Agents of SHIELD, Season 2, Episode 5: “A Hen in the Wolfhouse”
Written by Brent Fletcher
Directed by Holly Dale
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm ET on ABC
“A Hen in the Wolfhouse” dials back the amount of action from “Face My Enemy”, but makes up for it with more Kyle MacLachlan, Simmons’ undercover work at Hydra, and the reveal of Mockingbird. The writers also squeeze in Skye discovering Coulson’s two big secrets, Fitz and Simmons reuniting, and another Skye-Ward interrogation scene. With so much going on, “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” should feel rushed and over-stuffed, but everything dovetails so neatly that none of the action or plot points feel forced.
At the center of the episode’s action is Simmons’ undercover work at Hydra. She is getting more information about the Obelisk and how Hydra plans to weaponize it, but when Hydra catches word that there is a mole in their midst, Bobbi, a.k.a. Mockingbird, is brought in to find the mole. As Bobbi, Adrianne Palicki is a perfect fit for a show like Agents of SHIELD. She has a great physical presence on-screen, and doesn’t have to throw a punch to intimidate the lesser mortals around her. Later on, she also gets to poke fun at her ex-husband, who is Hunter, coincidentally. In their short time on-screen together, it’s clear that Palicki and Nick Blood, who plays Hunter, have great chemistry, and they are completely believable as an antagonistic ex-husband and wife.
Elizabeth Henstridge is also interesting to watch throughout the episode. Simmons wants to run back to SHIELD with everything she knows about the Obelisk, but she understands that SHIELD still needs her undercover in Hydra. She is more nervous and uncomfortable playing the part of a Hydra scientist than she was in “Making Friends and Influencing People”, but is nowhere near as bad a liar as she was in season one.
The other major piece fitting into the episode is Skye’s father, and how his blackmailing Raina leads to Raina blowing Simmons’ cover. Kyle MacLachlan doesn’t need much screen time to make an impression, but he gets much more to work with in “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” than his previous appearance on Agents of SHIELD. He menaces over Raina, murders a few less-than-reputable men, cries over seeing Skye for the first time in years, and then breaks down when his daughter sees him as a monster. Skye’s father is a formidable villain, to be sure, and someone who isn’t afraid to kill anyone between him and Skye, but it also seems as if the show is setting him up to be the Loki of Agents of SHIELD. MacLachlan is a charismatic actor, and on the surface, his character has an admirable goal, which is to find his daughter. He is evil because of the lengths he is willing to go and the body count he will leave behind to get what he wants. His alliance with Hydra over the Obelisk is not about him sharing Hydra’s beliefs, but rather about a common enemy. His daughter loves Coulson, and clings to him like a father while rejecting her real father, who has searched for her all these years.
On the subject of Skye, what a difference a season makes. In season one, Skye could have been killed off in “T.A.H.I.T.I.” In my review of “T.R.A.C.K.S.”, I made the case for keeping Skye alive and working out the problems with her character, rather than take the route The Walking Dead has followed. In season two, she is not only a better character, but also a major season-long story arc is resting on her shoulders. “A Hen in the Wolfhouse” is a test of that faith in Skye and Chloe Bennet as an actress, and while Bennet isn’t an extraordinary performer, she is doing a fine job. Her emotional scenes at her father’s abandoned hide-out are a huge improvement over similar scenes in season one, and the ongoing relationship with Ward is continuing to challenge her in a good way. She also had the episode’s best exchange with Coulson: “Hold on, are you saying that I’m an alien?” “It’s a theory.”
So far in season two, the quality of the writing and storytelling is continuing to rise, but unfortunately, most of the fan base that watched season one gave up and never came back. The ratings are low, and they are continuing to slip lower with each new episode of season two. It’s understandable why fans gave up in season one. The storytelling in season one was sloppy, and the writers held onto the reveal of Coulson coming back to life for way too long. There is hope, though, that they will hear what so many fans like myself are saying and give season two a chance. This is the show that many wanted in season one, and maybe it isn’t too late to win viewers back.
On a last stray observation, there is noticeably a little crushing from Fitz and Simmons towards Mac and Bobbi. Fitz’s subconscious is thinking an awful lot about Mac’s body, and really, who can blame him?