The quinjet lands in Okinawa as the team discusses their options. Mori has lots of weapons, but their first option is a firefight where they take out as many people as they can. Option 2 is for Bobbi to go in, using her HYDRA cover that might be blown by this point after her escape from the lab with Simmons last week. “Deception’s her forte,” says Hunter, before adding, “I meant that in a good way, not passive aggressively, as in that’s a good aspect for a spy… oh bloody hell.” May says Bobbi can go in, but if anything feels off they’re coming in after her. Bobbi hands over her gun, knowing she’ll be frisked on the way in, and Hunter tells her, “Don’t die out there, alright?” as she heads out. The guards search her and then let her in, as May and Hunter watch security camera footage, and she’s lead to Mori. She greets him in Japanese, much to May’s surprise. “She has this annoying knack of picking things up very quickly,” Hunter tells her. Mori tells Bobbi that he likes her new blonde look, as it makes her look like a Southern girl. She smiles and asks if he thinks she did it for him, and he smiles back and says no. They come together and kiss, and May turns to Hunter and asks (like a smartass), “Still like option 2?”
Bobbi and Mori sit down at a table together, and Bobbi requests a particular type of green tea she had the last time they were together. Mori comments on how she always remembers every little detail, earning a comment from Hunter of, “Try being married to someone who remembers every little detail, it’s not that charming.” May looks at him and he continues, “You think I’m being petty, don’t you, but I’m not. I don’t have a problem with Bobbi kissing that guy.” “Good,” May says, “because you had a hickey on your neck for a week after the mission in Miami.” “Excuse me for doing my job thoroughly,” Hunter says, chastised, “and with style.” Watched by the guards, Mori tells her the tea has to steep for seven minutes, which Bobbi says gives them plenty of time to talk business. But first, he wants to clear up a nasty rumor that’s been running around, that Bobbi is working for SHIELD. “Aren’t we all?” she asks with a smile. She says she saw the news of the attack, in particular the weapons they had. She asks if he made them, and he’s clearly flattered by the compliment. “This poor sap’s buying everything she says,” Hunter says, “I just feel sorry for him.” He starts to launch on a story about the pearl earrings he gave her when May cuts him off, saying, “You know I don’t like you, right?”
Mori calls the devices “splinter bombs,” and when Bobbi asks if she can get her hands on one he tells her that they were all shipped out yesterday. He says they were based on HYDRA tech, given to him by Whitehall, but what he really wants from HYDRA is a chance to work on the Diviner. She’s never heard of that before, and he says that’s the name it was given by the lunatic who brought it in, and he hears it’s alien technology. May and Hunter realize he’s talking about the Obelisk. He mentions that Scarlotti is on his way to Beckers when Hunter intercepts a message for the guards breaking Bobbi’s cover. He runs out of the quinjet, and just as a guard gets in place to put a bullet in the back of Bobbi’s head Hunter shoots him. A quick, fierce battle breaks out, with the SHIELD team kicking ass and taking out Mori and his guards quickly. Hunter observes that Bobbi can thank him at any time, as he just saved her life. “This is just you peacocking,” she replies. He insists that he isn’t, “and sweetheart, nobody uses peacocking.” “Are you listening to yourself?” she asks, before continuing, “Of course you are, because you love the sound of your own voice.” May breaks up the fight, despite Hunter insisting that he just saved her life twice without getting any thanks. Scarlotti is headed to assassinate Beckers, the Belgian diplomat, which she is sure will cause even the neutral countries to fall in line with Christian Ward’s plan. They quickly set off for Belgium hoping to stop Scarlotti.
Simmons and Fitz are looking through files they’ve uncovered on the HYDRA drive. Simmons can’t find anything on the weapons, and Fitz has been staring at the same schematic for a while. When Simmons comes over to ask him what he’s learned, he again struggles with words, getting angry when she tries to help. She stays quiet but he’s still agitated, eventually telling her to stop looking at him. “I can’t even look at you now,” she says, stung. “I’m trying not to treat you any differently.” “I know, but I am different,” says Fitz. “I’m trying not to be but I am and you can’t accept it.” Simmons says that’s not fair and that she’s only trying to help. “You left,” he says, “and I needed help. Someone to help with things and talk through. You gave up on me.” Simmons insists she did no such thing, but Fitz doesn’t want to hear it. He tells her that she told him she was going to visit her parents, but instead she went off and could have been killed. He says she thinks he’s useless. Simmons says that’s not the reason she left, and when he asks why she says, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this, excuse me,” and walks out. As she leaves, Mack walks in behind Fitz, looking at him with concern on his face.
Christian Ward comes into his office to find Coulson sitting and waiting for him while looking through papers. “Don’t worry, I haven’t been waiting long,” sassy Coulson says. He introduces himself and offers his hand to Christian, who doesn’t take it. Coulson holds up the papers, saying that he assumes they’re for the speech he’s about to give. “I made a few changes, it’s funnier now,” he adds. He says he’s sure Talbot’s mentioned him, and when Christian tries to call security on his phone Coulson tells him that he won’t get through, and no one is going to check on him. Coulson says he wants to clear the air, telling Christian that the attack was perpetrated by Daniel Whitehall, not by SHIELD. Christian fights back, saying that Coulson wants something but has nothing to offer. He assumes Coulson wants him to change his speech to condemn HYDRA and support SHIELD. He says that the people like to have a simple enemy like SHIELD, because it makes them feel safer than if the issue is complex. Coulson then asks how the people would react to finding how his brother is HYDRA. “That’s a complicated idea to grasp, especially in an election year.” Christian asks if that’s a threat, but Coulson says he’s not threatening, just telling him that he has his brother in their basement.
Meanwhile, Skye has gone back downstairs to talk to Ward, who notices right away that the cameras have been turned off. He wants to know if Coulson knows she’s down there, and she says that he cut them off last time but now nobody is watching. Back in Christian’s office, he asks Coulson if Ward is alright and whether they “had to do anything” to him. Coulson says they have other ways of getting information from people, but he’s surprised that Christian is concerned. “I don’t have a brother but I always wanted one,” Coulson says. “As an only child you tend to idealize that relationship. Family has to take care of each other, right? But then again, I’ve heard otherwise.” He mentions the well, where Ward told the team that he was forced by Christian when they were young to torture their younger brother. “So it’s a well now?” Christian says. “You may think you know him, but trust me underneath every lie he tells is another lie.”
Ward is working on Skye from the opposite end, telling her she can’t trust Christian as he’s a master at manipulation. “I know what I am, but my brother is worse,” he says. Christian, meanwhile, tells Coulson his own version of events, about how their parents were always gone to some function or other. He tells how they would go down by the creek hunting salamanders or crawfish, but that he couldn’t leave Ward alone with their brother Thomas. One time he found Ward standing over Thomas with a screwdriver while Thomas screamed. “I saw something else behind his eyes,” Christian says, “something you’ve seen before as well. A second later it was gone and he was my little brother again. He told our parents I forced him to do it. I spent too much of my life trying to unravel his lies.” “So have I,” replies Coulson, but despite that Ward keeps telling them.
Ward insists again to Skye that he’s telling the truth, saying he didn’t get a chance to tell her about her father before. Skye says she’s giving him the chance now, and that she wants to know everything. Coulson, meanwhile, tells Christian that there’s a way they can both get what they want. Ward admits to Skye that her father killed people, “But everything he did because he loved you. I can’t fault him for that.” He tells her that the people who died in the Hunan province were HYDRA agents who had come across Skye and her mother. “My mother?” asks Skye, “is she alive too?” No, says Ward, they killed her, but he doesn’t know why. He says when Skye’s father got there he just lost it, and tore up the whole village and everyone in it. Skye wants to know how he did it, and what exactly he is. “Whatever he is, he lost his whole family in one day. And he cracked, but now he wants to put it back together.” Ward says that he can take her to him, because he has connections. Skye asks him what connections he could possibly have, as Raina is now gone. Ward insists he’s resourceful, but Skye wants to know everything he knows. “Please, Ward,” she begs. He says no, but that they can find him together. “I promise you,” he adds. “Thank you for telling me everything you know,” Skye says. “It’s time to get you out of here.” Ward’s surprised, but she reveals that he’s being transferred to his brother, who wants him in custody. She’d been playing him the whole time.
Coulson tells May over the radio that he’s struck a deal with Christian, that he’ll reverse his proposal for a military group designed to hunt down SHIELD in exchange for Ward. May asks if Skye got everything she needed from him, and she says yes. Coulson tells her to save Beckers before HYDRA gets to him, or none of it will matter. If he’s killed then even Christian’s policy switch won’t stop HYDRA’s plan. Fitz and Mack, meanwhile, are bonding while they look at the schematic that Fitz has been focused on for so long. Mack tells Fitz that he’s right, to which Fitz replies, “Why do you look so surprised? I’d be surprised too.” As Simmons comes up they tell her what they’ve found. The splinter bombs are based on bombs from the 1940’s that were originally built for Red Skull. The bombs were designed by someone named Vincent Beckers. “We need to find Coulson right now!” Simmons says, running from the room.
Coulson is downstairs with Ward, who is trying to convince him not to trust Christian. “Three and a half weeks!” Coulson says. “I sat in this chair for three and a half weeks and you never said a word. But now you want to talk. Well it’s too late.” Ward insists that everything he told Skye was true, and that he hasn’t given them one bad piece of intel. “You will never see Skye again,” Coulson says point blank. Ward says that he can still help them, “I’m still part of your team.” “My team?” says Coulson, standing up. “You are not nor will you ever be on my team. You drop FitzSimmons out of a plane! You murdered Victoria Hand and Eric Koenig! You betrayed every one of us you son of a bitch! The only reason you’re alive is because you’re of use and the only reason you’re being transferred is because your brother is of more use.” Ward asks if it was Coulson’s idea or Christian’s to put him on trial. “It’s a good story,” Ward says, “a man brave enough to have his own brother executed for his crimes. The trial should wrap up right before midterms.” “Your brother saw the same angles,” Coulson says. “You’re more alike than you think.” At that moment Trip runs in and tells Coulson they need him.
Vincent Beckers was the grandfather of Julien Beckers, the Belgian diplomat supposedly in danger. Coulson realizes that HYDRA is targeting one of their own and that SHIELD is being played. He tells May to reroute to a safehouse in Bruges. We then see Agent Walters in that very safehouse, where she is confronted by Julien Beckers. She tells him that they have agents looking for him, and asks how he found the safehouse. “I followed them here,” he says, pointing to dead SHIELD agents on the floor in the hall. Back at the Playground, the team checks the SHIELD map to find May’s location and realizes something is very wrong. All of their agents have moved to Belgium. Coulson says that Whitehall didn’t actually want to turn the world against them, he just wanted them to think that Belgium would provide a safe haven for them, bringing SHIELD agents from a wide area into one small country where it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. Walters is trapped as Scarlotti and his commandos enter the safe house. Beckers goes to leave, telling Scarlotti, “I’ll leave you to what you do best.” Scarlotti pulls out a knife and moves in close to Walters, who gives him a head butt for the trouble. “Shame,” he says, “I prefer to take my time.” He stabs her in the gut and then pulls away, and as he does we see that he’s jammed a splinter bomb into the wound. As it goes off, Walters tells him, “HYDRA will never defeat…” before dissolving into dust.
Hunter knocks on the door and comes in, and the HYDRA agents all train their guns on him. “Woah, woah, woah,” he says, putting his hands up, “hail HYDRA, guys, hail HYDRA.” He walks across the room to a fridge, grabs a beer and asks them if they’ve tried the local selection. “It comes from a brewery around the corner. Ask for Zoe, she’ll hook you up.” He offers one to a HYDRA agent, but is told he has ten seconds to explain what he’s doing there. “I’m a merc, mate, like you lot. And if you’re looking to take out a few SHIELD agents higher up the food chain, I happen to know a couple. They just need about…” He pauses and then continues, “90 seconds to get in position.” Scarlotti and his team look confused until Bobbi and May come smashing through the windows behind them, taking out two HYDRA soldiers in the process. Scarlotti runs and May chases after him, while Bobbi and Hunter handle the rest. Scarlotti pulls out a knife and then drops it to reveal that it’s attached to the end of a chain. He whips it around, slicing at May from a distance or sending it flying straight at her, while she leaps and dodges but can’t get in an attack. Bobbi and Hunter work well together, with Hunter smashing one with a chair and then tossing the broken chair leg to Bobbi to use to knock out another one. As May dodges one lunge of the knife, it embeds itself in the wall behind her. She grabs it, snapping off the chain, and things are now even. As an agent prepares to shoot Bobbi with a splinter bomb, Hunter kicks another agent in the way, saving her life for the third time today. She attacks the soldier who fired the bomb through the one who was hit as he dissolves, knocking the last of them out. Scarlotti gets the chain wrapped around May’s neck, but she head butts him anyway, returning the favor and strangling him, before knocking him out and sending him to the floor with a kick to the chest.
Altogether, not the most memorable episode of SHIELD, but still another solid entry. It was one of those episodes that’s all about moving the pieces, setting things up for the future. They’re necessary in any show, and this was one of the more entertaining and exciting examples of that type of episode. We got some new things to consider with Ward, not to mention his escape from SHIELD, plus some new insight into Simmons, more outstanding action and stuntwork, and some good comedy from Hunter and Bobbi. Toss in a subtle reference to an historic Marvel character (Mark Scarlotti was one of several characters to take the identity of Whiplash in the comics), and I still call this episode a win. Remember to check out my instant reaction for some additional things to ponder, as well as my usual SHIELD thoughts below.
So who do you believe: Grant Ward or Christian Ward? Back in “The Well” we saw a story from their past, when their younger brother Thomas was in the bottom of a well, apparently put there by Christian. Grant tried to rescue him, but was threatened that if he did then he would find himself down there with Thomas. Grant tortured himself with flashbacks of that memory, beating himself up over the fact that he failed to protect his younger brother and even allowed himself to be bullied into bullying. Tonight, however, we heard a different story from Christian, about how he found Grant standing over Thomas with a screwdriver and with a horrible look in his eye. He said that he couldn’t leave Grant alone with Thomas. Who do you believe? We actually saw the well incident in flashback last season (rather than just hearing about it), but since we were seeing it through Grant’s head there’s no telling how reliable it was. It’s clear that both brothers are doucebags (as Skye put it), but where does the truth lie? Were they both bullies to Thomas and each other? Was one responsible and the other just a victim as well? It doesn’t have any bearing on the plot of the story, but it does on Grant’s personality and state of mind, and I’ll be curious to see whether we learn the truth this season. Right now, I don’t trust either of them.
How do you think Ward’s escape will affect the rest of the season? What is his goal in escaping, other than obviously avoiding execution? If I had to make a bet, I’d bet that he’ll set out to prove himself to Coulson’s team and Skye in particular, perhaps even going so far as to kidnap her in order to reunite her with her father. I’m intrigued by Brett Dalton’s claim that, “It’s not your typical redemptive arc.” Most villains think that they’re really the hero, and I think we’re definitely in that situation with Ward. He thinks he’s been doing so good, giving Coulson and Skye intel on HYDRA, and that he’s still part of the team. His sense of reality is warped, and people in that situation become wild cards. He might help SHIELD one moment and betray them (while thinking he’s helping) the next. As much as I enjoyed Ward playing Hannibal Lecter in the basement, I’m much more excited now that he’s free.
I have to take a moment to talk about the Avengers: Age of Ultron clip that aired during the commercials last night. The original plan was to debut the first trailer for the film, but as we all know that was leaked and then officially released last week (and I analyzed it here), so Marvel had to come up with something else. In its place, they aired a quick clip (previously seen at Comic-Con) that showed the Avengers socializing and discussing Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Barton (with Maria Hill beside him) argues that it’s a trick, while Stark just jumps right in and tries to lift it, promising to be “fair but firmly cruel” when he gets to rule Asgard after lifting it. He fails and then tries to use the arm of the Iron Man suit, and even has Rhodey and his War Machine arm try to help him (“Just represent!”). Steve Rogers actually gets it to shift ever so slightly, earning a look of alarm from Thor before it becomes stationary again. In the clip’s best moment, Romanoff declines the offer to try, saying, “Oh, no, that’s not a question I need answered.” The rest of the trailer is almost identical to the one released last week, except for a new shot of a tablet displaying a view of Loki’s scepter. We know the scepter is still in play from the mid-credits scene of The Winter Soldier, but it’s too early to say what role it will play in the film. I liked the new clip, particularly as it helped showcase a different tone than the very serious trailer. I expect Age of Ultron to be much darker than The Avengers, but I don’t want it to lose that trademark Joss Whedon humor either. Of course, this clip was overshadowed by the announcement of all of the Marvel Phase 3 films, which I hope to write about later in the week.
Every week FitzSimmons finds a new way to break my heart. Tonight’s struggle between the pair was the saddest I’ve been, and it was tough to watch Fitz push Simmons away so quickly after she returned. Also, from the bit of mumbling we saw, it seems that Fitz is still seeing another version of Simmons in his head, and at this point he might actually prefer her to the real one, as she’s easier to control. I’m glad Fitz has Mack, but I can’t tell if I feel sorrier for Fitz or Simmons at this point. Fitz has clearly taken to heart the idea that he’s broken and different, while Simmons just wants what’s best for him. She even confessed that that’s why she left, not because she wanted to avoid him or to dodge his confession of his feelings, but simply because she was making him worse. It’s what made her promise to kill Ward all the more painful, because it shows how much of a toll the loss of her relationship with Fitz has taken on her. She now not only blames Ward for hurting Fitz, but for ruining the best relationship she had in her life.
Looks like we have to wait two weeks for the next episode (which is good for me since I’ll be travelling next week), due in part to Marvel airing a retrospective of the company during our normal SHIELD time next week. It also might be due to the 4th being election day in the US, and people might be watching election returns on TV (or doing their best to avoid them). Regardless, the next episode looks intense, as it promises to provide some big revelations about Coulson and the alien writing. We saw Coulson in some sort of medical scanner (being run by Simmons), perhaps trying to figure out where his visions are coming from. But we also saw Skye pointing a gun and saying “Don’t make me use this.” It looks like it’ll be a big mythology show, focusing on advancing one of the big mysteries of the season, and I wish I didn’t have to wait two weeks to see it!
Does anyone have any theories about the tattooed man from the final scene? Clearly he’s also seeing the same alien writing as Coulson, but how did he get this ability? Was he also injected with GH-325 (or something else from the alien corpse)? Maybe he has a connection to the Diviner? Is there any Marvel comics character who fits what we saw of him? Is he the one who carved into the back of the painting? Is there any significance to the fact that he chose tattoos, or is it simply to help him remember (or to look cool)? Will he end up being an enemy, an ally, or something in between? Does he know Skye’s father? So many questions, so few answers.
What do you think? Did you enjoy “A Fractured House”? What do you make of Grant and Christian’s relationship? What will Ward do now that he’s escaped? Did you enjoy seeing more interaction between Bobbi and Hunter? What’d you think of May’s latest kickass fight sequence? On a scale of 1 to 10, how heartbreaking is FitzSimmons right now? Is Mack your favorite new character? What’s up with the tattooed man? Did you enjoy the Age of Ultron clip? Are you going to tune in to the Marvel special next week, or be like me and sit around moping and wishing SHIELD was on? Let me know in the comments, and if you’re in the US, remember to go and vote!