In last week's episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC, titled "One of Us", Skye (Chloe Bennet) was added to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s gifted index. Her newfound, erratic powers continue becoming a growing concern for Coulson's team as they battled a vengeful Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) and his ragtag group of homicidal enhanced individuals (who are also listed on the index).
There was also the revelation that Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) are secretly undercover, working for another S.H.I.E.L.D. faction, whom they plan to introduce Hunter to. In this week's Agents of SHIELD episode, "Love in the Time of Hydra", viewers get their first look at this other version of S.H.I.E.L.D. while also seeing the return of Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent 33.
1. Pulp Fiction
Ward and Agent 33 enjoy a Pulp Fiction-esque cafe intro, overloaded with exposition to catch viewers up on what they've been up to since the midseason finale. As it turns out, the pair have bonded romantically since 33 helped Ward recover from Skye shooting him a few times. Their goal is to kidnap the creator of the nano-mask technology to help repair Agent 33's scarface issues.
And he partly does, at least enough to allow Agent 33 change faces again. He also repairs her vocal processor so she can speak without sounding like a robot. Ward is still crazy and kills the tech, but he's also twistedly happy, always smiling proudly of his homicidal work.
2. The "Real" S.H.I.E.L.D.
After knocking out Hunter last episode, Mack introduces him to his real boss, high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. officer Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) and his inner circle. They claim to be the honest branch of SHIELD leadership that believes in transparency (i.e. the opposite of Nick Fury's management style) and Hunter doesn't buy it.
Bobbi and Hunter reminisce before she lets him escape but she claims to still be dedicated to removing Coulson from the equation. Their relationship is back in the gutter but we learn a little more background as to how/why Bobbi got Hunter to join Coulson's team in the first place. Is this setting up for a Hawkeye-Mockingbird relationship down the road?
3. Skye's Isolation
After some therapy sessions with Skye last episode, Agent May’s ex-husband (played by Blair Underwood) recommends that Skye should be removed from SHIELD active duty because she's a potential danger to herself. Coulson seeks Simmons' help to get to set Skye up with some power-dampening mystery gloves and drops her off at "Fury's old retreat," a safe house (cabin) for people with powers that Steve Rogers also apparently used.
Coulson's plan is to let Skye practice and master her powers since he's a firm believer in superheroes and trusts Skye like a daughter. Simmons' gloves have negative side effects but both conversations about the items neglect to mention what those are. We'll have to wait until next episode.
4. Bakshi's Back
Ward and 33's plan is to break out Hydra officer Sunil Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) as a form of revenge for what he did to the mysterious agent 33 previously. They manage to sneak him out under General Talbot's nose and by the end of the episode are putting him through Hydra indoctrination. We don't know what their plans are.
5. Coulson's Team Status
Coulson shows again why he's deserving of being the spy boss and he and May catch on quickly to Mack's questionable and curious actions. They know something's not right with him and Hunter, setting up for an inevitable conflict with Rodriguez next episode.
As for the dynamic duo, Fitz-Simmons, after an argument about comparing Skye's out-of-control power set to the Hulk, Simmons helps potentially helps Skye despite her anti-power mentality, but Fitz calls out Simmons' new attitude as the scariest change of all. Nailed it.
6. What's Next?
What will Coulson and May do with Mack? What is Mockingbird planning to do when she goes back undercover to "remove that threat"? Will Hunter give up Bobbi to Coulson and can he turn her?
"Love in the Time of Hydra" is an episode dedicated to posturing and is purely setup for what's next, shuffling around characters and plots with a reminder that Ward and 33 are still out there. It's not made clear what any of they key players are really doing and a lot of intentionally held back from viewers. 33 and Ward have Bakshi; Skye has been isolated to work on her powers; Mack and Bobbi's secret is coming to a head; this other "real SHIELD" wants to remove Coulson but don't seem to have any other plan to run SHIELD.
A few other observations and notes:
- Hunter refers to Gonzalez and his inner cirlce as "Hufflepuff" - a reference to Harry Potter and one of its four Hogwarts houses.
- General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) celebrates Taco Tuesday weekly.
Now that you’ve watched the episode and digested the new character introductions and revelations, share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with "One Door Closes," @9pm on ABC.