Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Things We Bury Review
Now that is more like it. I spent much of last week complaining about how the alien blueprint wasn’t nearly interesting enough to warrant the very gradually building intrigue that surrounded it. The Things We Bury turns out to be quite refreshing in the fact that it progresses the plot and builds up some decent momentum in the process. As far as the blueprint is concerned, there are no major reveals or tantalizing hints this week. Coulson and his team simply search for and find the location that matches the alien writing. The episode refreshingly maintains a straightforward approach to this storyline while leaving all the mystery and significant reveals to previously unexplored characters, in particular Daniel Whitehall and the Doctor. Their histories turn out to be a bit more closely intertwined than was previously hinted at, and we finally get some answers as to how Whitehall has staved off the effects of time.
Coulson spends The Things We Bury hopping the globe with Skye, Fitz and Triplett as they try to hack into a global satellite network so they can track down the structure from the alien glyphs. This serves as a surprisingly strong storyline as it maintains a brisk pace, offers some good moments for Fitz, and culminates in the first direct confrontation between Coulson and the Doctor. Kyle MacLachlan brings a strong sense of likability to the character even as he threatens Triplett’s life with his surgical skills. In a number of ways, the Doctor has come to represent a sort of Bizarro-Coulson (Way to mix comic universes, me!) as both are characterized by their gleeful, almost child-like exuberance and often appear to be nonplussed by seemingly dangerous scenarios. The primary element that sets them apart is the alignment of their moral compasses and it is surprisingly easy for me to imagine many of the Doctor’s lines coming from Coulson’s mouth. This plot concludes with Coulson getting the info he was looking for (I’m eager to see where that leads us.) but rattled by his confrontation with an enigmatic new enemy and the close call with Triplett.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team is focused on cracking Mr. Bakshi and, through a slip of the tongue, discover that Daniel Whitehall was in custody until 1989 and during his incarceration he had aged normally. I found that the makeup used to age the character slightly unconvincing, but that is little more than a nitpick. The flashbacks in this episode are quite strong and serve to offer a number of answers to questions that have been floating around for a while. Plus, the de-aging effects used on the Doctor in the final scene were quite impressive. I was actually so stunned by how young MacLachlan looked that it almost killed my immersion due to the sudden Twin Peaks flashbacks. Bakshi ultimately attempts to kill himself by smashing his jaw against the interrogation table and breaking open a cyanide capsule concealed within the bone. The Things We Bury ends with him still alive, but it would appear that he won’t be talking to S.H.I.E.L.D. again any time soon.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- I don’t really know what to say about the confrontation between the Ward brothers. It confirmed that Grant was right about his brother, but it would appear that this revelation doesn’t hold too much weight given what would appear to be Christian’s demise at the end. I’ll wait till we see a body before I draw any conclusions though. It would seem that Ward is seeking to join forces with the Doctor, which would tie in to his “promise” to Skye.
- Caveman and I have reached a conclusion on who we think the Doctor is. I’ll avoid stating it outright for the moment, but I kinda like the idea of Skye developing tectonic powers. …That could be interesting.
- In my mind, I keep accidentally switching Bakshi’s name with the name Bhatia, which was the name of a minor side character in the first Mass Effect game, so if I ever refer to a Mr. Bhatia in an Agents review, it is because of that… or they had a very odd crossover.
- The banter between Hunter and Morse got a bit annoying in this one. It wasn’t enough to detract from the viewing experience, but really? Was anyone surprised when they joined each other for some suspension shaking in the vehicle?
- By the way, congratulations to Agents for having the most symbolic and multilayered episode title this side of Person of Interest.
Ultimately, The Things We Bury serves to alleviate some of the frustration that I felt the show was building up via strong writing, a brisk pace, and several reveals the significance of which doesn’t feel overplayed. It is one of the strongest episodes the show has had this season. Now here is hoping we don’t spend the next episode trying to track down a mysterious snow globe that has the alien carvings etched into it or some nonsense like that.
The Things We Bury is a breath of fresh air due to its reenforcement of the sense that the show is going somewhere at a decent pace and with a firm direction.