(Full spoilers ahead: Do not read if you haven’t seen Captain America 2 yet)
Now Marvel is just showing off its brilliance.
After Hydra was revealed to have infiltrated every level of S.H.I.E.L.D. and concocted a plan that spanned 70-plus years in the new “Captain America 2” film, the television show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has begun the aftermath phase. Who can be trusted? How will S.H.I.E.L.D. continue to function?
Forget simply connecting the show with the movies. Creator Joss Whedon and Marvel successfully have bridged the two into one arcing story. Whether it’s the betrayal of Agent Sitwell or the discovery of the Clairvoyant One deeply embedded in S.H.I.E.L.D., the new direction of the Marvel saga has opened up many pathways, poses short- and long-term problems and gives audiences new ways to care about what happens next. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is sprawling on a big and small scale, and that’s a good thing.
The newest episode of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” interestingly had a new logo; a Hydra skull in place of the bird. Hydra’s involvement goes so deep it presents a new type of villain. It’s not just one enemy with superpowers (though there still will be plenty of those). Now, Hydra is using mistrust, lies and evil planning. It’s like any old clichéd villain who wants to take over the world, except now it actually is a very real threat, and it makes for more intriguing stories as the MCU continues to unfold.
Mistrust hits home on a very personal level for the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the past few episodes, Bill Paxton’s Agent Garrett has given the group a reprieve with his brass, action-hero style. But as he and Agent Coulson exchange a staredown in the wake of the aftermath of Hydra’s coming-out party, the sense of betrayal and vehement hostility is palpable; the look in Garrett’s face almost was a smack in Coulson’s face, as if Coulson should be ashamed he didn’t see this coming. Tensions ran high as old allegiances are broken and new ones must be formed.
Garrett eventually was capture as Agent Hand (whom we were led to believe was the Clairvoyant One) takes him prisoner, along with Agent Ward. And in a stunning move, Ward kills Hand and two other escorting agents to free Garrett, who, as it turns out, is the true Clairvoyant One.
Or is he? It doesn’t seem like using the algorithm alluded to in “Cap 2” is really Garrett’s style; he’s more muscle than brain. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that someone else is the Clairvoyant One. As for Ward, his betrayal was shocking, but looking back retroactively, it isn’t hard to imaging. He was emotionless, save for one moment a couple episodes ago, and distant from the group, as if he knew they eventually would turn into his enemies. It was an interesting in this latest episode to see Ward share feelings with Skye, almost as if he was saying goodbye knowing Hydra’s time to rise had come.
The episode had a constant race-against-the-clock pace as the agents frantically try to figure out what to do next. With Director Nick Fury presumed dead, it’ll be interesting to see how the characters work together under different leadership. Coulson obviously will stay as the team captain, but in just one episode post-“Cap 2,” agents are showing their true colors as they learn to survive by any means necessary, which included flip-flop consideration to join Hydra, then fight against it, by Simmons—so is he secretly Hydra, too?—who had a couple shining moments in the episode. Fitz and Simmons both might have to change up their routine of working in the lab a bit, especially considering there might be a lab anymore.
Through the last five or six weeks of the show, that is one thing that needs to get cleared. How big is the scope of Hydra’s takeover? It already has expanded to multiple continents. And what will be the end-game strategy for the season? With the strong ties to the movies, it’s hard to see the leftovers of S.H.I.E.L.D. cleaning all this up, since Hydra likely will be a major player moving forward.
As far as the season is concerned, individual storylines need to be addressed more before tackling the bigger scope. There still needs to be resolutions on Coulson’s Tahiti experience, Skye’s history and The Clairvoyant One storylines, to name a few. Hopefully this means there will be a second season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” that tackles Hydra on a broader scope.