By Josh Axelrod
This week’s “S.H.I.E.L.D” came with enough angst to fill a season of “Glee.” Skye wanted to know more about her father, Ward had brother issues, Fitz and Simmons had to pick up the pieces of their relationship and, most entertainingly, Hunter and Bobbi had to find a way to work together without constantly bickering. And while all this was going on, H.Y.D.R.A launched an ingenious plan to infiltrate a S.H.I.E.L.D safe house in Belgium.
Remember a few episodes ago when General Talbot mentioned that he was working with a senator with pretty deep pockets? Turns out said senator is none other than Christian Ward, Grant’s brother. It seems he’s intent on getting rid of S.H.I.E.L.D once for all, but he really just wants to gain custody of his brother. Christian is clearly one heck of a politician, because he realized it would be better to tell the world that his brother is a H.Y.D.R.A traitor than have that secret revealed in some other way.
After a H.Y.D.R.A attack at the United Nations, Christian introduces an act that would allow him to mobilize troops all over the world with the sole purpose of eradicating S.H.I.E.L.D (who H.Y.D.R.A made sure everyone thought was responsible for the assault). This obviously didn’t sit well with Coulson, who didn’t like the idea of having the entire planet against him.
So Coulson set out to end Christian’s crusade against S.H.I.E.L.D. He had Skye interrogate Ward about his brother, and sent out May, Hunter and Bobbi to find the H.Y.D.R.A scientist who designed the weapons used in the U.N. attack (flying disks that disintegrate people, the usual). And while the field agents were out and about, Simmons was trying to deal with the new Fitz and help him rebuild the damaged hard drive she stole from the H.Y.D.R.A facility last week.
The most fun storyline here was the Bobbi/Hunter team-up. Considering Hunter keeps describing his ex-wife as a “hell beast,” it was only a matter of time before the two would be forced to confront their issues. Having May in the middle was great, with her snarky comments and eyerolls really emphasizing how petty Hunter and Bobbi’s squabble really was.
Of course, the mission proved that the two can still work together to kick H.Y.D.R.A butt. They cleared out the first H.Y.D.R.A base pretty quickly, and then made quick work of the bad guys who took over the S.H.I.E.L.D safe house in Belgium. I’m not quite sure about how they left things though. It appeared Hunter was planning to leave, but Bobbi left him with a sly, “If you want to stay, stay.” Is he staying or not? I’m so confused!
Unfortunately, the three of them were too late to save the six S.H.I.E.L.D agents who H.Y.D.R.A got to first. It turned out H.Y.D.R.A’s plan all along was to make S.H.I.E.L.D think its agents would be safe in Belgium (of course Belgium’s U.N. representative was H.Y.D.R.A), only to round them up in one place and kill them. It worked, and all May and her team could do was hand over the H.Y.D.R.A agents they dispatched to a surprisingly sympathetic Talbot. Maybe there’s hope for his relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D yet.
Then there was the whole thing with Ward and his brother. The episode interspersed Skye’s chat with Ward with Coulson’s sit-down with Christian. It was tough to follow, mostly because it turned out Skye and Ward’s scene took place after Coulson convinced Christian to stop pushing his anti-S.H.I.E.L.D act in exchange for giving him his brother. I was afraid Skye would buy Ward’s sob story and let him go, but luckily she was smart enough to see through Ward’s manipulation.
The tough part here was deciding which Ward brother to trust. Both brothers insisted the other was mentally unstable and they were the trustworthy one in the family. Christian put what we know about Ward’s backstory completely into question. He claims Ward hurt his younger brother Thomas not at Christian’s orders, but because there’s some real darkness in Grant.
Based on the close-up of Ward’s eyes right before he escaped the S.H.I.E.L.D caravan taking him to to his brother, I’m more inclined to trust Christian. This makes it hard to believe anything Ward has ever said up until this point, so now the show has to delve into what’s true and false about that character. I’m still really happy the show isn’t trying to redeem Ward though, and instead is taking him down what appears an even darker path. Now that he’s free, it’ll be interesting to see who’s willing to take him in at this point.
Last but not least, we had the Fitz and Simmons drama. It became abundantly clear this week why Simmons left. Fitz was so much worse around her, fumbling with his words and lashing out even more than usual. I was happy to hear Mac call Simmons out for not talking things out with Fitz after he revealed his feelings for her before they escaped that pod last season. Fitz isn’t exactly a smooth operator either, but Simmons, being the one without brain damage, should be the bigger person in this case.
But while we’re talking about Simmons, she had the line of week. When Ward walked by her, not only did she step in front of Skye to protect her, but you could hear the venom in her words when she told Ward, “If I ever see you again, I’ll kill you.” This is sweet Gemma Simmons, who has shown by far the most growth of any character on this show. Elizabeth Henstridge continues to slay this role, and you can see how much her confidence has skyrocketed now that she has a little field word under her belt.
So where did we leave things? Ward is free, Hunter may or may not be leaving the team, Skye knows a little more about her father and the day her mother died in China, and Fitz and Simmons have a long road ahead of them to being okay. It’s a lot to pack into one episode, but it’s a testament to Season 2 of “S.H.I.E.L.D” that it was able to juggle all these storylines so adeptly. Good stuff.