I’ll give Agents of SHIELD this much — I didn’t see the biggest twist in last night’s episode coming, at all. The storyline involving Robert Gonzales has been on the boil for months, but it didn’t go where I expected. And then there’s Agent 33. Spoilers ahead...
Actually, a good amount of last night’s “Scars” felt a bit anti-climactic. That mysterious item in Gonzales’ hold, that was such a terrible secret that Coulson felt the need to say that he was still willing to work with Gonzales in spite of it? It was just another piece of Kree technology, one which poses a vague threat to the Inhumans. The Theta Protocol that Coulson kept secret from even Melinda May? It was just that helicarrier that turned up randomly in Avengers: Age of Ultron. A few shoes dropped last night, except that they turned out to be slippers.
And the schism between Coulson’s SHIELD and Gonzales’ upstart alternative, which had seemed to be turning into a violent feud, seemed to be settled quite amicably. But if there was a certain amount of anticlimax last night, it did leave us open to a huge surprise, where Gonzales’ intentions were revealed.
In a nutshell, here’s what happens in “Scars”: Coulson makes a deal with Gonzales to let Coulson stay on as SHIELD Director, with Gonzales’ council advising him. And almost immediately, they face their first test. Thanks to Raina’s psychic visions, the Inhumans figure out that Gonzales’ aircraft carrier holds that dangerous Kree artifact, and Gordon and Raina go to deal with it. But instead, they attract more attention from SHIELD, which already has Skye and Lincoln — plus SHIELD figures out how to track Gordon back to their home base, the Inhuman Day Spa.
So there’s a disagreement over how to handle the Inhumans, a whole race of people with superpowers who could pose a huge threat to SHIELD and to the human race. Skye wants her people left alone, but all the SHIELD agents, including Coulson, want to understand what they’re dealing with — which means cataloguing the Inhumans. And Gonzales, predictably, takes the most xenophobic and alarmist position.
But Skye manages to convince both sides to sit down and hash out their differences — she wants Coulson to meet with her mother, Jiaying, but it turns out to be Gonzales instead. Because Gonzales convinces everybody that Coulson has a blind spot when it comes to Skye, and this is Skye’s mother.
This all leads to the big surprise of the episode, which is also the anticlimax that pays off with an actual climax. Gonzales is going into his meeting with Jiaying with a box that he calls his “insurance policy,” and it appears to be some kind of weapon — but no, it’s actually a Chinese protection against evil spirits, that Jiaying had intended to give to Skye but which she lost when Whitehall vivisected her. Gonzales is surprisingly nice to Jiaying, and seems to be negotiating in good faith, or at least putting on a smooth act.
For a moment, it seems like Gonzales is winning Jiaying over, and this might end well — even though Raina has predicted that if Jiaying meets with Gonzales, it’ll be a bloodbath. (Everybody thinks Raina’s making a power grab, but the big surprise is that she’s just being honest.) But then Jiaying subjects Gonzales to terrigen mists, killing him, and then shoots herself and blames him, starting the war that everyone was trying to prevent.
Oh, and before that, Jiaying hands over her ex-husband Cal, aka Mr. Hyde, to SHIELD custody, as a show of good faith — something Cal suggested. But Cal has a bunch of empty vials on him, and the episode is very careful to have Gordon mention that Cal sometimes drinks a formula that gives him super-strength, aka “Muscle Milk.” So that prisoner may actually be a Trojan horse.
The other big surprise in the episode involves Agent 33, who really seems to be adjusting back to life at SHIELD. We’re told early on that her brain scans are surprisingly normal, and she seems to have no lingering trace of Hydra brainwashing. Yay. But May still doesn’t trust her, ordering her locked up apparently due to a lasting grudge from that whole “stealing May’s face” business.
Then we lose track of Agent 33, but May appears to be in two different places — flying Gonzales to the Inhuman Day Spa, while also flying Bobbi off on a recon mission. Except that Bobbi’s not with May, she’s with Agent 33, who holds a grudge about something that Bobbi did to her when they were at Hydra. Agent 33 insists that when Bobbi was comforting her back at the SHIELD base, Bobbi was actually just trying to find out if Agent 33 remembered something — and she does.
Bobbi gets the upper hand against Agent 33, but then Grant “I’ve changed” Ward shows up and shoots her. Turns out that Grant and Agent 33 are still planning something nasty, and this involves “digging in” to help Agent 33 reach closure. Are they going to brainwash Bobbi, like they did Bakshi?
So it sucks for Bobbi that she didn’t manage to mend fences with Lance Hunter, before she left with “May.” Lance is pissed at her for plotting against Coulson and for lying to him about what was going on, and Lance has made a big show of forgiving Mac just to torture her with his lack of forgiveness for her.
Bobbi tells Mac that Lance wears his heart on his sleeve, and she doesn’t know how to do that. “I think there’s something wrong with me,” she says.
But what’s Bobbi’s secret? There seems to be some weird past involving her and Agent 33. And earlier in the episode, Simmons acts all squirrely and weird when Agent 33 brings up Bakshi and Simmons’ time undercover at Hydra with Bobbi. Simmons tries to pretend she didn’t know Bobbi was undercover at the same time, because Bobbi’s hair was darker. Wha?
As for Mac, he’s decided to quit SHIELD, because he can’t work for an organization that has Coulson as a director. He can’t trust a guy who was brought back from the dead using alien blood, and after Mac’s own experience with being under the control of Kree technology, he doesn’t want to mess with anything alien — or work for someone who hasn’t learned that lesson.
So Coulson is back in charge of SHIELD, and things seem to be going his way after his actions saved a ton of people in Age of Ultron. But Mac’s not the only one who’s having a hard time with Coulson being in charge — Melinda May, who was telling Coulson just a few weeks ago that SHIELD’s survival depended on him, now seems to have turned against him.
Why is Melinda so pissed? Is it just because Coulson met with her ex-husband, or didn’t tell her he was rebuilding a helicarrier in a secret base staffed with Patton Oswalts?
It seems to be something more than that — dealing with the Inhumans is bringing up a lot of stuff for May. Her big defining trauma in Bahrain involved killing a little girl who was one of the Inhumans, something Skye makes clear for her. She never told Coulson that she killed a child, but she did tell her ex-husband Andrew — because back then, they had a clear demarcation in their relationships, but that’s all gone now.
Melinda tells Skye that she can’t be in the meeting between Gonzales and Jiaying because she, like Coulson, can’t be objective. And she also tells Coulson that Skye is “living proof” that he lost control during the time when he was carving into the walls under the influence of Kree blood. Why does she think that, given that she, too, cared about Skye a lot until recently? Has May’s perspective changed purely because she learned that Skye and the child she killed belonged to the same race? Or is there something else going on?