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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. resolves a lingering mystery… but what took it so long?

It’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. time again, which means a SPOILER WARNING is in full effect. If you’re looking to catch this week’s episode unspoiled, head over to ABC’s website or Hulu to watch the latest before you read.

Well, that’s that then.

Seven episodes into Season 2 and the big holdover-mystery from season 1 — what exactly are those weird hieroglyph-patterns that Coulson, Garrett and pretty much everyone not named Skye is compelled to draw after having been injected with the life-restoring alien(?)-extract GH.325? — has been efficiently solved. They’re a map of a city, presumably one whose location is imprinted on the alien(?) DNA of whatever dead creature they’d been pulling GH.325 out of. This solution only presents itself if the patterns are viewed in three dimensions, which Coulson realizes when he discovers that another “undead” T.A.H.I.T.I. patient had reproduced them as an elaborate model-train set. This now creates two new mysteries, the first being “Which city” and the second being, well…

…how did they not think to do that in the first place?

Seriously. By far the most “comic book” thing about Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at this point is is it’s continued adherence to science-fiction technology that’s only ever as advanced as a given scenario requires or as tension dictates, in this case: S.H.I.E.L.D. uses three-dimensional hologram-projectors to examine basically everything else, but no one thought to plug Coulson’s drawings into that this whole time?

Anyway…

That’s the big finale to this week’s “A-story,” in which Coulson leads Skye and S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0’s science-and-tech division (Mack, Fitz, Simmons and Extra-Who-Hands-Simmons-Test-Results) on the hunt for “The Carver,” a serial-killer whose victims Coulson recognizes as former agents and whose bodies have alien(?) glyphs carved into them. Remember how the big “gotcha” to the first half of this mystery was that Coulson himself had been running Guest House and developing the very resurrection/mind-wiping machine ultimately used on him? Turns out the volunteer test subjects were agents with mortal illnesses and/or wounds, and the mind-erasing was the only way to stop them from going mad with symbol-drawing fits.

Carver (real name Sebastian Derek) was one of them, and had been stalking/killing the other (unknowing) patients in a bid to work out the mystery for himself (another had built the aforementioned train set, while still another had been turning the visions into abstract art). Either way, mystery solved: It’s a city of some kind, and since HYDRA is looking for it too finding it is now S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top priority. This will probably be achieved two episodes from now in “Ye Who Enter Here”, which I believe is the last new episode before Agents takes a stretch off for Agent Carter.

This marks the first time the series has made a serious genre-hop this season into outright horror territory via Coulson’s flashbacks to the T.A.H.I.T.I. patients coming undone and the Saw-lite body horror with The Carver. All things considered it hangs together pretty well — if nothing else the reveal (or what it could mean) gave me some serious goosebumps, despite figuring it out the first time we see the train set.

Meanwhile, in the “B-story,” it was fun with misdirection as season 2’s expanded roster of heavy-hitters (May, Trip, Hunter and Mockingbird) went after the in-the-wind Ward: He makes Bobbi’s cover on a bus… but it’s a trick to get him onto a different bus with Hunter! He goes to a HYDRA-front pub in Boston where the barkeep offers him two ways to die… but he means drinks! All four of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s one-man/woman-army ass-kickers suit up to battle Ward and a bunch of HYDRA top-shelfers he’s meeting at the pub… but Ward actually killed them all and left Sunil Baskhi (Whitehall/Kraken’s Mr. Smithers) tied up as a “gift” for Coulson and company! His real goal, apparently, is to go do… something to his brother the Senator.

PARTING THOUGHTS:

  • So, what city was Coulson’s head full of a map to? The Marvel Universe is lousy with lost-civilizations, but right now it really does feel like all roads are leading to Attilan — the hidden city of The Inhumans, especially since the cast’s widespread willingness to call the writing “alien” means it’s probably anything but.
  • Attilan, of course, tracks well with the idea that House Guest (who was apparently “older than the Pyramids,” another hint), The Doctor and Skye are themselves of Inhuman origin — and that this is building to a further reveal of Wanda & Pietro Maximoff (glimpsed in the post-credits scene of Winter Soldier) are as well.
  • Speaking of which, Ward mentions that Baron Von Strucker is overseas, so that’s still happening.

BOTTOM LINE: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. answers a question before we got sick of asking — can’t ask much more from a constant-mystery series.
RECOMMENDATION: With a major plotline mostly capped-off an a new angle emerging, it’s a pretty solid place to jump on.

[rating=4.0]

NEXT WEEK:
“Things We Bury” puts S.H.I.E.L.D. back into conflict with HYDRA over The Diviner, while Ward meets up with his brother. Lou Ferrigno Jr., whose father portrayed television’s original Incredible Hulk, will appear as “Agent Hauer.”

CRAZY THEORY OF THE WEEK:
Just going to throw this out there: We already know that Captain America 3 will involve a spin on the “Civil War” storyline, which (in the comics) involved Captain America taking a group of heroes underground when The Government (and Iron Man) wanted them to surrender their secret identities and control of their operations. If that carries over into the film’s version, it sure would be lucky if there was already a super-secret underground organization of idealistic vigilantes run by Earth’s biggest Captain American fanboy out there, huh?

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Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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