How about that, agents? How. About. That.
“Turn, Turn, Turn” ended a little more than an hour ago, and my head is still reeling from all those reveals. And that kiss! And so much more! Where do I even begin? I suppose I’ll start by saying that first of all, if you’ve come here having not seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you should probably be warned that a minefield of spoilers lies ahead. I’m not kidding. The stars and creators teased that the events of Marvel’s most recent movie would tie in to their show in a very big way, and boy, did they ever. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has tried to do tie-ins before — sort of with the pilot, when they made a lot of passing references to The Avengers, and then more notably with Thor 2, the previous big Phase 2 tentpole. But Winter Soldier is the first series tie-in that’s actually felt meaningful and relevant, no doubt due to the fact that unlike otherworldly Asgard, S.H.I.E.L.D. plays a very big and relatable role in both the television series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or, should I say, played.
And with that, let’s get into the episode. We start out as bumpy as we left off, with Garrett being shot at as he flies in his cool hands-free plane. Actually, before the shooting starts, he looks pretty comfortable rocking music and drinking from his S.H.I.E.L.D. mug. But then he starts getting attacked from seemingly out of the blue, and it turns out that the drones are none other than S.H.I.E.L.D. drones. Color Garrett confused. He manages to get some of them off his tail, but more show up before he can figure out how to stop them. As they say in Hydra: Cut off a head, two more appear in its place.
May, still being held at gunpoint by a distrusting Coulson and Skye, is desperately trying to convince them that she has no idea why the plane suddenly changed course. Not that anyone actually believes her. She admits that the transmission channel was one that was dedicated to Director Fury, but can’t say anything else because of “orders.” She in turn wants to know why Fitz was messing with the encrypted line in the first place, to which he admits he was trying to reach Simmons at The Hub. It finally comes out that Simmons is there to try to research Skye’s blood, and at this point, Coulson is more worried than pissed — after all, there’s a traitor abound, and no one is safe.
But for right now, Simmons is cheerfully in her happy place, science-ing in one of the labs, when she gets interrupted by Agent Triplett. He gets suspicious when she tries to lie about what she’s working on, insinuating that she had the means to a miracle drug that she didn’t use on anyone else who had been hurt recently. Simmons admits she’s uploading Skye’s drug scans, and Triplett offers to use his own clearance to help her get in touch with Agent Weaver at the Academy, and Simmons, clearly out of her element, tells him she doesn’t want any trouble. She just wants to do science! But in the words of Natasha Romanov, she may be in the wrong business for that.
Back on the ship, Skye finds a blanket signal causing noise on every communications channel, leaving them all jammed. May is still trying to convince Coulson to believe her when Garrett interrupts them with news of his attack. Coulson has Fitz manually wire the guns to weapons control and in a really awesome sequence, shoots the drones down so that Garrett can safely get to the ship. There’s some nifty Hawkeye-like targeting going on here with the shots that Coulson makes, which is totally deserving of the “booyah,” Coulson expresses after it’s all over.
Coulson knocks out May and brings her to the room where Ward is being held, telling him about her betrayal. At The Hub, Hand is watching the action and trying to figure out what to do about Garrett’s escape. There’s some hesitation from the agents about following orders, one of whom admits that they’re having a hard time killing the people we once called friends. “Once that encoded transmission came out, everything changed,” Hand replies evasively.
While Skye continues to crack the code on that encoded transmission, Garrett tells Coulson he saw the trajectory of the ship, and that it was heading straight to The Hub. Coulson then tells him his revelation from last week — how The Clairvoyant isn’t a psychic, but rather a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, aka Hand. Garrett doesn’t believe him, but before they can argue further about it, Skye decodes the transmission. “Out of the shadows and into the light,” the message reads before dissolving into simply “HYDRA.” And…crap.
Naturally, Fitz is confused. “I thought Hydra was defeated,” he says. (“So did everyone else before they saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” we all replied in our heads.) Garrett says Hydra always comes back — cut off a head, two more will take his place. They soon realize that not only is S.H.I.E.L.D. is infiltrated, but that there’s no way they can get off course. They make a decision to take The Hub head on and “face the music, even if it is the Hydra theme song.”
(And now I really want to brainstorm what a proper Hydra theme song would be, but all that’s going through my head is “Star Spangled Man,” which doesn’t exactly work.)
An agent comes to tell Hand that Simmons and Triplett are unaccounted for. Meanwhile, in the lab room, Simmons pulls up a hologrammed Weaver on a secure channel. She freaks out, telling them that Hydra is inside S.H.I.E.L.D. and not to trust anyone, which of course makes Simmons completely suspicious of Triplett’s actions. He seems to be good, though, despite the show’s attempts to obviously throw us, giving her his knife and telling her he’s trustworthy. “You’re the one that works for the zombie that came back from the dead,” he adds ominously.
When May wakes up, Ward tells her that he deserves to know if she’s an informant. May repeats what she’s told everyone — that she can’t say anything else until Fury gives the go-ahead. Ward joins the “non believer” side of things in this situation, while May gets frustrated and calls him out about letting his emotions get the best of him, shooting the wrong guy because all he wanted was to protect Skye.
Coulson comes to retrieve May and tells her Fitz is working on repairing the direct line, and that it’s now or never — he wants her to make it right. May continues to protest about getting Fury on the line as they fly into The Hub, and with no choice, May dials her line. She asks to speak to Fury, only to learn…
Director Fury is dead.
BEGIN SPOILER ALERT FOR WINTER SOLDIER:
If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Director Fury faked his death (gravestone and all) because of Hydra shenanigans, and has seemingly gone off the grid. Given that this takes place directly during/right after the events of the movie, however, the team obviously believes what we all believed when we saw the film for the first time. According to interviews, Samuel L. Jackson has confirmed that he shot a scene for the season finale, so it’ll be interesting to see what the context of that is.
END SPOILER ALERT FOR WINTER SOLDIER
Anyway, this is a bad time to start getting shot at, but somehow, the team manages to escape the attack with minor injuries. Interestingly enough, the show threw in the tidbit that Fury was both Coulson’s and Garrett’s S.O., which I find interesting. (It certainly explains a little about why Coulson was trusted with so many high level things.) While Coulson patches up May, she finally admits to pretty much everything — that she knew about Tahiti, that she was the one who assembled the team, that Fury asked her to join up because he wanted her to keep an eye on him and report on any suspicious behavior from his resurrection. She insists rather genuinely that she didn’t do it for Fury, like Coulson thinks. She did it for him, because she cares about him, and also about their friendship. It’s too little too late, though, and the damage has already been done. Coulson may not believe she’s dirty anymore, but he’s certainly not going to trust or forgive her.
Ward warns Coulson that if the ship is taken, everything on their records — including Asgardian weaponry and other important information from missions — will be compromised. He maintains the ship needs to get wiped if Hydra is really infiltrating, but Skye’s one step ahead of him already with backing up the hard drive. Looks like someone is learning lessons from Agent Romanov! (It’s a good habit to get into.)
And just in time, too. A team is sent to break open the ship, but everyone escapes through one of Fitz’s nifty mouse hole type gadgets that got frequent use in Winter Soldier, getting into The Hub and splitting up to find Simmons and Triplett, who have been cornered by Victoria Hand.
Hand confirms Hydra’s infiltration, and also notes that it was a long time coming. She then confirms Fury’s death and offers them a choice: to swear on Hydra, or die. Triplett at this point decides he’ll risk the dying thing, attacking Hand’s guys until she reveals that she was testing them. She’s not Hydra. “But Coulson is.” Simmons refuses to believe that he’s bad, even as Hand rattles off a rap sheet of items that have made everyone wary of the agent, including sending Agent Blake on an op that landed him in the ICU and recruiting known enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D. Man, trust issues all over the place tonight. Hand warns Simmons against being too trustworthy, saying that the worst thing you can do is underestimate Hydra because “they hide in plain sight.”
Ward and Skye are trying to get to the processing center so Skye can hack the systems that are controlling their plane. Ward decides to attempt to take on their attackers himself in order to give Skye a chance to save everyone, his sacrifice revealing his guilt about killing the wrong guy in last week’s episode. And after some cute flirty banter about getting drinks in a pub and starting over (nice reference to the season’s eighth episode, “The Well”) the two share a tender moment where we finally get the kiss that we feel like we’ve been building to all season. Finally. (Yay? Nay? It seems that, like the team, a lot of people are divided on the Skye/Ward train…)
Ward basically comes out like a badass shooter, while Skye waits all freaked out until he makes it back. Then it’s time to hack the system, Skye’s way — and that means blowing it up. Meanwhile, Garrett is now trying to convince Coulson to kill Hand for being The Clairvoyant. He unleashes a rap sheet of his own on her, including the fact that Raina (the “Girl in the Flowered Dress”) was the person Coulson saw inside the memory machine. Something clicks in Coulson’s mind, and he realizes he’s never told that fact to anyone. Garrett tries to cover saying he must have read it in a report or a file, but Coulson has already figured out Garrett’s fatal mistake. He calls him out for being The Clairvoyant and a traitor, just as a strike team bursts through the door. Garrett gives them orders, proudly proclaiming, “Hail Hydra.” (Nice name-drop by the way of Sitwell, given what we know about him from Winter Soldier.)
Garrett explains how Hydra had been lying low, waiting to come out of the shadows, and theorizes Fury must have gotten too close to discovering the truth so “top brass” did what they had to do. He tells Coulson that he’s been essentially serving Hydra all along, and also confirms that he was the one that had him tortured. (Seriously, poor Coulson.)
Garrett pretty much decides to kill Coulson and May and then tries to force Fitz to work for Hydra. But right before they’re probably going to die, Skye’s explosives go off, giving our heroes advantage of the moment. And everyone goes crazy! Coulson kicks some major ass! May uses her badass S.H.I.E.L.D. skills and even pulls a signature Black Widow thigh move! (Be still, my heart.) Fitz hides under a table and is generally freaked out! (To his credit, he does come through, shooting like a champ. At this point, Hand arrives with Simmons and the science bros (babies?) reunite, while Hand confirms she now knows that Coulson isn’t Hydra — they heard the whole exchange. But how deep does it all go? I don’t know if anyone wants the answer to that question…
While Garrett and the Hydra agents are taken into custody, the team reunites. Triplett looks devastated learning that his S.O. is a traitor, and then Coulson takes Ward aside for pretty much the same reaction. We get a brief exposition of where the events of the hour fall within the realm of Winter Soldier (Cap took down the helicarriers at the Triskelion) and Hand wants to put Garrett away for good in the Icebox. Ward insists that he be the one to do the honors on the lock up, being that didn’t even realize his S.O. was dirty. (To Coulson’s credit, that mistrust is coming in handy, because he totally was wary of the fact that Ward wanted to go off on his own like that. I bet you it’ll start some suspicions.) Meanwhile, Hand shares a moment with Coulson, telling him that they may be the highest ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that aren’t Hydra, or dead. (Careful what you wish for, Hand…)
Back on The Bus, the team is a little worse for the wear both mentally and physically, not to mention a little less trusting of each other. Still, they prepare for their next mission — to survive. Meanwhile, Hand is escorting Ward and Garrett to the Icebox. She makes a crack about it being too comfortable, and asks Ward if he wants to shoot the right man this time. Ward thinks long and hard about this before getting up, raising his gun…and he shoots Hand point blank. And then he shoots her about three more times for good measure. Can we say, what?! While Ward shares a knowing, evil glance with Garrett, who looks entirely too pleased with himself, we’re left reeling. And where the hell are we going to go from here?
I have some theories, but I’ll leave it up to you to speculate in the comments. What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked by Ward’s reveal? Sound off below, and if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our exclusive postmortem interview with executive producers Jeff Bell and Jeph Loeb.