ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Love in the Time of HYDRA TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 2, episode 14, ‘Love in the Time of HYDRA,’ was something of a Rorschach test. The payoff hinged on whether your emphasis fell on the ‘Love,’ or the ‘HYDRA,’ component, of the title.
Take the opening scene, for instance. Any relation to the “Honey Bunny” opener, to Pulp Fiction, may have been purely coincidently; but I doubt it. I thought it was kind of cute, actually. It also set the tone for the episode, where sentiment would serve as both a precursor to, and obfuscation of, violent intent. The ones who most epitomized that dynamic were Ward & Agent 33 (Brett Dalton & Maya Stojan); but their thread was presented as a place holder, while the ongoing song & dance, back at S.H.I.E.L.D., continued building to terminal velocity.
This, in itself, was an act of misdirection; as I doubt the big reveals, of the Agency spies among spies arc, will have the kind of impact I suspect awaits us, at the end of the Ward 33 roadshow.
Agent 33’s run, as evil doppelganger May (Ming-Na Wen), has finally been given an out (her disfigurement had to have impacted their ability to get around, unnoticed). The man ‘recruited’ to cobble her face-dancing shoes, however, really had no idea what comes with reassurance & a smile, from Ward. Viewers would do well to consider that smiling reassurance constituted the bulk of his interactions with 33. Just saying.
To the ‘WayWards’ (fans, supporters, and apologists of Ward), who took heart from Ward taking 33 under his wing, a few things to consider. Ward lied about the resolution to his family feud (I admit, he actually had me going, up to that point). A clear parallel was drawn, between the breaking of 33, and the breaking of young Ward. Ward had declined to make things intimate, between the two, despite 33 offering herself in a form he would find most appealing. He put her talents to use, both to infiltrate a secure military installation, and to ‘recruit’ a major player.
Any of that seemed familiar?
Y’know what? As much as I’d rather be coy about it, I’m just going to come out and say it: Ward has assumed the role of Garrett; setting up 33 as his own, personal Ward. There – I said it (drops mic, backs out of room, arms spread).
I could always be wrong; but in the event I’m not, this was a mother of set up.
Some of the initial execution wasn’t bad, either. In his new role, as rival colleague, Brig. Gen. Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) got to chew the scenery, as Ward & 33’s infiltration played out somewhere between John Carpenter’s Thing, and G.I. Joe’s Zartan. For someone who has been directly engaged with super spies, Talbot was disappointingly slow & inflexible, regarding his handling of the raid; so I’m thinking he makes for a better foil, than ally.
That previously mentioned offer, made by Agent 33, was the subject of an accompanying poster, courtesy of Annie Wu, for what seems to be a continuation of the Art of S.H.I.E.L.D. project.
The image captures everything right, about the pairing, while simultaneously underlying everything that is wrong about it. Wrong, that is, to anyone with misgivings about said pairing.
For former HYDRA operatives, Ward & 33, love is a sense of purpose; a purpose that allows for the exploitation of love, among targets & marks. Sadly, this leaves room for losing sight of where the lines are drawn, regarding who is the mark/ target, and how love, as a sense of purpose, can, itself, be exploited.
An easy enough indictment to make, where vestiges of HYDRA are concerned; so surely love, in this time, would mean something much less cynical, for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., yes? Well….
The principal arc, of season 2.2, posed the same question; but has been taking its time, in terms of providing any answers. For Director Coulson (Clark Gregg), love, in the wake of Quake, meant getting Skye (Chloe Bennet) clear of her polarized team mates – more for her sake, than theirs; but for Skye, it meant not knowing which, for certain.
For Fitz-Simmons (Iain De Caestecker & Elizabeth Henstridge), love, under these circumstances, has meant mutual betrayal, where a less personal relationship would have allowed for bygones. The Wonder Twin geek-babble dynamic has still been evident, just under the surface; but each has remained self-conscious about what was lost.
The fact that Fitz had found something of a post-Ward friend, in Mack (Henry Simmons), likely means another blow to the little guy, when Mack’s mission, with Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki), comes to light. The MacBobbi sub-plot, however, likely means more to Hunter (Nick Blood), than any other Agent, on the titular subject.
Love, in the time of HYDRA, meant revisiting something of a pattern, between Hunter & Bobbi, of a dysfunctional relationship, that, for both parties, came with the job. From Hunter’s perspective, though, it has been about Bobbi taking the job too seriously – and that meant being in the business of manipulating things like love (including theirs). Adding insult, to injury, was finding his trust in Mack misplaced – likely souring him on being convinced of any justification for it. For Hunter, love, in the spy game, meant being a habitual sucker. The big reveal, of the MacBobbi operation, likely didn’t help with his trust issues, either.
There was a whole subtext, regarding love of country/ institution, presented by an impending Civil War, within the Agency; but one beaten horse is enough.
Ultimately, the contradictory title components cancelled each other out – making the title, itself, just another shell game. Love, under these circumstances, amounted to equal parts asset, and liability; but the optimistic viewer need not be completely discouraged. Optimists, among the cast, will be rewarded for weathering this time. The question is, how many cast members (and how much scenery) will be left for any group hug session, at the end of this particular period of time.
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