‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “The Things We Bury”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its eighth season 2 installment in “The Things We Bury,” as Coulson dips back into ‘Agent Carter’ (Hayley Atwell)’s past for clues to beating Hydra in the race to uncover an ancient secret, while Ward kidnaps his senator brother Christian (Tim DeKay) for a violent trip down memory lane.
Last week’s ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode, “The Writing On the Wall,” saw the team investigating a string of murder victims with mysterious writing etched on their bodies, causing Coulson to lose his composure, while Ward carried out his own nefarious agenda on the run. 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 8, “The Things We Bury”!
Last week’s installment seemingly confirmed the prevailing fan theories of which major Marvel tentpole ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ would have the most direct ties to, and while an ‘Inhumans’ homage still seems a likely suspect, I’d be wary of how far the series is really willing to go down that avenue, given how far-off said Marvel movie really is. Not only that, but tonight’s rather rapid explanation of Daniel Whitehall’s seeming agelessness with the unique physiology of Skye’s mother would appear to tie into the overall mythology, but seemed like an awful lot of information to dump at once, compounded by the fact that we’ve already located the hidden city on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Maybe we’d best cool our jets on that theory, at least for the moment.
At its core, “The Things We Bury” introduced an impressive burst of speed to a second season already keeping momentum far more efficiently than its predecessor. While some of the individual throughlines felt disconnected from others, it’s hard to ignore their brisk pace. Not only do we know the origins of Whitehall’s longevity as Skye’s mother, but Coulson’s also already zeroed in on the supposedly hidden city, while Agent Carter popped up in the past to tease the “blue angels” that the good Doctor later clarified would end the human race rather than conquer it. Add to that the fact that Ward seems to have expediently exorcised his past demons and re-joined Hydra, while Fitz’s recovery has progressed to the point of near-competency, and we can’t help glancing nervously at the speedometer.
A bit more overall cohesion might have helped “The Things We Bury,” considering the full scope of Coulson’s Hawaii-Australia infiltration plans didn’t emerge until the actual climax, despite disappointingly playing at a more elaborate game by sending Skye and Tripp on such wanton offscreen errands. The rushed mission largely served to ping the hidden city’s location and force a confrontation between Coulson and Skye’s father, which while unquestionably electric, didn’t seem grandly necessary to the episode itself. Don’t get me wrong; Kyle MacLachlan easily elevates any scenes with his unhinged performance, but beyond exposition of the obelisk’s “divining” powers, or the suggestion that the Doctor would avenge Skye’s mother* by killing Whitehall, we still haven’t capitalized on the character’s defining traits of either meeting Skye or unleashing his “temper.”
*Chalk it up to TV intuition, but I suspect most familiar with the Whedonverse would quickly recognize that Dichen Lachman would play a larger part than any randomly-dispatched villager, and one could certainly extrapolate that a combination of Kyle MacLachlan and Dichen’s character would yield a child appropriately resembling
Skye (“THAT’S NOT HER NAME!”) Chloe Bennet.
Less effectually tied to the overall story was Ward’s kidnap and torture of his Senator brother Christian, which itself seemed like more of an effort to tie off the remaining season 1 threads involving Ward’s troubled past. I don’t necessarily know that confirming Christian as the one to coerce Ward into sending their brother down the well (as punishment to their torturous mother) clarifies much about Ward, but any redemptive elements to the storyline were seemingly undone by the gruesome revelation of Ward having immolated his family thereafter. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ward faked their deaths in order to ingratiate himself with Hydra and bring down Whitehall from within, but for now at least, the pieces might have used a stronger tie to the material, conceptually.
One could perhaps draw connections between Ward questioning brainwashed loyalties with Bobbi’s interrogation of Bakshi, though the C-story seemed largely to flesh out Bobbi’s intellectual prowess, rather than tie in any major themes. I enjoyed the opportunity to see Marvel’s Mockingbird prove every bit as formidable a thinker as a fighter, stitching together Bakshi’s past and vulnerabilities Carrie Mathison-style, and simultaneously sputtering over whatever past deeds endeared her with Hydra. That said, I could have done without the subsequent rekindling of hers and Hunter’s relationship. Try as it might, the writing seems to have hit a wall in defining Nick Blood’s character beyond a loveable snark, and we’ve spent too little time with either entity to invest in their lost love.
I can’t help circling back to how quickly ‘Agents’ aborted Simmons’ ingratiation with Hydra while considering how briskly “The Things We Bury” moved its story along, and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Certainly, fans weren’t happy with the first season’s sluggish pace and lack of an overall plot. But by racing along to compensate, season 2 seems to have left behind the connective tissue that makes individual episodes memorable. Don’t get me wrong, the full explanation of Whitehall’s backstory answered my questions nicely, as did the tie-in of Skye’s mother. But I’d expect the hidden city’s imminent uncovering might stop short our chances of a major movie tie-in.
“The Things We Bury” also had the added benefit of strong scenes like Whitehall’s transition to the modern day (Undersecretary Pierce, you say?), Bobbi’s interrogation, or Coulson’s confrontation with the Doctor, though I can’t imagine the hour leaving behind many memorable impressions a few months, or even weeks, down the line.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- The Red Skull remains something of an oddity within the MCU, somewhat similar to ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ in that he merits plenty of mentions, but will likely never factor into the overall plot again.
- Get it? Because Simon Kassianides actually was a Bond villain?
- Good grief does Trip need a personality, and quickly.
- Nice as it was to see Peggy again, it seems we've reached the point of propping up 'Agent Carter' moreso than serving the 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' story.
- Is a cyanide pill in the cheekbone a great idea? Didn't he take a number of punches to the face a few weeks ago?
- Great gag: The Doctor had no idea what the Tesseract was.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s “The Things We Bury” keep up the momentum as successfully as you’d hoped? How do you think the show handled Agent Carter’s return? What about Ward’s deadly outing? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back in two weeks for our review of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 2's latest, “Ye Who Enter Here,” on ABC!