Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Making Friends and Influencing People

New season, new hair.
"Did you think I wouldn't find out?"

I don't know how HYDRA was able to stay secret all this time when they are as obsessed with sticking their logo on everything as S.H.I.E.L.D. was (which is probably where they got it from). Honestly, don't they realise they are meant to be a secret organisation? Slapping your logo on everything is kind of a big give away, guys ("Who did these assassins work for? Oh wait, they've got HYDRA jackets on. Mystery solved").

The opening scenes of the episode were very reminiscent of Lost. We had our new big bad, Whitehall, talking about his very expensive bottle of booze while subjecting Agent 33 to some Clockwork Orange-style brainwashing. Then we saw a character wake up, in this case the much missed flesh and blood Jemma Simmons (who is one of those annoying people who wakes up looking like a classic Disney princess, not a modern Disney princess like the rest of us), and go about their morning routine (exercise, pick out clothes, make coffee, walk to work like she's Mary Tyler Moore) to the sound of an upbeat 60s pop song. Then the "HOLY SHIT" twist is dropped on our heads like a safe on Wile E Coyote. Jemma Simmons, sweet Jemma Simmons, is working for HYDRA (which also has annoying middle-management types). Is this true? Has our Jemma joined the most evil organisation in the world? Okay, the second most evil organisation in the world, after Fox News. No one is more evil than Fox News.

The answer, for the moment, is no. Jemma (yes, I call her Jemma now) is not a HYDRA turncoat. But they sure as hell wanted us to think she was. The opening scene was an act of inception, designed to plant in our minds the idea that Jemma had been brainwashed and was really an unwilling triple agent. But she wasn't, at least not yet. Or was she? Maybe she has already has been brainwashed and they just haven't activated her programming yet. Okay, this is getting way too paranoid, time to move on.

I liked that Jemma infiltrated HYDRA by basically being herself. She never would've been able to pull off a cover identity. The less she had to lie, the easier it would be for her. At the same time, it showed how much she has changed since the start of the series. She's no longer the wide-eyed science geek who stepped onto the Bus. Ever since HYDRA came out of the closet and the bodies started piling up, she's adjusted better than most to this harsh reality without completely losing herself. Also, and I know that some people might disagree, separating her from Fitz has really brought out the best in the character.

Speaking of Fitz, the confrontation between him and Ward was one of the best scenes of the episode. Ward made the mistake of telling Fitz that what he did -- dropping him and Simmons into the ocean -- he did to give them a fighting chance. He did it to save them. Sincere or not (it's hard to tell with Ward), that was the last thing Fitz wanted to hear. Ward's actions cost him dearly. They cost him his mind, they may have cost him Simmons, and Fitz is fully aware of how broken he is. He doesn't have the luxury of ignorance. He knows that the Simmons he talks to isn't real and that he's kept around now more for his own protection than for what he can contribute. He didn't want to be told that it was done for his own good. Gold acting star for Iain De Caestecker, he knocked it out of the park in that scene.

I know exactly what May is thinking.

Intel and Assets

--Introducing brainwashing has raised the paranoia level considerably. Jemma may not be a sleeper agent (yet), but that doesn't mean no one else is.

--Assuming that Donnie is really dead (this is a series based on comic books after all), Skye has popped her cherry, in the exact same episode where Hunter had talked about her never having killed anyone before. Really? Come, on guys, there's a big differences between foreshadowing and punching us in the face with a boxing glove marked "Plot Development".

--I loved that the HYDRA scientists had black lab coats (complete with HYDRA bins) rather than white ones.

--It is about time that Ward admitted that he wasn't brainwashed. Sadly, it didn't shut up the more condescending Ward apologists, who are still being rather rude and obnoxious to anyone who doesn't see Grant Ward as poor little victim who isn't responsible for his actions. It was all Garrett's fault.

--So not only are Ward's family well known, they are "beloved". Interesting.

--May and Hunter are now even.

--I'm really starting to like Mack, which is why I really hope he doesn't turn out to be a HYDRA sleeper agent.

May: "Don't be sorry... just wait."

Ward: “I was never brainwashed. Everything I did, good and bad, I did of my own free will.”

Hunter: "Agent May shot me."
Coulson: "Repeat."
Hunter: "May shot me."
Tripp: "Man, I wanted to be the one."

Skye: "You don't give the orders, Trainspotting."
Hunter: "I'm not Scottish!"

Three out of four expensive bottles of booze.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


Billie Doux said...

I loved this review, Mark. And I haven't even seen the episode yet.

No one is more evil than Fox News.

Agent_of_HYDRA said...

I am deeply offended by that comparison between Fox News and HYDRA.
Sure, as an international criminal organization bent on world domination, we HYDRA may have committed evil deeds, but we never went on air and tried to depict gay marriage as oppressive, or defending women's reproductive rights as religious intolerance. And we do not rampantly promote xenophobia on anyone who's not a straight white Christian male: we will accept people of any race, gender and religion as long as they help us kill those pesky SHIELD do-gooders. And while we indulge in the occasional brainwashing, we do not do it 24/7 in the same massive scale as FOX NEWS. I mean, we even tried to get some undercover agents there, but one week working under Billy O'Reilly and those agents just walked away in disgust (and these are people who take hostages for a living, mind you!)
I hope we have made things clear.

Best regards,

HYDRA's P.R. department

Mark Greig said...

Agent_of_HYDRA, I apologise, I did not mean to cause offence by mentioning your...imperishable organisation in the same breath as Fox "News". And my sympathy to to those who who had to endure a whole week of O'Reilly.

drnanamom said...

Oh man, I enjoyed this episode but not as much as your review Mark, and the comments that followed. This site just makes TV watching more fun.

Agent_of_HYDRA said...

Actual quote from an agent on that Fox News undercover mission:
"I miss the Red Skull. O'Reilly's ego makes him look humble and meek in comparison."

Jess Lynde said...

Definitely a fun review and set of comments. And I agree this was another strong episode. I was really happy to spend time with Real Simmons, even though I never for one second believed she was doing anything other than working an undercover mission for Coulson. It was still great to see her in action, and I loved the little reprise of the father-daughter dynamic Coulson and Simmons played on the "train job" episode. He seemed more relaxed and like himself talking with her about her poor diet than he has all season.

But my favorite part was the Fitz and Ward confrontation. Agree completely that it was one of the best scenes of the episode. Iain De Caestecker really did knock it out of the park.

I'm looking forward to Trip getting his chance to shoot Hunter. :) And Skye owes him one too. Don't get too comfortable yet, buddy!

jencat said...

I love that Skype does actually work with both Scottish and English accented people already in FitzSimmons and STILL can't apparently tell the difference?! Especially as Lance has a similar accent to Jemma...!

If we're going with movie references, he does basically sound like he just walked out of a Guy Ritchie film to be fair...

I kind of want to know who his ex- wife is though?! He's mentioned her two episodes in a row, and didn't she introduce him to Lucy Lawless' character? Seems a bit like she's involved in the plot somewhere.

If you'd told me this time last year I'd be this interested in SHIELD, I seriously wouldn't have believed you. The improvement in the quality of this show is incredible, such a shame they had to waste so much time in the first season being pretty damn awful.

Juliette said...

I am currently watching this show solely for Fitz and Simmons (separately or together, whichever). I absolutely love that they're doing a full, in depth story on some of the possible medical consequences of the sort of thing that happens to the heroes in these shows all the time. Even if Fitz eventually recovers or gets some magic sci-fi cure, the fact they've addressed the issue is amazing (must have been guilt for all those years of whacking Giles on the head with no apparent ill effect!)

Marianna said...

Great episode! I also liked the exchange with Mac trying to help Fitz come up with the word he's looking for:

Fitz: "Um well the last the last time that I saw him, - he was, um"
Mac: - "Angry? On drugs? - Uh friendly? Sleeping?"
Fitz: "Yeah."
Mac: "Sleeping?"
Fitz: "No. What the one go back one."
Mac: "Friendly? - Friendly."
Fitz: "Um uh no, he had trouble making friends."

I thought Mac throwing out random adjectives was funny. I was expecting him to say "hungry" next.

By the way, I know what it's like to have word-finding problems, and it's incredibly frustrating. I second the gold acting star for Iain De Caestecker for expressing that frustration without using words.