The pace has quickened considerably in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s second season, with its fifth episode introducing new players (Mockingbird), while bringing us ever closer to answers when it comes to Skye, her Father (Kyle MacLaughlan), the Obelisk and Coulson’s mysterious writing. It also completely decimates the status quo for two characters, burning through story with a purpose. While AOS is still dragging out its overarching mysteries, the action surrounding it is far more compelling, and we’re given answers on a smaller scale each week.
“A Hen in the Wolfhouse” begins with what seems like a scene from a really bad romantic comedy, with a dorky best man (in Navy regalia) giving an awful speech, referencing Tijuana in 2009 (a less magical place than Tahiti). Afterwards, we see definitive proof that bad toasts can kill, as several Navy officers crumple to the ground after having their champagne, becoming blue in the face, dead. Only 8 died at the wedding, which counts as a failure for Hydra. They desired a 100% success rate for what appears to be their even more noxious take on a blue raspberry 4 Loko. They’ve been trying to emulate the Obelisk’s power, with limited success, and Daniel Whitehall isn’t exactly pleased with the results.
Skye continues to question Coulson’s authority, and while she’s never one brimming with tact, you appreciate her propensity for calling out bullshit. She wants to know more about the alien writing and knows Coulson is hiding something: and not very well, it seems, as he has some carvings on his desk. Coulson refuses to de-classify his sources, rebuffing Skye in front of the squad. Thankfully, Coulson will finally come clean to Skye in this episode.
We see another shade of the fabulous Raina this week, as she is one of the many hens in the various wolfhouses (Simmons in Hydra? Skye in SHIELD? Mockingbird in Hydra?). This week, she’s terrified, interrupting her father’s work (which appears to be dark and dank Blade Runner-y surgery) to beg for help. She needs the Obelisk, or else Whitehall will kill her. I wish the show would give him a name so I don’t have to continually refer to him as Skye’s father, or Father, MacLaughlan, or what have you, but however you want to put it, he gives Raina reason to fear him instead, putting his hand around her throat. He denigrates Whitehall as a butcher, whereas he’s simply a man putting his family back together (he says, as he tightens his grip around his daughter’s throat). We learn that Skye’s Father found Raina on the streets, believing her Grandma’s fairy tales (presumably about her family and origin). He almost loses it, checking himself in the mirror (he undoubtedly doesn’t look human in his normal state; UNLEASH THE KREE). He’s incensed that Raina hasn’t brought Skye to him, to which she apologizes, and he mentions how Skye is not her name. WHAT IS HER NAME?! Not this week, folks. I also wonder: why can’t he go get Skye himself? If he sent a message revealing his identity, Skye would be there in moments (case in point, later in the episode). I know that’s not how these things work, but it makes his complaining annoying (I’m not completely sold on MacLaughlan’s over-the-top turn yet).
At Hydra, Simmons and Kenneth Turgeon’s (Adam Kulbersh) work is interrupted: they’re being brought up to help with the Obelisk. Whitehall asks Simmons for her opinion: because of its alien DNA, she surmises they would need to have it in their hands in order to weaponize it, but it’s definitely possible. Whitehall’s pleased with her answer and Kenneth’s jealous that the Big Bad knows her name. Simmons is shaken: this could kill millions, even billions of people. “Isn’t that awesome?” Kenneth responds, a sentiment that would prove to be his undoing.
Last week, it seemed as if Fitz had moved on from Faux-Simmons, his make-believe friend version of Gemma. He had made friends, opened up, and that’s what Faux-Simmons berates him about. She also comments on Mac’s muscles, giving FitzMac shippers like myself more ammo. After all, it’s Fitz’s sub-conscious who’s marveling at Mac’s manly physique.
Because Hunter doesn’t respect authority either, he respects Skye’s gumption and encourages her to dig deeper into Coulson’s secrets. Skye’s loathe to take advice from “divorced guy,” but when he suggests a visit to her evil boyfriend, Skye’s down there immediately. Ward continues to try to tell Skye the truth, but she ignores it (dammit!), thinking he’s trying to play her, attacking a weakness. He reveals that what he knows comes from Raina, that she knows her father. Skye changes the subject to the writing; Ward admits that the GH-325 changed Garrett, that he was glad SHIELD took him out, because he wasn’t the Garrett that he had followed. He had been changed with the drug, and that had spurred his odd alien calligraphy habit.
Skye finally puts two and two together, realizing that Coulson’s taken after Garrett. She confronts him, wondering if he’s okay. Coulson cops to it, and admits that they’ve been monitoring her as well to see if the drug has similar effects, but it doesn’t. Hilariously, Coulson admits that one of their theories is that Skye herself is alien. Like the wink to the FitzMac shippers, this is another gleeful moment of fan-service, acknowledging the many theories fans have had about Skye from the start. Coulson and May didn’t want to rattle her, and it was an epic fail on their part, as Skye justifiably freaks out. Thankfully, Raina calls just in time to make this episode even more juicy.
Simmon’s cover appears compromised at Hydra, because she decided to send out a communique on one of those transparencies your fifth grade science teacher wrote on incessantly in the days of Overhead Projectors. Baksi and one of Hydra’s heads of security, Bobbi Morse AKA Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki), come to root out the mole. If they had merely looked at Simmons, they’d know the truth. I’ve never seen someone look so guilty. Instead, Simmons manages to implicate her lab partner Kenneth, who looks more like the Mole Man than the actual mole. She’s not out of the woods yet, as Mockingbird interrogates her outside of the loo.
Coulson and Raina arrange a romantic rendezvous, taking over a nice restaurant. After seeing her vulnerable for the first time, she’s back to her slinky bag of tricks here, oozing sex appeal and flirting with Coulson so maliciously that it takes ladykiller Hunter off-guard. She threatens to release a photo that would implicate Simmons unless Coulson hands over Skye. Coulson doesn’t budge, seemingly dooming Simmons…except, as we should have suspected all along, Mockingbird isn’t a villain. She was undercover all along, begging the question: Why did they need Simmons around? Because it would make for compelling TV, and because Simmons could gain access into their various projects, whereas Bobbi Morse was stuck in security. At least, that’s the explanation we’re given after “Call me Bobbi” Morse whips out silver escrima sticks and pummels Hydra guards with them. I’m okay with whatever excuse they want to give to bring Adrianne Palicki into the fold, and it’s clear the AOS writers’ room wanted her in play fast, as she quickly saves Simmons from the Hydra’s considerable clutches, and with the help of Agent Triplett, arrives back in SHIELD, chumming it up with Mac and revealing herself to be Hunter’s much-publicized and reviled ex-wife, delivering a rapport that I already cherish.
Coulson’s turned the tables on Raina: he had a plan in place to save Simmons, and now wants Raina to feed intel for them, and maybe they’ll be around to save her from Whitehall if she cooperates. Of course, he also loses Skye, who leaps head first into her father’s nearby location. He’s, of course, no longer there, but she finds a photo of MacLaughlan and a baby. Coulson arrives and gives her a warm hug, and May discovers the bodies of the two men Skye’s father was operating on at the beginning of the episode. Yup, Skye’s Daddy is…a MONSTER!
Even though some of the action is clunky, and the various mysteries felt dragging despite new information, I love where we end up at the end of this episode: Mockingbird isn’t a brainwashed member of Hydra like I surmised (…or is she?); she’s back with SHIELD by the end of her debut episode, bringing Simmons back to her rightful place (home), and forcing the awkward/heartfelt reunion between her and Fitz. Raina’s desperate, back on her own again, a scenario where she shines most. Skye’s Father brings the Obelisk into the hands of Hydra (“I’ll teach you how to survive it”), teaming up with Whitehall to kill Phil Coulson…and everyone else, a turn that amps up the stakes as high as we’ve ever been on the show.
Skye also throws out a theory on the alien carving: “it’s a map.” It’s been a theory by fans for awhile, but it comes out of nowhere on the show. I’ll forgive it if seeing it on a big-scale in Coulson’s office triggered something in Skye, and if this is the moment that finally starts to provide answers.
Agents of S.P.O.I.L.E.R.S.
- Easter Egg: Before they’re ushered away to help HYDRA with the Obelisk, Simmons and Turgeon are working on something called “Bessie.” This is, stunningly, a reference to Hellcow, the Bovine Blood-Beast, the Cowled Cow, the Recreant Ruminant, a vampire cow turned by Dracula in the comic books who would go on to fight (and lose to) Howard the Duck. This is perhaps another wink to fans that we’re going to be seeing more Howard the Duck in the MCU, probably in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or maybe in his own movie. I’d love a bizarre, trippy, political satire TV show in the next wave of Netflix shows.
- At one point, I thought Coulson called Agent Triplett Agent Striplett, and know we have his awesome stripper name.
- Mockingbird IS Lance Hunter’s “she-devil ex-wife,” like I predicted last week. I think it would’ve been cooler for his ex-wife to ACTUALLY be a demon, or Shanna the She-Devil, but I get it. Everyone’s ecstatic to have Mockingbird into the fold, as am I, because Adrianne Palicki is going to kill it, but did anyone else think it felt too easy for her to be brought back into the fold? Maybe she has been brainwashed, and she was directed by Whitehall to act as a mole in SHIELD. Either way, she’s going to compete with Melinda May for biggest badass on the show, as evidenced by her sexy awesome new look premiering next week. The blonde hair is back, something the show and Hunter referenced immediately upon their reunion.
- In its native language, the Obelisk is called “the Diviner.”
- Considering Maclaughlan’s anger issues and green lighting, there’s some indication that perhaps Skye’s father (and in turn Skye) might not be alien, but Hulk-ish, a gamma irradiated villain of some sort. There’s a long list of possibilities if that’s the case. Or perhaps it’s related to the Terrigen Mists and the Inhumans. Either way, there’s clearly some sort of transformation that Skye’s father is holding back throughout this episode. We haven’t seen his true form.
- If the alien writing is a map, what’s it a map to? A Kree planet, a map constructed by Kree’s Supreme Intelligence meant to allure the human race into a trap? Or is it a map to the Terrigen Mists? To the Holy Grail? El Dorado? A map to Marvel’s Phase 3 and beyond?