NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are present in this review
As we approach the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second season, “The Dirty Half Dozen” seemed to focus squarely on pandering to established Marvel fans most of all. This wasn’t just in the reunion between the original six leads from Season One for this week’s mission, but also since “The Dirty Half Dozen” set the stage for the imminently-releasing Marvel Studios movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron in a surprisingly effective way, without being too on-the-nose about it.
Make no mistake though. This episode wasn’t just about tickling the Marvel faithful. It also delivered a strong plot on its own merits, with Coulson’s crew digging deeper into HYDRA’s efforts to capture and experiment on super-powered individuals. With Lincoln and Deathlok both about to be dissected, it’s a race against the clock to try and snatch them back, particularly after Gordon conveniently drops Skye back with the old S.H.I.E.L.D. crew. It’s a tad contrived, but whatever.
The excuse for Gordon’s blind trust (not a pun, I swear) is the fact that Raina’s visions are beginning to come to pass without fail. After Raina foresees that Skye will save Lincoln, Gordon decides to give Coulson’s team the benefit of the doubt. Again, it’s not without contrivance, but Raina did prove herself before, so the show has certainly come up with worse excuses to throw this ragtag bunch together on a fool’s errand, particularly after Gonzalez arbitrarily refuses to send his own people with Coulson (even Bobbi), despite voting in favour of Coulson’s rescue op. Hunter also can’t participate, since he was shot and wounded after last week’s episode.
On the note of Gonzalez, Coulson implying that The Toolbox is simply on loan to him, and that Nick Fury will eventually come back for it, was very interesting. Does this mean that the old S.H.I.E.L.D. will eventually be rebuilt from the ashes of the HYDRA takeover, effectively making HYDRA’s decades-long operation a bust? Moreover, it felt like just one of many interesting teases for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which we already know Nick Fury will be re-appearing in, despite sauntering off of the grid at the conclusion of last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Also an effective tease for Avengers: Age of Ultron was more mentions of experiments on enhanced individuals by Baron Von Strucker, namely that almost all of them have been failures, beyond, “The twins.” Yes, the show is referring to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who were glimpsed during the mid-credits scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and will be making their proper debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This should help service the movie, cementing exactly how important the successful creation of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver is to the technology of HYDRA!
Regardless, the group wastes no time staring daggers at Ward when the group goes on to their old plane, which is surprisingly shot to hell by HYDRA about mid-way through the episode. Nnnooo, not The Bus! If you ever needed symbolic proof of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. formally rejecting its Season One direction, there’s no better proof of it than that. Naturally though, it’s just part of the plan, as the group falls to the ground in a quinjet, attempting to trick HYDRA into thinking it’s just debris.
Once the old crew actually infiltrates the HYDRA base, the episode really kicks into high gear, and gets pretty awesome. We get a standout single-take action sequence from Skye, showing her owning a whole platoon of HYDRA agents, for starters. Looks like her training with May has certainly paid off! Likewise, we see Simmons actually implement a plot to kill Ward via one of those disintegration disc bombs from earlier in the season, though it ends up being Bakshi on the receiving end of Simmons’ murder attempt. Couldn’t she just shoot Ward? Well, regardless, Ward pointing his gun at Simmons for an extended period of time, then sparing her and saying that he’s disappointed at her pettiness, felt even more satisfying than if Simmons had been successful. It continues to make Ward more of a damaged sociopath than a true villain, one who seemed undeniably genuine when he lamented his betrayal having torn the original group apart at the end of last season.
Inevitably, Lincoln and Deathlok are successfully rescued, after Skye must focus her abilities enough to restart Lincoln’s heart (boy, is there anything she can’t do with those vibrations?), and they end up extracted, surprisingly quickly actually. Oh, that is, except for Ward, who just walks away off-screen. That felt a bit disappointing, especially given how easily the group was plucked out of HYDRA territory, with the entire base being leveled, all off-screen. Maybe the episode was too long, and those scenes needed to be cut, but it felt like the episode did make an awkward jump after the action was done.
The scenes afterward however were standout stuff. Ward calls Coulson, and urges him to fix Agent 33, and give her her old life back, after Bakshi and HYDRA took it from her. Ward laments not being the one to fix Agent 33 himself, and seems to admit that Coulson is the better man, before disappearing again. It was a surprisingly heartfelt scene, confirming that Ward still has feelings, and his affections for Agent 33 were indeed true. It will be heartbreaking to see her react to Ward seemingly running off on her, if I’m being honest, even if said reaction doesn’t occur in this episode.
More awesome however was Coulson getting a call from Maria Hill over at Stark Tower, complete with Cobie Smulders guest-starring on a video call! Hill asks about Theta Protocol, and Coulson says it’s time; Time to re-assemble The Avengers! Again, it’s another tease for Avengers: Age of Ultron that Marvel fans will get pretty excited about, perhaps implying that ‘Theta Protocol’ might in fact be Tony Stark’s effort to use the Iron Legion as a substitute for The Avengers not being able to be everywhere at once, like in the movie. Naturally though, we know that this is going to go very, very badly, or else we wouldn’t have a movie. On one last note here, it was great to see Coulson acknowledge the movie’s coming events regardless, even though The Avengers are still oblivious to Coulson being alive, and the movie will no doubt treat Coulson as if he’s still dead, to avoid confusing moviegoers who don’t watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
One last tease for Avengers: Age of Ultron followed this as well, after Jiaying tries to reprimand Raina for manipulating events with her visions. It initially seems like Raina is going to attack Jiaying and escape, before she’s suddenly overcome by a violent vision. She foresees a magic staff with the ability to control minds and create miracles, and a wave of destruction caused by an army of metal men. Yep, Raina is foreseeing the very events of Avengers: Age of Ultron (hey, no fair, she got to see the movie early!), which the Inhumans may have a take on now for this show, thanks to that.
Some story material felt forced and awkward, but “The Dirty Half Dozen” was still a highly enjoyable episode, particularly for avid Marvel enthusiasts. The Avengers: Age of Ultron teases were all executed well, and it’s great to see the episode not lean on them as a crutch. The reunion between Coulson’s original S.H.I.E.L.D. crew was also appealing, with some great action to come from that as well. This season has had better episodes for sure, but this one certainly won’t struggle to get fans excited for what’s to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
- Ward's continued intrigue
- Great action, especially the one-take Skye sequence
- Effective teases for Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Several story elements felt awkward and forced