May 29, 2018
AGENTS OF SHIELD RECAP: The Walking Dead (S2:E7)
Previously on Agents of SHIELD:
- Agent Coulson came back from the dead after getting injected with alien blood as part of “Project Tahiti”
- Since then, Coulson occasionally wigs out and starts carving alien symbols into the wall
- Skye, who also has alien blood in her, tells Coulson the symbols are a map… although a map of what she doesn’t know
- Former SHIELD agent and HYDRA mole Grant Ward has escaped custody, but our heroes are hot on his trail
Ever invited a stranger back to your house for some “get to know you” sex? I’m not judging; I’m just curious if maybe there was some sort of heat or chemistry between the two of you. My guess is yes, because why else would you have invited them over in the first place?
This week’s Agents of SHIELD begins with a woman who has clearly just invited a strange man to come home with her, but there is nothing but cold awkwardness between them. She keeps saying, “I know you from somewhere,” and he keeps brushing her off like she’s inviting him to change cell phone companies. She pours two glasses of wine, and he keeps being creepy and distant. Is this behavior a turn-on for her? She’s not acting like it, but there’s no other explanation for how these two ended up here together.
Finally, he starts to open up… by telling her he’s a big fat liar. Only then do alarm bells start to go off in her head, but it’s too late. They have met before, he admits. And he’s travelled a long way to find her again. He takes off his shirt, revealing the same symbols Coulson’s been carving… only this guy’s been carving them into his own flesh.
The woman recognizes the symbols from her own paintings. She’s become obsessed with understanding what they mean. Her gentleman caller assures her that he’s going to help her remember what the symbols are… and then pulls out a knife.
Back at SHIELD HQ, Coulson is carving the usual mysterious symbols into the wall. When he awakes from his trance, he realizes Skye is there watching him. Apparently May told her to observe Coulson whenever he goes sleep-carving. She catches the audience up on the relevant background about Coulson’s resurrection, which is presumably not news to Coulson, and he tells her that his trances are now happening every day, which is news to Skye.
May is flying a recon mission over whatever city they’re in, because apparently SHIELD doesn’t have access to drones? Come on, don’t they watch Homeland? Anyway, Triplett radios her that he’s spotted escaped HYDRA double agent Grant Ward in a train station. He’s about to confront Grant when he catches a glimpse of a suicide belt of C4 under Grant’s coat. Back off, orders May.
The unfortunate woman from the opening scene is now a corpse in the SHIELD lab. Let that be a lesson to all you promiscuous ladies out there. The killer has carved the now-familiar symbols into her body. Coulson recognizes her as a former SHIELD agent and goes with Skye to go search the murder scene.
Skye is bizarrely uneasy about breaking into the woman’s house. Um, you’re SHIELD. This is the least above-the-law thing you’ll do all day. There are seven thousand paintings of alien symbols that cover literally half the apartment, but Coulson and Skye manage to not look in that direction for a ridiculously long time to set up a dramatic reveal… of paintings we’ve known were there since the opening scene. One of the paintings is labeled “A Magical Place.” Well, that’s vague and unhelpful, but the swelling music insists it’s a big deal.
Back at base, Skye is overlaying the victim’s paintings with Coulson’s carvings. Between the two, they’ve got almost the entire map… but not quite. Skye identifies the victim as SHIELD Agent Rebecca Stevens, despite the fact that Rebecca Stevens died five years ago from cancer. Coulson is annoyed that he can’t remember anything about her, although information on all “Level 6” agents should be in his head.
Grant Ward is now at a bus station, and he wastes some time helping a single mom load her bags onto a bus for Dallas even though they’re not important to the episode. Mom invites Grant to sit with her, but he blows her off for the super hot chick sitting in the back of the bus. Hey, it’s SHIELD Agent Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse!
Morse tries to get flirtatious with Grant, but he calls bullshit because she’s still on page 117 of the novel she’s reading—the same page she was on when he passed by her in the bus station. He shows off the detonator for the suicide belt and warns her to stay put on the bus while it takes off for Dallas. Meanwhile, he goes and gets on another bus for some other city. Ain’t he clever? Yes, but not as clever as SHIELD. Hunter is waiting on the new bus to follow Grant wherever he goes. Good thing there were only two buses leaving that day.
Simmons has completed an autopsy on Agent Stevens and reveals she has magical resurrecting alien blood in her system. Not only that, but traces of the killer’s blood under her fingernails also test positive for magical resurrecting alien blood, so he’s from Project Tahiti, too. Simmons also informs them that there are other murder victims with the same symbols carved into their bodies, which is a weird thing to be able to uncover from an autopsy, but whatever.
Coulson deduces that one of the Project Tahiti test subjects must be killing all the others so they need to find any other surviving subjects ASAP. Good thing Nick Fury released all top secret SHIELD information to the general public at the end of Captain America 2, so those names should be easy to—
What, that’s not how it works now? Damn, that’s too bad, because it’s not like they could possibly have some sort of “memory machine” that can punch its way into Coulson’s brain and drag the names out of there. Wait, that IS how it works now? Well, that’s convenient.
Turns out it’s not terribly convenient for Coulson, who’s going to be in horrendous and life-threatening pain while the machine does its work. Nobody in HQ agrees with his decision to use the machine, but they’re not the ones in charge so they can just shut their bitch-ass mouths up.
In Coulson’s memory, Agent Stevens is assuring past-Coulson that she is hunky-dorey since her brief layover in the Not-alive-anymore-ville. So are all the other five test subjects. Coulson is about to order their release when they start getting twitchy and violent. They’ve also taken a sudden interest in sleep-carving indecipherable alien symbols.
Only one of the test subjects seems immune. His name is Sebastian Van Holt, although we know him better as the psycho killer from the opening scene. Coulson quickly figures out the only reason Sebastian isn’t carving up the walls is because he’s carving up himself.
Coulson is ready to shut down the entire project and maybe even destroy the alien “host” from whom they’ve taken the magical resurrecting blood. But a nurse comes up with an alternate plan: if the resurrection process accidentally resulted in these symbols being uploaded into the test subjects’ brains, why not just remove any memory of the symbols from their memories. And while they’re at it, why not just go ahead and erase everything so they can live nice, normal civilian lives from here on out. Coulson greenlights this plan for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
We take a break from flashback land to follow Grant into a bar… somewhere. The bartender recognizes him and offers him a couple of options for a violent death. Grant asks for a bullet to the head, which turns out to be a drink. Hunter is waiting outside the bar, trying to get orders from SHIELD HQ, when big time bad guy Sunil Bakshi drives up with his henchmen.
Bakshi goes into the bar and has a terse conversation with Grant. Grant requests a direct meeting with Mr. Whitehall, and in exchange, he promises to get Bakshi face to face with Coulson.
Speaking of, Coulson pops out of the memory machine in a frenzy. There’s only one Tahiti test subject still alive besides the killer, and he’s living relatively nearby under the generically all-American name Hank Thompson. May’s not big on Crazy Coulson rushing into the field, so she orders him locked away in a cell. Coulson, who is quickly getting a grip on himself, agrees.
Psych! Coulson throws Skye into the cell in his place and escapes.
Good ol’ all-American Hank is playing good ol’ All-American model trains with his good ol’ all-American son. Or maybe stepson, because the kid appears to be older than five and the chronology doesn’t work out otherwise. Regardless, Hank’s got a lovely family and a lot to live for. Not like that hussy who was inviting strangers back to her house willy-nilly. With this guy, we’re supposed to care if he dies.
His wife comes in and tell him there’s someone at the front door for him. Clearly nervous, he steps out to meet Coulson on the front porch alone. “Hi, Hank, I’m here to introduce you to my gun in your face,” says Coulson. For some reason, this doesn’t put them on the best of terms.
Back at HQ, Mac is hanging with Fitz. Is it strange that the two African-American men are “Trip” Triplett and “Mac” Mackenzie? Is this an obscure stereotype I’m not aware of? Anyway, Mac is all weirded out about the alien blood and memory machine, but Fitz is all, “you get used to it.” Fitz says the human brain never really deletes memories, it only loses access to them. Mac wonders aloud if that means Fitz can get back the missing pieces of his mind. That’s not so much foreshadowing as it is beating us over the head with future plot points.
HEY! LOOK UP! Skye is going nuts trying to flag down someone’s attention on the surveillance monitor, the Mac and Fitz finally realize it’s not Coulson in the cage.
Out in the ‘burbs, Hank is pleading with Coulson, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I told you both you’ve got the wrong guy!”
“Both?” asks Coulson—then gets clubbed in the head from behind by the psycho killer.
Outside the bar, the SHIELD strike team is finally ready to make its move. They kick in the front door and storm the place, but everyone’s already dead. Wait, not quite everyone—Grant is missing and Bakshi is tied up with duct tape. A nice note says, “For Coulson.” Aw, and they say the art of note writing is dead.
Psycho killer has Coulson and Hank tied up in the room with the elaborate model train set. He says pain made him remember his old life (and death) as a SHIELD hit man, along with all the alien symbols. He needs everyone else to remember, too, because he doesn’t have the entire map in his head. He needs everyone else’s pieces because HE HAS TO KNOW.
Coulson totally gets it. He braces himself for the killer’s knife, almost resigned to the pain.
In the car on the way to stop and/or rescue Coulson, Skye is bringing Mac up to speed. It’s a totally superfluous scene except to cram in an Avengers reference, and I admit, I eat it up. “Project Tahiti was designed to revive dead Avengers,” says Skye.
“Squee!” says me.
“You mean like Captain America and Ironman? Those Avengers?” says Mac.
“DOUBLE SQUEE!” says me.
Back in model train land, Hank breaks free of his restraints and attacks the killer! Everyone—especially Hank—is surprised when he’s able to catch the knife when psycho dude throws it at him. Coulson gets the drop on the bad guy, but he’s still refusing to give up when Skye and Mac burst in.
Mac gives the killer to the count of three to surrender or get dead again, but Coulson waves him off. He’s waiting for the psycho to figure out what he’s just figured out. “It’s right in front of you,” says Coulson.
The model train village. From the vantage point they have now, they can see the whole thing from above. It’s the entire map. In fact, it’s more than a map. It’s the three dimensional blueprint to an entire city. Coulson and psycho dude couldn’t get their heads around it before, because they were trying to recreate it flat in two dimensions.
All the fight goes out of the killer, and all the crazy goes out of Coulson. Apparently it’s enough to see the thing; understanding what the hell they’re looking at can happen later.
All and all, it’s a good day for Coulson. Sure he got tortured almost to the breaking point in the memory machine, but now he’s got the full blueprint and HYDRA doesn’t. And he’s got Bakshi in custody. It’s Miller time.
It’s epilogue time, and Ward cuts his hair down to stubble and his beard down to nothing.
At SHIELD HQ, Skye is just about to analyze all the contents of Bakshi’s phone when it rings. She answers, “Hail, HYDRA?” Because that’s probably how members of a secret evil terrorist organization answer their phones.
“Hello, Skye,” says Ward. He promises to send more gifts to Coulson soon, but first he’s got a personal project to take care of. A newspaper headline on his motel bed tips us off that it’s his brother—the U.S. Senator—that Ward is targeting next.
[We switched writers for our Agents of SHIELD recap, so this one got behind schedule. We’ll speed it up in the future!]