[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., May confronted Garner about his transformation into the Inhuman-killing Lash, which ended in S.H.I.E.L.D. working with the ATCU to subdue and contain him. To help S.H.I.E.L.D. in their understanding of Lash, Lincoln emerged from hiding and decided to stay on as a member of the team. Elsewhere, Fitz listened to Simmons' recordings from her time on the mystery planet and he made a breakthrough in his search for answers. Lastly, it was revealed that Rosalind has ties to Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe), who also has ties to Hydra and Ward.
In this week's episode, 'Many Heads, One Tale,' written by Jed Whedon and DJ Doyle and directed by Garry A. Brown, the separate plotlines of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are finally woven together as Coulson digs deeper into the ATCU. Meanwhile, Fitz and Simmons make a breakthrough into the organization that sent Will through the portal to the mystery planet, and Gideon gives Ward a history lesson about the origins of Hydra.
The FitzSimmons Curse
At the end of season 2, it seemed Fitz and Simmons were finally ready to recognize the feelings that Fitz confessed to having for Simmons way back in season 1. However, the Monolith and Simmons' 4,722 hours on an alien planet with spaceman Will, changed all of that. When Fitz finally found a way to pull Simmons back through the portal, she -- and their relationship -- wasn't the same as it used to be. But, Fitz did everything Simmons' asked of him, he gave her space and he devoted all his free time to searching for a way to bring Will home. This week, Simmons breaks down and accuses Fitz of being too perfect and doing all the right things, unleashing the anger she feels toward herself for being stuck between Fitz and Will.
This fight, and the resulting kiss between the two, in 'Many Heads, One Tale' acts as a climactic point in the tension between Fitz and Simmons that has been mounting since she told the story of what happened to her while she was gone. Although the problems in their relationship aren't resolved, the characters reach a kind of closure in at least confronting the issue of Will rather than dancing around the subject. The writers may be drawing out the will-they/won't-they aspect of the FitzSimmons relationship to its fullest extent, but at least they do it expertly (and conveniently blame in on a curse).
Plus, Fitz and Simmons do make some headway into their search for answers, figuring out that the design carved into the castle where they opened the portal to free Simmons and the NASA patch on Will's jacket bear a resemblance to the symbol of another organization they know...
The Hydra that currently exists in the MCU dates back to Johann Schmidt a.k.a. the Red Skull who worked within the Nazi regime of World War II in the time of Captain America: The First Avenger. However, as Gideon tells Ward, Hydra actually extends much farther back in time to ancient civilizations. He explains that "Hydra's greatest power," found in the Von Strucker vault, is a portion of the Monolith and another portal to the mystery planet. Both FitzSimmons and Gideon reveal that Hydra has seen many iterations, and each version has sent men through the portal as a sacrifice. But, what Gideon wants from Ward is to learn how Fitz brought someone back through the portal.
Prior to 'Many Heads, One Tale,' Ward and Gideon were acting on their own separate agendas -- Ward on his mission to "trim the fat" of Hydra and seek vengeance on S.H.I.E.L.D. by cutting off its head, while Gideon's goal still has yet to be revealed. Together, though, the two could prove to be a truly terrifying adversary for Coulson and the rest of his team. Certainly, the alliance between the slightly cartoonish (but still entertaining) Ward and the grounded and stoic Gideon will make for more great scenes, like those between Brett Dalton and Powers Boothe in this episode. Their dynamic is fun to watch and almost makes it easy to root for these two -- even if their plans are absolutely evil.
It's All Connected
In 'Many Heads, One Tale,' Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gets back to the spy game, with Coulson leading Rosalind on a tour of their base while his team infiltrates the ATCU facility where Garner is presumably being held. However, when Coulson reveals his game that he's been gaining Rosalind's trust so he could learn everything he needed to about the ATCU, she claims her feelings for him weren't an act on her part. Then, when Coulson confronts Roslind with information his team obtained from the ATCU facility, she finds out that Coulson isn't the only friend that was keeping secrets. Gideon, who helped assign the ATCU and oversaw the organization's science division, was hiding the fact that the ATCU isn't trying to cure Inhumans. Rather, they’re forcing people to undergo Terrigenesis hoping to create Inhumans.
As for the reveal of Hydra as a more major villain this season than previously thought, it's not necessarily surprising for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., especially since the rogue organization has always been a major antagonist to Coulson and his team. However, the inclusion of their role with the ATCU and their history with the Monolith/portal helps to give enough of a new spin on the organization that it feels like an entirely different enemy -- with almost an entirely new face on it, with the exception of Ward.
All the revelations in 'Many Heads, One Tale' work to bring the many story threads of season 3 together for the first time all season, and they all lead back to Hydra. While early episodes in season 3 seemed to be driving the characters further apart, as Coulson searched for answers about the ATCU, Daisy worked to build her team of Inhuman agents, Fitz and Simmons focused on the portal, and Hunter sought vengeance on Ward, these storylines have all been woven together and tied to the Inhumans and Hydra. The result is a much tighter episode that will hopefully lead into an exciting midseason finale - and maybe (finally) the Secret Warriors.
A few other observations and notes:
- Mockingbird has updated her battle staves with magnetic wrist cuffs that allow her to use her weapons as boomerangs. In this episode (and hopefully many to come), she puts the boomerang staves to good use in a fight against an Inhuman
- May apologizes to Lincoln for the actions of Garner, killing so many of Lincoln's friends, and the two have a moment of closure
- Gideon reveals that Hydra discovered the first Inhuman on Earth and sent them through the portal. Could that be the figure Simmons and Will faced on the mystery planet?
Share your thoughts on the big reveals from the episode and theories about what's to come in the comments below!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues next Tuesday with ‘Closure’ at 9pm on ABC. Check out a preview below: