The last couple of week on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered in so many ways: Coulson was cured, Ward escaped and is on the hunt for his brother, the mysterious alien carvings were solved, revealed to be the blueprints for a mysterious city, and Skye’s father, or Doctor Twin Peaks, arrived on Whitehall’s doorstep ready to align with Hydra to get what he wants. The show is coming to a curve in the road, and hopefully Coulson will prove to be the point man we need to keep the rest of the season as compelling and mysterious as it has been so far, and this episode proves that we’re coming around the bend to something promising.
In Austria, 1944, it is revealed that Whitehall was once among the original Hydra, and when the Obelisk was in his hands at the time, he was conducting experiments that would cripple people into charcoal dust the very same way we’ve seen before, save for one woman, whom it seemingly didn’t affect. We’re then swept back to a more… contemporary Hydra, with Whitehall once again reunited with the Obelisk. Skye’s father, the Doctor, is brought in for questioning, but laughs at Whitehall’s simple idea that the Obelisk is only a weapon. What it really is? A key. To a city. Mind. Blown.
For our subplot with Coulson this week, he takes the Bus back into the air on the way to Hawaii. His plan is to shut down a military network to unveil the hidden location of the city they discovered from the carvings last week, and Coulson has a crazy, awesome plan in store. When the Bus touches down in Oahu, Coulson, driven to get answers, shows the greatest leadership formation we’ve seen from him in debriefing Skye, Triplett and Fitz with their gadgets and their goals on the field. Seeing Coulson finally able to take charge with a clear head actually gets you pumped up to see what’s to come. Fitz, meanwhile, is struggling to put together a transceiver that Coulson tasked him to master in under six minutes for his grand plan, not only demonstrating that Fitz is becoming ready to get back in the field, but Coulson knows him well enough to make use of him in the right place at the right time. After Skye and Triplett ease his doubts of Coulson, the wheels on The Bus go up and onward to Australia.
Meanwhile, back at SHIELD, while Bobbi interrogates Bakshi, Hunter and Mac hint at questioning Coulson’s stability after last week’s events, which may come into play later on in the season. Simmons continues to show a violent kind of thinking, this week regarding Bakshi, proving that her time spent at Hydra hardened her as a character. The crew decides together, thanks to Bobbi’s intuition on Bakshi’s phrasing, that something is up with Whitehall, and that he may have had some strong connections to Heir “Hugo Weaving” Red Skull.
Hunter and Bobbi have a moment… oh, no. Not that kind of moment, not yet. More of an intuitive moment, in which they break down the relationship of Bakshi and Whitehall. Next door, Simmons and May find Peggy Carter’s old SSR files on the Obelisk, and we learn about a bit of Simmons’ idolizing of, and obviously identifying a bit with, Mrs. Carter. May realizes what information they may be sitting on, and decides to show Simmons the relics of Peggy Carter and SSR.
We see our first flashback to Carter since the season premiere, in 1945, when she interrogates Whitehall, back then known as Reinhart. The Hydra Elitist describes this Obelisk as a means for some other kind of intellectual being to conquer the earth. We smartly cut back to Whitehall talking with The Doctor about this Obelisk, or as he calls it, “The Diviner”: a device meant to spare a few of the human race. The Doctor plans on using it to reunite with his dead family, I suppose excluding Skye.
The home base crew, digging through SSR files, finds that this Reinhart Nazi and Whitehall are the same man. As we return to Agent Carter condemning Reinhart to prison for life, we see 44 years whizz by, and him as an old man, when SHIELD is suddenly called for him to be moved to a different prison, and he escapes thanks to the Hydra infiltration. He’s taken back to Austria, where the woman who wasn’t killed by the Obelisk/Diviner/Key Thingy is still alive somehow, and completely un-aged in the years since. Obviously, like a true scientist, he demands experimentation! Like all science fiction Nazis, he does it for science.
Bobbi takes the new evidence to continue her interrogation with Bakshi and to delve into his devotion to Whitehall, whether he fears or respects him. Bakshi, of course, dodges the questions by trying to strike fear into Bobbi by threatening the revelation of how she truly infiltrated her way into Hydra, though she doesn’t bat an eye. Combining Adrianne Palicki playing cool as a cucumber and Bakshi’s desperate scare tactics, as well as an ultimate “Hail Hydra” suicide attempt, I honestly think this interrogation puts Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow cross examining Loki’s plan in The Avengers to shame.
However, Bakshi was somehow recovered in time to not die, and Hunter believes that Bobbi is trying to hide something. She, once again, mentions that she vouched for him with Coulson, and he believes it was because she plans on having something revealed, and needs people in support of her. The arguing turns into a make out session to relieve the tension throughout the episode, and it kind of says a lot about the relationship between the two: they think trust issues are hot.
Speaking of trust issues (that was a damn fine segue if you ask me), The Ward brothers’ story this week is set at the family summer cabin, where Grant literally pulls Christian out of the car window. I guess this is how they hug. The Ward brothers walk through a forest, having a back and forth as though the other is the deceiver and they are not. What is detailed here is that both Grant and Christian Ward have a rather destructive past, and that Grant still blames his older brother for what happened in “The Well,” his childhood traumatic moment revealed to us in season one.
Christian, at gunpoint, digs up the well, and accuses Grant of wanting so desperately to be a hero, but unable to reconcile his horrible actions. Threatening to shove Christian down the well, Grant makes his older brother admit that he consciously killed their little brother… because they had really crappy parents. The idea sounds obnoxiously cliche, but Christian’s (Tim Dekay) break down is convincingly sad. For Grant (Bret Dalton) it seems convincing, too, and while I was convinced that Morally Grey Grant was going to shove him down the well right there to still achieve vengeance, I was surprised when he didn’t, and instead takes his brother around his shoulder and walks him back home. Of course, we’ll find I was right in the first place later on.
In Australia, Coulson reveals his plan to shut down the network in Hawaii was part of a Trojan Horse method, where the two items he had Skye and Triplett deliver would create an EMP within range of each other, which is why they’re in Australia: to compromise the backup network, proving that Coulson not only is officially clear in the head to lead, but still knows when saying too much is just too much: a little bit of that old Nick Fury influence shining through.
Of course, as flawless as Coulson’s plan is, they’re ambushed, because something had to go wrong, right?! When Triplett is shot down, at risk of bleeding out, we find out that the Hydra unit is coincidentally led by Skye’s Doctor father, who is offering to assist in patching him up, and starts dishing out crazy talk just enough for Coulson to find out that he and Whitehall know about the city, that there’s something inside it that Phil questions to be “Tesseract level of power” and that Skye’s real name is… well, something else entirely. He leaves instructions on how to stabilize Trip with just enough time for him to escape, and Fitz’s signal interference patches onto… a satellite or whatever.
We’re given a vague explanation as to how Whitehall became young again, by means of a grossly detailed liver transplant, it looked like, and about life’s second chance granted to him, and how he did the same for Bakshi, and how he could do the same for who he is talking to, which is Grant Ward. Ward not only fooled us all again by actually killing his brother in a vicious house fire, but also released a recording of his brother’s confession, and now he is offering his services, and SHIELD expertise, to Whitehall.
Coulson, blood strewn shirt on his back, arrives back on the Bus, and struggles to not tell Skye that her father was with them, but the moment is interrupted by the good news of Skye’s algorithm finding a match for the city they’re looking for.
The end of this plot-dense episode teases that Whitehall may be the person at fault for The Doctor’s family being torn apart, as he returns to Hydra to find him talking with Ward, and mentions he met with Coulson, giving Whitehall a very intense look when he says, “It’s always good to stare your enemy in the face.” We’re then given the episode’s conclusion with a flashback to 25 years before, where The Doctor finds his wife dead in the deep woods at night, condemning whoever the man was that did this to her.
It’s shocking that this episode has about as much going on within it as last week did, without the “event” aura around it, but, in each of our three main plots, major story progress is made, character growth is witnessed, and Coulson’s goals are slowly seeming more and more achievable, hence, why this recap, and last week’s, were so damn condensed with plot that it feels almost like a synopsis.
Thusly, for the TL;DR readers: Coulson’s all better, Bobbi and Hunter think trust issues are sexy, Whitehall was a Nazi who reversed his aging… and the biggest question for the week is: can we trust Skye’s Father or Ward? Because we somehow know just enough about each that one has to be playing Whitehall for a greater good… but it can’t be both.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 2.8. “The Things We Bury” (8/10)