Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Love in the Time of HYDRA

Marvel's Agents of H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. 
"So that's what this is about; you guys don't want Coulson in charge. I'll be the first to admit the guy's not perfect. Sometimes chews with his mouth open, tends to hog the mic on karaoke night. But other than that, he's not so bad really."

With a title like that you'd think this episode would be all about Bobbi and Hunter, but 'Love in the Time of HYDRA' explored different kinds of love. As well as the tortured romantic love of Huntingbird, there was the parental love that Coulson feels for Skye, the damaged love of Hunter and Bobbi and the misplaced love of Agent 33 for Ward.

Coulson (and May) love Skye as if she were their own daughter. That is obvious for everyone to see. He (and May) would move the heavens themselves to keep her safe or maybe just get her some Twizzlers. But at the same time he recognises the threat her new powers pose. Getting her out of the city to somewhere remote and isolated was the right thing to do. What wasn't the right thing to do was to leave her there all on her own. Right now the last thing Skye needs is to feel like a pariah. She should have someone, either May, Fitz or Simmons, with her 24/7 to give her the emotional support she needs.

Fitz and Simmons have very different takes on Skye's new powers. Fitz sees them as an enhancement while Jemma sees them as a problem that needs to be fixed. Neither are really wrong. If properly controlled, Skye's powers could be a great asset to to the team. But at the same time I'm sure Skye would be happy to be rid of them. Like Bruce Banner she will now have to be in total control of herself. She can no longer lose control without it having terrible consequences.

Being a massive Battlestar Galactica fan I am ridiculously excited about the old man himself, Edward James Olmos, joining the series as Robert Gonzales, the head of "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. Hopefully he'll make up for the disappointment that was Daniel Whitehall by providing this series with an antagonist who is a) a credible threat to our heroes and b) an interesting character in and of himself. As exciting as it is to have Adama on the series, I can't shake the feeling that we've seen all this before. This S.H.I.E.L.D. verses S.H.I.E.L.D. storyline is almost exactly what the HYDRA reveal was last season. Secrets are being revealed, friend is being pitted against friend, even the promo pictures are similar:

Pretty much everyone in this picture is dead.
I've not saying that this is a bad thing. As long as this arc hits the same dramatic highs as that one I'm all for it. But I can't help but be a little disappointed that AoS seems to be repeating itself already.

According to Adama, the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D., or H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. as I prefer to call it (thanks, Hunter), is all about transparency, which is rather ironic for a large collection of spies who are currently spying on other spies. They don’t want to repeat the mistakes that Fury made, the same mistakes they believe Coulson is currently making. Transparency is nice in theory, but only works if you have complete and absolute trust in the people you are being transparent with. Fury kept secrets because he didn’t trust everyone and, as we all eventually discovered, he had good cause not to. If he hadn't been such a paranoid son of a bitch, "hail HYDRA" would be part of the national anthem.

Does Gonzales completely trust all his agents? At least one of them has to be HYDRA. If that's a yes then he is a fool. Bobbi's loyalties definitely seem to be wavering. Especially now that Hunter has chosen Team C over H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. I'm not surprised by that at all. H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. seems too stuffy and by the book for his liking. With their fancy base and all suit dress code they are more like the old S.H.I.E.L.D. than they'd probably like to admit. They probably don't even have karaoke nights. Who wants to work for an agency that doesn't have karaoke nights? Come on, Bobbi, see the light. You know you're a G.R.Y.F.F.I.N.D.O.R., not a H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F.

Ward and Agent 33 were back, re-enacting Pulp Fiction and getting their Bonnie and Clyde on. Because he is so treacherous and shifty, it is hard to pin down Ward's exact motives. Does he genuinely care about Kara or is he simply taking advantage of her fragile mental state to suit his own purposes? What even are his own purposes? He doesn't have a place with either S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA and seems to have finally accepted that Skye is just not into him (being shot by her four times was something of a give away). So what now? Open a B&B? Try to make it on Broadway? I imagine Agent 33's new shapeshifting powers would come in handy there.

Intel and Assets

--As well as Olmos, H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. included other familiar faces. Agent Calderon is Charlie from Fringe, while Agent Weaver was Fitz and Jemma's teacher from the S.H.I.E.L.D. Hogwarts.

--Fitz made a point about how much Jemma has changed. While Fitz and Skye have changed physically, Jemma is the one whose personality has undergone the most dramatic changes.

--The Agents of H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F., as well as Hunter, believe that Fury is really dead. Some spies they are.

--Coulson and May didn't buy Mack's story for a second. They know Hunter is not the type to just vanish, he's the kind of guy who'd send a really offensive text, probably complete with a picture of his naked backside, to his boss whenever he quits.

--How did Talbot ever earn the rank of general? The man is a complete buffoon. An entertaining buffoon, but a buffoon no less.

--H.U.F.F.L.E.P.U.F.F. is located on an aircraft carrier. I wonder if it flies. Which begs the question of who is funding all of this? Where are these competing spy agencies getting their green from?

Hunter: "So, where now? To see the wizard?"

Skye: "Just to be clear, I am the Corvette in this story?"

Hunter: "Least fun road trip ever."
Bobbi: "Forgetting Arizona?"
Hunter: "More like repressing the memory. Still can't listen to the Eagles without getting the chills."

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

5 comments:

drnanamom said...

Oh Mark, that was hilarious - thank-you! I am still chuckling. I had similar feelings to you - why leave Skye alone? Well they don't have many people to spare but still, if Coulson feels like he didn't do things well then he probably didn't. I was also tickled to see Edward James Olmos and I hope they don't waste his talent ie. just repeat last year's troubles. Where is all this green coming from? Swiss bank accounts? Many, many mattresses? Obviously I should have taken up a career as a spy.

Marianna said...

I also groaned at the reveal of the "real" SHIELD. On the other hand there were things that I liked about this episode. I was really happy that Coulson and May weren't fooled by Bobbi and Mack's cover story. And I cheered when Fitz told Simmons that she's changed the most. (That's what I've been saying!)

Lamounier said...

Not feeling the love here. “Real SHIELD” wants Coulson’s SHIELD to go down because... Coulson keeps secrets? Because Fury kept secrets? What the hell? It’s a spy agency, they are supposed to keep secrets, damn it.

Yes, Coulson’s obsession with the city’s drawings was dangerous, but Gonzales didn’t use that opportunity to take over and now that danger has passed. Let’s also keep in mind that Coulson wasn’t obsessed about uncovering the Diviner’s utility, he was fighting against Hydra. It was because of that fight that Skye gained her powers and Trip died. Citing those events as if they came from neglect doesn’t work.

It’s not like Gonzales doesn’t have valid reasons to question Coulson’s leadership, but all the ones he and his team came up with fell flat. Gonzales’ SHIELD did seem to be more competent than Coulson’s, but then they left Hunter escape so easily and lost the edge they had.

I hope this story pays off, but as of now, while the good elements are there, they are hammered by sloppy writing.

Fitz moment of the week: telling Simmons the scariest change was hers. I might not love Simmons right now, but both actors are nailing their scenes together. Also, I’m so glad someone (Fitz, of course) finally pointed out Skye’s powers can come in handy.

Lamounier said...

Oh, I totally forgot: I missed Ward, I was so glad he was back. That kind of surprised me. The opening scene was dumb, though. Now what was with Agent 33? She used to be a badass, why has she become so touchy-feely? I was bummed she thought sex was a way of retribution and happy Ward turned it down.

Talbot used as comic relief was an interesting choice, but I think they went a little too far with it.

Juliette said...

I think the main thing I took from this episode was that Admiral Adama, Charlie from Fringe and Jessica from Supernatural are all in a secret spy society, which is kind of awesome.