So, after a fantastic premiere episode, Agents seems to keep the ball rolling with another fantastic episode. The writers have decided to pick a new direction for the series this time around, directly picking up on the events of the last episode instead of one-off monster of the week, new scenarios every week. I like the new direction; it keeps the plot developments at the front of your mind and the pace relentless, something that the show needed.
This week, we got to see that Lance Hunter really was the only survivor of the crash caused by Crusher “Absorbing Man” Creel last week. May was hot on his trail, and tries to help him out, but he insists that she go after Creel and the Obelisk (the 0-8-4 from last week). The military shows up to arrest Lance, as they were chasing them and Creel, taking Hunter into custody. Brigadier General Glenn Talbot shows up and offers Hunter a deal instead of arresting him as a fugitive,… give up Coulson. It seems Hunter was one of the British SAS’s best agents before going to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Talbot wouldn’t mind having him around. Hunter weighs his options for a bit, and finally settles on selling out Coulson in exchange for $2M and more importantly a proper burial for Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless, the agent who was killed by the Obelisk’s infection last week). This is the first step to giving Hunter a proper characterization, his convictions and loyalty to Isabelle is heartwarming, but his insistence on selling Coulson out to do it isn’t so much.
We meet up with May chasing Creel, finding him, and ready to take her shot to knock him out. But Coulson refuses, telling her to back down and follow him so they can find his HYDRA handler. He ends up waiting in a dive bar for an hour, struggling to contain the effects of the Obelisk’s infection, which didn’t care that he tried to cover his hand in rubber to avoid that. A waitress accidentally grazes his infected hand, too bad since it ends up infecting her as well and turning her to stone similarly to everyone else who has come into contact with the Obelisk. Creel escapes in the chaos while May is trying to help the waitress, and we see Creel end up back in his van. He cannot control the spreading of the Obelisk’s infection, and trying to absorb some other materials doesn’t change it. He panics and tries to contact HYDRA for help, but they don’t answer. A burner phone taped to the underside of the van rings and HYDRA is on the other side. They let him know that they will help him as long as he continues to comply and tells him where to bring the Obelisk. This isn’t enough for Creel, and he takes out his anger on some restaurant workers sitting around. Before he does anything, Raina “The Girl In The Flower Dress” from last season shows up to calm him down. She has a peace offering, a fictional material called Carbine that will give him the best “high” he has had, in order to hand over the Obelisk to her. (its interesting that Creel gets off on absorbing materials, one of the few times the MCU has shown superpowers as an allegory for addiction and the extra ordinary things drugs can let you do. Also, Raina says Carbine is an allotrope of Carbon found in Stardust that’s 3 times harder than Diamond, as a scientist myself I can tell you its not real but kinda dumb). Creel steals the Carbine from Raina, and tells her he has no intention of working for her and to watch out for HYDRA, not having any idea who she is. This was some really interesting characterization for Creel, showing his desperation to keep his powers in check but not selling out HYDRA showed he has some loyalty, which is more depth than most of the villains of AoS have gotten so far.
Back in the Playground, we get an update about Skye’s and Coulson’s relationship, and how strained it is. Coulson is trying to play the detached, mysterious leader but Skye sees right through it and calls him out. He lets her know he is not going to entertain her insistence that he takes a break. He instead tasks her with packing up Hartley’s stuff rather than looking into why the Obelisk also displayed the same symbols he has been drawing since being exposed to GH 325. Skye doesn’t take it well, but moves on anyway, then we move onto where Fitz is.
The team is trying to be kind, not letting Fitz know they decided to hijack and reverse engineer the Quinjet cloaking mechanism instead on relying on Fitz developing one himself. He takes it alright, but is more frustrated he can’t express his own feelings appropriately, and lashes out at everyone. We then see one of the other members of the new team, Mac, start to take an interest in trying to help Fitz get his thoughts out. We then see that Fitz is well aware that the imagined Simmons (Fitz’s subconscious has created to help him through his abandonment by her) is very much imaginary. There is an interesting three-way conversation where one of the participants isn’t actually there, but we see Mac has in interest in getting the stuff in Fitz’s head out, which makes him more unique than just the buff mechanic he seemed to be before. Coulson wants a solution for Creel’s powers asap, so they can confront him without as much worry, and Fitz tries to tell people “I didn’t solve this today!”. No one understands what he means, except Mac, as he figures out Fitz is referring to one of his old weapons designs and he goes full tilt in designing it.
Raina calls Coulson, very much aware she is going to be traced, giving them a lead on Creel’s location since she put a tracker in the Carbine he stole from her. She tells them it’s an enemy of my enemy deal, and she is not concerned with them finding her. A meet up is established for Creel and his HYDRA contact, with Skye, May and Triplett perched as a sniper following. Coulson sends Hunter, back from his meetup with Talbot, even though he knows Hunter has probably sold them out. Creel meets his contact with the Obelisk in a case, and that’s when Hunter strikes. He uses the ICER gun to knock May and Skye out, and takes control of Triplett’s sniper after he knocks him out. There is a really awesome slo-mo bullet tracking scene, as we see the sniper round travel to Creel’s head, though he is fast enough to turn his head to metal before the bullet hits. In the commotion, we see Raina was ready to steal the Obelisk back and she gets away without issue. Before Creel can take Hunter out, Coulson shows up with the Fitz/Mac designed weapon to take him out, overloading his powers and leaving him as stone. We then see Hunter at Hartley’s proper funeral, and Coulson shows up to confirm that he isn’t concerned with Hunter’s selling out to Triplett since he did it for Hartley’s sake. He doesn’t trust him, but wants him to act as black operator for the dirty stuff S.H.I.E.L.D. has to do and asks him to actually sell Coulson out to Talbot. This makes sense with Coulson’s attempt to get to Fury’s complex network of agents back up and running, but we still aren’t sure Hunter is really on their side.
May is confronted by Skye, asking what the actual deal is with Coulson, since she knows he is trying very hard to look like he is detached and mysterious, against his true nature. May assures he is fine, knowing she is lying to Skye’s face, but can’t tell her the truth. Later, we see May chastising Coulson for going out in the field, as he isn’t ready to be there. Coulson admits he has been having trouble holding back his “episodes” and can’t do it anymore. She tells him he is due, and to just let it out and then we see that what the “episodes” really are. Coulson has not stopped his compulsions to draw the symbols he started since being exposed to GH 325, and fills an entire wall with them, carving the symbols into the plaster. May documents the entire thing, adding them to the many times he has done this before, and reminding us that these symbols will have a very large effect on the future of the series.
We also meet up with Raina again, and her bringing the Obelisk to who we now know is Skye’s father (played by Kyle Maclachlan). He is wiping his hands (remember the gooey stuff he was covered in last time?), and tells her to pick up the Obelisk as “they must know”. She unwillingly does, and nervous, it doesn’t turn her hands to stone but reacts by lighting up the same symbols Coulson has been drawing instead. She is relieved that she caused it to react that way, but Skye’s father is upset saying she didn’t do anything, it let her live. He asks her to bring Skye to him before explaining how the Obelisk works, setting up Raina’s goal for the next few episodes. In the last minute stinger, Coulson meets Talbot with a full military capture team. Coulson stands calmly, with Creel in a white van ready to be captured, and offers Talbot a deal. S.H.I.E.L.D. will continue to capture targets and give them to Talbot, letting him take the credit in return for some breathing room to operate. Talbot is amused, but refuses the deal because he has no real arsenal to threaten with, and that’s when the Bus equipped with brand new cloaking equipment shows up. Coulson lets him know this is just the tip of the iceberg, (it’s not really), leaving Talbot with no choice but to accept their irritating but mutually beneficial relationship.
This episode was fantastic at setting up the new status quo we will be seeing for the rest of the season. It seems each episode will have a more immediate continuation of the last, leading to a much more fast paced feel. They have honed character development down to a science, creating more depth for these players in one episode than the entire last season. Creel continuing from the last episode makes him seem like a more immediate threat (Coulson says of his final state “he’s made of stone, but he can already do that,.. so who knows?”) he seems to have some actual motivations other than money. Mac and Hunter seemed very vanilla and indistinguishable last episode, but they developed them into individuals, with Mac fascinated with helping Fitz and Hunter an untrustworthy badass with a heart of gold. If the the Obelisk isn’t an Infinity Stone (the Time, Soul and Reality gems remain unknown in the MCU), I’ll be disappointed, it just makes sense. Though, it could easily be related to the Terrigen Mists as well, as a prevailing fan theory suggests Raina, Skye and her father will turn out to be Inhumans (learn more about that theory here). Overall, this episode was another positive step in cementing the shows place in the bigger MCU and in the ABC lineup, its necessary and if the writers keep up this pace I’m sure we will see some more fantastic episodes on the horizon.