Oh, The Inhumanity
SHIELD seems bent on picking a fight with the Inhumans. And vice versa. So why's everyone in such a bad mood?
Oh. Um...this is awkward. I didn't see Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend. I know what's happened on this show, but I have to assume there was some plot overlap between the show and the movie. I mean, Captain America: The Winter Soldier turned the show upside down, so surely the events of a big Avengers movie would have some effect on Agents of SHIELD. Right? ...Right?
...Hang on, I'm getting a message.
Oh! Okay, good news. The movie doesn't matter. So all you need to know is that Skye has powers and Gonzalez is trying to take SHIELD from Coulson. Pretty much business as usual. Whew! For a second, I was worried that this television show would feel like it was part of a bigger world.
Hey, it's Patton Oswalt! Remember him? He plays quintuplets (or possibly clones) who have a vaguely defined job in managing secret SHIELD bases, and he shows up maybe two or three times a season to make people say, "Hey, it's Patton Oswalt!" It's not distracting at ALL. However, what is kind of distracting is the fact that he's swaddled himself in the kind of sheets that you had if you were in second grade about thirty years ago. Maybe thirty-five. The point is, it's kind of weird when a character in a giant intellectual property is into merchandise for a different one. Especially one that's owned by the same corporate behemoth. Also, don't you kind of suspect that these might be Patton's actual sheets?
Theta Protocol, My Eye
Alert Type: Underwhelming Revelation Alert.
Issue: For the last few episodes, there's been this talk about "Theta Protocol," which was a secret thing that Coulson did. The fact that it was kept so secret was May's excuse for turning on him, so you know it's got to be a pretty big deal.
Complicating Factors: Clearly, Theta Protocol has to be something incredibly important and significant, to justify Coulson's secrecy. But it can't actually mean or do anything.
Resolution: It turns out that Theta Protocol was a hidden helicarrier, which Coulson kept secret until it could be used at a key moment in a movie. Again, I haven't seen the movie, but I bet it was pretty exciting to see Agent Phil Coulson personally flying that helicarrer in to save the Avengers, who were all shocked and amazed to see that he'd returned from the dead.
Spoiler: HA ha! Just because I haven't seen the movie doesn't mean I don't know that no such thing happened. The helicarrier saved the day, but it was piloted by Maria Hill, a character who's been in a bunch of the Marvel movies and made cameo appearances on this very show, but about whom I can remember basically nothing.
Goodbye, Sweet Subplot
Who called the meeting? Coulson.
What's it about? We still need to deal with this thing where Gonzalez and his "Real SHIELD" have taken over.
How'd it go? The events of Avengers: Age of Ultron (if only I knew if it were still in theaters!) have left Coulson with more bargaining power, so he's no longer in danger of being ousted in a bloody coup. But he proposes a bargain in which he stays Director of SHIELD while Gonzalez's council advises him. This gets wrapped up suspiciously quickly, but I'm okay with not watching endless board meetings and counterproposals. The new world order is that Coulson's in charge, but he answers to people that don't trust him. The council includes Gonzalez, Morse, May, and a couple of people that have failed to make any sort of impression on me.
That Quote"It's hard to argue with a man who prevented Ultron from killing thousands of people."- Robert Gonzalez, whose description of the movie's events does not match what I've heard from other sources -
I've Grown Accustomed To Her Latest Face
Name: Kara "Agent 33" Palamas. Age: Who knows? It's hard to even guess when it's someone whose face changes all the time. Occupation: SHIELD Agent (former), Hydra Agent (former), Lovesick Minion Of Grant Ward (current). Goal: Well, that's the thing. She hasn't really had a goal since she broke off from Hydra. Unless "do everything Ward tells her" is a goal. Sample Dialogue: "Surprise! It was me all along!"
Behold The Mystery Stone
The Scene: Gordon and Raina have teleported into Gonzalez's cargo hold to check on one of Raina's visions. This will reveal the mystery that Gonzalez has been hiding.
The Symbol: It's a big rock. According Jiaying, it's some sort of failsafe left by the Kree, in case they wanted to kill all the weaponized people they'd created. When Gordon and Raina get in the same room as it, the stone dissolves into liquid and then reforms.
The Meaning: The stone represents SHIELD. It consistently goes through seemingly catastrophic upheavals, only to return to the status quo without much actually changing.
That Quote"Inhumans. Our ancient ancestors called themselves Inhumans, and we just want to be left alone."- Skye, finally saying "Inhumans" out loud so everybody can stop calling them "powered people" -
I Am Not A Crackpot
Dear Mister President, I Would Like Someone To Root For On This Comic Book Show. I Am Not A Crackpot!
Now that the battle for SHIELD has been hand-waved away, the stage is set for the conflict between SHIELD and the Inhumans. SHIELD is represented by Gonzalez, who can barely get through a sentence without talking about how much he hates and distrusts anyone with superhuman powers. You know, like the ones who saved the world last weekend. May is mostly on his side, because May is just generally a huge jerk to everyone in this episode. She's still mad at Coulson for talking to her ex-husband, and now she also doesn't trust Skye. The upshot is that the only discussion is whether they should fly to Afterlife and insist on indexing every single person there, or just go ahead and start carpet-bombing immediately.
So SHIELD, who are supposed to be the protagonists, are now acting like bad guys, attacking a group of innocent people who just want to be left alone. That's when the various agents aren't betraying and kidnapping each other. Would it be too much to position just one or two characters as unambiguously good people? Maybe even as heroes? Because with everyone acting like murderous jerks all the time, the most appealing character is Cal, and he's a psychopath. But at least he's nice to Jiaying and Skye, which counts for something.
Cal Has About Had It With You
Who called the meeting? Cal, probably.
What's it about? What's to be done about SHIELD? Should we just use our inhuman powers to start blowing things up? That's Cal's suggestion, but Gordon dismisses him as an outsider. According to Gordon, Cal's strength comes from the concoction he's been drinking. That seems like a claim that will be either proven or disproven next week. Anyway, Cal and Jiaying are pretty cute together.
How'd it go? There's some concern about these visions Raina claims to have had, in which Quinjets attack Afterlife, but the rules of her visions haven't been explained yet. Are they something that's definitely going to happen, or can the future be changed? These seem like important things to know, but everyone is more concerned with the immediate question of whether Raina's just lying. She probably is.
So That's How It Is, Huh?
Alert Type: Power Grab Alert.
Issue: Gonzalez has decided that he, not Coulson, should be the one to meet with the boss of the Inhumans.
Complicating Factors: His justification is a little hard to follow, but the gist is that Coulson can't be trusted because Tony Stark built a killer robot. It's something about how everyone needs oversight, with possibly an unspoken belief that Coulson is just going to roll over to the Inhumans.
Resolution: The council has a vote, and it ends with May voting for Gonzalez because she's just so angry at Coulson. And also because she's angry at Skye for reminding her about the events of Bahrain. May's having a rough episode, and I look forward to the time that the random emotion generator lets her be happy again.
Spoiler: Gonzalez will be the SHIELD representative to meet with the Inhumans while Coulson will quarterback from the home base. That's not a great sports metaphor, since you'd think the quarterback would be more involved in the play. Coulson's going to be more of a coach, I think.
Oh, So You're Homicidal? How's That Going For You?
Situation: Fitz and Simmons are mostly left out of the main plot, so they have time to check in with each other and see how they feel about everything.
What makes it awkward? Fitz assures Simmons that it's okay that she didn't murder Ward on their mission to retrieve Skye. She has to tell him he's misread the situation, because she did try to kill him. She just hit Bakshi instead.
How is order restored? They return to an uncomfortable silence. Uncomfortable silences solve everything!
Hey, Come Here A Minute
Morse has been a bit more involved than Fitz and Simmons, in that she's spent a lot of time in council meetings looking like she thinks Coulson should be listened to. But she hasn't been doing much on her own, so now she gets a shiny subplot all to herself. May walks up and announces that the two of them are supposed to take a Quinjet somewhere and do some advance recon. And that wouldn't be that interesting on its own, so let's skip ahead a little: May is actually Kara in disguise. When you have somebody on the base who can change their face, maybe you should consider tagging them somehow.
Mack has had it with this place, so he's quitting. It's not that he disagrees with anything SHIELD is doing, exactly. He just doesn't trust Coulson anymore, because he's full of that filthy alien blood that brought him back to life. And this makes Mack one of the most honest, straightforward people in the entire run of this show. He's not sneaking around, and he's not keeping secrets. When he decided that he couldn't work for an organization that had a director with alien blood, he went to that director, explained his position, and left. He even shook Coulson's hand!
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Morse vs. Kara
Eventually, Morse notices that the Quinjet isn't going where it's supposed to. Not that the viewers have ever been clued in to where it's supposed to be going or where it's landing. We have to take all this on faith. And that's when "May" reveals that she's really Kara. SHIELD doesn't keep very good track of its jets, do they? Even after Coulson stole one while he was on the run, they can't be bothered to put in a GPS or something. Anyway, there's a mid-Quinjet fight.
Winner: Morse. Kara's pretty good, but she's not in Morse's league.
Plot Lightning Round
Negotiations Are Tricky
It's time for the big sit-down between SHIELD and the Inhumans, and the complications start on the side of the Inhumans. Raina has been telling Gordon that Jiaying can't be there, and maybe their representative should be...Raina. You have to admit, there's probably a tactical advantage in having your negotiator be covered in spines.
This doesn't work, and Jiaying goes to the meeting while Raina insists that something horrible will happen. She's probably right. I mean, she's also probably lying and trying to cause trouble, but that doesn't mean horrible things couldn't still happen on their own, right?
In order to show friendliness, Jiaying hands Cal over to SHIELD, because he's a murderer. He's pretty sure he hasn't killed any SHIELD agents, but he can't be positive. You know how it is. One kills so many people in the course of a rampage, and you don't always have time to check for badges. Skye accompanies him, leaving Gonzalez and Jiaying alone. When Cal is taken into SHIELD custody, he claims not to know anything about those vials he carries around. So if Gordon is right, Cal will lose his unnatural strength. Or there might be an unexpected twist, where we learn the potion was actually keeping his strength in check or something. How very unexpected that would be. Anyway, he seems like he's in a pretty good mood about the whole thing. Having Skye around has really relaxed him.
Gonzalez is actually very reasonable in this meeting. He says that SHIELD just wants to step in if someone uses powers to hurt people. And he's brought a fairly meaningful gift: some Chinese coins from Whitehall's office that Jiaying never got to give Skye. Everything's going fine. Until Jiaying takes out some artificial Terrigen crystals that blah blah blah who cares how this allegedly works. The point is that it's a grenade that only affects non-Inhumans. Like Gonzalez.
Then Jiaying shoots herself twice so she can claim that SHIELD attacked her. And now it's war between two groups, both of which have gone out of their way to make sure the audience can't root for them. Whee!
Wrap It Up
Oh, and when Morse walks out of the Quinjet, Grant Ward is there to ice her and tie her up. He might be evil (in fact, I'm pretty sure he is) but you have to respect how proactive he is. The main plot has nothing to do with him, but he's not going to let that sideline him. He's going to go out there and make his own plot. Way to grab that screentime with both hands, Ward.