Agents of SHIELD, Season 2, Episode 14: “Love in the Time of Hydra”
Written by Brent Fletcher
Directed by Jesse Bochco
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on ABC
“Love in the Time of Hydra” is an episode that is over quickly and leaves one wanting more, in the best way. More Ward/Agent 33 Pulp Fiction tributes, more Fitz calling out Simmons, and especially more Edward James Olmos. More Edward James Olmos is always welcome.
The pacing in “Love in the Time of Hydra” is brisk, despite the episode being set-up heavy. Big chunks of exposition are much more palatable when delivered by Edward James Olmos, who plays Robert Gonzales, the leader of Other SHIELD. Olmos is the perfect choice to lead Coulson’s opposition. He is steely but soft-spoken, weary but wise, and strong. He doesn’t want to go after Coulson, but he believes it is absolutely necessary for the greater good. His history as Adama on Battlestar Galactica also works to his advantage here. There is probably a lot of crossover between fans of Agents of SHIELD and Battlestar Galactica, and casting Olmos makes Gonzales automatically more sympathetic, even as he undermines SHIELD and turns Coulson’s agents against him.
The episode actually makes a pretty strong case for someone else running SHIELD. Coulson is absent from most of the episode’s action, as he is off delivering Skye to her safe house instead. While Coulson is sharing Twizzlers with Skye, May is the one who stops swallowing Mac’s nonsense about Hunter and finally starts asking questions about where he is and if he is selling SHIELD secrets. Olmos says that Coulson is a fine agent but a questionable leader, and in the scenes with Coulson and Skye, it’s like the writers are aiming a giant, flashing sign at Coulson that reads, “He has a point!”
In the midst of the double-crossing, the Bobbi/Hunter romance comes to an end. While it is long overdue, it is still sad that these two very likable characters will be on opposite sides of what is coming. Thankfully, the show keeps their goodbyes brief, with Hunter punching his way out and taking off in an escape pod as Bobbi sighs and gives him an “Oh, you” glance. The show never took their romance that seriously, so it fits that their last big scene together, with Hunter’s escape, is kind of goofy.
Speaking of romance, whatever is going on between Ward and Agent 33 is getting weird. Their Pulp Fiction stick-up at the diner is unexpected and a lot of fun, although it would’ve been nice to see Samuel L. Jackson as Fury make an appearance. The scene where Agent 33 transforms her face into Skye wanders into some super creepy territory. While the exact age breakdown for Agents of SHIELD viewership isn’t known, since it is a Marvel show, there are likely to be kids watching the episode. But the show doesn’t cross any lines in this scene, especially considering the levels of violence in other episodes like “One of Us”. If anything, Agents of SHIELD does an excellent job showing a troubling sexual relationship, and Agent 33’s feelings of inadequacy, without pushing it too far.
Another troubled relationship that gets more screen time this week is the increasingly fractured Fitz/Simmons friendship. Simmons is still saying the worst things possible to Skye, comparing her to the Hulk and talking about suicide, and it is kind of ridiculous. For those on Team Fitz, it is so gratifying when he calls out Simmons for being scared and wanting Skye to stay the same because it is easier for her. Yes, Simmons is still hurting from Triplett’s death, but she is too eager to fix Skye, as if Skye is broken. This is a conversation that many people with physical or mental disabilities have had with well-meaning family or friends, and one wonders if the writers intentionally framed the conversation in that way.
“Love in the Time of Hydra” isn’t all secret coups and broken hearts, and the episode’s comic relief comes from an unlikely place. General Talbot, who last appeared in “Aftershocks”, is back in a subplot with Ward and Agent 33. Talbot, played by Adrian Pasdar, gets a little more screen time in “Love in the Time of Hydra”, as he tracks down Agent 33, who is disguised as his wife. The writers give Talbot some really great throwaway lines about riding lawnmowers and Taco Tuesday with his wife, and the scene where he interrogates his female staff and pinches an innocent face is one of the funniest moments in season 2.
If “Love in the Time of Hydra” is unsatisfying in any way, it is only because the writers are setting up for a big showdown in the next episode. The episode ends on multiple cliffhangers, including Hunter racing against the clock to get word to Coulson, so the story doesn’t wrap up neatly. As a set-up episode, however, “Love in the Time of Hydra” does its job beautifully. The writers get in the necessary exposition, introduce a big new character, and set up all the major players, while still taking time for all these interpersonal dramas and some great comic relief.
On a last note, a mini-episode where General Talbot runs around town buying up all the edible arrangements for his wife would be worth seeing. She is adorable and so thoughtful to bring him his favorite pork taquitos. A sitcom-style spinoff, General Dad, about Talbot balancing the demands of national security and family would also be acceptable. He saved the world, but will he make it home in time for dinner? Find out this week on General Dad!