Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Love in the Time of Hydra Review
While it may not have much in terms of grand revelations or shocking jaw-dropping moments, of the four episodes following the mid-season break, Love in the Time of Hydra might actually be the best constructed. That doesn’t mean that it is the best of those four, but it does a good job of balancing its A, B, and C plots without feeling like it is shortchanging any of them. There are still a few notable issues, but they’re mainly due to logistics issues rather than problems with characters or tone. Despite there technically being three different plot threads, the episode can actually be divided in two with half of the episode focusing on the problems within S.H.I.E.L.D. and “the real” S.H.I.E.L.D., and the other half focusing on Ward and Agent 33.
The internal problems with S.H.I.E.L.D. are divided between the decision of what to do with Skye and Hunter’s interactions with the other S.H.I.E.L.D. faction. Hunter’s blend of straightforward honesty and loyalty to Coulson is something that I’ve come to like about the character, so watching as the higher ups of this other S.H.I.E.L.D. try to convince him to potentially join their cause has a number of enjoyable aspects to it. Edward James Olmos is very good at playing characters with a clear sense of distinguishment and gravitas, and his Robert Gonzalez is no exception. It is very easy to see him as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., possibly even more so than Coulson or Fury, which is impressive. We still haven’t seen too much of his character, and, without additional characterization to define Gonzalez, one could argue that Olmos is simply playing a somewhat more sinister version of Admiral Adama… which, I suppose, isn’t so much a complaint as it is a statement of awesomeness. Personally, I always felt that Olmos’s portrayal of Adama was one of the biggest strengths of Battlestar Galactica, and seeing that determination and force of personality get turned against Coulson and his team is nothing if not exciting. It also serves to highlight a question that was brought up a bit last week, namely whether or not the current S.H.I.E.L.D. is truly different from its predecessor. Regardless of whether or not Coulson has truly transformed the organization, it’s hard to deny that Gonzalez’s S.H.I.E.L.D. looks more than a little familiar, and not in a good way. The scenes in which Hunter is being pursued through the compartments of the aircraft carrier bear a resemblance to some of the escape scenes from The Winter Soldier. That really isn’t a connection Gonzalez would want people to be making, regardless of whether or not his claims of representing transparency are even remotely genuine, and it’s hard to deny that the heavily militarized appearance of this faction makes them the less appealing option when compared to Coulson’s team. Speaking of Coulson, he spends much of the episode dealing with the issue of Skye. Both May and Jemma continue to have concerns about her involvement, with Fitz and Jemma butting heads almost constantly. Coulson ultimately decides to isolate Skye in a safe house where he hopes that progress can be made as far as controlling her powers is concerned. My guess is that, despite the steps taken to keep the safe house secure, she probably won’t be isolated there for long. Furthermore, May and Coulson reveal that they are suspicious of both Mack and Bobbi, and are moving forward in investigating Hunter’s disappearance. Though, due to Hunter’s escape from the aircraft carrier, it looks like Bobbi plans to take Coulson down as quickly as possible.
The rest of Love in the Time of Hydra deals with Agent 33 and Ward, who took up much more of the episode than I had expected. The episode starts off with the pair kidnapping a scientist so that they can repair 33’s nanomask, which remains a point of irritation for me. It’s a piece of technology with a seemingly infinite supply of power despite having no apparent battery of any type, and it can continue operating even after half of it is melted. It might just be a personal irritation though, since I have often found disguise based technology to be rather questionable in nature, but this one appears to be particularly illogical. Ward’s motivation also seems to be questionable, but he claims that he wants to help Agent 33 deal with those who manipulated her. Now that her mask is fixed, she can take on almost any female face that she sees, but the mask itself cannot be removed and she refuses to turn off the mask’s display (at least initially). Ward ultimately proposes that they go and collect Bakshi from Talbot’s air force base, ostensibly so that 33 can work through her problems. His equating of her being brainwashed by Hydra to his manipulation by his family comes off as almost laughable due to the vague nature with which he describes his recent reunion with his family. The infiltration of the base plays out much like one would expect, with Talbot’s incompetency being almost prodigious in nature. He comes off as almost bumbling in this episode, and, while much of it is played for laughs, this is one of the few points where I feel the episode really did stumble a bit, as it eventually stops being funny and just becomes irritating. Ward and 33 break Bakshi out without too much difficulty (Talbot was busy grabbing the faces of his female officers) and the episode ends with them showing him a familiar compliance invoking video. Talbot’s incomparable idiocy aside, this was actually a rather interesting plotline, as it would appear that Ward does not plan on rejoining Hydra or S.H.I.E.L.D. I still don’t know exactly where Agents plans on going with this pairing of Ward and 33, but fortunately they didn’t feel like they were an unnecessary distraction here.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Aside from Edward James Olmos, the heads of the “real” S.H.I.E.L.D. also included Christine Adams (Terra Nova, Pushing Daisies) and Kirk Acevedo (Fringe, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Oz).
- I’ll admit that the scene where Talbot is explaining the merits of riding lawnmowers to a thoroughly uninterested subordinate made me laugh.
- It is quite impressive how the show manages to make Agent 33 feel like a single character, despite being portrayed by so many different actors.
- It would appear that even Robert Gonzalez believes Fury is dead. Either that or he has decided to keep that information secret.
- I like how even Bobbi didn’t quite seem to expect Hunter to be capable of escaping. He has rapidly become a strong member of the cast, and I like how his disappointment and anger seem to have a much stronger bite than they have in their regular back and forth quips.
- Coulson also provides Skye with what appear to be prototypes for the Quake Gauntlets, though he states that there are risks to using them.
- The review for the next episode, One Door Closes, will likely be late, and it may even be combined with the review for the episode Afterlife depending how late it ends up being.
- Spoilers: It turns out Ultron is a Cylon.
Love in the Time of Hydra is damn fine episode, though not an exceptionally memorable one. It is largely building up to the next episode, One Door Closes, but it works well enough on its own that it can be enjoyed independently of whatever occurs next. It maintains a decent momentum throughout, and has me legitimately interested in the direction in which the show is going.
Love in the Time of Hydra isn't an exceptional episode, but, given the fact that it's purpose is largely to set up things to come, it does that job very effectively.