ReviewsThis Week's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is All About World-BuildingReviews - RSS 2.0
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focuses on Marvel fans... and if you're a fan, the results pay off.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone from feeling only incidentally related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity-experiment to feeling like the franchise most heavily leaned on it. Its second season's episodes don't so much follow individual three-act structures as begin and end between surprise-reveals in what has become a season-long running plotline that requires one to not only have seen the majority of the series up to this point but to have a more-than-passing familiarity with the movies in whose shadow it operates. Continuity is still a garnish for the Marvel films, but on Agents it's the main course, the plates, the silverware, the restaurant and the date that brought you there.
Before reading on, be aware we're diving into spoiler territory, so a SPOILER WARNING is in full effect. If you haven't caught this week's episode, you can stream it online from ABC.com or Hulu, or buy the latest from iTunes or Amazon.
This week's episode, "Things We Bury", is an efficient, if a touch inartful, handling of that dynamic; splitting the main cast into four separate mini-teams to advance four different plot threads toward what feels like a soon-to-come confluence and realignment. In short order: Skye's mysterious superhuman father, "The Doctor," makes good on explaining how The Diviner (formerly "The Obelisk") actually works to HYDRA bigwig Daniel Whitehall. May, Simmons and Mack dig through Agent Peggy Carter's old files to suss out Whitehall's real history re: why he seems to be immortal. Coulson, Trip, Fitz and Skye do some globe-hopping to set up a hack of HYDRA satellites to help hunt for the mysterious hidden city the alien (?) glyphs are apparently a map to. Bobbi/Mockingbird interrogates Whitehall's gopher, Bakshi, for information. Finally, Grant Ward kidnaps and confronts his U.S. Senator brother, Christian, as part of his still unclear private agenda.
The reveals and answers, in a nice surprise, are all pretty interesting in their own right. The Diviner turns out to be both a key and an entrance-exam to the Hidden City -- it only burns at the touch humans who are "unworthy" of entering (which thus far seems to include superhumans) and is related to a legend of "blue angels" who came from space to wipe out humanity save for a special few. Whitehall isn't technically "immortal," he aged naturally in a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison until 1989, when he was freed and presented with a mysteriously-ageless recaptured Diviner-proof woman he'd discovered in 1945... whom he dissected alive (making him, on balance, the "nastiest" MCU heavy by far at this point) to create an anti-aging serum for himself. Bobbi and Hunter are "back on" even though Bakshi has been implying that she crossed some lines while undercover in HYDRA. Oh, and in a "surprise" that no one will have not guessed at, "The Doctor's" wife (and, presumably, Skye's mother) was the age-proof superhuman Whitehall murdered -- and The Doctor's real agenda is (or at least includes) revenge for her.