In addition to introducing a major new character, ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ brings back someone who feels like he hasn’t been on the show for ages – even though, technically, he was only absent for three episodes. It just felt much longer due to the winter break in between.
Ward of the State
Yes, the traitorous Grant Ward is back, conveniently fully recovered after Skye left him for dead. Isn’t it nice the way characters on TV can bounce back from multiple gunshot wounds in a jiffy? Ward is still hanging out with the disfigured Agent 33, whose nano-mask remains stuck in “Messed-Up Agent May” mode. At the beginning of episode ‘Love in the Time of HYDRA’ (great title, even if it doesn’t really make sense here), they pull a ‘Pulp Fiction’ and hold up a diner. They don’t want money; the crime is a ploy to kidnap a former S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist who can fix the mask.
Indeed, the man gets the mask working again, but he can’t remove it. It’s permanently grafted to her head. On the plus side, she can use it to look like whomever she wants. She can scan and mimic any face just by looking at it (or a photo of it).
Unfortunately, with most of her memories wiped and no photos of her own original face, Agent 33 isn’t really sure whom she is. She’s very grateful to Ward, though, and tries to thank him by turning into Skye so that he can use her as his plaything. Ward, however, isn’t interested in that. He says that he’s over Skye. Uh huh. We’ll see.
Instead, Ward gives 33 info on Bakshi, the former HYDRA leader who brainwashed her. He’s currently being held in Air Force custody. Ward says that she deserves closure.
33 infiltrates the Air Force base by imitating the wife of Gen. Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) and swapping faces as she moves around. This leads to some very amusing comic relief as Talbot interrogates all the female staffers on the base and eventually holds his real wife at gunpoint.
Bakshi assumes that 33 is still a loyal HYDRA agent there to rescue him, until he sees Ward with her and realizes that he’s in deep dogshit. At episode’s end, they keep him tied to a chair in a hotel room in front of a brainwashing program on the TV. Bakshi asks if his compliance will be rewarded (the key code phrase in the brainwashing), but Ward tells him that it really won’t matter.
Skye’s the Limit
Skye is still recovering from the bone fractures she gave herself last episode. Fitz tells her that he believes she could develop Avenger-level powers. This makes some of the others in S.H.I.E.L.D. nervous.
In agreement with her ex-husband the psychologist, May advises Coulson that it’s time for Skye to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson resists at first, but later asks Skye to join him on a trip. That sounds ominous, but she accepts.
Coulson takes a jump-jet and flies her out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. He tells her that it’s a safe house Director Fury built for powered individuals, and that Captain America had spent some time there after thawing out from his long winter’s nap. Coulson wants her to take some time and figure out what she wants to do next. He also gives her a pair of special gloves that Simmons invented to help her inhibit or control her powers.
Wouldn’t It Be Cooler If They Called It “S.W.O.R.D.”?
At the base for the so-called “real S.H.I.E.L.D.”, Mack introduces Lance to a man named Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) and his leadership council (which includes Kirk Acevedo from ‘Fringe’, among others). Gonzales claims that they’re the original founders of S.H.I.E.L.D. and are very dissatisfied with the direction Fury (and now Coulson) have taken the organization. They believe that Coulson was compromised by his exposure to alien technology and isn’t making good decisions. They sent Mack and Bobbi (as well as the late Agent Hartley, Lucy Lawless’ character from the beginning of the season) undercover as moles to gather intel until they’re ready to make a move and reclaim control of the agency.
Lance isn’t terribly impressed by any of this and doesn’t believe that Bobbi would buy into it either, until Bobbi shows up and tells him otherwise. Lance tries to convince her to walk away from everything (including S.H.I.E.L.D.) with him, but she can’t.
Lance then breaks out of captivity and fights his way out of the base, only to discover that… yeah, it’s on a big boat in the middle of the ocean. I feel like I’ve seen this exact same shocking reveal on a bunch of different shows. Undeterred, Lance steals a mini-submarine and gets away. Gonzales sends Bobbi back to S.H.I.E.L.D. to set the stage for their takeover before Lance can get there and warn Coulson.
Coulson may not even need the heads-up, however. He and May are already suspicious of Mack and Bobbi ever since Lance disappeared. Neither of them believes Mack’s story that Lance is heartbroken over Bobbi and is simply working through a bender.
This is a pretty solid episode. I like the addition of Edward James Olmos to the cast. The stage is clearly being set for a civil war within S.H.I.E.L.D. that may start to erupt next week. I’m also curious what sort of wrench Ward will throw in the works.