Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Rise and Shine

"Hale Hydra. Really?"

This was a solid episode that explored the backstory of Hydra and advanced the season's main arc by miles.

It's a few decades ago, Hale, Wolfgang Von Strucker and Jasper Sitwell are all teenagers attending Hydra's Hogwarts, and the writers make a whole lot of effort to make Hydra's many incarnations fall under one roof. Baron Von Strucker (from Winter Soldier)? Check. The ritual of killing your dog (from Garret's Hydra)? Check. Daniel Whitehall as a celebrity (season two Hydra)? A mention of Malick (season three Hydra)? Hydra's obsession with superpowered people? Check. Check. Check. There were so many Easter Eggs that I won't even try to list them all. But it was really cool and it worked.

The best part of the flashbacks was teenage Hale. Smart and assertive, she became the target of Von Stucker's envy and, when he physically threatened her, she beat the crap out of him. Of course, in a sexist environment such as a white male supremacy, that cost her everything. Hale thought Whitehall would give her a dream career, but he didn't see her as an asset, he saw her as a womb, which explains why Hale loathes Hydra more than she carries its torch.

Advance to a couple of years ago, and we learn that the Confederacy reached out to Hydra to warn them that the Earth was in danger from Thanos (I presume). Not that the Confederacy cares about humans, they just want superpowered people and gravitonium in return, so striking a deal with Hydra is just about right. Hydra, however, was busy collapsing and Hale realized she couldn't give the Confederacy what they wanted. Instead, she played along and decided to resume a project from Dr. Whitehall and create a mega powerful human to intimidate any alien race that laid their eyes on Earth.

If I understood it right and connected the pieces appropriately, Hale wants:

- Talbot, because he knows the whereabouts of the particle infusion chamber that Whitehall designed.
- Alex (a.k.a. Werner Von Strucker), because he has a super memory and might know how to work his father's chamber.
- S.H.I.E.L.D., because she wants Daisy to undergo the metamorphosis.
- Gravitonium, because that's the substance that is going to be used infused into Daisy.

And the name of the project is Destroyer of Worlds! Hold me, I really like it when all the pieces of the puzzle start to fit together.

Turns out Hale's daughter, Ruby, was designed to undergo the metamorphosis, but Hale doesn't trust her temperament. Wonder who she got that from, Hale? She submitted Ruby to the same upbringing she had, but with a striking difference: lack of testosterone. Hale is a low-key feminist, which is easy to understand given how dismissed she was by the men of Hydra. She gives Ruby the validation that she never received, and if Ruby is not the chosen one to become mega powerful, then another woman is: Daisy Johnson.

I liked Hale's reasoning for choosing Daisy, it shows that even though Hale is not sided with the angels, she knows that such amount of power can only be given to someone who is a good guy. The truth, however, is that no one should have that amount of power, but Hale, being educated under Hydra's values, can't see that simple truth. When Coulson shares his knowledge of the future and tries to talk her out of her plan, Hale has none of it. She believes Coulson is just dismissing her like every other man that crossed paths with her, but this is a reaction that is not earned, no matter how much the script tries to back it up with Hale's past experiences. Coulson listened to Hale's entire tale, but Hale couldn't listen to ten seconds of Coulson's story? Come on, who was dismissive again? In fact, Hale didn't even believe Coulson traveled to the future, even though she has been teleporting to meet with the Confederacy on a regular basis. This kind of skepticism is hard to buy when the character inhabits a sci-fi world like MCU's, which is unfortunate because otherwise the writing for Hale in this episode was strong.

Because of the focus on Hale and Coulson, we only check in with most of the main characters in the final act. The team quickly puts the pieces together and realizes that Hale is Hydra, which leads May and Daisy to go question their resident super villain – Fitz. May tries to use Fitz' Framework persona as leverage, while Daisy is justifiably still very much pissed at him. The scene is an exhibit A of how rich and layered these characters are, and how complicated their lives and relationships have become.

Fitz' actions are more comprehensive now: the fear dimension was about to reach the surface and he had to seal the rift before it was too late. But taking Daisy's agency away from her and submitting her to pain in the process were definitely not the best way to do it. He can't regret his actions – he would do it again if he had to, to save the world – and Daisy can't forgive him, and each character has a valid point. It's even a more complicated scenario if you consider that to save the world Fitz might have enabled another path to its destruction. There are no easy choices to be made, and the agents are constantly facing impossible decisions.

On top of that, they have the knowledge of what's to come, which is also shaping their behaviors and decisions. When Daisy says she will go find Robin (finally someone thought of that!), May is worried. Because she cares about Robin in a way that she wouldn't, if she hadn't learned that she raised her. Or, uh, will raise her. And Simmons, after a lovely chat with Mack, adopts Yo-Yo's perspective: Deke is proof that Fitz and Simmons live long enough to raise a daughter, so that means they are invincible. I wasn't looking forward to all the cutesy of Fitzsimmons, at least not so soon after the darkness of the last episode, but Fitz' reaction upon learning that Deke is his grandchild was too adorable. Nonetheless, I'm sure that Fitz' theory that the future can't be changed is wrong, and Elena, Simmons and Fitz subscribing to the idea that they are bulletproof will come back to slay them.

Intel and Assets

- Coulson was just the best in this episode. His wit, charm, humor, he handled captivity like a boss.

- Poor Talbot, brain damaged, tortured and away from his family. No wonder he cracked. His current state is even sadder if you think that he has been used mostly as comic relief throughout the series. At least his offensive one liners are sharp as ever.

- Elena's robotic arms are ready to go.

- This season's arc is a clever way to connect Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the movies and yet be its own separate, worthy story.

- Hale is all that's left of Hydra and she doesn't care that much about it, but her modus operandi has Hydra all over it. Curiously, S.H.I.E.L.D. is kind of on its last legs and as of this moment the team is fractured.

- All those poor dogs.

- The casting of young Sitwell was perfect.

Whitehall: "I imagine it wasn't easy to sleep last night."
Hale: "Not with all the boys sobbing through the walls."

Whitehall: "You always have a choice whether or not to comply."

Ruby: "Me obeying you... that is weakness."
Ruby can't be evil, she sticks by her pet.

Talbot: "Crossfit Tinker Bell is your daughter?"

Talbot: "This one's nuttier than a Butterfinger."

Talbot: "You filthy calamari Mata Hari."

Coulson: "I give this place a C minus. Hey, wait a minute. Oops, All Berries. Okay, C plus."

Hale: "Are you familiar with Dr. Whitehall?"
Coulson: "I buried him. (off Hale's reaction) Go, team."

Daisy: "How are we still fighting Nazis today?"

Fitz: "Our daughter is obviously going to marry some belligerent space goon if she is going to give birth to a Deke?"

A strong episode in what has been a strong season so far. Three out of four All Berries.
--
Lamounier

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think Legends of Tomorrow has dulled the senses to just how fantastical time travel is..Regardless of her space adventures, time travel is indeed still time travel.

I was frustrated but not surprised Hale dismissed Coulson in a scene of ultimate irony.
At the moment i can roll with it because they put the time and effort into making Hale a 3d character. It seems petty but its understandable she would not trust Coulson's story.
I was also frustrated after the episode with Hales response then i watched the scene with Whitehall again.. Kudos to the young actress who made me feel sorry for Hale and the guy that plays Whitehall was creepy as fuck without saying too much. In particular the p
art where he basically says you can chooses to do it or we can brainwash you and make you do it...That was the choice was given.
Also without words explains her love and resentment of Ruby. It makes both of them so much more compelling.

Its the same way Jemma and Yoyo are annoying me with the 'we are invincible stuff'' but with what has happened to both recently its entirely understandable why they are clinging to that notion. When logic discrepancy happens its far easier to take when it comes from the characters actions being affected by their own experiences and history rather than a plot reason..Shield does this well all the time. The characters here, like on all TV shows do something stupid or illogical to move the plot but its always influenced by what we have seen happen to said character.

Wayne Rasmussen said...

Well the whole lincoln taking daisy's place tells us that the future isn't fixed.

Patryk said...

Talbot talking out loud everything he thinks now might still keep him as comic relief once they free him from Hydra. :)

You say Thanos but the Kree have to play into the future war somehow. Kasius' father should be the one attacking I guess.