Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – A Hen in the Wolf House Review
The show knows how to use Kyle MacLachlan. I wasn’t quite sold on his first appearance as he was only shown briefly, and it appeared that Agents planned on using him primarily as a menacing presence. In A Hen in the Wolf House, however, we get to see much more of his still unnamed character and the episode presents him in a slightly more jovial, albeit still psychopathic, light. In fact, the ending scene between him and Daniel Whitehall was so strong that it served to overshadow almost everything that preceded it, which is rather impressive given the quality of the episode. MacLachlan excels at being likable, and that talent for likability is put to good use here. His violent nature is presented in a manner that suggests that it isn’t completely within his control, and at one point I actually found myself feeling sorry for a character who can, and apparently does, rip people apart with his bare hands.
A Hen in the Wolf House also serves to introduce the character of Bobbi Morse a.k.a. Mockingbird who is played by Adrianne Palicki. Palicki has had questionable success when it comes to superhero centric television shows as she previously appeared in the unaired pilots for both Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Fortunately, this time she has decent material to work with, and she makes good use of it. She initially appears as the head of security for the Hydra Laboratory where Simmons is stationed. When Raina reveals to Hydra Simmons’s status as a mole, Mockingbird is forced shed her cover in order to get Simmons out safely. It’s a rather abrupt end to the Hydra mole story arc, but watching Morse play both the role of intimidating gestapo as well as kindly ally helps make up for any shortcoming on that front. That being said, Birdy and I agree that there is pretty much no chance in hell that Morse isn’t indoctrinated. When she is escaping the Hydra labs she goes to attack Mr. Bakshi, but the camera notably cuts away before she attacks him. Furthermore, when Bakshi is shown later, he displays no signs of injury, so it’s probably only a matter of time before she “complies.” The reveal that she is Hunter’s ex-wife is not really surprising seeing as the show has been throwing out references to his ex with all the subtlety of a steamroller, but hopefully this can be mined for some good humor and character moments.
The plot primarily focuses on Raina’s attempts to recover the obelisk. As she is quick to discover, “The Doctor” is not keen on returning it and, in an attempt to gain his favor, Raina tries to convince Coulson to let her take Skye to him. From a plot perspective, Raina’s attempts to strike deals with the various factions ends up looking rather jumbled on paper, but it is pulled off quite effectively in the episode itself. That being said, I still laughed out loud when Coulson commented to Raina that she “doesn’t scare easily.” There are a couple ways the show could move forward with her character, but they need to either downplay her fear or use it as a force that drives her. But as it stands, her character still isn’t a favorite of mine.
The last thing of note is that this week, Skye finally discovers the truth behind Coulson’s interest in the carvings. Coulson also finally gives a reason as to why she wasn’t informed earlier. Since his compulsions were triggered the first time he saw Garrett’s carvings, he wanted to observe Skye and see if she reacted in the same fashion. Naturally, she’s frustrated that he lied to her, but Coulson’s suggestion that she might be an alien is an intriguing one. Hopefully, Agents will be able to sustain this momentum. I was starting to believe that the show would only reveal it’s answers in tiny bits and pieces, but in that regard A Hen in the Wolf House was a breath of fresh air.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Palicki also apparently appeared in an episode of Smallville, but, even if I saw that episode, I certainly don’t remember it. She also appeared in Legion alongside J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision actor Paul Bettany… well, at least she’s in something good now. She also appeared in Friday Night Lights, but I know next to nothing about the show aside from the fact that it was supposed to be quite good.
- We only get a glimpse of Fitz and Simmons’s reunion. It should be interesting to see how her return affects his mental condition, particularly if he continues hallucinating.
- I wish they would hurry up and confirm that the alien objects and carvings are Kree in nature. Most fans called it the moment we saw a blue skinned alien, and there is little doubt after Guardians. I suppose they could always surprise us. After all, no one is predicting that Coulson was brought back using Smurf blood.
- Ward and Skye have a brief interrogation scene early in the episode in which she questions him about the alien carvings and learns about Garrett’s deterioration. I’ve come to really like those scenes between them, but this one ended up being relatively forgettable when compared to the quality of the episode that followed.
A Hen in the Wolf House is a legitimately great episode for Agents. It has great pacing, characterization, and wonderful acting, particularly from Palicki and MacLachlan. If the momentum of this episode can be sustained, then we are surely in for a great season.
A Hen in the Wolf House serves not only as a strong introduction for two important characters, but also as a very well constructed and well executed episode in general.