Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – A Fractured House Review
A Fractured House is a slightly peculiar episode. It simultaneously feels like a somewhat rushed conclusion to one story arc and like an effective set up for another one. The episode kicks off with an assault on a meeting of UN representatives by Hydra agents disguised as S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives. This seems like an intriguing idea for an episode, but, in many ways, this initial event serves as little more than a reason for Senator Christian Ward, Grant’s older brother, to initiate a witch hunt for S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. He is the senator who has been backing Talbot and, much like Grant Ward, he’s pretty much a cipher. Actor Tim DeKay effectively makes Christian very difficult to read, and it’s hard to say if either of the two brothers should actually be trusted. Coulson ultimately comes to an agreement with Christian that he will hand over Grant so that he can stand trial in exchange for him reversing his anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. policy. It’s hard to say to what extent Coulson actually trusts Christian Ward. The episode seems to imply that he believes what Christian tells him, but I’d be surprised if Coulson didn’t have a couple Captain America cards hidden up his sleeve. Grant (I’m so used to referring to him as Ward that having two Wards makes this difficult.) comes off as far more manipulative in this episode than he has in other episodes this season. During interrogations, he actively drives Skye towards the subject of her father, and the show intertwines his later scenes with Skye with those between Coulson and Christian in order to highlight their tendencies for manipulation.
Meanwhile, May, Bobbi and Hunter spend much of the episode tracking the weapons used in Hydra’s assault on the meeting of UN officials. Hunter and Bobbi spend most of their time bickering like an old married couple, because… well, you know. Fortunately this, for the most part, succeeds in being funny or, at least, not annoying, though not always. May largely sits these scenes out, and only occasionally cuts in with a bit of deadpan snark. Fortunately, the characters appear to have some decent chemistry so their story arc isn’t as frustrating as initially promised. Plus, we get to see May fight the mercenary Marcus Scarlotti, a.k.a. Whiplash. Not to be confused with the Anton Vanko version saw in Iron Man 2, though.
The fractured episode that is Fractured House ends with Grant being released into US custody, and May and Talbot shaking hands as they now stand together as allies. As it stands, this feels like an oddly abrupt end to S.H.I.E.L.D. working in the shadows. It could be a form of misdirection or it may turn out that S.H.I.E.L.D. has other reasons for staying as they are now, but it’s hard to say with any certainty. Simmons’s story arc as a mole within Hydra also came to an abrupt end last episode, so this may be part of a recurring problem with the second season. It really doesn’t come as any surprise that Ward- I mean Grant, escapes at the end of the episode. I don’t know what the show is planning on doing with the character. There are a number of possibilities, from him becoming a mole within Hydra on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D. to him rejoining Hydra outright to him acting as his own party. These possibilities are intriguing, but, at the moment, we’re left with more questions than answers.
Before I wrap this up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Tim DeKay does a great job in this episode, and, while I am getting a little tired of watching Agents pile questions on top of questions, his character seems like he might be a question that is worth the intrigue… Now I want to see DeKay play the Question.
- We don’t learn anything new about the alien writing this week except that a guy shows up in the final scene to get tattoos of it… You see what I mean about too many questions?
- The promo for the next episode The Writing on the Wall seems to promise some answers about the alien script, but even if they named it The One With All The Answers I’d still be skeptical.
- Fitz and Simmons work on repairing their relationship in this episode, but honestly this doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. It seems that their role in this episode is largely to show that they have trouble communicating with each other.
- No sign of the Doctor or Whitehall this week, though Whitehall is still mentioned often… A little bit of me cries inside at MacLachlan’s absence. After last week’s episode, I really would like to have seen more.
- I’ve been giving Agents and Person of Interest pretty good ratings so far. It’s really difficult to be hard on them when I watch intellectual wasteland that is Supernatural‘s current season on the same night. Seriously, those most recent episodes would be getting failing marks if I had the time to review them.
A Fractured House is a somewhat muddled episode. It appears to bring about an oddly abrupt resolution to the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. the US government subplot, but some of the hints that it drops are intriguing. I’m starting to worry that Agents will save most of its big reveals for the end of the season, but hopefully I’ll be proven wrong. Christian Ward is an interesting character, but there really isn’t much that can be said about him, at this point, aside from the fact that he’s a mystery.
Despite a few fun character moments and some intriguing elements, A Fractured House is held back from greatness by its hasty resolution of a story arc and its overemphasis of the show's mystery elements.