‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “A Hen in the Wolf House”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its fifth season 2 installment in "A Hen in the Wolf House,” as Simmons comes up against Marvel's Mockinbird Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) as a Hydra agent, while Skye's father (Kyle MacLachlan) demands Raina allow him access to his daughter.
Last week's ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “Face My Enemy” saw Coulson and May going undercover to recover a painting with alien writing on the back, while Fitz was forced to rescue the team from a grim fate on the plane, so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series continue its marvelous new season?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' season 2, episode 5, “Hen in the Wolf House”!
‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ has definitely been on a roll of late, something sadly not reflected in the ratings week-to-week, but likely to gain a boost by next week’s ‘Age of Ultron’ trailer debut. In any case, tonight’s “A Hen in the Wolf House” definitely sought out to bring some big guns of its own, introducing ‘Friday Night Lights’ star Adrianne Palicki as the MCU incarnation of Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse, ostensible ‘Avenger’ and ex-lover to Hawkeye (at least in the comics). So too did we get our longest time spent with Kyle MacLachlan as Skye’s mysterious father, and a few stirrings of what the
Obelisk Diviner may represent, though tonight’s installment still took a few stumbles through an otherwise solid hour.
We’ll get to Mockingbird’s introduction in a bit, but for the moment, it’s fair to say that the mystery of Skye’s parentage represents one of the few holdover storylines from the first season, one that often polarized fans. On the one hand, the always-reliable Kyle MacLachlan did some pretty impressive work in establishing the unstable menace of a character we know so little about, though the show seems almost desperate to fall into its worst habits from last year, building up Skye’s importance to the series without the character work necessary to get her there.
Don’t get me wrong, Chloe Bennet’s work as the computer-hacker turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent proves perfectly on point, though the series’ writing has a habit of waxing poetic about her all-important significance in loosely defined terms. Compounding this is the propensity to sending Skye off on her own against orders, ostensibly a means to provide some rebellions character definition, but more frequently disrupting the plot in its execution. One of season 2’s strengths has been to show Skye coming into her own as a competent field agent, as well as defining Coulson’s new role as Director with a need to keep his subordinates at bay, yet “A Hen in the Wolf House” seems to lean into the emotional bond between the pair in a manner that logically puts the team’s work at risk. The pair’s heart-to-heart by the end of the hour certainly smoothed a few things over, and we’ve now established how the parental surrogacy puts Skye’s father at odds with Coulson, but it’s troubling to see ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ again teasing the great mystery to her character, sans any real new information to reward its audience with.
It also seemed somewhat premature of tonight’s episode to jettison Simmons’ work with Hydra, a thread we’ve only spent an episode or so with, despite promises to tie deeper into Daniel Whitehall’s inner circle. With Simmons now firmly exposed from Hydra, the quick exit largely only served to facilitate Bobbi Morse’s entrance into S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0, which itself represents something of a blank slate apart from Palicki’s innately statuesque heroism. Considering the 22+ episodes ‘Agents’ has to fill over the course of a season, one wonders why Simmons’ exposure, Morse’s entrance and exit all needed to take place over the course of a solitary hour, and the season’s fifth episode at that. It certainly made sense* for Coulson to have installed the comic S.H.I.E.L.D. hero as a failsafe for Jemma’s undeveloped spy skills, though apart from some impressively Black Widow-esque action sequences, and a pretty expected twist, Palicki’s appearance didn’t provide all-too-much information on the character as of yet.
*I will give the hour credit for swerving in the instance where TV instincts presumed Coulson would acquiesce to Raina's threat at the last second, or that she’d somehow be bluffing. I will subtract this credit however, for the painstakingly predictable reveal that Lance Hunter’s oft-mentioned ex would turn out to be Bobbi Morse.
“Hen” might have been better served to serve up a few more actual answers to the ongoing mystery, other than to start calling the obelisk the “Diviner,” or to incorporate Skye’s left-field presumption that the alien writing represents some kind of map. Similarly, we don’t yet know which direction to lean on Skye’s actual heritage, or what it means for Coulson’s mental state going forward, even with Ward's claims about Garrett. We’re definitely at a point in the season where a lack of forward momentum becomes increasingly apparent, even if flashy appearances from Marvel’s Mockingbird or Kyle MacLachlan kept things humming along otherwise.
‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ has definitely been on a major upswing this season, to the point where we’d hope next week’s ‘Age of Ultron’ trailer starts a definitive trend of drawing viewers back to the series, though it's perhaps for the best that the season’s first stumbles came amidst a busier episode. We’re certainly interested in the mysteries Skye and her father represent as well as what Whitehall has planned for Hydra and the Diviner at large, now that her father has joined the bad guys, though it seems “A Hen in the Wolf House” didn’t have any answers to provide as of yet.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- Reasonably certain the opening scene's wedding reception took place in the same ballroom as 2003's 'Daredevil,' right down to the boobed-eagle bannister Jon Favreau fumbled with.
- So, what do we make of Kyle MacLachlan? Alien seems like a red herring, so I'm willing to go with some kind of gamma-induced strength, considering his anger issues, frequent use of green lighting, and that meditative pose we first saw him in during last season's finale.
- I have to think Simmons could have been more covert than speaking her betrayal in voice-to-text outside the Hydra building's lobby.
- Fitz also got a nice reunion with the real Simmons (and some thoughts of muscly Mack!), though I wish we'd gotten to see more of that scene.
- From a practical standpoint, the Quinjet makes so much more sense for the series than the Bus ever did.
- 'Trainspotting,' Ron Burgundy, who wants to start a drinking game of Skye's weekly references?
Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s second season installment “A Hen in the Wolf House” keep up the momentum as successfully as you'd hoped? How do you think the show handled Mockingbird's introduction, or the revelations about Skye? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 2's latest, "A Fractured House" on ABC!