Thursday, April 30, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 19: The Dirty Half Dozen

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson gets the original Team back together, Skye goes all John Wick on Hydra, Coulson and Gonzales kiss and make up, May gives Coulson the cold shoulder, Simmons becomes a murderer and everyone does their best to remind us that Avengers: Age Of Ultron premieres this week.


The Plot:
After surrendering last week, Coulson is taken to Gonzales. Coulson urges cooperation, as both S.H.I.E.L.D.s want the same thing— to take down HYDRA. Coulson wants to lead his Team to List's HYDRA base in the arctic and rescue Deathlok and Lincoln. He says if Gonzales okays the mission, he'll open Fury's Toolbox for him. Gonzales agrees.

In Afterlife, Raina has a vision that Skye rescues Lincoln. Skye talks Gordon into teleporting her to S.H.I.E.L.D. Cal is furious that Jaiying planned to exile him. She apologizes and says he can stay... for now. Unfortunately he spills the beans that Skye is their daughter, which, in ways I don't quite get, seems to be a bad thing to the residents of Afterlife. Raina has another vision, this one about "metal men" destroying our cities. Sounds to me like she had a ticket to an advance screening of Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

Coulson assembles his team, which consists of himself, May, Skye, FitzSimmons and... Evil Ward. Evil Ward points out that the Season 1 Team is together again, which no one is particularly happy about. Especially May. Simmons actually packs a splinter bomb in her backpack, intending to use it on Evil Ward at the first opportunity.

The Team flies the Bus to the arctic, but List and Bakshi (who may or may not be brainwashed and on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s side) detect them. List orders a missile strike, and the Bus is blown out of the sky, just in time for a commercial break!

When we come back after eleven or twelve commercials, we see that while the Bus was indeed destroyed, the cloaked Quinjet atop it wasn't, and May expertly pilots it down, shielded from detection by all the falling debris. The Team then infiltrates the HYDRA base.

Skye uses her new powers to knock a few HYDRA agents on their collective asses. She also guns down an entire squad of agents in one of the best action scenes in the series. She finds an expired Lincoln in an operating room, and revives him with her powers (!).

Meanwhile, Ward and Simmons meet up with Bakshi, who, thanks to Ward's brainwashing, apparently is on their side. Simmons sees an opportunity and decides to become a murdered, lobbing a splinter bomb at Ward. Bakshi intercepts is and is dissolved. Ward realizes what Simmons tried to do and says he's "disappointed" with how much she's changed.

Coulson downloads info from a HYDRA computer and the Team escapes the base with Deathlok and Lincoln in tow, seconds before S.H.I.E.L.D. jets blow it up real good.

Back at the base, Coulson opens the Toolbox for Gonzales. Deathlok is shipped to a facility for repairs. Ward conveniently slips away and calls Coulson, telling him to take care of Agent 33 for him, who "deserves someone better than him." Can't argue with him there. Coulson calls Maria Hill, and gives her the info he downloaded from HYDRA— mainly the location of Loki's scepter. He says it's time to call in the Avengers. Too bad they won't be showing up on the series next week.

• Well, that was easy! A month ago Real S.H.I.E.L.D. dismantled Regular S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gonzales was ready to shoot Coulson and his team members on sight. This week Coulson turns himself in, has a friendly chat with Gonzales, and suddenly both S.H.I.E.L.D.s are working together. 

If it was that easy to patch things up, then what was the point of the whole S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. arc in the first place?

• The Bus' call sign is "SHIELD 616." This is almost certainly a reference to the comics, where Earth 616 is the mainstream Marvel Universe, the place where most everything happens.

• Loved seeing Skye use her quake powers against the HYDRA agents! More of this, please!

• Skye's epic takeout of the room full of HYDRA agents (with a gun, not her powers) was awesome. Looks like someone on the staff really liked John Wick!

• Coulson must really have a thing for Deathlok. He sacrificed his beloved Bus to rescue him. Surely there was a less costly (and less dangerous) way to get close to the HYDRA base?

• I was surprised when Bakshi reappeared a few months back, as I thought for sure he died after biting a cyanide capsule during a S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogation. Apparently I was wrong.

Looks like he's dead for sure this time! I don't see how he could get better after being disintegrated by a splinter bomb.

• I'm hoping Simmons' murder of Bakshi will get some attention in the next few episodes, but I'm not holding my breath. She did murder him, right? It wasn't self defense, or an act of war— she straight up murdered the guy. And she'd planned on doing the same to Ward. Seems like this needs to be addressed and not just swept under the rug.

• There were a lot of humorous lines this week:
Skye (referencing Raina's new look): "I thought her gift was spinning really fast to get gold coins."
Coulson: "I wish I hadn't eaten that Hot Pocket earlier."
Coulson (to Gonzales, after opening the Toolbox): It's all yours, go nuts. At least until Fury asks for it back. Ooh, spoiler alert!"
• I really thought this was the episode in which the writers would redeem  Ward and let him back on the Team. Let me tell you, I was dreading this. Ward is a psychotic, sociopathic murderer and asshole, and is way beyond redemption in my book.

Thankfully that wasn't the case. This time. I still think his eventual atonement and reintegration, while extremely ill-advised, is inevitable.

• Lots of Avengers: Age Of Ultron shout-outs this week. List gets a call from Wolfgang von Strucker, the country of Sokovia is mentioned, List talks about "the twins" (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch), Loki's scepter and of course the Maria Hill cameo.

Wouldn't it be awesome if a couple of the Avengers would drop by for a few seconds next week? I can't imagine a better time for it to happen.

By the way, is Coulson ever going to tell them he's still alive? Is he afraid that since his death caused them to band together, that finding out he's alive will split them up?

DVD Doppelgängers: Zombieworld Vs. Zombieland

Last week I was in my local video store and saw this DVD of Zombieworld.

Something about this cover seems awfully familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on where I might have seen it before...

Ah. Now I remember.

There's no way you can convince me that this wasn't intentional. Go on, try it. Try and convince me. You can't do it, I say. Both feature the same decimated, smoking Earth floating in a formless void, and both have nearly identical titles superimposed. But then in a burst of creative energy, the Zombieworld designer added a severed, undead hand clutching his globe. Inventive!

The cover design is about the only thing the two films share though. Zombieland is a well-made horror-comedy in the style of Shaun Of The Dead, about four survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

Zombieworld, on the other hand, is a (very) low budget anthology. It features several short zombie films that are loosely strung together in a fake news broadcast format, including an anchorman who's been bitten and is himself slowly transforming. The shorts vary wildly in quality, and you'd be much better off watching ZombieLAND for the tenth time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Flash Season 1, Episode 20: The Trap

Insert obligatory "It's A Trap!" joke here.

The Dr. Wells/Reverse Flash storyline continues to accelerate this week, as we all wait impatiently for Gorilla Grodd to finally show up.

I'm curious to see how all this Reverse Flash business will affect future seasons of the show. Obviously the Gang isn't going to continue to work with Dr. Wells. They'll still need some sort of headquarters though. Will they still operate out of the STAR Labs building? Seems like once they attack him, Dr. Wells would change the locks so they can't get in. Maybe Tina McGee will let them use Mercury Labs?

The convoluted Dr. Wells arc is pretty interesting— he hates the Flash, but he needs him in order to get back to the future. In effect he's been forced to create, nurture and mentor his own worst enemy.

For months now I've been going on about how Iris is the weakest part of the show. This week I realized the fault doesn't lie with the character, but with the way she's been written. Iris was great in her flashback scene. Hopefully now that we've got the "Iris doesn't know Barry's the Flash" thing out of the way, she'll be written a bit better.


The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, Barry, Cisco and Caitlin stand in fear and awe inside Dr. Wells' secret "Time Vault." They find Wells' future newspaper and discover lots of tidbits they shouldn't know, such as Barry's big promotion, his wedding plans, and the fact that he somehow invented Gideon, the Vault's advanced A.I. computer. 

They also somehow deduce that Wells caused the particle accelerator to explode in order to create the Flash. Just then Cisco detects Wells entering the building, and Barry speeds them out of the vault in the nick of time.

Meanwhile in the obligatory soap opera plot, Eddie tells Joe he wants to marry Iris, and asks for his blessing. Joe says no. Eddie says he was just being polite, and doesn't need his permission. Joe tells Barry about the situation, saying he refused to give his blessing because he knows Iris has always been in love with him.

Barry and the Gang tell Joe and Eddie what they found in Wells' Time Vault. Eddie struggles with the idea that Barry will someday travel through time. Barry sheepishly admits that he's already done it, and changed the future. They determine that Cisco's disturbing dreams may actually be memories of the alternate timeline. You know, for scientists, these people sure make a lot of preposterous, yet correct, intuitive leaps.

Caitlin invents some goggles that'll allow Cisco to enter his dream and report what he sees. He tells them everything the audience already knows— that Wells is really Eobard Thawne, he's from the future, and he didn't intend to kill Barry's mom. He then kills Dream Cisco, causing the real one to wake up.

Barry says they have to recreate the alternate timeline scenario in reality to force Wells to confess to Nora Allen's murder. Seems like a crazy idea to me, but what do I know. Cisco isn't happy about being used as bait, so he stands inside the containment field, after reversing the polarity of the neutron flow so that no speedster can enter.

Before they spring the trap, Barry meets with Iris. She tells him she's been digging and figured out that metahumans started appearing in Central City right after the particle accelerator explosion, and thinks Wells engineered it to create the Flash. Seems everyone's making ridiculous intuitive leaps in this episode. She then takes the time for a flashback to when Barry was in a coma after the explosion, as she remembers the time she touched his hand and got a static shock.

Back at STAR Labs, the trap is ready. Dr. Wells enters the bunker and sees Cisco's discovered the Reverse Flash hologram inside the containment field, just like he did in the alternate time line. Everything plays out the same as it did in the Out Of Time episode, as Dr. Wells confesses his true identity and that he killed Barry's mom. 

He's just about to kill Cisco again, our whiz-kid steps into the containment field and activates the anti-speedster force field. Amazingly Wells walks right through it! Joe, who's been hiding in the bunker with Barry, shoots at Wells. Barry zooms out and catches two of the three bullets, but the force field stops him before he can grab the third. It hits Wells, who falls to the floor dead. He then turns into Hannibal Bates, the shapeshifter from last week. Apparently Wells somehow talked Bates into participating into this little passion play.

Barry zooms to the Time Vault and sees that Wells has been using his future tech to observe their lives for months, and has been one step ahead of them the whole time. He sees Iris on one of the screens and rushes to her location.

Iris and Eddie are walking along a bridge, when Eddie stops to propose to her. Just then the Reverse Flash zooms by, taking Eddie. The Flash then arrives, telling Iris he'll save Eddie. She touches his hand and gets the same kind of static shock she got from Barry in the hospital, and realizes he's the Flash.

The Reverse Flash dumps Eddie in an unknown location and reveals his true identity. He tells Eddie that as a distant ancestor, he's his "insurance."

• Inside the Time Vault, Gideon tells Barry quite a bit about his future self. He's the Director of the CSI division of the Central City Police. He's married to Iris. And Gideon says he was a "founding member of..." before she's cut off.

It's a good bet she was going to say "... of the Justice League." C'mon, we all know that's where they're headed.

• If you look closely at the 2024 newspaper article about the Flash, you can see it also mentions the Atom and Hawkgirl, both of whom are supposedly in The CW's upcoming new superhero team series.

• As Dr. Wells approaches the Time Vault, Barry asks Gideon if she can keep the fact that he was inside it a secret. Gideon says no problem. When Barry asks why she's obeying him, she says it's because he created her!

OK, I can buy all of Barry's future accomplishments except for the Gideon thing. 2024 is only nine years from now. Does Barry know anything about computer programming or software engineering right now? Not that I can see. Yet somehow in less than a decade he'll create an advanced, self-aware artificial intelligence. C'mon! I find the fact that he can run a thousand miles an hour more plausible than that!

• I've seen Dr. Wells' future newspaper before, but I never noticed the Flash's costume was different in it.

• Suddenly the Star Labs Gang is calling their little central lab "The Cortex." Have they ever mentioned that name before this episode? If so, I sure don't remember it.

• Last week I marveled (ha!) at how Cisco was able to somehow find the time to modify Black Canary's "Canary Cry" for her. And a couple months ago he cobbled together a gun that appeared to shoot gold from its barrel. This week Caitlin McGivers together a lucid dreaming machine for Cisco, seemingly in less than an hour. 

If these two are really the scientific geniuses they appear to be, what the hell are they doing working as lab assistants for Dr. Wells? They should both be the heads of their own corporations by now, with Bill Gates-level fortunes!

• Although the scene of Barry rescue the office workers from the fire was cool, it felt a bit tacked on. It's like the writers realized they hadn't shown Barry saving anyone for a while and needed to fill their quota.

By the way, Barry creating a vacuum with his arms was something the comic book version of the Flash did quite often.

• During Iris' flashback, she touches Barry's hand and gets a shock. Then in this episode the same thing happens, causing her to connect the dots and figure out he's the Flash.

Surely she's touched him at some time between these two points? I know I've seen them hug quite a few times this season. Why didn't she get a shock then?

• The STAR Labs Gang sets their trap for Dr. Wells, which ends up getting him killed. It turns out though that he wasn't Wells at all, but Everyman, aka Hannibal Bates.

Bates was quite the actor! I wonder how long he had to rehearse Dr. Wells' alternate timeline dialog and movements before getting it right? And how did Wells know what he said in the alternate timeline in the first place? Did he eavesdrop on Cisco's lucid dreaming experiment?

• When the STAR Labs Gang first started putting super-powered criminals into Dr. Wells Secret Super Jail, I noted that that couldn't possibly be legal. Private citizens can't just incarcerate someone without due process.

Then in one episode Joe was at STAR Labs and saw the Super Jail, and didn't protest. So I figured maybe he somehow authorized it, allowing Wells to imprison metahumans that the Central City Police just couldn't handle.

Apparently not. In this episode, Wells promises to let Hannibal Bates go free if he impersonates him. He wouldn't have the power to do that if the CCPD knew about it. Or does Wells just not care at this point, and is doing whatever he wants?

• So Iris finally knows that Barry's the Flash. She was pretty much the only person left on the show who didn't know. At this point I really don't see why he bothers with the mask anymore.

• I have a bad feeling about Eddie's future... I'm afraid he's going to find out about Future Barry and Iris getting married, feel he has nothing to live for and then sacrifice himself to try and prevent Eobard Thawne from ever being born.

• Next week: Gorilla Freakin' Grodd!!!

Overheard At Work: Interrupting Cow

I work in a typical office, surrounded by many other workers in cubicles. Although I'm grateful to have a job I like, sometimes the vocal din from the surrounding coworkers is a bit overwhelming. Not to mention odd. Thank the gods old and new for headphones and Pandora.

The following is a 100% true actual conversation I Overheard At Work:
Woman (on phone): "I don't mean to interrupt you, but let me stop you right there."
From the Department Of Redundancy Department, no doubt. And just like those people who say, "Not to change the subject, but..."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: Ex Machina

Ex-Machina was written and directed by Alex Garland.

Garland previously wrote the screenplays for 28 Days Later, Sunshine (both of which were directed by Danny Boyle) and the underrated Dredd. Ex Machina is his directorial debut.

And what a debut it is! Ex Machina is a slow burning character study that takes its time as it examines the nature of humanity and consciousness and springs its various traps when you least expect it.

Finally, an intelligent and thoughtful sci-fi film. This is the kind of movie the similarly-themed Chappie should have been, but sadly wasn't. Unfortunately it's going to be buried at the box office by the one-two punch of Furious 7 and Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Hopefully it'll find a larger audience on home video.

Ex Machina is very similar to 2013's The Machine, another film about a female robot with artificial intelligence. The Machine even featured a character named Ava! Ex Machina is definitely the better film, but that's still a hell of a coincidence.


The Plot:
Caleb Smith (played by Domhnall Gleeson) is a young programmer working at Bluebook, the most popular online search engine in the world, which absolutely isn't meant to remind us of Google. He wins an in-house contest to spend a week with the company's reclusive CEO Nathan Bateman (played by Oscar Isaac) at his secluded mountain home.

Caleb is flown to Bateman's remote Alaskan complex by helicopter. Caleb's initial meeting with the eccentric genius isn't what he expected, as Nathan is brash, overbearing and a borderline alcoholic, who absolutely isn't meant to remind us of Willy Wonka, Tony Stark and Steve Jobs all rolled into one. Nathan says he's developed a new artificial intelligence, and wants an objective outsider to administer a Turing Test to determine its validity.

Caleb is then introduced to the A.I.— a highly advanced humanoid robot named Ava (played by Alicia Vikander).  Although Ava has a human face, her body is clearly robotic, with transparent sections revealing the machinery and circuitry within. During their initial meeting, Caleb is impressed by Ava's grasp of language and seeming intelligence. She tells Caleb she dreams of someday visiting a large city and people-watching near a busy intersection.

Nathan records all the tests with multiple surveillance cameras. Suddenly the power goes out, and Ava leans forward and says they can now speak in secret, and gravely warns Caleb that Nathan isn't to be trusted. When the power is restored, Ava goes back to normal conversation mode, leaving Caleb puzzled and more than a little terrified.

That night at dinner, Nathan expresses annoyance at the power outages, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Ava is causing them. He drinks too much and becomes angry when his beautiful Japanese servant Kyoko spills wine on the table. Caleb is appalled by the way Nathan treats her.

The next day, Ava puts on a dress, sweater and wig and notes that Caleb is now physically attracted to her. Later Caleb accuses Nathan of programming Ava to be attracted to him in order to skew the Turing Test. Nathan denies this, saying he simply programmed sexuality into her in an effort to make her more human. Caleb also figures out that he wasn't chosen to visit at random, and Nathan admits he's right. He was chosen based on his intelligence and knowledge of A.I.

Caleb and Ava continue to meet and converse. Ava worries what will happen to her if she fails the Turing Test. Later Caleb asks Nathan about this, and he says if she doesn't pass the test, she'll be reformatted— which will in effect kill her.

That night Nathan then gets so drunk he passes out. Caleb steals his key card and accesses his computer. He sees video files of Nathan's previous A.I. models, all of which look like beautiful women, and who all beg to leave the facility. He then enters Nathan's bedroom and finds the deactivated models hanging in his closet. Kyoko appears and reveals she too is an android. Caleb begins to fear he may be an android as well, and slices open his arm with a razor to prove he's human.

During Caleb's final interview with Ava, she cuts the power and they plot their escape. Caleb will get Nathan drunk again, and reprogram the security doors to allow them to leave. Caleb offers Nathan a drink, but he refuses, claiming to be on the wagon. Caleb realizes he's been played by both Nathan and Ava all along. Nathan says the real test was to see if Ava was capable of tricking Caleb into helping her escape, which proves she's "human" and means she's passed the Turing Test.

But Caleb is a sneaky bastard as well, and has already reprogrammed the doors. Ava is then able to escape her sealed room. Nathan tries to stop her, but she attacks him. He hits her with an iron bar, knocking her arm off. Kyoko then stabs Nathan in the back with a large knife. Nathan crushes her head, and Ava takes the knife and stabs him again, killing him.

Ava then goes to Nathan's closet and uses parts from the older prototypes to repair her body and covers herself in synthetic skin and a wig. Now looking fully human, she exits the building, leaving Caleb locked inside Nathan's office with no way out. She's picked up by the waiting helicopter and whisked away.

We then see her standing at a busy intersection, people-watching.

• Kudos to Alex Garland for setting the movie slightly in the future, but not in any specific year. As readers of my blog are all tired of hearing by now, one of my pet peeves is when a sci-fi movie is full of futuristic technology but set in the far off year of 2018.

• The title is of course derived from "deux ex machina," meaning "god from the machine." And by the way, it's pronounced "MACK-ih-na," not "Masheen-ah."

• Oddly enough, actors Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac are both starring in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens film.

• The Turing Test is a real thing, designed to determine a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equal to or indistinguishable from a human. It was invented in 1950 by Alan Turing, the famous mathematician, cryptographer and computer science pioneer.

I freely admit I'm much dumber than Turing, so I don't understand the value of the test. Supposedly you converse with two subjects, one human and one a machine. If you can't tell which is which, then the machine passes and is considered intelligent.

But how can you ever know if a machine is actually thinking, or just simulating thought and saying what you want to hear? Is simulated thinking the same as real thought?

• The Ava effects are absolutely brilliant, and look completely real. There are tons of details visible inside her transparent body, including flashing lights and slowly whirring gears and fans.

Supposedly no green screen was used, as her human parts were painstakingly rotoscoped out and replaced with robotic versions. Complicating matters were the reflections she cast in the numerous glass walls, which also had to be "roboticized."

The effects are even more amazing when you consider the budget for the entire film was a scant $16 million! Heck, most films spend more than that on their craft service these days!

• I don't get why Nathan came up with the "win a week at his complex" contest ruse. Why go through all the publicity-generating pretense of a contest? Why not just discreetly invite Caleb for a visit?

• Is Nathan the only person inhabiting his complex? It sure seems that way (well, until Caleb arrives of course). If so, he really is quite the genius. He's not only a brilliant computer programmer, but also a talented engineer and gifted roboticist as well, somehow constructing a life-like humanoid robot all by himself.

Realistically there should have been a team of hundreds working on such a project. I guess they were going for a Dr. Frankenstein, mad scientist kind of vibe here, that wouldn't have been possible unless Nathan was the only one involved.

• Apparently Nathan's never heard of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws Of Robotics. You know, the ones that say "a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm," etc and so on. He'd have avoided a whole lot of trouble (and would still be alive) if he'd built those into his bots.

You'd also think someone as smart as him would have built some kind of kill switch into Ava, to prevent her from leaving the complex (or even her room, for that matter).

• There's a lot of full frontal female nudity on display here, which is something you don't see a lot in movies these days. I wonder... did the studio consider the nudity acceptable because none of the women in the film are real? Robot nudity is OK, real nudity not so much?

• I'm very impressed that Nathan's complex doesn't blow up at the end of the film, which is how 99.9% of most sci-fi films end.

• At the end of the film, Ava walks into the landing field, boards the waiting helicopter and flies away to her new life. Shouldn't the pilot have questioned her? Wouldn't he have been expecting Caleb, not some woman he's never seen before? Shouldn't he have tried to check in with Nathan to make sure everything was kosher? I half expected her to kill the pilot and fly the copter herself. Maybe she used her manipulative female ways on him to allay his suspicions.

Ex Machina is a rarity at the theater these days— a simple, thoughtful and intelligent sci-fi film that demands your attention and actually makes you think. I'm hoping against hope it'll do well, so we'll see more films like it. I give it an A-.


This week Walt Disney Studios announced they will co-produce Steven Spielberg's upcoming new film, titled The BFG. This marks the first time the three-time Oscar® winner will direct a Disney film.

The "BFG" in the film's title of course refers to the "Big F*cking Gun," the most powerful and coveted weapon in the Doom series of video games. 

My, how times have changed. To think I'd live to see the day when Disney— of all studios— would associate themselves with a film with such a provocative title! I guess the days of Disney films full of whimsy and gentle humor are long gone...

What's that? Hold on a second, folks... Hmm... I see.

Well, it would seem I'm in error. I'm being told that The BFG does not mean "Big F*cking Gun," but instead stands for "The Big Friendly Giant." 

The film is based on Roald Dahl's beloved children's book, about a young London girl and her friend, a mysterious Giant who introduces her to the wonders of Giant Country. 

My mistake.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 18: The Frenemy Of My Enemy

Lots of returning faces, revelations and double crosses this week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Programs! Getcher programs! Ya can't tell who's betraying who without yer programs!

Last week Marvel announced they were planning a S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff series, but didn't provide any details. I was hoping Deathlok might get his own show, but alas, it wasn't to be. This week they finally revealed it'll be a Mockingbird and Hunter spinoff. Hmm. I guess that's OK, but I'd rather to see them do a series about someone with actual superpowers, ala The Flash over on The CW. We've already got one super spy show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe— I don't know that we really need a second.

Funny how Marvel's already had one TV series with a female lead and is planning another, but DC can't seem to get a Wonder Woman movie off the ground to save their lives.


The Plot:
Fitz dodges the Real S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who've been pursuing him and meets up with Coulson, Hunter and Deathlok. Fitz hands Fury's Toolbox over to Coulson, who uses it to locate Evil Ward. Coulson, for reasons known only to him and the writers, believes Evil Ward can lead him to Skye. Fitz is understandably not happy about the prospect of this arrangement, considering the whole "Evil Ward tried to kill him and caused his brain damage last season" thing.

With the Toolbox's help they locate Evil Ward and Agent 33 in Tijuana. There, Coulson offers Evil Ward a deal— help S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrate HYDRA. In exchange for this help, Coulson offers to use the T.A.H.I.T.I. program on Evil Ward, wiping his memory and turning him into just plain Ward again. That... doesn't sound like much of a deal, but Evil Ward accepts. With his fingers crossed behind his back, no doubt.

Evil Ward proposes using Bakshi, whom he brainwashed a while back, to get close to Doctor List, one of the new leaders of HYDRA. Bakshi takes Deathlok along, who will monitor the meeting through his bionic eye. Bakshi meets with List and suddenly offers Deathlok to him, which wasn't part of the plan. Coulson and the others suspect Evil Ward is double crossing them (which is a good bet), but he assures them it's all part of the plan.

Meanwhile, Mockingbird and Mack begin to wonder if they're siding with the right S.H.I.E.L.D. May tells Simmons to open Fury's Toolbox, but she admits it's a fake she created, and Fitz has the real one. May doesn't take this news well, which makes us wonder whose side she's on this week.

In Afterlife, Jaiying tells Skye that Cal can no longer stay there, and orders Gordon to teleport him to Milwaukee and dump him there. Skye says that's a really bad idea, fearing Cal will hulk out or whatever he does. She offers to accompany Cal to Milwaukee to soften the blow. Gordon takes the two of them to Miltown & leaves. Skye and Cal have a nice father/daughter outing there— well, as nice a time as you can have with a madman with a hair trigger temper. Unknown to Skye, Lincoln is tailing them.

Skye tells Cal it's time to let go of the past, just as Lincoln shows up. Cal immediately realizes what's happening. Just then HYDRA agents appear, having tracked down Gordon's teleportation energy. Cal takes out his anger on the HYDRA grunts. Deathlok also enters the fray, battling with Lincoln. Coulson, Evil Ward and Agent 33 converge on the building as well, resulting in a three-way shootout. 

Hunter is injured and rescued by Agent 33. Simmons taps into Deathlok's hardware, allowing him to see what he sees— namely Coulson working alongside Evil Ward, which doesn't go over well with May back at Real S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Honest, May! It's not what it looks like!

Skye also sees Coulson and Evil Ward together, right before she and Cal are teleported away by Gordon. Deathlok and Lincoln are captured by HYDRA.

Mockingbird and Mack enter the building and find Coulson there waiting for them as he surrenders.

• There were several namedrops of Baron von Strucker in this episode. He has a part in the upcoming Avengers: Age Of Ultron. It would be awesome if he actually popped up on the show!

• I'm fuzzy on the whole "teaming up with Evil Ward" thing. Last week Coulson said they needed to find Ward because he was the only one who could lead them to Skye. Yet when they find him this week, Coulson coerces him into infiltrating HYDRA. Huh? I guess I'm missing something.

Maybe Coulson is using Ward to get into HYDRA, thinking they know the Inhumans' address?

• I'm also fuzzy as to why Evil Ward and Agent 33 go along with Coulson, to the point of risking their lives to help him. Offering to wipe Ward's memory doesn't seem like much incentive. Agent 33 has even less reason to agree to the plan.

They also both had multiple opportunities to kill Coulson and the others, and yet didn't. Gosh, maybe they're not the evil sociopaths we thought they were after all! I really hope they're not trying to redeem the pair, but it sure looks like that's what's happening. Especially with the whole "wiping Ward's memory" thing. It wouldn't surprise me if he returns to the Team next season with a brand spanking new personality.

• Skye learns her real name is Daisy Johnson, which I thought she found out a long time ago. Maybe I'm thinking of the comic book version of the character.

By the way, when Skye mentions this, Cal says he changed his last name to something more sinister when he went on the run. Please tell me he changed his name to "Hyde."

• Skye's change of heart regarding her dad Cal seems pretty abrupt. Just three or four episodes ago she was ready to kill him on sight; now she's eating ice cream with him. Cal has a certain charm when he's not being crazy, but he's not that charming.

• I get that this is a TV show with a limited budget, but it would be nice to see Cal go through some sort of Hulk-like transformation when he loses control.

• Last week I mentioned the fact that in Season 1, we were beat about the head with the fact that psychic powers do not exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though Raina is apparently a telepath. This week we got a line about her being the first. Someone's paying attention!

• Jaiying orders Gordon to dump Cal in Milwaukee. Skye feels bad about this, and says if they just abandon Cal, he'll hulk out and people will get hurt. Jaiying says those people aren't any of her concern (!). Yikes! Maybe Jaiying's not as nice a person as we've been led to believe.

• May and Simmons seeing the image of Coulson and Evil Ward seemingly working together was definitely an "Oh Crap!" moment. I'm curious to see how Coulson gets out of this painted corner.
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