If you're a Marvel movie fan not watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC or if you're someone who gave up during or after its first season, you're doing yourself a disservice. The "it's all connected" tagline ABC and Marvel promoted in the first season's final episodes applies now more than ever, and better yet, this season's facelift and new direction has made it one of the better programs currently on network television.
After a week off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned Tuesday and further proved the above statement true. You can read Anthony's mildly-spoilery review of "The Writing on the Wall" first and join us here to talk about some of the nitty gritty details Marvel Comics fans may have picked up on that hint at potentially great things in the show and Marvel Cinematic Universe's future.
Did you know this week's episode (season 2, episode 7) includes potential references and teases for The Punisher and Inhumans along with a namedrop of a villain of The Avengers: Age of Ultron? Skye wasn't kidding when she hammered the aforementioned tagline home when telling Coulson early in the episode that "It's all connected. Everything."
The main story arc of "The Writing on the Wall" kicks off thanks an overly convenient plot point involving Skye receiving information on a unique murder case which sends Coulson off on his quest to revisit some dark memories and find the truth behind the alien markings he and others injected with the GH-325 serum can't avoid drawing and carving. Who sent Skye this info?
"One of my sources, Micro, he's kind of a crime scene junkie."
Micro is short for "Microchip," the code name of David Linus Lieberman. Marvel Comics readers might find that name very familiar as Lieberman a.k.a "Micro" is a key supporting character for Punisher. Like Skye, Micro is a hacker, but over the years he's also supplied the vigilante with weapons and tech support.
Punisher is one of the major characters Marvel Studios reacquired the film/TV rights for, alongside Blade, Daredevil and Ghost Rider. Daredevil of course, kicks off Marvel's Netflix franchise next summer and leads to a Defenders miniseries which will include other series headliners Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. As for the other three, we know now from the studio's Phase 3 announcements that there are no plans for any of these characters to lead their own solo films. At best, they could appear in a supporting capacity which makes them better suited for TV Appearances. And wouldn't you know it, we listed Punisher as one of five Marvel Comics properties that deserve a TV series...
We're not sure Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., an ABC program, is a right fit for a character like Punisher, but the namedrop to one of his allies raises some interesting possibilities. We always believed that if Marvel's Netflix experiment works, and we see some of those characters crossover into the movies, that there could be a 'Phase 2' of sorts on the TV front and Marvel could go darker with a Marvel Knights style set of four TV shows based on more adult characters. We're thinking Blade, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight and The Punisher. And since it is all connected, why not lay some seeds now? Everyone loves Easter Eggs.
We should also note that directors Anthony and Joe Russo joked about Punisher being involved in the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the most minor of ways. It was a joke but we do want to see Frank Castle on the big screen as part of the MCU eventually.
A Punisher connection launched Coulson on his obsessive adventure where he uncovered more harsh truths about project T.A.H.I.T.I. and it resulted in what we think is an even larger connection to Inhumans, one of the new properties getting the feature film treatment in 2018.
As it turns out, this week's episode revealed that there were multiple subjects that were injected with the blue alien magic sauce a.k.a. GH-325 before Coulson and all of them began losing their minds and recreating the strange markings that Coulson frequently carves into walls. What was thought to be a mysterious map turns out to be a 3D blueprint of some "magical place," a city that Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. are now racing to find.
Given that the source of the serum, this blue alien, is seemingly a Kree scout from thousands of years earlier ("pre-dating the pyramids") searching for the city, and it's therefore Kree blood giving humans injected with it these memories, all signs point towards this lost city being Attilan - the secretive, highly advanced society of the Inhumans. It's probably not a coincidence that the Inhumans film was announced just before an episodic break in the series where they were unveiling a secret city on the show.
The Inhumans are on their way to being introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are consistently becoming increasingly prominent characters in Marvel Comics, and as we've speculated for a long time, could be used to explain people with super powers on Earth (i.e. the "age of miracles") since Marvel does not own the film rights to use X-Men and mutation (Twentieth Century Fox owns it). The fact that Skye has no adverse effects to the GH-325 serum plays into theories that she's an Inhuman as well, hence her being labeled a 0-8-4 (an object of unknown origin).
Some speculation pointed towards the map depicting Wakanda, the highly advanced fictional African nation and home of Black Panther, but it doesn't quite a fit. The blueprint isn't large enough to represent a small country and it's specfically referred to as a "city." What we've seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far seemingly has little to do with Wakanda and it doesn't fit that a Kree alien would be looking for Wakanda thousands of years ago. It's just not a relevant as the Inhumans who are a result of Kree experimentation on early prehistoric humans ages ago.
Here's where things get interesting. Attilan began as a small island where Inhumans isolated themselves from the world. As humanity developed and began to explore by sea and air, they flew their city (yes, it's that advanced) to hide it in a Himalayan Mountain range in China. Later in the comics, the Inhumans move the city to the moon and beyond but for now let's assume when we meet the Inhumans, they'll likely be based in China.
Guess where Skye's origins are based? As we learned in season one, she was born and discovered in a small Chinese village where her parents (described as "monsters") massacred everyone before being saved by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, many of whom lost their lives. It's all connected and all the signs are there.
If the blueprint is somehow not of Attilan itself, the closest thing would be the ancient Kree city/base on the moon where Attilan eventually moves to. The Kree were stationed there thousands of years ago when they experimented on and monitored humankind and built a breathable atmosphere in one section of the surface.
Baron von Strucker
In the subplot of "The Writing on the Wall," Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) leads an operation with field agents Hunter (Nick Blood), Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Triplett (B.J. Britt), to track down Ward (Brett Dalton). Ward heads to a bar, a Hydra meeting place, and speaks with Sunil Bakshi. Ward mentions that Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) is overseas and assumes Bakshi must be working for another high-ranking Hydra leader (the timeless Dr. Whitehall).
It was Strucker who coined the term "age of miracles."
Strucker was first introduced in the post-credits button of Captain America: The Winter Soldier where he runs a secret Hydra lab somewhere in Europe. We know that factors in heavily to next summer's Avengers: Age of Ultron and Strucker has something to do with the super powers of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
The least crazy of the GH-325 subjects, Hank Thompson, is the only person to get a happy ending. He has a farm, a family and managed to get away from life as "some kind of super spy." At the end of this week's episode, Coulson hands Thompson a file containing details on who Thompson really was before his memory was wiped and on that file is the name "Cameron Klein."
Klein's an actual minor character from Marvel Comics. He's a S.H.I.E.L.D. tech who appeared in several Captain America issues.
All the above points to this being an important episode for the future. Did you notice anything else we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with "The Things We Bury" @9pm on ABC.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1, 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4, 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2 on May 3 2019.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!