*Update: My full recap of “A Fractured House” is now live. Read it here!
Agents of SHIELD has been so solid this season, delivering one great episode after another. Last week was a particular highlight that advanced many different plots, reunited the team, and added Bobbi Morse to the equation. Tonight’s episode, “A Fractured House,” didn’t deliver quite the punch, but it still had some great moments, including a continuation of high-quality action this season. The pieces on the board were moved around tonight, and things are being set up for bigger events down the road. We’ll have to see how it all plays out, but for now here are my instant reactions to tonight’s episode. Look for my recap to post sometime tomorrow.
- Tonight’s episode felt a bit like a bridge (not to be confused with “The Bridge” from last season). That’s not a bad thing at all, and even the most tightly plotted shows have a few episodes like this per season. It didn’t feel like there was a singular narrative to tonight’s episode, nor did it feel like a big step along the path we’ve be set upon thus far this season. Instead, it was more of a step sideways, resetting the game a little bit, taking a slight breather from the breakneck pace, while shoring up other aspects of the show. It was still very entertaining and emotional, and it will have a big impact on how the show progresses going forward, but I feel like at the end of the season this episode will be one of the less memorable.
- The biggest development tonight has to be Ward’s escape. We knew they couldn’t keep him behind invisible bars forever, and Coulson wasn’t about to let him rejoin the team, so I’m excited to see what happens next. I certainly don’t trust him, but neither do I trust his brother. Was Grant Ward really a sadistic child, or was Christian manipulating Coulson? What is Ward’s motivation? Obviously he doesn’t want to be executed for his brother’s political gain, but he clearly has an agenda beyond simply running. His final line to Coulson, about how he’ll keep his promise to Skye, was pretty foreboding. What will Ward be willing to do to reunite Skye and her father? And will he justify it to himself by saying that it’s what she really wants? Brett Dalton promises that, “It’s not your typical redemptive arc,” but it’s too soon to know what that means. Still, the idea of Ward as a wild card on his own is an intriguing possiblity.
- Favorite Quote: Skye: “I guess being a douchebag runs in the family.”
- Once again, Iain De Caestecker is proving to be this season’s MVP of acting. He’s been able to rip my heart open every single episode, and tonight was no exception. When he told Simmons that he is different but is trying not to be… oof, that got to me. I’m glad that we finally learned the reason Simmons left, when she confessed to Mack that her presence was making Fitz worse, although it was tragic to hear. All of the scenes between these two just tore me apart, and as much as I want things to return to normal for the characters, from a drama standpoint it’d be hard to ask for anything more.
- Mack, meanwhile, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite characters. He doesn’t get a lot of lines each episode (although he got more than Trip tonight), but he makes the most of them. I love how he interacts with Fitz, and how he can get Fitz to relax enough to even be able to make fun of himself. Fitz just seems more alive and more like the old Fitz when Mack is around. But, of course, Mack is also the watcher of the group, able to see clearly what others can’t, which puts him in a great position to offer advice to Simmons.
- Favorite Quote: May: “You know I don’t like you, right?”
- We got a more in-depth look at the relationship between Hunter and Bobbi tonight, with some snarky attitude from both of them while May just rolled her eyes. I get the feeling that they’re both so competitive and skilled that they’re too alike to make a good long term match, but that they still have a spark as a couple. I like that May is having none of his complaining about her or his old stories about when they were married. And Coulson won’t put up with any awkwardness between them. There’s obviously still feelings and respect between the two, so I’ll be interested to see where this hint of romance goes.
- There were a couple of things I really liked about Bobbi’s role tonight. First, of course, is the fact that she was wearing a Star Wars shirt around the Playground. But more importantly, I liked that she had seduced Toshiro. If seducing people for information is going to be a part of SHIELD tactics, as we saw from Hunter two weeks ago, then it needs to be that way for both male and female agents. Not only did I like that she was manipulating Toshiro, but I liked that May called out Hunter on his hypocrisy and that he struggled to defend it.
- Skye got to do a bit of a Natasha Romanoff impression tonight, opening up to Ward and showing some vulnerability and desperation, only to be using him to get the information she needs before he’s sent away. I like to think May taught both her and Romanoff that trick. I thought for sure that she was really going behind Coulson’s back to talk to Ward, but I liked the twist that she was doing it with his and May’s knowledge. We didn’t get any earth shattering info about her father, beyond the story that he killed everyone in the village (who were all apparently HYDRA agents) after discovering that Skye’s mother had been killed.
- Favorite Quote: Coulson: “You betrayed every one of us you son of a bitch!”
- Two littles thing that I thought were worth noticing. it seems like May was married in the past! Was she married to Coulson, as many Philinda shippers believe? Is she still married to Coulson? Also, I liked how Talbot was actually a voice of reason in the political sphere, insisting to Christian Ward that the attack wasn’t committed by SHIELD. And then later when he shook May’s hand in solidarity over the deaths of her soldiers. It makes him more human and less of a caricature. This season has enough villains, it’s good to have some more ambiguous figures.
- Tonight continued the streak of great action on the show. Last week gave us just a hint of it as Bobbi beat up some HYDRA guards, and of course two weeks ago gave us the epic May vs May showdown. Tonight, May got to take on a HYDRA agent posing as a SHIELD agent, who fights with the most ridiculous weapon ever (yet which still feels at home in this universe), a knife on the end of a chain. It was a silly setup, but it allowed for some great fight choreography and visually interesting action. Add in some great fighting from Hunter and Bobbi, including the moment when he shoved a HYDRA agent in the way of the splinter bomb, and Bobbi went through the dissolving guy to knock out another agent. It’s clear the fight choreography has taken a huge step up from last season, where the most memorable battle occurred in the final episode as May trashed Ward.
- So the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer leaked last week (and then was officially released), so they changed their plans to debut the trailer during tonight’s episode and instead gave us a clip from the film. I’ll talk about it more in my recap, but it was a fun clip, setting a different tone than the trailer. Of course, the clip was overshadowed by today’s expansive announcement of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stretching into 2019 and including sequels for Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor, new films based on Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and Inhumans, all wrapping up with a two-part Avengers 3. Look for my thoughts on all of that news later this week, hopefully.
- Tonight’s final scene was one of those “What the hell is going on?” scenes. We saw a new face (Brian Van Holt) wander into a tattoo parlor wanting the tattoo artist to finish his ink. He takes off his shirt to reveal that he’s covered in the alien writing, and as the artist starts to work the man puts his hand on the back of the artist’s helping to guide the tattoo. We obviously have no idea who this guy is, how he knows the alien writing, or what his motives are, but it’s definitely possible he’s responsible for the writing on the back of the painting Coulson recovered. I imagine we’ll see more of him next week as Coulson’s alien crisis seems to be coming to a head.
What do you think? Did you enjoy “A Fractured House”? What did you make of Ward’s brother? Are you happy Ward is out of his cell? What is he planning? Do you think Simmons will really kill him if she sees him again? What do you think of the Hunter/Bobbi relationship? May was married to Coulson, right? Is Fitz the most emotional aspect of the season? Who is the tattooed man? What did you think of the Age of Ultron clip? Let me know in the comments!