REVIEW: Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D-Episode 8-The Things We Bury
Apologies for the long review this week but this was a major pivotal episode in the series!
It’s painful and revealing trips down memory lane this week in S.H.I.E.L.D, with an escaped Ward (Brett Dalton) kidnapping his sleazy senator older brother, Christian (Tim DeKay) and forcing him to admit that it was him that made Ward almost kill their younger brother, Thomas, down a well when they were kids because the youngest sibling was the only one their parents didn’t torture and their favorite child. Kind of tragic really. The plot fools us into thinking a confession is all Ward wanted, as we see the two seeming to reconcile but a news story playing in the background as Ward is offering to make what is only going to be a lethal alliance with Doctor Whitehall (Reed Diamond) , reports that Senator Ward and his parents have been killed in an apparent suicide. This shows the depth of Ward’s evilness and the lengths he is willing to go to, showing he wanted much more than a confession; he wanted revenge.
Continuing the race to locate the mysterious alien city the obelisk is connected to and the alien symbols Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been compelled to carve recently are a map to, many blanks are filled in this week’s episode’s fusion of character exploration and flashbacks. We see how Agent Bobbi’s (Adrianne Palicki) mind works as she almost expertly interrogates Doctor Whitehall’s right hand man, Sunil Bakshi (Simon Kassianides)-who is apparently a present from Ward most likely to taunt Coulson. I say “expertly”, she gets that far under his skin, pushing all his buttons that eventually Bobbi taps into his fear of disappointing Whitehall, by making him realize he has betrayed his master unintentionally by giving S.H.I.E.L.D info needed to piece together the villain’s back-story. Fearing his disloyalty, Sunil tries to commit suicide but Bobbi doesn’t let him get off the hook that easily and they save his life.
I said in last episode’s review that because Coulson’s team of agents is so big this series we don’t get to explore them and therefore get attached to characters as much, but this episode probes deeper into different agent’s personalities. We see how Bobbi is almost too good at trying to figure and break other people down meaning she’s almost intimidating and maybe that contributed to her marriage breakdown with Hunter (Nick Blood) and why he can’t trust her (well he manages to trust her enough to have a steamy romp with her in a parked car on S.H.I.E.L.D’s secret cloaked plane but how else are you meant to express your bottled up feelings as kick ass agents?!)
It’s Fitz’s (Iain De Caestecker) moment to shine as Coulson gives him a shot working in the field, tasking him to set up some technology (it kind of went over my head) in a mission in which Coulson and agent Triplett (B.J.Britt) attempt to hack into a satellite feed in a bid to locate the alien city. It’s touching to see how desperately Fitz wants to prove his usefulness and worthiness again, both to himself and Coulson and he doesn’t disappoint. Meanwhile, Agent Triplett proves himself to be a brave agent in the field but gets almost fatally shot when HYDRA anticipate S.H.I.E.L.D looking for the lost city too, after The Doctor (Skye’s father played by Kyle MacLachlan) reveals to HYDRA boss, Doctor Whitehall that the obelisk is much greater than just the weapon Whitehall wants it to be, it’s a key to unlock a hidden alien city, that only “special” people can touch and use without the obelisk tuning them to fatally stone. When the good guys are fighting to save a character’s life, like Coulson and Fitz desperately try to help save Trip, with the help from The Doctor (who, of course has his own agenda, only sharing his medical expertise so he can look his enemy Coulson in the eye and taunt him) I think the audience channels the characters’ affection for the dying character, so therefore viewers felt a bit closer to Trip and happy he survives.
We even learn a little bit more about Mack (Henry Simmons), the mechanic on Coulson’s team, despite his only brief appearance in the episode. His bringing up of Coulson’s display of violence being under the influence of procession from the GH Serum he was injected with to bring him back to life, driving him to erratically carve the alien symbols, to Hunter and his concern about the situation hints at Mack’s high sense of morality against unnecessary violence and ability to question the person giving out the orders he follows and not just merely blindly following instructions.
I said this was an episode for back stories and I didn’t just mean Ward’s. Whilst interrogating Sunil, Bobbi realizes that Whitehall and Red Skull are linked somehow, despite Red Skull being dead for over 70 years. A combination of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s predecessor, Strategic Scientific Reserve’s files and flashbacks reveal that back in 1945 Austria, Nazi scientist, Werner Reinhardt was experimenting on the obelisk forcing people to touch it to see who would turn to stone, trying to find out if gender or race was a factor in aiding the obelisk to choose who lived and who died. Finally he came across a young Chinese woman who is immune to the obelisk’s killer touch but before he could do much experimentation on her, he was imprisoned for life by S.H.I.E.L.D. That is, until he is released by a HYDRA agent in 1989, who took him to Austria where he discovered the same Chinese woman, who hadn’t aged a day since 1945. In scenes of chilling clinical experiments, Reinhardt dissected the young Chinese woman and somehow takes her youth for himself, assuming the identity of the never aging villain, Doctor Whitehall.
In an end flashback Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) biological father is seen finding the remains of the young Chinese woman, who turns out to be the love of his life, as he vows to enact vicious revenge on HYDRA and Doctor Whitehall, just as he is making an alliance with Whitehall in present day. With Skye’s father also sharing his aims with Whitehall earlier in the episode, that in finding the alien city he can finally be reunited with his family in the after life, these flashbacks throw lots of questions in the air that I can’t wait to have answered. If the young Chinese woman is Skye’s mother as implied and she was able to touch the obelisk without being harmed as Skye is, and her father can somehow has super human strength when he loses his tempter- what the hell does that make Skye? What makes the people not harmed by the obelisk so special, where is this alien city and what lies there?
An explosive, pivotal, jam-packed episode perfect for mid-season entertainment.