Last night's episode of Agents of SHIELD was jam-packed with twists, and huge reveals. Everybody learned at least one major bombshell, and we found out who Lance Hunter's ex-wife was. Plus both SHIELD and Hydra gained new allies, and the stakes got massively raised. Spoilers ahead...
In "A Hen in the Wolf House," all of the shit hits the fan at once. Simmons' cover gets blown — and so does that of Coulson's other mole inside Hydra, Bobbi Morse. Skye finds out that Coulson is the one making those strange alien carvings, and what that graphomania meant for John Garrett. Everybody finds out about Skye's father, and nearly finds him — and they know he has the Obelisk. And then Skye's dad makes some new friends.
Now that Coulson is SHIELD director, we keep hearing how he's changed — and we see a lot of that in last night's episode. He stonewalls Skye when she tries to find out the truth about the writing — forcing her to go to Ward to figure out the truth (and possibly tip off Ward as well.)
And Raina shows up and threatens to blow Simmons' cover unless Coulson lets Raina take Skye to her father — and Coulson plays hardball, refusing to give in to Raina's blackmail. Coulson's decision puts Simmons in a lot of danger, but he's calculating that Raina might hand over the Obelisk to Hydra if she gets Skye. (Which is true, but it's not clear how Coulson figures that out.)
Instead, Coulson decides to use Raina, with some of her own tactics. He puts a tracker onto her so he can follow her, letting her know that he may be able to save her life when she meets the Hydra top dog, Whitehall, again. This new ruthless streak on Coulson's part is possibly justified by the fact that Hydra has already used a fake version of the Obelisk to kill half a dozen Navy officers at a wedding — and they might kill billions if they get the real thing.
But Coulson's inability to control Skye winds up ruining the whole thing. First she nearly wrecks his bargaining position with Raina, because she isn't sure if Coulson is being a hard-ass or just going nuts like Garrett did. And then, when she overhears the location of her birth father (Kyle MacLachlan), she gives her team the slip and goes looking for him.
And what Skye finds is evidence that her father has A) superstrength and B) no self-control whatsoever. He was randomly doing back-alley surgery on a gangster when Raina interrupted earlier in the episode, and Skye's dad wound up murdering his patient as well as the patient's friend. Skye is horrified to realize that her dad is a monster — and her already-crazoid father overhears her saying this, via his security cameras.
Skye's father is horrified by her reaction — and it seems as though he had some idea of how he wanted to meet her for the first time, which has now been ruined. He tells Raina, early in the episode, that he needs the Obelisk to prove to Skye that he's not a monster. But now that he's revealed as an out-of-control killer, he feels like that's impossible.
How was Skye's dad going to use the Obelisk to prove himself to Skye? It's really unclear — but he knows a lot about it, including its name in its language of origin: the Diviner. He apparently blames Coulson for taking Skye away from him, and at the end of the episode he goes to see the top Hydra brass, Whitehall and Bakshi, offering to help them kill Coulson (and almost everyone else.)
We also learn that Skye's dad met Raina when she was a young vagrant who believed in fairytales, and took her in. He taught her everything she knows, but now he sees her as more or less disposable because she hasn't yet brought him Skye. (Didn't she have several chances to do that last year?)
So to sum up, Coulson spends this episode trying to keep a lid on two separate but related situations: his alien writing, and Skye's psycho dad who has an alien artifact (with the same writing) that could kill a ton of people. He fails, because Skye takes the advice of Lance Hunter and keeps digging until she makes Coulson crazy. I think we're supposed to think that Coulson's mistake was not trusting Skye sooner, because then she would have trusted him in return — but you could also interpret it as a story of Skye being unprofessional and insubordinate. Potato, Potahto.
There's also a weird parallel between Skye's real dad and her surrogate dad (Coulson), both of whom have problems with self-control. Skye's dad has a really hard time keeping his propensity for violence in check, whereas Coulson can't stop carving the crazy alien symbols.
Oh, and at the end of the episode, Skye suddenly has a new theory about the alien carvings: they're a map. To where? Or what? Hard to say, but it could be a star map of some kind.
Meanwhile, there are a ton of reunions and alliances in this episode:
Fitz and Simmons meet for the first time in months, right after Fitz finally seems ready to let go of the imaginary Simmons in his head, who's too busy checking out the awesome physique of Mack to be much use to him in any case. Fitz has worked so hard to realize that Simmons is just a figment of his imagination, he's not entirely sure that she's real when she does show up. And for her part, Simmons is probably better off not being in any more Hydra staff meetings where they cheerfully discuss mass murder.
Bobbi Morse and her ex-husband Lance Hunter are reunited, and it doesn't entirely seem to be a happy occasion for Lance, who's been bitching about her for weeks. In her first outing, Bobbi seems like a fairly generic asskicker, who's good at pretending to be a Hydra enforcer until it's time for her to extract Agent Simmons — but her past with Lance will probably go a long way towards humanizing her (and hopefully making him more layered as well.) And she's very, very tall, as seen in every shot where she's in the frame with the much shorter Simmons.
Skye's Dad and Whitehall, as already mentioned, form a brand new team. Meaning that there are now two fairly clear-cut opposing sides: SHIELD has gained a couple more players lately, and now Hydra has Skye's probably alien-ish father.
All in all, this was a pretty entertaining episode — although it felt like a lot of storylines were getting advanced so quickly that I didn't have time to feel the impact of them. The "Simmons goes undercover" storyline, in particular, felt like it ended with less of a bang than I was expecting — but there's probably another shoe waiting to drop. In particular, Bobbi Morse may be a hero in the comics, but on television she seems quite possibly too good to be true. Plus, it's not a bad thing that this show is keeping a zippy pace, by any means.