Padme Amidala once argued for democracy over dictatorship by saying that the two have the same objectives, but democracy only appears weaker because people don’t always agree on what needs to be done. It’s something we don’t go a week without suffering in politics. You’d think the common good and goals would unite us but the opportunity for power will always divide when someone will always try to force their opinion and their way of doing things. This is what we meet in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week. Two organisations that really want to achieve the same things but in different ways, and one is not afraid to back up their arguments with force.
One Door Closes – When Coulson rumbles Bobbi and Mack’s moonlighting events with the rival, Shields escalate sooner than expected. Meanwhile, Skye gets a surprise visitor at her cabin in the woods that helps her see her transformation in a whole new light.
Now the big problem last week was Mockingjay Part One level non-eventfulness. This week forms a fantastic response as in events take a sudden and more dramatic turn than anyone expected (in barely 8 minutes more happens than the whole of last week!). Instead of spending many weeks in a cold war and overly drawn out build up to conflict between these two rivals, the series just brings they’re worlds crashing together . What’s even more curious is that it’s a first round knockout. Despite the odd strangling survivor, Coulson’s Shield did not leave the Thunderdome, suddenly plunging the season into a bold new direction. Will Coulson rally the ragged remainders to retake the Shield registered trademark? Or more importantly should he? While it’s clear that Real shield has a the odd bad egg among them, the episode does a great job of making neither side the clear antagonist. As May keenly observes, they go out of their way to not kill anybody, and the likes of Bobbi and Mack appear genuinely remorseful about taking any drastic action. Yet it’s the Real Shield origins flashbacks that really sell their ideals as we witness “The day Shield fell” from their perspective. By choosing to defy Fury’s orders and not view their organisation as a dictatorship, they saved hundreds of lives sand the ship (The Elliott) that’s now their base. The moment of rebellion between their survivors group is so well conveyed as the now Commander Gonzalas was actually against defying the orders but in the good they achieved came, so understand the value of a more democratic approach. It all does a great job of helping us understand why they would turn against their few friends that remain in such a crisis. We get the bonus reprisal of Lucy Lawless as Agent Hartley following her untimely departure in the season opener, complete with plenty of arse kicking moments. The episode also takes great advantage of the conflict to deliver a fan favourite face off between May and Bobbi that does not disappoint.
Skye’s story arc also satisfies much more this week. The little gems like discovering her accommodation was actually “the house that banner built” (complete with a hidden wall souvenir) to the heavier focus on her powers. Based on the last bunch of episodes it was only a matter of time before Gordon/The Reader paid her a visit. Although it’s rather curious to see him dispensing with the usual teleporting theatrics and actually knocking on Skye’s door. His approach is even more casual and Inhuman chummy than expected from his regular abduction approach. His intent is to alter Skye’s feelings towards her powers from something to be feared to an asset she must embrace. This is symbolised nicely by the donning and shedding of Simmons' homemade chastity gloves but it’s the water effects that really hit their mark. It’s a wonderful moment of Skye finally seeing her powers as in a positive light for the first time since terragenesis by creating something beautiful. This impression of gradual control from Skye yields us the awesome reward of finally seeing an offensive powers shock wave from Quake even if just as a defensive reaction. The slow-mo effects of the decimating trees and agents flying back combined with the larger than expected result, makes for an impressive visual spectacle. Skye ends the episode the way we always knew she would but her journey there has been less obvious.
Fitz & Simmons have a good episode in the way they put aside their dispute when bigger problems come crashing through their doors. In their opening scene, they’re still in conflict over the treatment of Skye, even on a formal/working professional only relationship by using each other’s full first names. Yet the simple unspoken moment of embracing each other in their darkest hour makes a very touching moment. Re-introducing them to Agent Weaver from the Shield Academy sends them into an interesting new direction by providing the means to sympathise with Real Shield when Weaver explains that they saved her and many others when the Academy was attacked by Hydra. Will we start to see other characters changing Shields over the course of this civil war? Simmons also gets a great solo moment as she outwits Bobbi with some great deception, harking back to her Hydra infiltration days.
This week’s episode and conclusion are not only a significant improvemenst on the last two but takes the series into such an exciting new place for its final third. The only question we need to answer is "Who is the season’s main villain?" This episode makes it clear that though Real Shield and Commander Gonzalas are a force, they are not evil. The Inhumans have shown no conflicting intentions. Hydra’s all but out of the picture, Daniel Whitehall’s dead and Grant Ward shows no intent to take the villainous lead. So that’s what we really need next week’s “Afterlife” episode to do; paint a big black moustache on someone. For now though, this door closes but the season has really opened up.