Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Love in the Time of Hydra”

"Love in the Time of Hydra"

Every serialized show on occasion has to do what I call a “positioning the pieces” episode, and that’s exactly what we got on this week’s Agents of SHIELD.  These episodes often precede a much bigger episode or string of episodes, and based on the preview for next week things will definitely be big.  Last time on SHIELD was all about the character development, giving us deeper looks at Skye’s predicament as well as some background and intriguing history on her father and on the Inhumans.  This week the Inhumans story took a back seat to the show shuffling around its characters in a build up to next week’s showdown, but we also finally got to see what Ward’s been up to since he was shot by Skye in the midseason finale.  So let’s jump into “Love in the Time of Hydra”, written by Brent Fletcher and directed by Jesse Bochco.

  • “Love in the Time of HYDRA” had three concurrent plotlines running, all of which were mostly separate from each other.  The episode opened with Ward and Agent 33 ordering pancakes at a diner, acting flirty with each other.  Agent 33 still looks like May, but is wearing sunglasses to hide most of the portion of her face where the nanomask was damaged.  We learn that she saved Ward, dragging him from the facility in Puerto Rico and nursing him back to health.  She confesses that she feels lost, but before they can discuss it more or eat their pancakes, they spot the person they’ve been waiting for.  They leap to their feet, drawing their guns, and they approach a frightened man.  He offers them his wallet, but 33 instead insists that he’s going to fix her face.
  • He patches her face by giving her a new contact lens, attaching a chip to the damaged portion of her face, and like magic she’s back to looking 100% like May.  He gives her instructions on how to use the scanner in the contact lens to capture new faces, and she changes her appearance to match his.  It won’t be as precise as before, but she’ll be able to store up to three faces at a time.  When she refuses his suggestion to turn the mask off, he offers that she might be able to find an old picture of herself and regain her old face, but she isn’t keen on that either.  Instead, later, she flips through a magazine copying the faces of the models she sees.  Ward tells her he’s going out to get a surprise for her, but she doesn’t know what it could be now that they “took care” of the doctor to keep him from talking.  33 worries that she doesn’t have any way to repay him for everything he’s done for her, but he tells her not to worry about that.
  • Ward returns to find 33 has transformed in to Skye, which she thinks is the best way to repay him.  She kisses him, and while he hesitates for a moment in confusion or even pain, he returns the kiss for a while before stopping things.  He insists that it’s not what he wants, and that he now knows that Skye isn’t interested in him, as the bullets she put in him really drove home the message.  33 is upset, apologizing and saying how stupid she was, and when he tries to comfort her she says that “there is no me” anymore, that whatever identity she had was wiped out by Whitehall.
  • Ward’s surprise might help with that, as it’s Bakshi’s file, showing that he is being held in General Talbot’s facility.  33 finally has a chance for some payback.  33 infiltrates the building by posing as Talbot’s wife, before taking the face of other soldiers in order to get past security.  She locates Bakshi as Ward breaks in to assist, and the two head to his prison cell.  Bakshi is happy to see 33, thinking she’s come to rescue him, but is confused when Ward arrives.  He asks her whose orders she’s following, and she says she’s following her own orders.  Bakshi tries to talk her down, using some of the Hydra brainwashing buzzwords, but as soon as he mentions compliance she knocks him out cold.
  • Favorite Quote: Skye: “Back on the DL.”  Fitz: “The down… low…?” Skye: “The disabled list.”  Fitz: “Ahh, yeah, that makes more sense.”
  • Meanwhile, back at SHIELD, Skye’s bruises are starting to heal, but the stress fractures in her arms will take a while longer.  She’s upset that she’s still sidelined, and when Fitz tries to put a positive spin on things she shoots him down, despite his insistence that he would never patronize her.  Fitz and Simmons start to argue about Skye’s powers and the best course of action (more on that a little later), and the room starts to shake as things get heated.  Fitz and Simmons stop arguing and insist that it’s not actually about her, but Skye won’t buy that and heads back to the Cage as the tremors stop.  Coulson and May discuss Andrew’s recommendation that Skye be removed from SHIELD, and Coulson is surprised that May agrees.  She tells him that she has no idea how to handle Skye, and when he tells her that she always finds a way she reminds him of Bahrain.  He tells her that Skye has changed inside and no longer knows herself.
  • After getting a mysterious package from Simmons, Coulson’s solution is to take Skye for a mystery trip, and he tells her to pack a bag.  She says she feels like Old Yeller, which is a reference he’s surprised she gets.  Once on board the quinjet, Coulson offers her a Redvine as he tells her about his dad.  He says that his father was a car guy, and would always force Coulson to keep working on an old junker when he’d rather be out with his friends.  But when they were finished, Coulson was finally able to appreciate the car, which he felt was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.  Skye asks him if the car was a red 1962 Corvette, which now flies.  He admits it was, but says the thing he’s proudest about is that despite all of the changes that have happened to the car, at its core it’s still a Corvette inside.
  • The metaphor isn’t lost on Skye, but she’s not thrilled with their final destination, a cabin in the woods.  It’s a peaceful setting that also happens to be a safe house for people with powers, in which Steve Rogers even spent a bit of time following his thawing.  Coulson is pulling her from active duty, and he wants her to spend some time in the cabin in order to help learn how to control her powers more safely.  She doesn’t like that she’s being treated like a werewolf in isolation, but he insists that it’s not like that, telling her she has a video link to the base and May will visit every few days.  To help, he gives her a pair of gloves which might look familiar to Marvel Comics fans of Quake and her gauntlets.  Coulson tells Skye that Simmons created the gloves in order to help lessen her powers, but that they might have some side effects, so he leaves the choice of whether to wear them up to her.  He tells her that this is only temporary, and she’s one of the few people he knows he can trust, and gives her a hug before leaving.  Oh, and she should be careful if she goes fishing because the area is surrounded by a laser fence.
  • Favorite Quote: Hunter: “Thanks for the democracy lesson, Lady Thomas Jefferson.”
  • The third major plotline this week followed the big revelation at the end of last week’s episode.  Hunter is introduced to the “real SHIELD,” which is being led by Gonzales (guest star Edward James Olmos), and includes Weaver, the head of the technical division at the academy from back in season 1.  They feel like SHIELD has too many secrets, and that things need a level of transparency that didn’t exist under Nick Fury and doesn’t exist under Coulson.  Hunter will be the first to admit that Coulson’s not perfect (he “sometimes chews with his mouth open and tends to hog the mike on karaoke nights”), but he still thinks Coulson is a good guy and can’t believe that Bobbi would support this.  Of course, Bobbi walks in at that moment and joins the meeting.  Hunter is angry that she didn’t confide all of this to him, but Gonzales continues the discussion, pointing to the death of Agent Hartley as something Coulson could have avoided, along with Trip’s death and what happened to Raina and Skye.  They think Coulson has been compromised, and Bobbi and Mack have been gathering intel to support this assumption.  Ever since he was resurrected they’ve questioned his judgment, especially as his obsession with the alien writing, the lost city, and the diviner grew.
  • The “real SHIELD” isn’t sure whether to trust Hunter, and they’re worried about whether Bobbi can be impartial given her recent involvement with Hunter.  They decide to keep Hunter locked up until the situation with Coulson is resolved.  Bobbi apologizes to Hunter for bringing him in as Hartley’s backup in the first place, saying she never expected him to stay or to care.  The pair reminisces about a horrible road trip to Arizona, and about the their first meeting.  Their entire relationship was based on a foundation of lies, so he’s not surprised that he was still being lied to.  He offers her a chance to meet him halfway, and the two of them can just walk away, but she insists she needs to stay and see things finished.  He then declares he’s leaving, and knocks out the two guards outside his door while she tells him he’ll never escape.  He runs down corridors before bursting through a door to discover that he’s actually onboard an aircraft carrier (helicarrier? Probably not.).
  • Favorite Quote: Hunter: “Perhaps we could have discussed this alone, without all of Hufflepuff looking on.”
  • He steals a submersible pod and disappears, disabling the GPS.  They jam his communications so he can’t warn Coulson, but he’ll have made it to land in 12 hours and by then all bets are off.  They’ve gotten new intel from Mack that Skye has gone into hiding, and they wonder whether Coulson is stockpiling enhanced individuals, but Bobbi dismisses that idea.  She asks to go in and lead the operation to take out Coulson and his secrets, but some members of the “real Hydra” still don’t trust her thanks to Hunter’s escape.  Besides, she only has 12 hours.  Bobbi, however, says she can do it in 6.
  • So the stage is set for a big showdown next week, as we see Coulson and his team besieged by the “real SHIELD.”  Even Skye isn’t safe, as they apparently send a team after her as well.  Things don’t look very good for our heroes, although perhaps not all is as it seems.  Coulson and May confessed to each other that they don’t trust Mack, especially after he gave a pretty lame excuse about Hunter upon his return.  Plus, and I might be crazy here, I’m not convinced that Bobbi is actually with this other organization.  Perhaps she’s working undercover for Coulson, just like she did with HYDRA when we first met her.  Either way, it looks like we’ll get to see her fight May, which should be thrilling.  However, I’m pretty sure that this other group doesn’t have the purest of intentions, and that they’re after more than just transparency and a leader who they feel isn’t compromised.  Power is always a strong motivating force, though I wouldn’t think that people with an aircraft carrier at their command would feel particularly threatened by Coulson and the Bus.  I think what they’re really after are Coulson’s secrets, particularly what’s in the “tool box” that Nick Fury left him.
  • Favorite Quote: Skye: “Just to be clear, I’m the Corvette in this story, right?”
  • The final scene of the night gave us a final look at Ward and Agent 33.  We watched as 33 finally turned off her nanomask to reveal her natural (albeit burnt) face.  Ward says it’s nice to finally meet her, and reintroduces himself.  “Kara,” she says, finally giving us something more than a number to call her.  Ward says he’s proud of her, and that this is just the beginning.  The camera pans back to reveal Bakshi sitting in front of a screen with his eyes taped open, forced to watched a swirl of color as he is brainwashed.  He asks if his compliance will be rewarded if he obeys, and as Kara leans over to look him in the eye she says, “To be honest, it really won’t make a difference.”
  • What are Ward and Kara’s plans for Bakshi?  What are their larger aims which they think a brainwashed soldier will help them accomplish.  Their story was really interesting this week, and kind of heartbreaking to see 33/Kara go from being an insecure woman lacking identity, to one who has found an identity which seems to be pretty malevolent.  Ward’s really done a number on her.  As for Ward himself, he’s definitely more bitter than he was before, particularly when he told Kara the story of his parents leaving him hollow, only for that void to be filled by someone who made him a killer.  It was interesting how he told her about finally being able to express his feelings with his family as if it were a healthy step when in fact he murdered them all.  Was he lying to her to protect her image of him, or does he actually believe he’s healthier now?  After going a few weeks with no Ward, it was nice to catch up with him and to see that the character is still evolving.
  • Speaking of evolving, it’s been really interesting to see the relationship between Fitz and Simmons changing as things progress.  Their argument about Bruce Banner and the Hulk gave a great example of their current attitudes towards Skye and her powers, with Simmons arguing that Bruce Banner would cure his condition if he could and Fitz coming down on the side that says the Hulk is a hero and it’s good that Banner hasn’t found a cure.  Their later conversation showed that Fitz seems to be through beating around the bush with Simmons.  He confronted her over where Skye was going and what Simmons took to Coulson, and when she says it was something to help Skye they debate over whether she wants to “fix” Skye or “change” her.  Fitz comes right out and tells her that she never used to be this scared, and talks right over her reminder of what happened to Trip by saying that she’s afraid of what happened to Fitz and Skye.  But the change that scares him the most is the change that’s happened to Simmons.  This head-to-head is really starting to heat up, and I’m beginning to doubt whether we’ll ever return to the days of FitzSimmons without something big happening to force them to reassess their views.
  • Favorite Quote: Bobbi: “I just might have to test that theory out on your face.”
  • As a final note, I thought it was interesting how they played General Talbot for comedy tonight.  He’s always been a bit of a goofy character, but was straight-up comic relief tonight, and it worked rather well.  From espousing his views on riding mowers, to trying to pull the face off a soldier he thought was 33/Kara, to knowingly not being able to remember his subordinates names, to having to buy Edible Arrangements to make up for pulling a gun on his wife, it all made for a change in tone.  It’s nice to see SHIELD doing something a little different, although it was a bit too silly to want to see very often.  Talbot clearly isn’t the threat to SHIELD that he used to be.

What do you think?  Did you enjoy “Love in the Time of Hydra”?  Did this feel like a “positioning the pieces” episode to you?  What did you make of the relationship between Ward and Agent 33/Kara?  What are their plans?  How will things go down next week?  Is Bobbi a triple agent?  Is it good for Skye to get away?  Is there any hope for FitzSimmons?  What is the “real SHIELD” really after?  Let me know in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Love in the Time of Hydra”

  1. I like that description of “positioning the pieces.” It’s a great way to describe this episode considering it moves a little slower than the last three but still has a lot of important details. I’m not surprised since SHIELD has done this before in “End of the Beginning” and “Ye Who Enter Here” being pseudo-part 1’s in two-part action, though that gives me high expectations for next week.

    We’re looking to learn a bit about Bobbi, especially since she’s the subject of the poster for the episode. I would love it for her to be a triple agent, but I feel like she’s mostly with the other SHIELD at this point. However, just because she’s with the other SHIELD now doesn’t mean she won’t ever switch gears. She sees Coulson as compromised which I don’t blame her, but she isn’t as stone-cold against the team as the other heads are, especially since Hunter’s on Coulson’s side. When push comes to shove, she may want to make sure the SHIELD team is safe in whatever the “real” SHIELD has planned. (This is going to be a nightmare to type I just know it)

    I’m starting to wonder if Ward might actually become a villain, if he isn’t one already. Granted, I can’t call him a villain just yet as he isn’t a threat to the team, but he still made some controversial choices (i.e. killing people). However, without a goal, I don’t know if he’s really out for something bad. Then again, the means hardly justify the ends on this show, so if he must kill people, his goal can’t be that good. I know from some BTS pics that Ward might be back with the team at some point, so we may get some answers, though that doesn’t look good for Kara.

    Now that we’ve had a moment, Fitz and Simmons may actually come to terms with each other. My heart broke at the scene, but at least it was open and honest. I still want to think the best of their relationship by the end of the season, but that’ll probably take the actual end of the season or something even worse to happen. Either way, we have to wait.

    Lastly, Skye. There wasn’t a lot of her (the real Skye) in this episode, but they were my favorite parts. Whether it was FitzSimmons arguing which Avenger she was most like or Coulson talking about his own father, there was a lot of good here. More importantly, her place in the cabin further foreshadows her leaving the team. The promo even hinted at it by having the “real” SHIELD seemingly attack the cabin. She had to leave at some point and certainly needed to in order to get better, but this is an entirely different dynamic than I predicted. In the end, she still hasn’t willingly left, so her encounter with the Inhumans (or at least Lincoln in 2.16) might still see some lingering feelings of loyalty to the team. I’m a sucker for conflict, and I can’t wait for that story to start.

    Side note, I was partially distracted in the scenes with the “real” SHIELD because one of the heads was Kirk Acevedo from another show I’m watching, 12 Monkeys. I always think it’s funny when I see an actor on two different ongoing shows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, having seen the 3/31 episode (sorry I’m slow responding) we definitely got to see a lot more of Bobbi as well as Mack and the founding of the “real SHIELD”. (I someone on Tumblr last night called them the OlmostSHIELD, which was brilliant.) I think she’s definitely conflicted about what’s gone down and how it’s gone down, and regardless of what happens she’s going to try to protect the people she cares about. We saw that with Mack too last night.
      I could definitely see Ward becoming a full on villain, especially since killing US military personnel is the sort of thing that villains do. However, if he ends up back with SHIELD again, I don’t think that will work out well for anyone.
      You’re right that as heartbreaking as the FitzSimmons scene was, at least it was honest. I think there’s a chance for reconciliation, but they definitely have issues to work out first.
      I am so excited for Skye’s story to play out, as there are so many directions it can go. I’m a sucker for conflict too.
      Ugh, that is distracting, it’s always funny when a familiar face shows up somewhere unexpected and it messes with your mind.
      (I’m sorry I’m so slow to respond sometimes. Things have been crazy busy around here, so even if it takes a while to respond, I always read your comments right away and really appreciate your insights, especially as you know so much more about some aspects of these characters than I do. Thanks!)

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  2. Pingback: Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “One Door Closes” and “Afterlife” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

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