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'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' recap: 'Many Heads, One Tale'

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John Fleenor/ABC

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
tvpgr:
TV-PG
seasons:
4
run date:
07/19/13
performer:
Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet
broadcaster:
ABC
genre:
ActionAdventure

It’s hard out there for a Hydra head. Or even if you want to become a Hydra head. Tonight’s episode acted as a “history lesson” of sorts in that we finally got a little more information on what Ward’s grand plan is, and why Gideon (Powers Boothe) has been brought into the fold. But more exciting than a history lesson, we got a payoff that most fans have been waiting for since the first season: a real FitzSimmons kiss. (And technically, more than one kiss!)

We start with octopus (no, I mean, a real octopus that Gideon is serving Ward as sort of a “last supper” type thing.) But it also works out that the octopus is the symbol of Hydra, so Gideon gets a bit of power play into the conversation. We find out that the reason Ward wanted the von Strucker kid was because he’s searching for the von Strucker family vault, which holds Hydra’s greatest power. Every single time we’ve seen Ward with Gideon, Ward has played his game the same way: cool, collected, unyielding. Gideon’s not budging, though. Basically, he’s got plans, and Ward doesn’t fit into those plans. “You’re a smart predator, but you don’t live on top of the food chain,” says Gideon, before leaving Ward in peace — and waiting to be attacked by his men. If you thought he wouldn’t fight back…well, you clearly don’t know Grant Ward. And he is really intent on finding that vault.

After taking the rest of Gideon’s men hostage, Ward uses torture methods of — what else? — fire in order to get them to talk. (Nice throwback to Ward’s past with the line “I was a bit of a pyro when I was a kid.” If you remember, Ward was imprisoned some years ago for setting fire to his parents’ home.) The gas gun has its intended effect, and Ward eventually gets his information. Turns out no one really knows where the vault is because there are different ones and different people used all the time when someone has to travel there. But there IS a vault in Germany, and of course it’s Germany, because this is Hydra we’re talking about. Ward is smart: He knew there were different vaults… he just didn’t know where he needed to go.

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Meanwhile, the group is preparing to bring Garner to the ATCU facility, so he can be put in stasis. Rosalind promises that they’re doing everything they can to find a cure, but nothing will be more depressing than watching poor May’s face as her husband is taken away like a rabid animal.

Lincoln is no longer running, but Daisy reminds him that Coulson doesn’t just let people stay at the base. He’ll have to work for his accommodations. Lincoln’s more concerned about the fact that things will be weird between them now that they’re spending time together again. Because, y’know, they kissed and all, and apparently never talked about that in between killer Inhumans and shady government people. Good thing Daisy’s playing hard to get. What’s being in S.H.I.E.L.D. without a little angst in a relationship?

That’s a question that should probably be asked of FitzSimmons, who, for multiple weeks running, managed to be the high point of the entire episode. Leo Fitz is trying SO HARD, you guys. That intense dedication will eventually take its toll on his partner, but for now, we’re afforded a tense moment when Simmons hands over the tablet she’s been holding… which has a picture of her and Will on it. Cause that’s not awkward.

Speaking of awkward… Mack corners Coulson and point blank asks if he’s becoming a little too close with Rosalind. Coulson’s offended he would even think he’d put his personal life above the job — he claims he’s being honest with her to “make sure she’s the real deal.” He then meets his team and tells them they’re launching “Operation Spotlight,” a.k.a., “It’s time to spy on the ATCU.” Coulson wants to know everything from how many Inhumans they’re holding to how close they are to a cure. Fortunately, there’s an app for that! And that app is Garner, because the container that they sent over will help them get inside. Mack’s still not convinced that Coulson’s motives are legitimate, but he’s going to have to suck it up for now.

NEXT: The truth about T.A.H.I.T.I. … again[pagebreak]​

Coulson’s apparently so paranoid he didn’t even let Rosalind know where they are location-wise AND he disabled her phone… someone is definitely taking lessons from Nick Fury. Coulson scanning Rosalind’s phone allows Mack, Daisy, Lincoln, and May to get the data they need to hack into the ATCU. Or, more accurately, confuse their IT department so that they have to call for help, a.k.a. Mack, who sends in some “professionals” to take care of the issue. Those professionals are none other than Bobbi Morse in a suit and Lance Hunter in a hoodie, which means now Hunter can officially join Marvel’s “sad little hoodie club” effective immediately. (Sidenote, I still love how this show does undercover when these guys are being fed information seamlessly and have to recite it.) Unsurprisingly, the poor ATCU employee caught up in this is far from convinced that these two can do the job, but Bobbi shows him Rosalind’s file on her phone to prove staff credentials have leaked out, which sends the guy into a panic. He realizes that there was nothing brought in that could have spurred a hardware intrusion and caused a security leak except… oh right, Garner’s container.

The employee calls Rosalind and tells her about the FBI task force that’s arrived, and Rosalind smartly asks Coulson if his team is trying to access the ATCU’s system. Coulson doesn’t lie, and Rosalind tells him they need to shut it down, though she lies to her colleagues and tells them to play nice. Coulson, for his part, finds it hard to believe Rosalind has never known anyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. before him.

Hunter gets remote access that allows Mack to direct Bobbi to where the Inhumans are being kept, and for a moment, we think we’re going to see Bobbi finding Garner. But all Bobbi finds is an empty lab with a multitude of fish oil pills. Daisy does a bit of research and realizes that they’re giving mandatory supplements (or, terrigen) to all their employees… but to turn them, not to cure them. Before they can figure out how to deal with this, Hunter notices Banks showing up and alerts the team. Bobbi has been cornered without her weapons by ATCU employees who also happen to be Inhumans. But Bobbi doesn’t need weapons! They’re saved eventually thanks to Rosalind’s help, and meanwhile, it’s Gideon who finds Garner and tells him, “We’re doing everything we can to help you.” Sure, you are, Hydra. He smartly realizes that Garner is less than happy with S.H.I.E.L.D. right now, and gets Garner to agree they’re not treating him right. Gideon can totally help with that… as long as Garner spills some secrets.

At the base, Coulson brings Rosalind to the Island-like room where they first kept Joey and locks it down before laying down the law about what exactly his team is doing at her facility. Rosalind gives an emotional appeal to the accusations that Coulson is throwing at her, which includes cataloging her as Hydra and as an untrustworthy source. I guess we can lay any doubts about Coulson’s frame of mind to rest, but he does have the right to wonder about a few things that are more than suspicious: namely, the fact she knew about T.A.H.I.T.I. despite never meeting anyone from S.H.I.E.L.D. Rosalind is actually being really, really genuine about this, so much so I can’t tell if she’s still playing the field or not. She claims she doesn’t know anything about what Coulson’s team is uncovering, from the Inhumans being kept there to the fish oil pills. The argument gets increasingly heated until eventually, Rosalind has her own light bulb moment, culminating in her realizing that she gives weekly reports to Gideon, whom she’s worked with for more than a decade.

In addition to overseeing the science vision, Gideon helped design the ATCU, and he gave her the T.A.H.I.T.I. intel. And remember that logo that Fitz and Simmons have been mulling over? Simmons found a Hydra logo in one of the books; after some more research, they found similar symbols stretched across time. Like Hydra, the heads have all grown and been cut off in one way, but they’ve all regenerated — some differently than others. Rosalind tells the group she met Gideon when he was consulting at a program that Simmons correctly calls out as NASA because this goes deep.

Fitz and Simmons are looking at Fitz’s books, but their patience is wearing thin and they’re getting on each other’s nerves. Simmons is testy because she finds a lead that allows her to realize Will wasn’t sent on a mission: He was sent to the planet to die. The symbol tied to the NASA program was also tied to a ritualistic blood sacrifice, dating back thousands of years, and it’s too much. In the wake of feeling vulnerable, she opened her heart to Garner and connected with him, and then felt violated when she found out about his true colors. In the same way, she opened her heart to Will, looking for connection and comfort, and she now is realizing she has no idea who he really is or what his motives are. “You never know who is really next to us,” she tells Fitz, and can you blame the girl for feeling uneasy? She just got sent through a portal and she’s still trying to figure out how to belong back on Earth with all her feelings.

And so Simmons is upset. She’s upset that Fitz keeps trying to do the right thing when she doesn’t feel like she deserves his help and she’s upset that all she’s finding are things that are scaring her. She bolts, leaving Fitz angry and confused and when the two finally meet up again Fitz loses it, asking if she’s mad at him. No, Simmons is mad at herself, but Fitz does her one better: He’s angry because he’s pretty sure there’s something in the damn universe that wants to keep them apart. (I’m inclined to agree.) “We had years side-by-side, and it never occurred to us. And then when it does, we’re kept apart,” Fitz says, finally pushing forward and taking charge of his feelings like we’ve been waiting for him to do all season. He asks Simmons straight out if she loves Will, to which Simmons replies she doesn’t know… and then says yes, she does. Fitz is instantly dejected, because Will is strong. Will is smart. Will is pretty much the perfect guy and they gave each other hope and survival, and that’s something that Fitz can’t compete with.

NEXT: The kiss heard ’round the world

[pagebreak]

Simmons isn’t going to stand down and apologize for her feelings. So Will is smart and handsome and saved her on an alien planet? Fitz threw away all logic and dug through a hole in the universe for her. And that means more than any feelings she could have for Will Daniels. After three seasons and 50+ episodes, we finally, finally have our first real, true FitzSimmons kiss. And maybe it didn’t happen the way we thought it would a few years ago, or even a few episodes ago, but it was every bit as passionate and intense as I hoped it would be for two people who have hid their feelings for each other for so long. But then it gets better! After Fitz makes the initial move, Simmons takes charge and kisses him again while they both cry. “We’re cursed,” Fitz says miserably. I wouldn’t be too sure, Fitz.

Ward has not backed down from finding that Hydra vault now that he actually knows where it is. He hijacks a plane that’s passing through Germany after sweet-talking the stewardess into some free alcohol, and arrives at the vault to find Gideon already there. He did want Ward dead because he posed a threat to everything he had built. But now, Gideon seems to be seeing the light. “You might be Hydra’s second head that’s grown right next to me,” he tells his new protégé. Honestly, I’m a little wary of Gideon’s intentions here, because I still believe this is an “every man for himself” type of deal. And the Ward that we saw take charge at the beginning of the season was a Ward that was DONE being someone’s second in command.

Gideon takes the opportunity to give him (and us) a history lesson on Hydra, which goes a lot deeper than Red Skull. He shows Ward a piece of the monolith, claiming Hydra’s as old as the stone is, and tells him about its otherworldly properties. He also tells Ward that thousands of years ago, an Inhuman was born on this planet that was “destined” to rule it. Because people were scared at how powerful he was, they sent him through a portal to another planet. According to Gideon, Hydra was founded with the purpose of engineering the Inhuman’s return, which obviously has been an unsuccessful mission so far. Nonetheless, every generation has sent men through the portal hoping to “save or serve” who Gideon calls their “leader” on the other side.

So what’s Hydra doing now? Apparently building an army for it to command when it does return. And that army will be ruled by Hydra’s two new heads. As usual, nothing about this deal is given freely: Gideon will help Ward cut off S.H.I.E.L.D.’s head if he helps Gideon find out how someone got brought back, which has been so far impossible. As the episode ends, Ward pays a visit to an angry Garner, hooking up some mustard gas because he wants to figure out how to turn the monster back on. Hydra’s building an army, after all. And Lash is a person they definitely want on their side.

Debriefing Notes:

  • Right up until the end of the episode, I had a longstanding theory the twist would be that Will would turn out to be the “leader” that Hydra was serving, especially since the “too good” stuff about him seemed a bit overt. But I’m convinced that the Big Bad is that monster known only as “Death,” especially since the word has been branded across time where the monolith is concerned. We still don’t know who or what Death is, but we can assume he’s some kind of Inhuman. And maybe I’m not ruling out the possibility of Will having something to do with the whole thing, either. (He’s probably innocent, I just like thinking of theories.)
  • “Even if you all live on top of each other like Keebler elves.” Hey, it’s not the worst analogy.
  • I liked the short but sweet May and Lincoln resolution. It felt a little rushed, but it also felt very “May,” who is never going to sit down for a big heart-to-heart with someone, especially if it’s about something so personal. The fact that May did come around and feel genuine compassion for the friends Lincoln lost thanks to her husband wasn’t easy, but at least now we can continue to move forward.
  • “We really have to figure out better ways to flirt.” Welcome to working the spy world, I guess. Have you seen how some of these superheroes flirt?
  • I’m not sure what’s better about Hunter’s undercover mission: his “Damn The Yanks” shirt, the fact that when he has to make a break for it he literally just punches people because he has no real fight training, or the fact he made his username “God save the queen.” I just kind of love how Hunter is never going to reform to what other people think he should be when he needs to be out in the field. I’m sure some people find it annoying, but I find it endearing.

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