Friday, May 1, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2x19 "The Dirty Half Dozen" [Contributor: Alice Walker]

"The Dirty Half Dozen"
Original Airdate: April 28, 2015

Hello and welcome to the first ever Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. review on Just About Write! We're closing in on the end of the season and the reviews here are just starting because the internet is funny like that. There's a lot to cover and many relationships to dive into this week, so let's get to it.

The OG Six

As we all know, last year the show got a dramatic makeover after the HYRDA reveal in The Winter Solider. The stakes were raised, the shadows came to life, Ward was lost to the dark side. While I think this has in many ways greatly improved the show, the one aspect that has suffered because of it is the relationships. This season has been crammed with: new agents all vying for our attention (it took me weeks to learn Mack's name and not just call him Agent Tank), new relationships (Bobbi and Hunter were introduced as the second coming of Mr. & Mrs. Smith), and new locations (the BUS, the base, the afterlife, etc.), all of which were nearly impossible to emotionally invest in because we never stayed in one place or with one person long enough. Try as they might to add others into the mix, the characters I care about, I root for, and squeal when they come on screen are the core six: Coulson, May, Fitz, Simmons, Skye, and Ward.

So this episode was something of a treat as the A-plot was unquestionably the reunion of our core-sixers, who have been more spread out than usual the last few weeks. Having Coulson and Fitz be split from May and Jemma while Skye is off getting to know both her parents and her powers has been awkward to watch and their reunion just proves that the show works best when this group stays in focus.

To the mission: Coulson convinces Gonzalez to let himself, May, and FitzSimmons launch and rescue mission to save the kidnapped Mike Peterson and Lincoln from HYRDA, and he's called in a ringer. After weeks of small appearances and B-plots, we finally get Agent Ward back in play. Damaged, conflicted Ward is more than ready to help out the team in exchange for... saving Agent 33? Not getting killed? The chance at redemption? The hope of seeing Skye again? I'm not sure, but as a pretty dedicated SkyeWard shipper I am really crossing my fingers it's the latter.  Just as the team takes off, in pops Skye and without much fuss, they get right to it.

The mission is a rescue op, but the main event was the stunning tracking shot on Skye as she delivered a series of headshots and blows, competently taking out enemies with deadly skill. It was a perfectly executed sign of not only how far Skye has come  with her powers (controlling them before going in to fight) but also as an agent. Remember when she couldn't  throw a punch?  It also shows how the show itself has developed, looking more like Daredevil as she shoots to kill anyone she comes across. As far as development goes, Skye has come the farthest and I love that SHIELD gives us countless examples of women who can fight better then anyone.

Speaking of character development, we saw a few different Wards in this episode. First, the romantic side as he get's all gooey with Agent 33, then the confident and brash agent when he get's back to  SHIELD and finally earnest and seeking the forgiveness of friends when he is alone with his original team. Through it all, I am still not sure where his heart is. His speeches about bygones don't quite ring genuine. It's a little too earnest, it's a little too calculated. We heard him talk from the heart in season one, and this doesn't quite match that. Is he a sociopath like everyone keeps insisting? I don't think so. I think this is just Ward 3.0, the wildcard, and major kudos are due to Brett Dalton for making every version of Grant Ward so distinct. He left on a pretty ambiguous note and I am crossing my fingers that they bring him back in full-time. The layers he brings (not to mention the hotness) to the series are very much needed these days.

In the end, they get Mike and Lincoln, but Jemma ultimately kills Bakshi (RIP, generic bad guy)  trying to fulfill her promise to kill Ward. Jemma's arc has been a problem for me this season. Her dark streak has felt sudden, almost forced. I find it a little hard to believe she was ready and willing to murder Ward, and I need something more significant than Tripp's death to trigger her dark side.  They've turned the once mirror image FitzSimmons into a study in contrast, as he find comfort in embracing change while she so clearly fears it.


Edward James Olmos, I want so much more for you than what Gonzalez has been bringing. He has the gravitas and bearing but has thus far been relegated to stock clich├ęs about trust and sacrifice for the greater good. I get that we need a non-HYDRA threat to Coulson, but let's give the man a little more to do! His secret in the cargo hold is a promising start; let's hope it's more interesting than classified files.

In one of the most anti-climactic reunions to date, Mack and Hunter quickly shake off their fight and make up. Either Hunter is lying in this scene, or they are doing some last minute character adjustments in light of the new Hunter/Bobbi spinoff in the works. The forgiveness came too quickly, after far too much buildup about betrayal. I'm trying to care about these people, I just need a little more consistent characterizations.

Meanwhile... in the afterlife

Jiaying is a leader, there is no doubt. She consistently makes the hard calls, trying to dump Cal, leaving Lincoln to be tortured. Soft and nice as she is, she has a steel core that is entirely dedicated to protecting the Inhumans. Her ruthless side is coming out, and I think we will see a lot more of it before the show is over for the year.

She is also starting to get clued in that Raina plus insane powers might equal bad news bears for her leadership with the Inhumans (Cal's description of Raina and their history was spot-on). They still haven't figured out exactly what she can do now, or why having the ability to see the future coincided with her thorny makeover, but they do know she is powerful.

More importantly, Raina now knows it. Before her transformation, Raina was the picture of control, working every angle she could, including her looks to gain the upper hand of any situation. She was beautiful and charming and being transformed so completely warped not only how she saw herself, it wiped away the dream she had been holding onto since she was a little girl. The transformation was her hope, her drive, and when she became more monster than angel, she lost everything.

She's been revived by attention from Gordon and now that her ability to see the future has come to light, she has found a new angle to work, a new power to wield.  She knows her powers are her chance for control and her manipulation is in full force this week. Jiaying should be cautious of her: power is not something she will willingly relinquish.

A note about The Avengers 

I don't love the Avengers tie-ins, especially when they aren't going to impact the show in any real way. It takes us out of the action we spend months building and reminds us to go pay attention to something else. I adore Agent Maria Hill but her appearance was flat and all but Skyped in. I guess we'll have to see next week what the movie/TV crossover will result in. I'm hoping it's both unobtrusive and fun - not shoehorned in for promotion.

Notable Quotables: 
  • "Well.. it's good to see my BUS, but hey, you look well too." 
  • "My names Mike. I think we got knocked out together." 
  • "May's actually pretty friendly... once you get to know her." 
  • "I went to him for counseling, he was the only therapist I could talk to about my alien writing impulses." 
  • "He's like candyman."