dirty Half Dozen” who go on this mission are the original six members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. cast, Coulson’s hand-picked team: Coulson himself, May (Ming-Na Wen), Skye (Chloe Bennet), Ward (Brett Dalton), Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). There is a beautiful symmetry to see this group come back together after more than a year apart, their gang so short-lived, yet meaningful to them all (as well as viewers). They will never truly be a team again, but at least fans get this one hour to remember the great chemistry they share.

The main reason for the break up, as he admits, is Ward. Exposed as a secret Hyrda agent last spring, Ward has been an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since, and this time is no different. He helps them get into the base, using Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) as his inside man, but he won’t be rejoining them full-time. At the close of the mission, he slips away, back on the run from the people he once considered friends.

Ward is appropriately apologetic, but I don’t know why he expects any amount of forgiveness. What he did, especially dropping FitzSimmons to the bottom of the ocean, is unforgiveable. His attempts to lighten the mood or buddy up to his comrades meet deaf ears. If Ward can ever earn some measure of respect or affection from any of them again, that is in the far, far distant future, and despite his olive branch-words, he just doesn’t seem to feel bad enough to dedicate himself to making up for his actions. He’s pretty much a psychopath.

The one bright sign for Ward is that he leaves Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s care, asking Coulson to help her get her life back on track. He must actually have some sort of affection for her to put her interests first. That, or he doesn’t want her hanging around him and sees a convenient way to offload her, which is a cynical view, but again, he’s a psychopath.

What did surprise me in “The Dirty Half Dozen” is that it isn’t Fitz, who is still suffering lasting injuries because of Ward, or Skye, who recently shot him, that makes an attempt on Ward’s life. Instead, it’s Simmons, who takes her turn to try to murder the traitor. She has every reason to do so, but she is probably the least violent member of the team. She may also be the most emotionally weak, the others keeping their anger in check, but she has grown a lot in her ability to handle herself in a crisis.

Speaking of growing, it is awesome to watch Skye in action. She uses her powers sparingly, as she should because they can really hurt someone. Still, when necessary, she calls upon them, and also relies on the terrific martial arts skills that May taught her. If there was any doubt going into this episode of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. that Skye was qualified to be a full-fledged agent, it is erased when we see her in action rescuing Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) and Mike (J. August Richards).

I’m not willing to give Bakshi the benefit of the doubt when he sacrifices himself for Ward. My guess is, he didn’t know he would die and is acting more for his own selfish interests than heroism. But I can’t say that I’m sorry that Simmons kills Bakshi, other than to hope there are no lasting repercussions on her psyche. Bakshi was evil and slimy and won’t be missed.

May and Coulson are still at odds, though they are both mature enough to set it aside for the mission. May doesn’t like that Coulson is keeping a bunch of secrets from her. Coulson has a point that she once spied on him for Fury and secrets are a part of their business. But since May followed Coulson into a brand-new S.H.I.E.L.D. and was his most trusted advisor, she feels he shouldn’t have continued to keep her out of the loop, which seems valid. I still don’t think May will choose Gonzales over Coulson, despite accepting a position on Gonzales’ board, but I wonder what it might take to resolve the issues between these two.

Thankfully, Fitz and Simmons’ relationship seems to be fully healed, besties again. As does Hunter (Nick Blood) and Mack’s (Henry Simmons), the former forgiving the latter because Mack was just doing what he thought was right and apologized for it. Might Mack join Hunter and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) on the proposed spin-off?

Raina (Ruth Negga) remains the true unknown factor as, having taken out a Hydra base, a super-powered-concerned S.H.I.E.L.D. will likely turn itself towards the Inhumans next. Whose side is Raina on? What will she do with her ability to see the future? Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) tells Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) that Raina is dangerous and I have no doubt about that. Having no loyalties to either the Inhumans or S.H.I.E.L.D., look for her to be important again as the season rockets to a close.

Besides serving our heroes, “The Dirty Dozen” is chock full of hints at what’s to come in this weekend’s Avengers: Age of Ultron film. The arctic base is clearly important, mentioning that The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were there. Loki’s scepter is brought up again, and Coulson speaks of Nick Fury and to Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), talking about calling on the Avengers again. I don’t know yet which of the television characters might cross over to the big screen, but given the number of obvious references to larger events this week, it would probably behoove fans to go see the movie before tuning into the next installment.

Whew! “The Dirty Half Dozen” is an intense episode with a lot going on. It’s also very entertaining and just plain good. I can’t wait for the approximately five hours Marvel will be delivering in these next two weeks, on the big screen and small.

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

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