When faced with what looks like an impossible situation, it’s really tempting to believe that one strong man can come and fix the problems single-handedly with pure force of will. Unfortunately, whenever this has happened in real life, it has led to horrific consequences. So even though a newly Gravitonium-empowered Glenn Talbot seemed like a much-needed savior with the way he arrived at the end of last week’s episode to save S.H.I.E.L.D. from merciless alien invaders, it should have been easy to guess that it wouldn’t end well. Sure enough, disaster struck this week.
We pick up exactly where we left off, with Talbot using his newfound powers to levitate himself and Coulson into the sky. He doesn’t stop until they reach the Confederacy spaceship floating in the upper atmosphere. Coulson is worried about both Talbot’s tactics and his sanity, but Talbot just keeps saying “I can fix this” — the clarion call of strongmen everywhere. Coulson rolls with it, since he doesn’t really have any ideas of his own about how to negotiate with the Confederacy. Sure enough, the alien leaders lose their confidence once Talbot crushes one of their minions into a pretzel. This is his ship now.
Coulson realizes this is getting out of hand quickly and decides to take a different tack: asking Hale for help. The remorseless Hydra general we first saw shooting her own subordinates is long gone by now. Ruby’s death has left her beaten and empty, feeling like a failure. Coulson, however, needs her help managing Talbot and the Confederacy. Having important work to do again reignites Hale, and she walks out to inform Talbot about the workings of the organization and how to renegotiate Earth’s deal with the Confederacy.
I would just like to say here that I really like how this show has been handling the fallout from Ruby Hale’s death. It happened a few episodes ago, and still characters are reeling from the impact of killing a teenager. The loss has completely changed Hale, and also created major rifts among S.H.I.E.L.D. In this episode alone, Daisy and Yo-Yo come to blows about it, and Mack and Fitz have quite an angry conversation. I’m glad Ruby’s death is being explored, and not just left as a shocking plot twist.
On Hale’s recommendation, Talbot meets with the other leaders of the Confederacy. At first, it seems like he’ll be able to bend them to his will the way he did the Earth-invaders. Using the Gravitonium, he literally absorbs one of the alien leaders into his body. Unfortunately, Kasius’ legendary father is also a member of the Confederacy, and he’s no dummy. Remember the awe with which Kasius talked about his father? This guy is clearly dangerous, and soon gets Talbot on his side by telling him there are deposits of Gravitonium left untapped below the Earth’s surface, and they could make him even more powerful — powerful enough, in fact, to even defeat Thanos.
That’s right, MCU completists! This episode finally mentions Thanos by name. There were hints that Thanos’ New York attack from Avengers: Infinity War had begun in last week’s episode, and now confirmed by Kasius’ father. One thing I like about this is that the events of Infinity War take place over just a couple of hours, so it’s easy to think that much of Earth’s population wouldn’t even know anything was happening — until half their friends and family started turning to dust, of course. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that all the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are in the “safe” half of the population, because the wait until next year’s sequel would make anything else unworkable.
Talbot is intoxicated by the idea of being Earth’s only hope against Thanos and refuses to hear any challenge to his authority. Coulson warns him about Kasius, but Talbot isn’t listening. As a last-ditch effort, Hale attempts to activate his Hydra brainwashing, but he sees through the maneuver and crushes her like a pretzel. That’s it for the Hale family! Hydra is now officially gone forever, but S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t seem to be any safer. Talbot even uses his powers on Coulson until the S.H.I.E.L.D. leader submits, and when the other agents storm the spaceship to rescue them, he easily turns away their assault. Daisy even blasts him at full Quake power and has no effect. She’s now a prisoner of Kasius, a full generation before she was last time!
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