Following the big reveal at the end of last week’s episode, we knew coming in that “Love in the Time of Hydra” would have some explaining to do. What is with this other SHIELD? Is Mack actually evil? Who is that guy with the Colonel Sanders mustache? What actually happened with Ward and Agent 33? All of that and more is adequently answered in this episode, for the most part, but the real question is if Agents of SHIELD can manage to squeeze in an exciting episode in the middle of all the answers.
“Love in the Time of Hydra” opens with an answer to one such question, with Grant and Agent 33 sitting in a diner preparing for a nice lunch of pumpkin pancakes and expository dialogue. For the most part, Agents of SHIELD has been great about not just slapping two characters together and letting them spit information at each other, but this was a bit of a slip. Because of the fact that there is no real reason for a love story between the two, they need to sit down and blatantly say it instead of it being able to show what happened. As it’s revealed throughout the episode, however, it may not be the love story it appears to be.
Grant never comes out and says he’s using Agent 33, but as an audience member knowing his past and how he operates, it’s clear to everyone that he’s doing so. He deflects romantic propositions (something he’d normally jump at the opportunity to do), and is frequently pushing the distraught Agent 33 towards his own goals. After she had half her face electrocuted, Agent 33 is vulnerable and Grant Ward is taking advantage of her. It’s a decent story line in itself, but it has to spend quite a bit of the opening splaying out the details instead of getting into the action because of the lack of backstory between the two.
After kidnapping a doctor who can fix Agent 33’s mask, the two go forward with their ultimate plan which includes infiltrating the U.S. Navy to recover the imprisoned Sunil Bakshi. It brings back one of my favorite goofy characters, General Talbot, as he frantically tries to find who snuck into his building disguised as his wife. One situation ends up a little too corny, even for Talbot, when he’s is yelling at his wife to get down and she’s pleading with him telling him she “even brought the little pork taquitos” that he likes so much. But other than that, Grant and Agent 33’s escape plan serves as the only real action in the episode, and it’s done quite well.
The worst part about the story between Agent 33 and Grant is the awful dubbing that 33’s shape shifting face requires. Being that she can change her appearance but retain her voice, it forces the show to record Maya Stojan’s voice and dub it over Chloe Bennet, which plays like a Bad Lip Reading video and pulls me directly out of the episode every single time.
There are a lot of small little quips in this week’s episode – something has been lacking in recent SHIELD episodes and may be good or bad depending on much you enjoy the Whedon-isms of the show compared to its more straight and dramatic moments. Compared to recent episodes, “Love in the Time of Hydra” is not all that dramatic of an episode. There are a few deeper moments, like Sky and Coulson bonding on the way to a safe house, but for the most part it’s a light bridge between two big dramatic moments. The first half of that bridge was formed last week when it was revealed that a splintered SHIELD has been created, and the end destination will come sometime next week when the mutiny officially begins, as the episode promo teases at the end.
Skye’s story takes a backseat for the most part, making way for the story of Mack and Bobbie’s betrayal. Her small part in this episode involves being taken to a secluded area to control her powers, including new bracers that Coulson assures her will help keep them under control. She is also assured that even Captain America himself had to stay in this laserfence-enclosed safe house when he was first unfrozen. Skye is obviously here in case her new found earthquake powers start to become too much so she’ll take out some trees and a mountain instead of a top-secret SHIELD facility.
Coulson makes the decision to make her whereabouts a secret, feeding into the other side of SHIELD’s warnings that he is becoming as secretive as Nick Fury once was before he “died.” His motives are clear to the audience of course, but thinking like an average character on the show – such as Hunter, or the other parts of the splintered SHIELD – it all legitimately does make Coulson look like he’s lost it. All the people that have died since he took over, most of which were caused by him chasing alien technology, does a great job to build up to the case against him. This split among SHIELD was something the show was carefully planning for some time and it all begins to pay off well this week.
Next week is the big showdown that has been teased for a while now by the looks of it. Bobbie is returning to Coulson’s SHIELD to either kill Coulson or gather more intel, it’s not completely clear, but based on the teaser there is going to be a lot of fighting, yelling, and betrayal coming soon.
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