Agents of SHIELD’s Uneasy Alliances Are Just Betrayals Waiting To Happen

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Last night’s episode of Agents of SHIELD was pretty much chock full of temporary, uncomfortable team-ups. And the best part? Placing bets on who’s going to betray whom first. It’s like a race! Spoilers ahead...

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So in “The Frenemy of My Enemy,” Coulson has to break the terrible news to Fitz that he’s decided to work with Grant Ward, the guy who nearly drowned Fitz and left him with permanent brain damage. Fitz is not happy about this news, and later tries to attack Ward on board the team’s stolen quinjet, but the Ward-Coulson alliance is less a team-up and more a circular firing squad in any case.

An offer he can’t refuse

Coulson tracks down Ward, now that Fitz has given him Nick Fury’s magical “toolbox,” and takes the face-changing Agent 33 hostage. Then when Ward comes for her, Coulson offers a deal: Ward helps Coulson infiltrate Hydra, and in return Coulson will use the TAHITI protocol to wipe Ward’s bad memories, leaving him a nicer, more amnesiac person. And then Ward will be free to go.

As Ward observes, it’s not a great offer. Plus Coulson makes a big point of saying he promises it with all his authority as Director of SHIELD — a position that he arguably no longer holds. Soon enough, Ward suspects a double-cross, and Coulson is already watching for Ward’s own double-cross. And Ward tells Agent 33 that he’s just using Coulson to get to his own end-game, which will leave Agent 33 perfectly restored, and the two of them free.

Illustration for article titled Agents of SHIELD’s Uneasy Alliances Are Just Betrayals Waiting To Happen

But given that Ward’s plan depends on the performance of the brainwashed Hydra operative Bakshi, both Ward and Coulson may end up holding the bag together.

Their plan goes wrong in so many ways, it’s actually hard to tell who betrays whom. Bakshi goes to meet with Dr. List, one of the top Hydra leaders (besides Baron von Strucker) who’s been experimenting on superpowered people like Ethan (the poor kid that the Inhumans let out to go backpacking). And Bakshi brings Deathlok, who can keep an eye on everything for Coulson — except that Bakshi immediately offers Deathlok for List and Strucker to experiment on and brainwash.

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Deathlok nearly goes ballistic and kills List, Bakshi and the other Hydra goons, and meanwhile Coulson, Ward and the others are too busy holding each other at gun- and knifepoint to intervene. But after they “talk” Deathlok down, List takes Bakshi, not to see Strucker, but to look for Gordon the teleporting Inhuman. Instead, they find Skye, her father Cal, and Lincoln the Tomorrow Inhuman.

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In the ensuing clusterfight, Lance Hunter gets badly injured, Deathlok and Lincoln get captured by Hydra, Skye sees Coulson with Ward, and then Skye and Cal get zapped away by Gordon the eyeless teleporter. It’s not actually clear if Bakshi has reverted to type and is fully loyal to Hydra, or if he’s playing some other game of Ward’s, or a little of both.

It’s kind of sad that Coulson gets reunited with Skye for such a brief moment, especially since Skye has just re-embraced the fact that she’s a SHIELD agent.

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Daddy-Daughter Day

Actually, in an episode that’s full of people making weird alliances of convenience, it’s notable that one of Skye’s main choices is to reaffirm her old allegiance. She casually refers to herself as a SHIELD agent in front of the other Inhumans, early on in the episode, and thinking of herself as an agent guides all of her decisions in the episode.

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Skye could easily have decided that her SHIELD status was revoked, after Coulson parked her in the Hulkproof cabin and then SHIELD sent armed men to come take her out. And given that she finally has a place to belong, with her mom and other people like herself, she might easily figure that the SHIELD thing was just a wrong turn she took at one point.

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But instead, she decides that she still belongs to SHIELD, and that her first priority is to protect innocent people from the crazy rampage her dad is about to go on. Plus she genuinely seems to feel sympathy and even kinship for her dad, who’s full of regrets for all the Science Fair volcanoes they didn’t get to build together while he was missing her childhood.

The Inhumans don’t want Calvin “Mr. Hyde” Zabo in their secret day spa any longer, and they’ve already fulfilled his wish for a family dinner with his ex-wife Jiaying and his daughter Skye. So they plan to take him home to Milwaukee to “fetch some of his stuff,” then just dump him there. Skye convinces Jiaying to let her go along, so she can soften the blow.

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(Also in Inhuman-land this week, Jiaying and Gordon are worried about the missing Ethan, as they should be, and Gordon is pretty stoked about the potential for using the apparently clairvoyant Raina to see trouble coming.)

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And despite being a psychotic freakazoid, Cal really is kind of endearing in his endless sadness and regret — Milwaukee isn’t the place he remembers, and all the places he wanted to show Skye are gone. Instead, he’s stuck taking her to his old office building, which is full of roaches (and while there, Skye learns her real full name, Daisy Johnson.)

But in her zeal to protect innocents from her dad’s meltdown, Skye complicates things — she steals a cellphone and calls Melinda May, summoning a SHIELD team to come and get her and contain Calvin. She doesn’t realize that Melinda May is apparently no longer working for Coulson.

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Bobbi starts to question, just as Melinda May seems to stop

So what is going on with Melinda? She told Coulson that as long as he’s free, SHIELD still exists, but since then she’s apparently found out more about the secrets that Coulson was keeping from her and everyone else — like his weird off-the-books purchases, and his dealings with her ex-husband Andrew. And the Theta Protocol, which he talked to Koenig about, but may not have told Melinda about.

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Is May really on board with the “Real SHIELD”’s initiative to hunt and investigate Coulson, as if he were a traitor? Doubtful. She’s probably just playing along, and possibly communicating with Coulson in secret.

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But May definitely helps the Real SHIELD gang a lot this week — she gets Simmons to admit that the “toolbox” that Simmons has been trying to open is a fake, and Fitz took the real box to Coulson. And then she shares this info with everyone else, to Simmons’ chagrin. Then she convinces Simmons to work on hacking into Deathlok’s cyborg eye, so they can see what Coulson is up to. This is all supposedly in the interest of clearing Coulson’s name, except that Gonzales and friends seem to have found him guilty already.

May definitely does not seem happy to discover that Coulson is teaming up with Ward, when they see this through Deathlok’s cyborg eye.

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And meanwhile, just as May seems to be believing that Coulson might be a collossal liar, Bobbi is reconsidering her position — finally wondering why they’re going after one of their own, instead of concentrating on fighting Hydra, which is still out there. (This didn’t bother her before?) She muses that Hunter may actually have been right — but meanwhile, Hunter tells Fitz he would never work with Bobbi again.

In the end, Mack and Bobbi turn up to look for Skye in Milwaukee, but they’re too late for the party. The fight between Hydra, Coulson’s team, and the Inhumans is over, and there’s nothing left but dead bodies. Plus Coulson, who surprises them by surrendering and offering to tell them everything

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Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com.

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DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL!

This show is amazing. Not only are the characters and stories fun, but it all connects in a bigger way to the Cinematic Universe, and makes the show feel that much bigger.

Let me ‘splain. This was just episode 18 (of 22). There are at most 4 episodes left, and Wikipedia shows that the last two episodes are combined. So we get an episode on May 5, and a two hour finale on May 12. But wait. Doesn’t something come out in theaters before those last two air dates?

THAT’S RIGHT. AGE OF ULTRON MOTHERFUCKERS.

Based on the teaser for next week, we know Coulson and Pointier SHIELD are going to work together to go after List and Strucker. We also know that Maria Hill makes another appearance this season. We ALSO know from teasers that the Avengers attack Strucker’s compound in the movie. What does that tell us?

Coulson and Pointier SHIELD’s mission is not a complete success. They do not stop List and Strucker. HOWEVER, maybe it’s their actions that lead to the Avengers finding out the location of Strucker’s compound, via Maria Hill? Whatever happens next week (and it will be next week, because Age of Ultron comes out three days later in the USA), The Avengers get involved. Now I am not one of the lucky few to have seen Age of Ultron yet, so I have no clue about the potential cameos or name drops, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Strucker’s location was given to the Avengers by Maria Hill (through “contacts”). Coulson and Pointier SHIELD get the ball rolling, and Avengers bat cleanup.

Last season, The Winter Soldier’s events led into the last four or five episodes of Agents of SHIELD, and deeply affected it. Now, it looks like the events of Agents of SHIELD are going to Segway into Age of Ultron, at least a little bit.

GOD I AM SO PUMPED.

1. Hydra is on to Inhumans, and seem to be tracking Gordo. They had already got to Ethan (backpacking through Europe is so romantic but COME ON WE WATCH MOVIES IT NEVER ENDS WELL) and were tracing Gordo’s quantum signature. That’s how they got to Ethan, and that’s how (we later learned) they got to Skye and Cal.

Apparently List isn’t as good as Strucker, because we know Strucker was successful twice; List keeps striking out.

Another thought: List keeps going after Inhumans (whether he knows it or not – he is pulling from the same crowd) given Whitehall’s success with Skye’s mom. They continued that with Ethan this week. Is it possible that the Maximoff twins are retconned as Inhumans in the Cinematic Universe, so to avoid the whole “mutant” kerfuffle? Maybe Stucker (and the twins themselves) don’t know they are Inhumans, but the reason they were the only two successful experiments is because they had the genes for it already, and Strucker’s tinkering (with Loki’s staff) unlocked their potential without the need to Terrigen Mist? Sort of like a Jail Break, if you will. HMM.

2. Dat Mackingbird spar. If Mack doesn’t do a flip by season’s end, I will be disappoint. As we all know because we have eyes, Mockingbird is skeptical about Pointier SHIELD, and now it seems like Mack is feeling the same way. He’s just getting there slower. This skepticism is also shown by Mockingbird when May TOTALLY NARKS on Simmons, and she doesn’t immediately go to Adama. By the time Mackingbird caught up to Coulson at the end, she still hadn’t told anyone about Simmons’ switcheroo. Whatever happens next week will get Mockingbird back on Coulson’s side, and push Mack there faster. You watch, because I know I will.

3. Speaking of Mackingbird. This week it was announced that Hunter and Mockingbird would headline the new SHIELD spinoff show (so many shows we are in NERDVANA) and that pretty much locks it up as being either Secret Avengers or Secret Warriors. I’ve shouted from the rooftops that it should be Secret Avengers, but it’s likely to be Secret Warriors. SO MUCH FUN. My only gripe is that we’ll see less of them on Agents of SHIELD, unless they go the way WB is doing with Flash and Arrow and have the casts be fluid. Now THAT would be awesome.

I guess Hunter has a rude surprise coming after telling Fitz he would never work with Mockingbird again.

4. Speaking of Hunter, he is probably having the most fun out of all these people. You know, besides the whole flesh wound. His very first line (“That isn’t going to end well”) set the tone, and his wit was off to the races. I lost count of all the quips he made this week, but they were hilarious. “Ward is a psychopath, but right now, he’s our psychopath.” AWWWW

5. Freaking Fitz is going to have a SUBSTANTIAL therapy bill this year. He is finally home (with Coulson) after escaping two trained Pointier SHIELD agents by way of a hand dryer (more please) and the first thing Coulson does is drop the Ward bomb on him. His reaction of looking at Hunter with the classic “What in the actual fuck?” look was PERFECT. Having to sit across from him on a plane while holding a gun and not being able to shoot him? Brutal. Fitz played it amazingly.

6. BEST. DAY. EVER. (Part Deux). Cal is the fun kind of crazy, and it’s sad because I totally emphasize with him. It looks like Skye really cares, too, because she didn’t just dump him in Wisconsin – she wanted to make the transition easy. This is a big jump from someone who called her S.O. a NAZI to his face and then shot him IMMEDIATELY upon getting the chance.

That scene when Hydra stormed his building? I was SO hoping to see him Hyde-out on screen, but seeing him take out four Hydra agents was pretty dope.

Also: I about died when Cal was talking to Skye and said “before I met your mother…” Cal as The Captain confirmed!

Also Also: Did you see the vials next to the kit Cal used to put Skye’s mom back together? I bet those come in to play next week (or the week after).

7. Lincoln supercharging Deathlok to 400% capacity was very similar to Iron Man and Thor’s first throw down. I was half expecting Deathlok to say “Interesting…” I also thought it was hilarious when Deathlok kept fighting Lincoln even after he suspected he was protecting Skye.

8. Ward still has a thing for Skye, and it’s creepy as ever. Come on, dude. You bought (appropriated) a house with 33. The grass is always greener, I guess.

9. I am still convinced May is 100% on Coulson’s side. Even though she NARKED on Simmons to Mockingbird, and wants to find the “truth,” she is working within the given system to clear Coulson’s name. She even saved Simmons by saying that Fitz took the Box. Simmons caught on when May suggested tapping into Deathlok, and I am convinced May is going to do more than “convince the board” that Coulson is okay. She’s up to something, and given what I think about Mockingbird, will have help.

10. Speaking of. Simmons. That was BAD. TIMING. Tapping into Deathlok’s feed at that moment. He was looking right at Ward, and now May/Simmons/Whoever else was around or hears about it will think that Coulson is working with the enemy, and therefore is the enemy. Well, not May or Simmons, but they will have some questions. Adama will see this as proof that Coulson is at best off the deep end, and at worse Hydra. So far as we know, only Mackingbird knows what’s going on because they just picked Coulson up.

There is another point I want to address: Did you notice the juxtaposition between May / Simmons / Mockingbird’s reaction upon seeing Ward, and Skye’s? Everyone else began assuming the worse, and Skye forgave him once she saw Coulson was okay. Too bad Gordo came and got Skye at the exact wrong time. Oh, and Cal too.

11. Damn you Ward. God damn you. He is stone cold, executing that Hydra agent while looking Coulson dead in the eye. He reprogramed Bashki, and it seems that either Bashki is reprogrammed perfectly and is really doing Ward’s bidding, or Ward could give a shit and just turned him loose. CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BY INEVITABLE BETRAYAL. Why do I like you so damn much?

12. Let’s talk about Coulson. He learned a lot from Fury, and it seems like necessity is teaching him that a lot of the shady shit Fury did before was necessary. He made a deal with the literal devil (Ward is the Devil. No debate). He is FINE WITH USING TAHITI even after the experience he had. Sometimes, being a leader means having to do things you don’t want to do.

Skye’s mom had the same dilemma, just a more Inhumany version of it.

13. Let’s talk about Coulson (simply the BEST Avenger) again: His wit this episode was my favorite so far this season. I cracked up when he corrected Ward “He’s a SHIELD agent…with rockets in his arms.” I lost it when Coulson called Ward, and responded with “Hey Sweetie. Why don’t you stop by, I’d love to catch up.” I keeled over when Coulson told Mackingbird to “Take me to your leader.”

It was tops. TOPS. 14. They actually said DAISY JOHNSON. I squee’d, even though we’ve known it was her for a while now.

Next week is going to be bonkers.