Agent Darryl reporting in with this week’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” mission debrief – S2 Ep.6, codename: “A Fractured House”
Warning! This debrief is fairly detailed and contains multiple spoilers for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” For the best possible experience, it’s recommended that agents not read this review until after they have watched the MAOS episode “A Fractured House.” Enjoy!
During a special meeting of the United Nations in New York City, General Talbot reminisces during a speech about the Chitauri invasion, how everyone was affected learning they were not alone in the universe. At first seeming to extoll the virtues of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the battle, he quickly changes his tune when describing the organization’s behavior in the aftermath leading up to the fall of the Triskelion, concluding that S.H.I.E.L.D. is now a widespread threat to global security. When the Italian ambassador asks for proof of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s wrongdoing . . . he quickly receives an answer as he’s shot in the chest by a small disc shaped device (a favorite design of HYDRA’s, it seems), which appears to be an even more efficient version of the Obelisk’s disintegrating power. Several armed men dressed as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents burst in and declare “S.H.I.E.L.D. is done hiding” as Talbot and the rest of the UN delegates run for their lives in the melee.
At secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility referred to as the “Playground,” Skye and Simmons watch Ward on a security monitor of Vault D as he wakes up exactly at 5:30 am to begin his morning exercise regimen. Jemma remarks that even without any indication of what time it is in in cell, he’s always gotten up at the same time everyday without fail since his containment. Simmons and Skye exchange admiration for each other’s recent successfully completed mission assignments before May bursts in to let them know about the UN attack. Okay, so since it appeared to be early afternoon at the UN in New York (let’s say 1:00 pm-ish) and it’s only just after 5:30 am at the “Playground,” after doing the time zone conversion that COULD put it somewhere in Australia. Interesting, very interesting . . .
Hey! Is that Liberte Chan giving the news story as they all run out the door and down the hall? Well, I’ll be, it is! My wife and I honeymooned in Los Angeles and we still watch the KTLA morning news broadcast to this day back at home. I can still remember young Miss Chan’s first day as the nervous weekend weather girl. You’ve come a long way, lady Liberte, good for you! It’s no Megan Henderson in “Iron Man 3,” but, hey, it’s all part of the MCU, right? And while I’m still chuckling over that, here’s Coulson with an “Angry Cat” mug someone brought from home. Hilarious! Probably new resident Bobbi Morse, who immediately enters the shot sporting a “Star Wars” tee. Cool, but it also smacks a bit of Uncle Walt’s love for inter-branding synergy. I like Easter Eggs, but keep it related to the MCU, fellas.
Alleged corporate shilling aside, Agent “I don’t care what you want us to call you, sometimes I need to mix it up and be a little formal” Morse DOES give us some juicy intel on the bogus S.H.I.E.L.D. officer from the UN attack: Marcus Scarlotti, a mercenary who’s tussled with Hawkeye sometime in the off-camera past (as well as numerous showdowns in the comics). So does that mean there’s a new Whiplash in the MCU? If so, it would make him the second after Mickey Rourke’s ARC reactor powered Ivan Vanko in “Iron Man 2.” Or perhaps despite being the original Whiplash in the comics, he could be going by the alternate name, Blacklash, which the Mark Scarlotti character in the comics also went by . . . in any case, he’s never referred to as anything other than Scarlotti, so I suppose it’s all pretty much academic, really. Jemma drops some connect the dots intel and Bobbi’s recent HYDRA security clearance helps to fill in some of the blanks, but not all, so they decide to follow up a promising lead by the name of Toshiro Mori in Okinawa, Japan. Coulson assembles the field team consisting of Agents May, Hunter and Morse and we’re immediately treated to some of the post-relationship tension that’s clearly palpable between the two newest agents under Coulson’s command. Good! The writers have been quietly setting this up all season, so I’m hoping they’ve got something worth watching between Hunter and Morse. So far, they’re easier to watch than last season’s ridiculous SkyeWard romance that bloomed and fizzled, at least.
General Talbot, meanwhile, pays a visit to his U.S. Senator benefactor in Washington D.C. and during their conversation, Talbot suggests that the attack on the UN hadn’t been S.H.I.E.L.D., after all. He also confides that he’s well aware who the Senator’s brother is and that’s when we learn it’s Christian Ward, older brother to S.H.I.E.L.D. turned HYDRA agent, Grant Ward. Senator Ward is a bit off-balance about Talbot’s knowledge of the Ward family tree, but is unconvinced of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s innocence, vows to go on the attack to destroy them and then proceeds to do just that, the way Senators always do: as a talking head on the cable news networks. Julian Beckers, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, argues on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s behalf as Coulson and Skye watch the broadcast in Coulson’s office. Skye suggests leaning on Grant for any useful intelligence on his Senator brother and Coulson agrees, but warns her to stay focused and on topic when questioning him. As Skye leaves, Coulson contacts an Agent Walters in Holland to advise her European team to “go dark” until the anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. furor dies down. As May pilots the jet to Japan, Hunter appears to try to work out some of the social discomfort between him and Bobbi before she gives up and heads to the cockpit for some straight girl talk with May. Yeah right. May, in her usual stoic fashion, succeeds in bestowing dubious wisdom with little more than a look.
Simmons drops by the labs of the “Playground” to ask Fitz for help analyzing the hard drive that she and Bobbi stole from HYDRA last episode, but what was formerly a routine team-up between two totally in-sync geniuses quickly reveals itself to be a cumbersome, awkward nightmare between them. Geez, and Hunter thinks HE’s got relationship issues? Yikes. Meanwhile, downstairs in Vault D, Skye quizzes Ward for info on his older brother, Senator Christian. Grant gets agitated and a bit sketchy right away and reminds Skye of the cruelty his older brother was capable of when he’d told her of the time when they growing up together. Then, he slyly tries to veer the subject onto Skye’s father before Coulson intervenes and shuts down the interrogation by opaquing Ward’s cell wall, reminding Skye to stay on track.
In Okinawa, after reviewing their options, Morse decides to use her HYDRA security cover to infiltrate and collect as much intel as possible. Once she’s entered Toshiro Mori’s HYDRA compound, Morse appears to successfully to charm Mori-san, as Hunter and May keep tabs over the comm. Bobbi dismisses rumours that she’d defected to S.H.I.E.L.D before learning that Mori himself had built the weapon used at the UN attack, calling it a “Splinter bomb.” She also discovers that Skye’s father, the Doctor, had furnished Daniel Whitehall with the “Diviner,” formerly known as the “Obelisk,” formerly known as THE original 084. Then, as Mori’s security detail receive an alert at that moment to eliminate Morse on sight, Hunter and May bust in to the rescue. Cue fisticuffs and witty banter. It’s pretty much all said and done with after that and, though I’m still not entirely sure why, they decide the next stop is Belgium . . . soooo next stop Belgium? Okay, and here I thought Coulson wanted to conserve valuable S.H.I.E.L.D. commodities like jet fuel. Guess not?
Back in the “Playground’s” labs, Fitz tries to confront Simmons about the rift that’s grown between them, but just like before, Simmons leaves. That’s cold, Jemma. Ice cold. As she leaves, Mac steps in and offers Fitz a comforting look.
As Christian Ward enters his office in Washington D.C., Coulson pulls his favorite trick of stepping from the shadows and introducing himself (a nice little callback to the pilot episode, when he’d done the same to the other Ward brother). Phil quickly clarifies S.H.I.E.L.D. hadn’t attacked the UN, but rather HYDRA had and then reveals he has Ward held prisoner. In two suspensefully orchestrated intercut scenes, Senator Ward reveals to Coulson that his younger brother has a dark side that he projects onto him, as Skye confirms she’s gotten everything of value from Grant and lets him know that he’ll be transferred into his brother’s custody to answer for his crimes.
As this is going on, apparently the Scarlotti’s HYDRA team is on it’s way to Belgium to assassinate Minister Beckers in an attempt to further defame S.H.I.E.L.D, so May, Hunter and Morse head out to save the day. Strange bit of doubling here since I thought they’d decided Belgium was the next stop anyway . . . Hmmm. I can’t decide if this should be blamed on sloppy writing or perhaps they just didn’t get the point of going to Belgium across clearly enough earlier. I’m blaming the writers in either case here. Believe it or not, there are people like me who analyze these episodes in depth and this “globe-trotting (on an empty tank of gas!)” plot thread is stretching beyond the realm of suspended disbelief, even for Marvel. Step it up, guys. Disney’s paying you good money to keep us properly entertained.
In the “Playground,” MacFitz are ribbing each other like old pals as Simmons enters the lab. They share some of the data they’d successfully recovered from the hard drive about one of the Red Skull’s top scientists, Vincent Beckers and Simmons immediately recognizes the last name, running out of he room to alert Coulson of the trap the field team is walking into (funny, it was Mac and Fitz who did the very same thing just a few episodes ago, making this either: a) very lazy writing or b) a set up for two parallel storylines to converge later, which would make pretty good writing . . . I’ll wait and see which one it turns out to be). Coulson’s in a meeting with Ward and you better believe Simmons ain’t getting anywhere near THAT just yet. Before the big move, Grant looks like he’ll say just about anything to stay away from his brother and pisses Coulson off by actually having the temerity to suggest that he’s still part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Agent Triplett steps in to grab Phil and they advise him of the Beckers connection . . . but too late. Minister Beckers is a legacy HYDRA sleeper agent now activated and luring unsuspecting S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to their deaths at a safe house in Belgium. The first ones to go down? Agent Walters and her European team in hiding, at the hands of Scarlotti, and just so it all ties together, he does it with one of Toshiro Mori’s Splinter bombs.
When the field team arrives in Belgium, Hunter strolls into the (now compromised) S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house and appears to betray the rest of the team, but it’s really just a half-hearted misdirect highlighting Hunter’s natural moral ambiguity, while giving May and Morse time to launch a surprise attack by storming through the windows. In the climactic fight sequence that follows, May and Scarlotti face off as he wields his nifty meteor hammer (similar to Gogo Yubari’s weapon in “Kill Bill”), while in the next room, Hunter saves Bobbi’s life fighting HYDRA thugs for the third time that day. Scarlotti’s got moves, but May still makes short work of him before contacting Coulson to give him the agent death toll.
In the garage of the “Playground” afterwards, Simmons reaches out to Mac to thank him for being there for Fitz, but he turns it around and pretty much tells her she’s the worst thing for Fitz right now. Bros before former lab partner love interests, I guess. Hunter, apparently sick of squirming in the glare of his she-devil ex, makes some noise about leaving the team, but Bobbi might just have convinced him otherwise. Or perhaps that’s just what Hunter wants her to think . . . more on that later, I’m guessing. As Ward is hustled off to face the music, Simmons stands between him and Skye promising to kill him if she ever sees him again. Maybe. But if there really is any kind of “Faustus Method” stuff going on with Simmons, she and Ward may both find themselves on HYDRA’s side together . . . what then? Senator Ward makes a flowery speech exonerating S.H.I.E.L.D. before confessing his brother’s sins. As May stays behind in Belgium to assist with the clean up, Talbot confirms disgraced Minister Beckers had been captured crossing the border before doing the previously unthinkable by consoling May for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s losses and shaking her hand. Senator Ward promises to see his brother brought to justice, while at that moment Coulson completes the prisoner transfer. As the van drives off, Grant slips his handcuffs and escapes.
In a tattoo parlour, a man walks in and pays to finish his inkwork. As he takes his shirt off, his chest and arms are covered in the alien symbols that Coulson has been compulsively carving. As the tattoo artist starts to work, the tattooed man presses down harder on the needle to feel the pain . . .
Well, it looks like S.H.I.E.L.D. are the good guys in everyone’s eyes again, but if there ARE “Faustus Method” manipulated sleepers in the fold, for how long? And who is this tattooed guy? Did he carve the same symbols in the back of the Spanish painting from a few episodes back? Or are there more “carvers” out there? What about Raina, Skye and her father, the Doctor? Is it possible that they’re all members of the “Inhumans,” who’ll be getting their own movie before the end of Marvel’s Phase 3?
Who knows? But guessing is fun so let the speculation begin!