Hello and welcome back to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
As always, there are spoilers ahead…like super big spoilers!
After nearly a full season of buildup, a terrifying side effect, a hauntingly beautiful acronym, and the cryptic message: “a magical place”, we finally have an idea as to what the heck is going on in the brains of some of the main characters in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Now, as someone who is admittedly not well-versed in comics, I have to say I did not see this coming, (this being what the writing was, not how it got to that reveal). I really do not read comics, nor do I follow the adventures of the Avengers or the X-Men or anything in any particular detail.
My knowledge is limited to the movies – the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you will. But Tuesday’s reveal of the three-dimensional nature of the alien writing that has been plaguing us since season one, episode two was, to me, as much a subtle social commentary as it was a massive clue as to the future of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Writing on the Wall:
I had been wondering for several episodes why no one had thought to lay out the writing samples to see if they all matched up. This came to a head particularly after Skye (Chloe Bennet) figured out it was a map. I was very excited to see Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) doing exactly that, and then began to wonder, once the writing did not match up, why he did not try to lay it out one on top of the other, like layers to a map. I did not, however, consider taking it a step further, which is the commentary I noted earlier.
Despite living in a three-dimensional world, humans have often been called ‘young’ and ‘naive’ by other alien species because of how we act and how we look at things. It made me smile to see Joss Whedon take that little commentary and place it into this episode, revealing that cooperation and next-level thinking were really required to figure out the mystery of the map. The alien writing could only be translated into the brains as images and most of the characters in the show could only produce it as two-dimensional images. Only by looking beneath the surface, applying greater wisdom, and working together could the characters actually put together what was happening.
Instead, human nature of wanting to be the best at anything coupled with pride at being chosen for this task and frustration at not understanding what was being produced won out. People went mad. People attacked and killed each other. It was not so much a function of the alien writing, but the simple human nature that really caused the problems.
You, reader, may completely disagree with me and find my ideas insane and silly. But I really think Joss is the kind of person who would wisely ask us to look at ourselves and consider the deeper notions of life…and he would do so in such a subtle medium as this.
So now the big reveal: the characters who have all been injected with GH-325 (the life-fluids of that mysterious blue alien that I am still thinking is a Kree based on what little I know), are seeing blueprints of an alien city. The questions begin: Where is this city? What is its name? Why does the alien want to go there? There is already – of course – massive speculation.
There has been talk of Skye being an ‘Inhuman.’. For anyone else who does not know about comics, Inhumans are basically the product of experiments performed by the alien race Kree. They were created by bonding human DNA with that of Eternals, which are a genetically modified race of humans created by the Celestials, which are a race of Extremely Powerful Aliens. (All information gathered from Marvel.Wikia.com.). Basically, one of the rumors is that Skye is the product of a lot of genetic engineering by a lot of alien races, and as a result she likely has some latent abilities including longer life span and increased physical endurance, strength, and reflexes.
On top of that, the revelation of her father (who definitely has some alien qualities), and other various hints (her ability to handle the GH formula), all come together to hint that the city portrayed in last week’s episode is Attilan. Given the cohesive nature of the Marvel Cinematic universe, I would currently say this is the theory that has the most support at the moment. However, with Marvel’s overall massive reveal of their timeline of films (admittedly not the best decision in my mind; they totally lost the element of surprise for….everything), the ‘Inhumans’ movie is slated for 2018, which either means Marvel is super-confident that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is going to last that long with enough support from the films released (or they have a backup plan), or this theory really is not the case.
Even if Skye is not an Inhuman there is still the big question of Raina (Ruth Negga) and her ability to handle the obelisk. Maybe she is the Inhuman. Regardless, there needs to be more Raina in this series, period…but that is just one writer’s opinion.
There was also speculation about Phil Coulson being an alien, which is why he supposedly was handling the effects of GH-325 better than some of the others. I could swim with that, but it will take some more clues for me to really take it as a believable theory. In this episode, however, Coulson reveals he is still determined to fight the good fight alone, a character flaw that is consistently and believably portrayed. Coulson does not like involving others when it is something he believes he can do himself, and his inherent good nature (chaotic good, that is) is part of why we love him so much.
There is also the note that Coulson feels personally responsible for the actions of T.A.H.I.T.I. – for good reason, as he was the head of the project. Coulson continues to prove that he is a man who will not back down from responsibility and T.A.H.I.T.I. has continued to haunt him. However, it will only be so long before that bites him in the butt, and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) or the others may not be there to save him.
With the alien writing and its reveal taking center stage this week, everyone else got unfortunately relegated to supporting roles.
The ever popular but tragic FitzSimmons (Iain de Caestecker in what I might call a breakout role at this point, and Elizabeth Henstridge) has almost nothing to do save for the normal ‘analyze blood samples’ and monitor Coulson’s condition as he struggles through the memory machine. This also is the first episode of the series where Simmons does not address Fitz directly at any point, a sad milestone to reach given the beauty of their relationship last season.
After last week’s almost-revelatory conversation, I admit I was hoping we would see more about why Simmons left. Unfortunately, she could not talk about it, thus pushing that information to a later date. I am fine with waiting but this has become a heartbreaking storyline…which of course is exactly why it is so good.
We did get a lovely, almost out of character shock from Simmons as she informed Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) to his face that if she ever saw him again, she would kill him. I cheered for her there, shoring up my theory of a few weeks ago that she truly does love Fitz but cannot deal with him in his new state, thus why she left. Ward took ‘her’ Fitz and now she does not know what to do, especially as Fitz himself is clearly getting used to how he is now. He needs her to support him as he accepts himself and she cannot do that yet.
The other fairly exciting subplot of this episode was the revving-up storyline of Grant Ward being back on the streets and going after his Senator brother (family drama + politics = uh oh.).
I am very excited for this and thankful that the writers finally let him out of his cage. I still am not certain what he is up to or his motivations. He clearly was all about Skye the whole time he was in custody, and definitely has focused on her in an obsessive manner (could that be indicative of some kind of alien mind control Skye accidentally has? Crazy Theory 1…). It is possible he just locked onto her because he has lost everything else, but given his family history it is also possible that he is just insane.
During his escape through the bus station in this episode, however, Ward reveals that not only can he detect most S.H.I.E.L.D agents, he does not want to hurt them. He very noticeably warns Triplett (B.J. Britt) about the bomb that is wrapped around him, and he has fun toying with and blowing Morse’s (Adrianne Palicki) cover without hurting her.
Which side Ward is on remains to be seen, though I think we can safely assume it is whatever side Skye is on. In the end, there are too many unknowns surrounding Ward, which thankfully makes him a slightly more interesting character than he has been. I’m relieved Brett gets to do more!
Next week’s episode looks to be a real zinger for the series. Not only have we nailed down the meaning behind the writing, but our HYDRA friends are on the loose, one of which is bound and determined to settle a personal score. From the looks of it Raina is back, presumably with some information she has gleaned, and Leo Fitz gets to go on his first mission since Ward’s attack. The overall episode looks like it is going to be jam-packed, which ideally means an hour of fun. Hopefully our other characters get to shine a little more (I am sure they will), and we will be left with our breaths taken away. The midwinter hiatus is coming up, and I am looking forward to seeing where the action pauses!
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