Boy am I glad I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier this past weekend. Anyone who put that off would've had some major plot points spoiled for them during tonight's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I'll be talking pretty openly about the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as they relate to what happened on tonight's S.H.I.E.L.D. so please consider yourself SPOILER-warned. That's mainly related to Hydra. I will not reveal any specifics about any of the characters from Winter Soldier, beyond what's mentioned in tonight's episode, "Turn, Turn, Turn."
Captain America: The Winter Soldier revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated to its core by a dark organization called Hydra. This powerful organization dismantled S.H.I.E.L.D from the inside, and people who were secretly serving Hydra betrayed and "crossed off" those who were loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D. As mentioned in tonight's episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury was on the list. Winter Soldier made it evident that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was in for a real game-changer, and the fact that the end of tonight's episode showed a Hydra symbol where the S.H.I.E.L.D. one should've been really brings that home.
Following last week's cliffhanger, which had Agent Hand rerouting Coulson's plane, with plans to kill everyone on board, while May stood at gunpoint and Coulson demanded answers, tonight's episode had Coulson and Garrett learning about Hydra and then plotting to infiltrate the S.H.I.E.L.D facility that they were on their way to because Simmons was there. A game of who-do-you-trust ensued from there as we tried to figure out which of these people were Hydra-loyal and which were good guys.
So, who's with Hydra and who isn't on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I don't think we can firmly say one way or the other about everyone, but the line was most definitely drawn for some characters. As of "Turn, Turn, Turn," Coulson, Skye, Fitz and Simmons are all anti-Hydra, Pro-S.H.I.E.L.D. all the way. Even Fitz and Simmons had a chance to prove their allegiance. Simmons took her chances trusting Triplett to protect her and refused to speak up when Agent Hand gave her and Triplett the opportunity to join Team Hydra -- a test she was using on everyone to see who would turn and who was loyal. Later, Fitz tearfully stared Garrett in the face and told him straight up he'd see that they suffer for what they were doing. Yes, Bill Paxton's Garrett is Hydra. Coulson eventually figured that out when Garrett slipped up with some information he shouldn't have had.
Melinda May is not Hydra. I mean, like I said, we don't know if we can completely trust anyone at this point, but May and Coulson's stand-off at the beginning of the episode led to May admitting her secret secure line was so that she could contact Nick Fury. Apparently, May's been keeping Fury updated on Coulson's health status since he was brought back from the dead. So it's a betrayal, but there are definitely shades of gray when it comes to betrayals now that Hydra's in the mix. By episode's end, Coulson agreed to be an ally to May because at this point, they can't afford not to have her around, but they aren't friends right now. It's sad, really, as it seems like the whole reason May was spying on Coulson was because she cares about him -- though she might have had to take him out if things went bad, so there's that.. It was a breach of trust regardless, so I can't fault Coulson for feeling burned.
And, um, speaking of breaches of trust, Ward is with Hydra? I'm not always right with my theories, but I did express my suspicions last week after Coulson accused Ward of killing the non-Clairvoyant on some unseen orders. Coulson turned out to be (kind of) wrong about that but I trust that character's intuition too much to completely let it go. Once Coulson thought Ward might be shady, I couldn't help but see it as a major possibility. That the nice-guy act was just an act. That the crush on Skye was just a diversion.
After seeing Winter Soldier, I restated the Ward theory, as I found myself comparing him to Frank Grillo's character Brock Rumlow. So, from the moment Ward insisted on joining Hand to haul Garrett off near the end of the episode, I was waiting to see him do something and growing more and more certain that Hand's life was in major jeopardy. Sure enough, after she smugly offered Ward the opportunity to take Garrett out, he used his gun to kill the two agents on board the plane and then shot Hand.
In terms of the structure of the episode, it was really one suspenseful moment after the next. On one hand, I could've seen this series deciding to delay the Hydra reveal for a couple of weeks to give more viewers a chance to see the film. Maybe they could have put Coulson's team on some mission that separated them from S.H.I.E.L.D. for an episode or two. Instead, the series struck while the iron was searing hot, and given how it all played out, I'm not really complaining. It would've been maddening to watch the team continue to work on behalf of an organization that we know no longer exists.
The Who's Hydra game was certainly a tricky one, as Hand seemed like a likely candidate for Hydra, especially as she led the efforts to take down Garrett's plane. And then there was Triplett, who showed some mild traces of shadiness when he locked the door to the lab moments after Simmons' S.H.I.E.L.D. academy professor revealed to them that Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. But Triplett ended up protecting Simmons and right now it's looking like he's a genuine good guy. I hope that's the case, as Coulson's team is down a man, and wouldn't Triplett be the perfect fit for that role? Didn't he take Ward's spot on Garrett's team?
So where do they go from here? Without knowing who to trust, that's a tricky question. But I'll be interested to know if Simmons' professor factors into that. Didn't she say something like "you know where to find us?" or "You know where we'll be?" I feel like there were some cryptic words in that woman's message, so maybe part of the plan for the future will involve seeking out other S.H.I.E.L.D. loyalists. In the meantime, it's exciting to see this series taking steps in a new direction. No more mysterious Clairvoyant and no more limitlessly funded organization to help this team with their missions. Now they don't know who they can really trust, and they're on their own more or less, which I think makes this game a bit more fun from a viewers' standpoint.
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