Avengers April: The Day(s) S.H.I.E.L.D. fell
It’s April, so we start with our first installment of Avengers April, in anticipation for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. But before we get into the movies, let’s take a look at the current ABC television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The show had a rocky start to its run. Some of the characters weren’t particularly likeable at first. The episodes appeared disjointed, with a different mission each week. There were a lot of complaints about the pacing.
All that changed with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It would make sense that a movie about the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. (at Hydra’s hands) would have an impact on the TV show about S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and it did. From that point on, the reminder of that first season dealt with the remnants of Agent Phil Coulson’s team battling against a Hydra cell led by former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent John Garrett (played by Bill Paxton in a multi-episode guest role). One of Coulson’s agents is outed as a Hydra operative (although more loyal to Garrett than Hydra). In the end of the season, Coulson’s team defeats that cell, kills Garrett, and captured the mole. In a guest spot on the season finale, presumed dead director Nick Fury shows up long enough to help take out Garrett and tasked Coulson with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. from the ground up as its new director. He even gives Coulson a nifty gizmo (it’s called the Toolbox, and it’s about the size and shape of an alphabet block) with all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets and intel.
Speaking of presumed dead, let me rewind for anyone who is saying, “What? Coulson is alive? I saw him die in The Avengers. OK, here’s the back story. Prior to his death, Fury had put Coulson in charge of Project T.A.H.I.T.I., which was designed to revive a fallen Avenger using a serum created from Kree blood. The test subjects went insane, so the project was scrapped, or so Coulson thought. Once he was killed by Loki, Fury had the serum administered on Coulson, selectively wiping his memory to hopefully keep Coulson was losing his mind. Unfortunately, it didn’t work completely, and at the end of Season 1 and into Season 2, Coulson found himself carving strange symbols into the wall as the new S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, nicknamed The Playground.
The start of Season 2 deals with S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to uncover the meaning behind the symbols. Over time, it is revealed that the symbols were a map to an ancient Kree city, hidden underneath Old San Juan.
Unfortunately, Coulson and Co. aren’t the only ones searching for the Kree city. Hydra is still a threat, and is interested in using these Kree technologies to create terrible weapons. And while Coulson is trying to recruit old agents for the new S.H.I.E.L.D., so is Hydra and its U.S. leader, Daniel Whitehall (a former Nazi who utilized some of this technology to reverse the aging effect). The difference is that Whitehall is using brainwashing to turn loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into loyal Hydra agents.
Let me rewind one more time (trying to sum up nearly two seasons of a TV show takes time). In the first episode of the series, we were introduced to a several new characters, including a hacker known only as Skye. I say “know only” because she had no idea who were her parents were, what her last name was, or even if “Skye” was really her name (it wasn’t). Skye ended up working with S.H.I.E.L.D., and then right before its’ fall, works for S.H.I.E.L.D. We learn enough about her backstory to know it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, she was identified at an early age of a 0-8-4, a S.H.I.E.L.D. designation for an object of unknown origin. In the second season, we discover that she reacts differently to Kree technology than everyone else does (one particular 0-8-4 is a strange obelisk than instantly kills most people who touch it; Skye just makes it light up). Clearly, she’s special.
At the end of the first season, we learn that Skye’s father is alive. In the start of the second season, he manipulates Whitehall by leading Hydra to the Kree city, all to show his daughter just how special she is. His manipulations ultimately lead to Whitehall dead and Skye in the Kree city being subjected to the Terrigen Mists. It would appear that Skye, who is revealed as Daisy Johnson, is an Inhuman.
So at this point, we’re halfway through Season 2. The second half of the season deals with the (probably not permanent) defeat of Hydra, as Coulson manipulates the remaining Hydra cells to destroy each other until only the remnants of Whitehall’s cell remain (and Coulson has Whitehall’s successor imprisoned). So we’re probably not going to be seeing a whole lot of Hydra anytime soon. So if you don’t see Hydra’s presence in Age of Ultron, now you know why (and if they do have a presence in the movie, attribute it to the evil organization’s mantra of “Cut off one head, and two more grow in its place”).
We also deal with the ramifications of Skye’s transformation. Once discovered, it’s clear that her comrades-in-arms are afraid of her. She can’t control her powers, which makes her dangerous. She is essentially banished to a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe-house/retreat for safekeeping, until she is contacted by a fellow Inhuman named Gordon, who teleports her away. Presumably, she has been taken to a place where fellow Inhumans live and learn to control their abilities. Sadly, this facility will not be run by a certain Professor Charles Xavier (wouldn’t that have been awesome?)
Finally, we are now dealing with some type of civil war within S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson had had to deal with a lot of outside forces since assuming control of S.H.I.E.L.D. Not only Hydra, but early on in Season 2, the U.S. Government regarded S.H.I.E.L.D. as a terrorist organization (when a significantly portion of your organization turned out to be Hydra, it apparently leads to a lot of doubt about how trustworthy the rest of them are). Over time, Coulson is able to convince Brigadier General Glenn Talbot (played by Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar) of his team’s sincerity , so that problem is fixed. But now there is a new problem.
As I said, when S.H.I.E.L.D. first fell, Fury named Coulson as the new director. The problem is that everyone else thinks that Fury is dead. Meanwhile, when an aircraft carrier S.H.I.E.L.D. base was taken by Hydra, a small group of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird) and Alphonso “Mack” McKenzie, rescue the base’s commander, Robert Gonzales (played by Edward James Olmos). The group attempt to follow through on a final order from Fury to destroy the carrier (to keep its secrets from falling into Hydra’s hands), but when considering the collateral damage following the order would create (there is still a fair number of loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents battling Hydra throughout the carrier), they defy the order and instead succeed at retaking the carrier. Thus, a new faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. is born, which they refer to as “the real S.H.I.E.L.D.” Embracing transparency instead of Fury’s secretive compartmentalization, they doubt the legitimacy of Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D., especially since they consider Coulson compromised due to the effects of Project T.A.H.I.T.I. The “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” plant Morse and Mack as operatives inside Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D., until finally attacking The Playground, stealing the Toolbox, and captured much of Coulson’s team.
So where are we now? Coulson is in hiding, joined by Lance Hunter, a former mercenary and now S.H.I.E.L.D. agent loyal to Coulson (and Morse’s ex-husband). Skye is with the Inhumans. Morse and Mack are with the “real S.H.I.E.L.D.” The rest of Coulson’s team, right-hand (wo)man Melinda May (nicknamed “The Cavalry”), weapons engineer Leo Fitz, and biochemist Jemma Simmons, have been captured. Hydra is back in the shadows.
So what now? Who are the bad guys? Are there bad guys? Both sides view themselves as the legitimate S.H.I.E.L.D. There are a few possibilities. Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. could defeat Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. could get absorbed into Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. could get absorbed into Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. (Would Coulson be able to return to being just an agent?)
I finish with a simple question. What was Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. up to while Coulson’s team was battling and taking out Hydra? How do you claim to be S.H.I.E.L.D. while sitting on the sidelines while Hydra is a threat?