Apologies, once again, for the delay. It won’t repeat for tomorrow’s show.
So! Once again, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D puts a big chunk of it’s internal mysteries on the table and drops in a bunch of new ones. Clever storytelling? Side-effect of only having a general sense of where your story is “allowed” to go week to week? Who can tell, at this point…
We knew Andrew Gardner was Lash as of last episode, and now as of this one we know how he got that way (Jaiying rigged some of her personal-effects with Terrigen booby-traps, leading Andrew to be exposed and discover that he has been an Inhuman this whole time) and everyone is on the same page about it; with Lash himself now filed-away in the ATCU’s holding-facility – which, under the circumstances, Daisy is now feeling less self-righteous about unilaterally opposing. Well, isn’t that convenient.
A strong episode overall, though (apart from the aforementioned May/Andrew business) a little light on the character work in favor of the plot. It’s nice to see the pieces continuing to move so quickly, since at this rate it feels like the current scenario(s) could well be totally upended by the time the AGENT CARTER break arrives; potentially giving us yet another new status-quo to look forward to in the second half. It would be in keeping with the speed at which things have moved this season, and I’m starting to wonder if we can actually hope for a significant CIVIL WAR lead-in.
…or not. In any case:
New mystery #1: What, exactly, was Lash trying to accomplish? Before he went down at May’s hands (great performances from Blair Underwood and Ming-Na Wen, once again) his dialogue seemed to imply that he was going after Inhumans who’d done something “wrong.” In the comics, Lash’s deal is that he kills those who’ve turned without “earning” it whom he deems unworthy after the fact, but this doesn’t appear to be that – particularly since he claimed to be using Jaiying’s genealogy-charts as a hit-list. At this point, it would be a very “signature” AGENTS’ moment for Lash to turn out to have been wrongly-fighting a yet-unknown threat, so…
New mystery #2: Who is Gideon Malick and what does he have to do with the ATCU? Last time, we learned that the (apparent) head of the S.H.I.E.L.D-overseeing Security Council played by Powers Boothe has a name and is apparently a bad guy (he’s reached out to Ward and Nu-HYDRA.) Now, just as Coulson (and maybe the audience?) was getting ready to trust Rosalind Price – Daisy saving her life during a fight with Lash and all that – we (but not Coulson) learn that Malick has been in contact with her the whole time. Is he calling ATCU’s shots?
New mystery #3: Who were the Monolith’s pre-S.H.I.E.L.D owners? Should’ve seen this angle coming, but did not. So, good on you, writers. While continuing to look for ways to bring Simmons’ astronaut boyfriend Will back to Earth with the Monolith/portal destroyed, Fitz lands on a big clue: A near-match to the insignia from the old castle where the device was hidden at some point before S.H.I.E.L.D had it appears to have been hidden in the design of Will’s mission-patch, suggesting that it wasn’t (only?) NASA backing his mission but some remnant of the occult-esque secret society that was using the Monolith for unknown purposes back in the day. Okay, so maybe there are more people out there who know about the portals and how to use them… but who are they?
No need for bullet-points theorizing this time, since it feels to me like they’re heading for all of these stories to converge this time around. Here’s the thing: We know that whoever the Monolith-cultists were, they were men of means and position. We know that S.H.I.E.L.D had the Monolith after them, but apparently no one we’ve yet met was high-grade enough to know when they got it or how. Now, we know that at some point at least 15 years ago, it was used in conjunction with a NASA mission likely at the behest of those same cultists. So it feels like a pretty easy guess that said cultists are connected-to S.H.I.E.L.D in such a way that they could use The Agency’s “keep an eye on alien stuff” directives to hide the thing. Seems like something Malick would be involved with, if not in charge of, yes?
So who are they (the “cultists,” that is)? Well, another tangent HYDRA seems like the obvious call, but maybe too obvious at this point. AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D could use a fresh(er) regular antagonist, so even if they are HYDRA I’d imagine they’ll be a “related” branch that goes by a different name. My guess? The Serpent Society. Either way, I maintain my earlier guess about Malick being a “re-imagined” version of Albert Malik, aka the second Red Skull.
Extrapolating further: A big part of the post-CIVIL WAR Captain America comics involved the real Red Skull “possessing” a high-placed military/industrial figure, so it already wouldn’t surprise me to see that plotline come up somewhere in the MCU in the near future. If so, I’d bet Malick isn’t so much “Red Skull II” as the O.G. Skull, Johann Schmidt, wearing a new face. Keep in mind: The one thing we know about these people is that they owned and figured out how to control a space/time portal – wouldn’t it be something if Schmidt (who was zapped off to who-knows-where by the similarly portal-centric Tessaract in FIRST AVENGER) found his way back that way and has been hiding out ever since?
The cast and writers have been teasing a “WINTER SOLDIER-level” twist for the Winter Break, after all, and Powers Boothe pulling off his face the reveal that The Red Skull has been secretly hanging out this entire time would certainly qualify. Plus, if it means the Skull might concievably become available for the movies again (maybe as a secret CIVIL WAR heavy, dare I hope??) I’d be all for that. In the comics, Red Skull serves the vital purpose of providing a “baseline” of evil to give every other villain a degree of relative nuance (i.e. “Sure, I’m a pretty bad person – but that dude is, literally, a NAZI!”) and it’d be fun to have an agitator onhand who’s just bad for bad’s sake if you need to get a plot going economically: “Why are they trying to blow up The Rainforest, exactly?” “Nazi With a Skeleton-Head!”
Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D are apparently double-dealing against ATCU even still in “Many Heads, One Tale.” (okay, that title makes me feel even more secure in predicting The Serpent Society.)