Agents Of SHIELD S2, Ep5 'A Hen In The Wolf House' Review: The Most Satisfying Episode To Date This Season; Age Of Ultron Teaser Teased

By Steve Buja , Updated Oct 22, 2014 03:14 PM EDT
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In a show filled with great, kickass female characters, do we really need another?

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Of course we do! There's always room for more. Agents Of SHIELD just picked up another fine character (and another tremendous actor, Adrianne Palicki from Friday Night Lights) in the form of Bobbi Morse, who goes by the Katniss-esque name 'Mockingbird' in the comics.

A Hen In The Wolf House is easily the best episode of SHIELD's second season to date. It manages to bring the mythic (or in this case, the cosmic) and the intimate together into one rousing hour of action. It certainly sets the tone and will draw people into watching next week's episode, which will feature a very special trailer premiere. The episode sufficiently raises the stakes for all involved, answers a few questions (while leaving you hungry for more) and even sets up the always great super-villain team up between Skye's father (Kyle McLachlan) and Whitehall (Reed Diamond).

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HYDRA has been the best thing to happen to SHIELD. The first season meandered from villain to villain, not entirely sure where to find its feet, until it introduced Bill Paxton. The show needed its own Wolfram & Hart, an organization really evil, yet still somewhat charming in its own way. More than conspiracies, SHIELD needed something tangible to throw itself against. The introduction of a rival organization provided just that, and the writers can now route most of the plot through an already established threat, rather than having to create a more X-Files-esque case of the week, which are some of the weakest episodes of the show. And by making them so corporately nefarious helps give the show a touch of social commentary. "Won't this kill millions of people?" Simmons asks. "Yeah. Pretty awesome, right?" her co-worker responds. That sums up everything you need to know about HYDRA.

The creative team officially brings Skye into the alien fold, which with the result of a new (and perfectly delivered) revelation, feels relevant and powerful again. We all knew that there was something different with Skye, that she was an alien (mostly likely of Kree origin) but to Coulson finally say it out loud was momentous. We may not have all the information, but at least we're getting somewhere. Clark Gregg does some excellent work here, balancing his absolute terror at losing control about this alien writing and keeping it together long enough to stare down Raina as she dress attempts to blackmail them.

I must say, that in the history of overused countdown timer on television, how the writers handled this episode's clock was perfect. They still managed to pull one over on you, just at a different point in time. Coupled onto the Bobbi Morse reveal; which I was unaware of, and it created a real and palpable sense of danger to Simmons, who was just outed as a double-agent. And though the show hasn't gone full Whedon on us yet, Simmons' safety was definitely in question. It is created by his Joss's kids, after all.

Mockingbird promises to be a welcome addition to the team. She has a little more charm than May's cold demeanor, and can stand outside the main Skye storyline, which is gone full on into 'lost family' mode. Her few scenes, both during her double agent turn at HYDRA and later back at headquarters, are great. Unlike another big name guest star, we're glad she wasn't offed after a single episode. The revelation that she is Hunter's demon ex-wife should add for some great comedy, a potential love triangle and even a small amount of drama. Hunter is in need of good sparring partner; it's the only way to fully utilize that British brogue of his.

While I'm disappointed we didn't get more of Simmons as undercover operative, I can understand the decision to pull her from the field. She's found out what she needs to know, more or less and since SHIELD has had a history of letting plots linger, getting her back to Fitz, which prompted my biggest 'aaaaw' of the evening, is a much better move for the character. As much as I have enjoyed ghost Simmons, I certainly missed the real one hanging out with the gang. Ghost Simmons had horrible fashion sense, anyways.

Then there's MacLachlan, SHIELD's most fascinating new character. There is clearly more to the unkempt, disheveled mystery man, who is inhumanly powerful and possessed of horrible rage. Putting MacLachlan front and center this week finally lets us know what it is this season is all about, and even gives more insight to Skye than we've ever had before. MacLachlan is always top notch and he absolutely nails the total silence to total violence, back to silence range of emotions that will be of great concern to our team in the coming season.

Agents of SHIELD has loosened up the last few episodes and has become all the better for it. We even have an invisible jet, which has to serve as a not too subtle jab at Palicki's failed Wonder Woman pilot. The writers are no longer trying to wow us with the mysteries, as if those are the only thing we come for and have instead started organically working them into the character interactions. The whole issue of the Obelisk became far more interesting when it was used as a MacGuffin to get Raina and Coulson face to face (with an assist from a slightly inebriated Hunter). The mysteries themselves become more tangible, too; by including Skye, who may be the central key to Coulson's writing ailment, possibilities open up and the characters can finally start acting like friends again. On television, nothing is worse than a secret a character isn't telling.

Now, bring on Age of Ultron.

Background Noise is GameNGuide's television column.

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