TV Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ‘The Dirty Half Dozen’

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The Dirty Half Dozen Plot:

With Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) and Mike/Deathlok (J. August Richards) in captivity, Hydra is now a bigger threat than ever. Director Coulson (Clark Gregg) teams up with Gonzalez (Edward James Olmos) for a joint strike that can prevent future devastation. With Theta Protocol in mind however, does Coulson have an ulterior motive?

It’s amazing how much Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has changed from being a reactionary show to an active creator of content. When this programmed was first conceived, people wondered how the movies would impact it, but never quite vice versa. Thor: The Dark World happened and S.H.I.E.L.D. dealt with the impact in a minimal way. Captain America: The Winter Soldier completely revitalized this show by upending S.H.I.E.L.D. from within. Inhumans is really the first film where S.H.I.E.L.D. is the cause and not the effect. That’s four years away though. What about the more current movies? Namely, how will this show fit into Avengers: Age of Ultron? Will it simply react to Ultron tearing apart the world or will it have a much greater role?

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Turns out it’s the latter. “The Dirty Half Dozen” is a legitimate prequel to Age of Ultron. The entire mission to save Lincoln and Mike from a Hydra base directly sets up The Avengers attacking the other base first teased in The Winter Soldier. Baron Strucker is once again mentioned as also doing experiments like Dr. List (Henry Goodman). The twins (Pietro and Wanda Maximoff/Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) are directly mentioned, but not by name, as the only survivors from experiments. It’s revealed at the end that Coulson wanted to get more information on Loki’s scepter that we all know by know is in Strucker’s possession. That’s a very dangerous device, making it too risky for Coulson’s small S.H.I.E.L.D. team to take over the other base as well. His solution? Theta Protocol, also known as the freaking Avengers. That’s right folks. When you’re watching Age of Ultron and the big guns are fighting Hydra, it’s because of Coulson

This is story convergence at its finest, on par with what The Winter Soldier caused. It’s all really organic. Hydra is such a massive threat, and it wouldn’t make sense for the Avengers to deal with them without S.H.I.E.L.D. doing it first. That’s why this team is here to begin with anyway. If they can’t get wind of what Hydra is doing, they’re basically useless. It’s unfortunate that the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. conflict distracted them for so long. They’re in this position because S.H.I.E.L.D. was too splintered to keep track of what Hydra was doing. So it makes sense that Hydra was finally the force that lead to actual cooperation. We’ve been building up to this attack too. Hydra got too confident, too powerful in the shadows. For the first time in weeks, S.H.I.E.L.D. is actually back to full form.

The original team came with this too. Ward (Brett Dalton), fresh off his recruitment by Coulson, accompanies the rest of our heroes on this mission. This includes Skye too who was nicely dropped off by Gordon (Jamie Harris). Why people like Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) or Mac (Henry Simmons) couldn’t go was pretty stupid. Gonzalez claimed that he didn’t want to lose any of his people, which is basically code for writers saying, “The original team idea is too cool to ignore.” It is cool, don’t get me wrong, but a little contrived.

It worked out in spades though. A big part of this group reunion was Ward being there, and it had a massively negative effect on everyone. Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) justifiably took it the worst. I loved that the show used this to explore their radically different personalities. Fitz is angry and wishes Ward suffered the pain he did, but Simmons is actually interested in action. She legitimately tries to kill Ward. Bakshi (Simon Kissandies), who totally was on Ward’s side all along, accidentally died in the crossfire, which is still a win honestly. It’s great that Simmons is transforming into a scientist driven by vengeance and isn’t the quiet support I’m sure people expected her to be from the start.

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Ward also received a hefty amount of goodwill with his own personal quest for Kara (Maya Stojan). He may be a monster who betrayed those closest to him, something he openly regrets, and murdered his brother, but he clearly still has desire to do right by people. Kara is likely Ward’s way to repair his guilty conscience. Interestingly enough, “The Dirty Half Dozen” was probably as close to an origin story for Kara as we’ll get. She’s a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that Bobbi met before, and was brainwashed to fight for Hydra by Whitehall. Ward brought Kara along so she could finally get the life that Whitehall mercilessly took away from her. It makes me hope that Kara will continue to play a role while Ward has seemingly left her, along with showing that Ward might not be entirely psychopathic.

Skye definitely received the lion’s share of badassery though. This is her first time on a mission since her training began with Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), and clearly she’s made progress. Skye effortlessly defeats a couple Hydra agents with her powers, which is quickly followed up with a seemingly single shot scene of masterful choreography. She rolls around shooting agents and flipping them over her shoulder with brute force. This woman is a bona fide agent, through and through. I look forward to when she can launch shockwaves at will too so she can partner that up with her gun, essentially double wielding powers and guns like Bioshock. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Separate from the Hydra conflict, the Inhuman storyline took a definite backseat last night for obvious reasons. What we did get primarily served to show how Raina (Ruth Negga) is now fitting in with her recently revealed powers. Her clairvoyance is what sends Skye to save Lincoln, much to Jiaying’s chagrin. That pales in comparison to what she sees at the end though. Writhing in pain, Raina talks about metallic men destroying the world and changing everyone’s lives forever. Obviously, she’s talking about Ultron and his global assault to rid Earth of mankind. It was an exciting end that overwhelmingly declares that Age of Ultron is the next chapter of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s story, and what we see next week will be in a Ultron ravaged world.
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In a surprise cameo role, Cobie Smulders came back as Maria Hill, acting as the point person for Coulson to deliver his intel. She’s basically the living bridge that is meant to carry this story from televisions to multiplexes across the globe. Little was done with her, but more was barely necessary. We got exactly what was needed.

“The Dirty Half Dozen” was a really fun episode. I didn’t even get a chance to touch upon this because so much happened, but the humor was really on point here. The one-liners were being thrown out with the exact amount of timing and emphasis. My favorite was easily when Skye saw Raina and questioned if it was time for her to roll into a ball and collect gold rings. Mac and Hunter (Nick Blood) also had a very entertaining reunion. Outside of the humor, this was an excellent outing for the original team that gave the exact connection necessary for the next major film. There’s no escaping it now that Raina has seen the future. The Age of Ultron is upon us.

Rating: 9.5/10