[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
Now just a few months out before the Agent Carter season premiere, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to build the bridge between these two exciting adventures. Now, the villain has a backstory, and Ward once again becomes a dangerous wild card.
In “The Things We Bury”, written by DJ Doyle, Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) takes us on a trip to 1945, revealing the origins of Daniel Whitehall’s (Reed Diamond) longtime obsession with the Obelisk, as well as how far he’ll go in order to live to see its use. In present day, “The Doctor” (Kyle MacLachlan) reunites with Whitehall, explains the key to the Diviner, and sets a longtime plan for vengeance in motion. Meanwhile, Coulson (Clark Gregg) gathers the team and sets out in search for the mysterious city revealed in the writings. Elsewhere, Ward (Brett Dalton) faces off against family and burns his past to the ground, while Hydra receives a new employment application.
After Captain America: The Winter Solider changed everything last season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working towards a goal with relatively little opposition. Hydra is the name, but its face, Daniel Whitehall, has largely remained a mystery until now. In a truly impressive montage within a single cell, the life of Whitehall was depicted before us. Eventually, with the help of Skye’s mother, we also see Whitehall’s rebirth.
As a character, Whitehall is still lacking any real drive other than “power”, which isn’t new for any television series (or villain), though it is unfortunate for someone with such power at Hydra. Even so, Whitehall is still one of the few villains on network television whose actions service the character much more than the limited dialogue given. This certainly isn’t ideal in the long run, but for a series which still has Deathlok existing in its world, it’s a sign of a careful hand crafting a larger tale – and credit to producers for allowing the story help shape the characters, instead of forcing it through over informative moments.
Of course, while it’s fun to nitpick the nemesis, one must acknowledge that Agent Coulson’s transformation following his writing and subsequent revelation is truly wonderful. In this episode, in a scene about directions and dry cleaning, Coulson and co. have some of the best lines of the series. Whether it’s because of the writing or editing – or purely from becoming more comfortable with the characters – it would be exciting to see the essence of this scene return in the near future.
“The Doctor” is back and proves to be everything in the episode, story-wise, except Skye’s father, which is something to be thankful for. As a character generally shielded from revelation, the crazed father-daughter connection was limited because of the lack of information. Now, outside of dialogue driving a family reunion, we get to see the type of being created by such unfortunate events in the past. Though such experiences don’t make up for his current bloodthirst, it allows us to see that there are no rules for a man with a death wish.
Ward, too, continues to be shaping up to be quite the complicated character. Once an agent of Hydra, then an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, Ward is now… dangerous, plain and simple. He has values which are unknown, and allegiances mean absolutely nothing to him. To have such a strong unknown like him out in the world is quite exciting, as it could honestly take any of the story-arcs in any number of directions. That said, it will be interesting to see how all these relatively bulletproof villains will transition into someone capable of conquering.
Somewhere in all of this terrific development – which ratings show many one-time fans are now missing – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 quietly established itself as a mini-series covered in a full series veil. The structure for 22 episodes is there, theoretically, yet the series is managing to pull off one of the most impressive underdog moves television has seen in recent times, and Agent Carter will only make it much more likely that they succeed.
Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 continues as a surprisingly anomaly on network television and with the relatively poor showing of the new fall season, it’s unfortunate that a show which has accomplished so much between seasons is now struggling to find new viewers. Fortunately, there’s an impressive plan afoot to use Agent Carter as way to breathe new life in the series for potential audiences. Will it work? Almost certainly. Never go against Marvel TV when cancelation is on the line.
Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, December 2 with the fall season finale, “…Ye Who Enter Here” @9pm on ABC. Watch a preview for the episode, below: