‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “A Fractured House”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its sixth season 2 installment in "A Fractured House,” as Hydra stages an attack on the U.N. to look like S.H.I.E.L.D.'s work, bringing the team up against Ward's senator brother Christian (Tim DeKay).
Last week's ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode "A Hen in the Wolf House” saw Simmons coming up against Marvel's Mockinbird Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) as a Hydra agent, while Skye's father (Kyle MacLachlan) demanded Raina allow him access to his daughter, 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 6, “A Fractured House”!
It’s a frustrating week to be an ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ fan. One the one hand, where the ‘Age of Ultron’ trailer would have likely pulled focus from tonight’s episode all the same, had it aired in its proper place, or leaked early, no doubt ‘Agents’ will suffer continually diminished ratings that don’t reflect the creative upswing we’ve seen from season 2. On the other hand, the smorgasbord of Marvel Phase 3 announcements this morning also couldn’t help overshadowing ABC’s ‘Avengers’-inspired series, to the point where even the visionary Kevin Feige was on record previewing that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s continued absence would partly inspire the events of ‘Captain America: Civil War.’
So much for Director Coulson’s efforts to rebuild the organization by 2016, apparently.
Adding insult to injury was the very first shot of tonight’s “A Fractured House,” that of the New York City skyline beyond the very U.N. that General Talbot would deliver his Chitauri invasion speech within, a skyline curiously keeping the Metlife building in place of where Stark Tower was seen to occupy back in 2012. You know, the building that remained standing by the end of ‘The Avengers,’ and has since become the very Avengers Tower that we saw Tony Stark and the others partying atop in a scene from ‘Age of Ultron’ tonight. It’s a minor detail in the continuity of a fictional universe, but one especially telling of a series that seems increasingly irrelevant to the cinematic universe that spawned it in the first place.
Frustrating, overall. I digress.
“A Fractured House” seemed similarly divisive, and not just by its namesake, bringing with it a mixed bag of effective development springboarded from the aforementioned upswing. On the one hand, the Hannibal Lecter-esque Ward has spent enough time on the periphery this season that we were due for some development on that front, and while the introduction of his senator brother Christian felt somewhat marred by Tim DeKay’s faux-Kennedy portrayal, the ambiguities of trust became a poignant issue for the team. Both Skye and Coulson seem to keep the upper hand in their confrontations of the Ward brothers, but either sibling effectively muddies the line of trustworthiness, insisting the other to be a master of manipulation, and cultivating a sense of subtlety that the series can sometimes lack.
Continuing along the theme of houses divided, our first real interactions between Fitz and Simmons this season hit along a different point, stressing that the two might actually have flourished away from one another, in spite of the painful rift it took to accomplish that. Where initial episodes last season took pains almost to blur the lines between the two characters, season 2 has done marvels for establishing their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and where Mack stood up for his new partner against Simmons tonight, both effectively acknowledged that the time apart has ultimately been good for Fitz. The whole of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 2 thus far has contemplated the fallout of dramatic divisions, and the new world order of Fitz-Simmons has been a strong, if subtle focal point for the improvements emerging through the cracks.
Somewhat less effective this week was Hunter’s strained interactions with ex-wife Bobbi, who despite donning an outfit evocative of her comic-counterpart, isn’t given nearly as much room to shine as last week. Setup of Hunter’s “hellbeast” ex proved so repetitive and laborious over the last few episodes, that the bickering between the two feels rife with unearned cliché, where the comic Mockingbird provide a wealth of strong and unique personality traits entirely independent of any exes, be they Hunters or Hawkeyes. Considering we first met the character in the guise of a Hydra mole, it frustrates tonight to see Morse’s character again obscured by petty arguments with a male character, rather than established on her own. We want to get to know Adrianne Palicki’s take on the fan-favorite character, however brief we have the ‘Friday Night Lights’ star on the team, rather than reduce her screentime to one of Hunter’s foils, who himself has veered increasingly toward Poochie territory since his arrival.
Also somewhat lost in the shuffle of tonight’s interpersonal dramas were that of the main story beats themselves, as a crew of rather one-note Hydra villains impersonated S.H.I.E.L.D., and managed to parlay the deception into killing 6 agents at a Belgium safehouse. It was a bit difficult to follow the trail between Belgian ambassadors, Japanese arms dealers and Red Skull ties, and while the resultant fight sequences proved as well-choreographed as we’ve come to expect from the series, the threat registered weakly without any appearances from Daniel Whitehall, or any of the other established menaces. I couldn’t help drifting to Darth Maul, in that the lead operative utilized some memorable weaponry in his assassinations and fight against May, but left little impression beyond the visual.
On the bright side at least, it was nice to see the toll taken on S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 pivoting Talbot into May’s good graces, an arc effectively set up across the first six episodes of the season, and even somewhat last year. If anything, “A Fractured House” seemed to somewhat heavy-handedly suggest early on that its narrative would eschew any development of alien writing or Skye’s father for the time being (this was almost literally stated), its only real sin being a rushed sense of stakes and consequence for the stand-in mission. Hopefully Ward’s remanding to his brother’s custody (and immediate escape, groan) will bring about some fresh story threads for the character, rather than retread some of the immediate ground, if only to give “A Fractured House” a stronger sense of purpose within the season at large, if not the MCU overall.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- I'll never get over the fact that Talbot gave a speech on the very Chitauri invasion the establishing shot completely fails to keep continuity with.
- It's also been pointed out to me that our Hydra baddie was Mark Scarlotti, the identity of Whiplash from the comics, though this hardly seems to have factored in beyond his choice of weapon against May.
- ...Did we need a Grumpy Cat mug? Or Bobbi's 'Star Wars' t-shirt, for that matter?
- Thinking maybe the writers shouldn't introduce a woman by the name of "Walters," without the capacity to back it up.
- I didn't get a chance to mention it, but the scene of Coulson chewing out Ward for ever believing himself trustworthy again was nicely done.
- Unedited note from one of the Hunter-Mockingbird scenes: "WHOOOO CARESSSSSSSSS"
- Well, 'The Bridge' isn't coming back, so good for Brian Van Holt!
Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s second season installment “A Fractured House” keep up the momentum as successfully as you'd hoped? How do you think the show handled Ward's revelations? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next time for our review of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 2's latest, "The Writing on the Wall" on ABC!