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Agent Darryl reporting in with this week’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” mission debrief – S2 Ep.8, codename: “The Things We Bury”
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 “The Things We Bury.” Enjoy!
Herr Reinhardt conducts experiments with the Obelisk on an Asian man confirming that, so far, it kills indiscriminately, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but with no discernable pattern . . . until the next female subject is brought in. She refuses to touch the artifact, but when two HYDRA soldiers press her face to it, she survives and the object of unknown origin reacts just as it had to Raina’s touch, earlier in the season. Reinhardt orders her to be held for further examination as he learns of the dire fate of the Red Skull. Mourning the passing of HYDRA’s founder, he forebodingly promises that “discovery requires experimentation.”
Flashing forward to the present, Herr Reinhardt (now in the guise of Daniel Whitehall) dismisses all the information the Doctor, has shared as old intelligence before having him brought before him. Once again the phrase “scratching,” first mentioned by Baron Strucker during the mid-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is used by the Doctor to describe HYDRA’s experiments with the Obelisk/Diviner, suggesting that Whitehall is insane to expect any different results than he has so far. Whitehall confesses to be on edge following the disappearance of Mr. Bakshi and orders his guards to train their firearms on Skye’s father during the remainder of the meeting. When Whitehall refers to the Obelisk/Diviner as a weapon, the Doctor corrects him, telling him it’s actually a key to a special place containing vast power. Whitehall, of course, is intrigued.
Meanwhile, May is stuck holding the fort at the “Playground” as Coulson, with a field team consisting of Agents Skye, Triplett and Fitz, jets off to Hawaii on a secret mission. Phil reminds May that the traitorous Agent Ward is still on the loose. May confirms that Ward’s Senator brother, Christian has demanded S.H.I.E.L.D. stay out of it as his own men search for him. She also gives Phil the latest on Agent Morse’s attempts to interrogate the imprisoned Bakshi in Vault D. Meanwhile, as Hunter observes the proceedings in Vault D on the monitor, Mac expresses his unease over Coulson’s behavior after subjecting himself to Edison Po’s memory machine last episode. Agent Simmons steps in, commenting on how Bakshi had nearly killed her several times over. Mac asks offhandedly if she’d like to see his head bashed in and Jemma is impressed by Bobbi’s civility.
In Vault D, Agent Morse chips away at Bakshi, but a lot of the discussion feels like an encrypted conversation between two HYDRA agents in unfriendly territory (seriously, Morse actually offers to HELP Bakshi take down Whitehall and become the two new heads that would emerge!). Afterwards, Mac asks if she thinks Bakshi had been brainwashed, but she confirms that any HYDRA agent could have been brainwashed without even knowing. Something Simmons immediately agrees with before quickly shutting up, remembering her own time in the enemy’s camp. Bobbi suggests that Bakshi’s use of the phrase “Red Skull’s disciple” when referring to Whitehall is a slip revealing that Whitehall is much older than he appears. May steps in, everyone says “Red Skull” so much I honestly expected him to just appear out of nowhere like Bloody Mary or Candyman, but no such luck there, I don’t expect to see Hugo Weaving making an appearance in full Skull gear any time soon. Simmons suggests checking the old SSR files in the “Playground” to try and locate more intel on the Obelisk and it’s effects.
Elsewhere, Senator Ward blows off his wife over the phone for a “political strategy meeting” before making another call to what appears to be his mistress instead. As he finishes that call, the window is smashed in and Grant Ward pulls his brother from the car, throwing him to the ground.
The “Bus” de-cloaks and touches down on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and Coulson advises Trip and Skye to ditch their guns to try and be a bit subtler. He gives Skye a watch to be repaired and inscribed to someone named “Darren.” Then he warns Skye that if the watch starts leaking to drop it and run. Coulson then gives Trip a button (or a button sized device of some kind) to drop off at a dry cleaner (as well as pick up one of Coulson’s favorite ties). As they head out, he coaches Fitz to improve his motor-skills. Turns out he’ll need Fitz to install parts on a transceiver with only one hand . . . in six minutes flat. No pressure there.
Back at the “Playground,” Hunter and Morse put their heads together to figure out Bakshi’s motivations for serving HYDRA. Bobbi believes he’d betrayed Whitehall before being given a second chance to prove his loyalty. Then she ACTUALLY SAYS “Hail HYDRA!” Ruh-oh. I mean it’s couched in a phrase that appears to place it in the context of Bakshi saying it, but even still . . . I’m watching you Morse. We never did see what went down during her escape and rescue of Simmons when her cover had been blown . . .
In Coulson’s office, Simmons tells May she’s finally located the report on the original 0-8-4 known now by S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Obelisk as she totally geeks out over Agent Carter. You and me both sister, I’ve always been Peggy’s biggest fan. She’s one of a kind, that’s for sure. She identifies the head of HYDRA’s Obelisk research team as Werner Reinhardt, but no other information on him is included in the file. May crosses Coulson’s office and opens a secret compartment. Taking out a key, May reveals there are other vaults in the “Playground” and Agent Carter buried quite a few secrets in them before she’d retired.
Flashing back to 1945, we’re treated to a scene featuring Peggy herself as she interrogates Reinhardt in the SSR base dubbed “The Rat.” Reinhardt wishes to make a deal, but Agent Carter is unmoved. He tells her a tale of blue skinned angels who emerged from a fallen star to conquer the world.
In the present, the Doctor offers his own variation of the tale, saying that the “blue angels” hadn’t come to Earth to conquer mankind, but to end it completely . . . except for a very select few. Whitehall asks the Doctor if only someone who can hold the Diviner can enter the hidden city with it and Skye’s father mentions that it’s actually the temple BENEATH the city that’s more important. Interesting . . . a temple containing immeasurable power under a secret city . . . very much like the temple the legendary outlaw, Star-Lord breached at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy perhaps? Whitehall is naturally suspicious of the Doctor’s motivations, but Skye’s father confesses that he’s not interested in power, he only wants the opportunity to kill the one responsible for taking everything important to him away and reuniting with his family in death.
Speaking of family reunions, Senator Christian Ward doesn’t seem too thrilled about seeing his brother. As Grant leads him into the wilderness, the Senator tries to convince Ward that he’s now free because of him, but Grant’s not buying it for a second. As they come to a clearing, Ward pulls a shovel out from behind a tree and tells the Senator to start digging out the old well that their parents had had buried.
On the “Bus” meanwhile, Fitz struggles while practicing to assemble the transceiver parts in under six minutes, as per Coulson’s mission requirements and wonders aloud to Skye and Trip if he’s either being tested . . . or just kept busy. Trip has faith in Coulson, though and assures Fitz that everything Phil needs done is for a reason. At that moment, Coulson steps in and Trip delivers the tie he’d picked up when delivering the button Coulson had given him. He tells them their next stop is Australia and when Skye asks about the tie, he says it had been a gift from the cellist that he’d stained with poi during his last visit to the island. Well, I suppose that’s a hint that we haven’t seen the last of Phil’s great love, Audrey. He gives Fitz a quick pep talk and then it’s wheels up.
At the “Playground,” after searching through all the old SSR files, they find one for Werner Reinhardt. When Simmons sees the attached mugshot, she immediately identifies him as Daniel Whitehall and his connection to the Red Skull is finally confirmed, but May finds another photo of him after years in confinement in the SSR/S.H.I.E.L.D. prison “The Rat,” meaning that he HAD grown old over time, but had somehow been rejuvenated.
Flashing back to “The Rat” facility in 1945, Agent Carter promises to see Reinhardt locked up and buried for life. Time passes in the cell and then in 1989, at the order of Under-Secretary Alexander Pierce, he’s set free by HYDRA sleeper agents. As he’s wheeled out in a chair, Reinhardt is told that the mysterious young woman who’d been locked up at his order in 1945 has been found by HYDRA once again alive, still youthful and being held by S.H.I.E.L.D. Curious about this unique woman’s youth and ability to touch the Obelisk, he again promises: discovery requires experimentation.
At the “Playground,” Simmons and Hunter confirm in the SSR files everything that had just played out and then Hunter goes to watch Bobbi, through the Vault D monitor, use that intel to get Bakshi to open up and spill. Interestingly, Morse says the famous HYDRA trigger phrase “compliance will be rewarded,” in a sarcastic context, but again it feels more like the two are actually communicating much more to each other in code. I’ve got to say, it’s quite the elaborate spy story when you suspect EVERYONE. It’s like a goddamn game of “CLUE.” Bakshi teases Morse with unspoken juicy gossip about what she’d done in the name of HYDRA while operating undercover, but when Morse shows him that, without even realizing it, he’d given them far more for them to work with Bakshi looks worried, almost panicked. As Morse steps around the table to seemingly intimidate him, Bakshi suddenly smashes his head against the table, breaking open the poison capsule surgically inserted into his cheekbone. So . . . one good punch in the face will kill a HYDRA agent with his own poison? Good to know. Good. To. Know.
At the family well, the brothers Ward spar with words as Christian digs and eventually strikes the well cover buried beneath. Realizing what Grant intends to do, the Senator makes one last bid to escape, but Agent Ward is well trained and catches him with almost no effort at all. Dragging him back to the now completely uncovered well, Grant threatens to throw Christian in as he begs for mercy and then finally confesses to forcing Grant to try and kill their little brother Thomas when they were children. The reason why? Because he was jealous of him. Jealous of the fact that Thomas was the only one their mother didn’t torture. Pretty dark stuff. With the confession and an apology, Grant appears to be fine with his brother once again . . . or is he?
On the “Bus” now landed in Australia, Coulson lays out the entire plan that they’ve been working on in the dark. In order to access a certain satellite array in orbit they would need to first shut down the Air Force base computers in Hawaii where the relay is located, but it’s too heavily guarded to get in. However, the feed will redirect to a smaller, less guarded backup facility in Australia if it ever goes offline in Hawaii. Hence why the team is now there. But why the seemingly useless trip to Hawaii in the first place? Well aside from picking up Phil’s necktie, it turns out the watch Skye had dropped off to be repaired and the button Agent Triplett delivered to the dry cleaners both belong to two different top level Air Force officers. When they unsuspectingly shake hands at the beginning of their next shift, they’ll trigger the devices implanted in both watch and button, each mostly harmless and undetectable by themselves, and emit a powerful electromagnetic pulse. This will knock out the Air Force Base’s communication array, including the satellite relay, thus causing it to reroute to Australia, where the field team can then implant the transceiver and piggy back their signal back at the “Playground.” The catch? When Hawaii goes back online their window will close, so they only have six minutes to install the transceiver once inside.
When the two Generals meet, the EMP goes off as expected and the relay reroutes, but when Coulson, Fitz and Trip breach the complex, they’re ambushed by HYDRA agents trying to hijack the satellite relay as well. They find the room Fitz needs to connect the transceiver to and as he gets to work, Trip and Coulson cover him. In the firefight that ensues, Trip takes one to the chest and Coulson does what he can to stop him from bleeding out. At that moment, Skye’s father, the Doctor, offers his help to save Trip. As we’ve seen before, he is quite adept at extracting bullets, but during the procedure, the Doctor slips that he knows who they are. When Phil goes on high alert, the Doctor threatens to let Trip die. With his agent’s life literally on the line, Coulson accepts the Doctor’s deal and drops the gun. As the Doctor continues working on Trip, he reveals Whitehall’s intentions and worries over what Skye would think of him and flips out when Coulson actually refers to her as “Skye,” shouting that that isn’t her true name. The Doctor gives Coulson instructions to finish the work on Trip’s near-fatal bullet wound to ensure Phil’s hands are busy as he makes his escape. But Coulson promises it isn’t over between them. The Doctor leaves and Fitz completes the installation of the transceiver, giving S.H.I.E.L.D. access to the satellite array in order to continue the search for the hidden city.
Daniel Whitehall, while ruminating on the value of second chances, reflects on the months and years of experimentation on the unique woman who defies both aging and the deadly threat of the Obelisk, eventually succeeding in restoring his own youth and vitality in the process . . . at the expense of the poor woman’s life. As he returns his attention to the present, it’s revealed that he is, in fact, interviewing Grant Ward, out of the cold and home at HYDRA at last. After reviewing his resume, in the form of a news broadcast stating that both Senator Christian Ward AND his parents had died in a fire at their home, it looks like Grant’s got the job. Included in the recovered debris of the fire was Senator Ward’s killer confession, taped by Grant and the true reason for hunting him down and tormenting him first. To frame him for the deaths of himself and his parents. Definitely HYDRA material.
In the “Playground’s” sickbay, Bakshi is recovering from his attempted self-poisoning, as Bobbi and Hunter observe through the glass. Hunter leans on Morse, insinuating that she didn’t want Bakshi to talk and had pushed him too far by triggering his HYDRA suicide reflex . . . and then the whole thing devolves into a post-divorce squabble that resolves itself in a passionate romp in the back of one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicles. Hope you clean that up afterwards guys . . . and then get a room!
In the command centre of the “Playground,” Coulson begins to tell Skye about her father’s involvement in Trip’s recovery (and also, presumably, his involvement with HYDRA) when they get a match on the satellite relay for the hidden city. And unless I miss my guess, next episode they’ll be heading to the Caribbean. Possibly the Bermuda Triangle?
Later, in a space that appears to be Whitehall’s temporary office, complete with HYDRA red area rug (matching the one seen during the after credits scene in Iron Man 3 with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, incidentally), he introduces the Doctor to Grant Ward. They discuss their mutual past dealings with Coulson and while advising Grant of the wisdom of looking your enemy right in the eye, he then proceeds to stare directly at Whitehall, who meets his gaze and looks directly back.
Flashback to 1989 again (and I’ve got to say, the makeup department did an amazing job of making Kyle MacLachlan look 25 years younger) and the young Doctor, fleeing through the woods, stumbles across the torn remains of the once uniquely young woman and vows to do the same to the one who had done this to her, his wife.