Warning: spoilers for last night's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D episode are ahead!
This season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has had its attention spread across many directions. The last two weeks have been primarily focused on Coulson and the team dealing with the ATCU and rogue Inhuman Lash (who has since been revealed to be Dr. Andrew Garner), while the episode before those showed what happened to Simmons while she was on the alien planet. This week’s “Many Heads, One Tale” started off with Coulson digging up dirt on the ATCU, but it gave HYDRA a bigger chance to shine in the end. The terrorist organization’s new bigwig Grant Ward was treated to a HYDRA history lesson that is not only a giant retcon, but the biggest MCU status quo change on television since the Inhumans were introduced last season.
Although Ward and ATCU head Gideon Malick (played by Powers Boothe) allied with each other two weeks ago, Malick decided to terminate their relationship early in this episode, as he believed Ward was too big of a threat to his goals. Of course, we know how formidable Ward is, so it was no surprise when he dispatched the men Malick sent to kill him. However, before killing them, he tortured them to find the location of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker’s vault, which was the main reason Ward recruited Strucker’s son Werner in the first place. After getting the information and hijacking a commercial plane, he arrived at his destination, but Malick was already there. Impressed by his survival, Malick decided that perhaps instead of being a threat, Ward has proved himself worthy of being HYDRA’s second-in-command, and proceeded to drop some knowledge about the organization’s secret history.
Moviegoers were introduced to HYDRA in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and until now it was believed that it was the Red Skull that founded the group during the Nazi reign. However it turns out HYDRA is much older than that. As in thousands of years old! After showing Ward a piece of the Monolith kept inside Strucker’s safe, he explained how there was an Inhuman born on Earth long ago that posed such a threat that it was sent through the portal and exiled on the same alien planet that Simmons was stranded on. That’s right, the shadowy figure who tormented her and Will is that Inhuman. HYDRA was subsequently founded to see this Inhuman returned to our planet, and they’ve sent men through the portal to “save or serve” their “leader,” which is just a death sentence. This means that HYDRA was the group of people we saw in the 1839 flashback several episodes ago.
Well, you know what they say frequently on this show: “It’s all connected.” Earlier in the episode, Fitz and Simmons learned that the HYDRA symbol has recurred throughout history, but more surprisingly, the organization is embedded within NASA. They were the ones that sent Will on the mission and they're the reason he’s trapped there. So what’s their endgame? They're building an army for the mysterious Inhuman to command once it comes back through the portal, and Ward and Malick will lead said army. That’s why Malick has been stockpiling Inhumans at the ATCU, which Rosalind Price didn’t know about when cornered by Coulson. Eager to bury the hatchet, Malick agreed to help Ward destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. in exchange for helping discover how Simmons was able to get off the alien planet.
HYDRA has had a more prominent role in the MCU since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but until last night, they were just a terrorist organization trying to take away freedom to expand their own power. Now we know there’s more to all this. They’re doing the bidding of this powerful Inhuman, and once it’s back on Earth, they’ll destroy anyone in their way, with an army of Inhumans to enforce their will. This includes Lash, whom Ward deliberately forced Garner to transform into in the episode’s final minutes. As for the identity of this first Inhuman, it’s anyone’s guess at this point, but if you have your own theory, make sure to let us know in the comments.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is taking next week off, but you can watch the story continue when it returns Tuesday, December 1 at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.