Agents of SHIELD: Bouncing Back – In a Heartbeat (Review)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Bouncing Back introduces another inhuman, dubbed Yo-Yo by Mack who can move at super speed in a heartbeat.

WILLIAM SADLER, CLARK GREGG

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Bouncing Back introduces another inhuman, dubbed Yo-Yo by Mack who can move at super speed in a heartbeat. Things in the verse are also moving at THE pace of a heartbeat  as Malick and Coulson gear up for war. In terms of the title (bouncing back) refers to a great number of things, Yo-Yo, Coulson’s team, Fitzsimmons  and,  more disturbingly,  Grant Ward’s new incarnation as “Hive.”

The return of S.H.I.E.L.D offers a recap at least one comic moment:

President Ellis: “FOX News will not shut up!”

Less comic and more quaintly amusing is Mack’s own heartbeat now speeding up with an attraction for Yo-Yo, aka Slingshot in the Marvel Comic verse.

The episode opens with a teaser, a shot set three months in the future. A spacecraft, a’la Dead Spacea dead ship, weightless with globules of blood floating through the vehicle, a glimpse of a SHIELD patch and boom. The episode then enters “flashback” mode.

Part of that flashback includes William Sadler (reprising his role as the president) who clears the air with Coulson about SHIELD and sorting out an agenda, ATCU will still be in charge and Phil’s agents will continue as “Black Ops.” Ellis will assign a replacement for the dead Rosalind who answer’s to Coulson.

A shipment of special “inhuman” weapons are stolen from cops south of the border by an “invisible” assailant/thief.  Skye and her team head down to Bogota, Columbia to investigate and Mack discovers that the perpetrator was not invisible but faster than a heartbeat. later he learns that “Yo-Yo”, aka Elena Rodriguez, bounces back after each heartbeat journey to her original position.

NATALIA CORDOVA-BUCKLEY
Yo-Yo getting the drop on Mack.

One person who does not bounce back is Werner von Strucker (Spencer Treat Clark). Coulson puts Verner in the “Tahiti” machine and the young brain-damaged man starts murmuring Phil’s own words when he was in the device, “Just kill me.”  Despite what must be disturbing deja vu to Coulson, he forces Lincoln Campbell (Luke Mitchell) to trigger another memory.

While the images of being tortured interweave with Werner’s introduction to Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) “plays” just long enough to give Phil the information he needs.   Malick fawns over “Hive” as he slowly rejuvenates and Ward/Hive (Brett Dalton is gloriously creepy in Hive’s interim stage of bouncing back) is not just scary but terrifying to behold.

Apart from Phil Coulson’s focus on Malick, the head of SHIELD has a new hand, and forearm, designed by Fitz.  The scientist has made the prosthetic look like a real appendage and, according to Agent May, it feels real as well.  Simmons and Fitz finally address the elephant in the room and agree to “start over.”

IAIN DE CAESTECKER, ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE
Fitzsimmons starting over…

Back in Bogota, Elena turns out to be a “good guy” while the local policía turn out to have their own inhuman and the colonel is as corrupt as Rodriquez claims.  Yo-Yo believes that her gift is from God and Mack admires her faith.  He also gives Elena a similar spiel to the one Lincoln gave Skye/Daisy (Chloe Bennet); the gifts are not random.

Bobby and Hunter are taken prisoner by the local police and the team go in for a rescue. Elena, who is now Team Daisy, helps and is injured.  After getting the two agents, and capturing the inhuman, with his freezing eyes, HYDRA comes to collect the the prisoner.

Coulson tracks down Malick, which costs the magnate millions. Lincoln and Daisy connect and Fitz and Simmons reconnect. Hive appears to be a heartbeat away from killing Mr. Giyera.

In an ironic twist, Ellis appoints General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) to head up ATCU a move that Coulson believes is a mistake.  

Bounce Back allows Agents of SHIELD to remind the audience of just how hard core Phil Coulson is under that calm exterior. The scene between Coulson and Fritz (the “hard choice” bit) is a perfect example of the steel in the man who shot Loki in The Avengers.

This episode also reminds viewers that SHIELD do not realize that Grant Ward has been “inhabited” by Hive and is building himself up for a confrontation.  Agents of SHIELD has returned with a great open for the second half of the season. The series airs Tuesdays on ABC.

 

Agents of SHIELD: Maveth – Was that a Star Wars Reference? (Review)

Agents of SHIELD with Maveth brings it. Fitz kicks major a** and Phil gets his own back for the death of Rosalind. Speaking of Phil, after his Rosalind dream, he wakes up on the planet and looking at the big moon he murmurs “Tatooine.” So…Was that a Star Wars reference? If so, wow.

MING-NA WEN, HENRY SIMMONS, CHLOE BENNET

Agents of SHIELD with its Maveth episode  brings it. Fitz kicks major a** and Phil gets his own back for the death of Rosalind.  Speaking of Phil, after his Rosalind dream, he wakes up on the planet and looking at the big moon he murmurs “Tatooine.” So…

Was that a Star Wars reference? If so, wow. If not, well, it sounded like a Star Wars reference, so it still counts as wow. Now if someone else had said Anakin and Skywalker the moment could have become sublime and not just wow.

This fall finale  was a show stopper of an episode.  Between the action on the planet and back on Earth things were kept tight, suspenseful and action packed.  Mack proved that he was not afraid to make the hard decisions and when things got tough made the sacrifice play. Of course Daisy/Tremors would not allow Mack to do it solo:

“But one thing … I’m staying with you, because, “a,” I can keep the portal open if something goes wrong, and, “b,” I’m your partner…Technically, that’s two things.”

As one site pointed out, the episode was very busy. A lot went on in the fall finale.  Jemma gets loose,  Fitz finds “Will,” Andrew/Lash gets out and is very busy, Simmons finds Andrew and releases him,  Phil crushes Grant, Fitz kills “Will” and Ward comes back very different but no less deadly.

In a nutshell, the Agents of SHIELD covered almost every possible base in this one. With everything that went on, there were many standout moments.

Standout Moments:

That giant HYRDA statue in the middle of the barren planet. 

Fitz shooting “it” Will and then frying him with the flare gun.

Grant complaining that he could go much faster if Phil had not shot him…twice.

Phil crushing Grant Ward’s chest with his synthetic hand.

Joey Gutierrez being so excited that he saved Daisy’s life. 

Bobbi’s helping Joey to describe his Inhuman power as an “Amazing new superpower.”

Simmons crying when she learns Will is not back. 

Malick coming across a dead Grant Ward who is obviously inhabited by “it.”

All in all, a very hectically paced segment.  In some ways, it also foreshadows what is happening in the real world. When the agents are talking about HYDRA’s plan to bring back an ancient HYDRA God, aka “it,” Mack snorts and asks them to listen to themselves.

Lincoln responds:

“The world’s changing. Deal with it.”

The reluctant Inhuman hero could be talking about our world and not just that of the Joss Whedon small screen Marvel verse.  Campbell is, however, speaking more specifically about the changes coming up in the Marvel world of superheroes.

There are big things in store on the big screen, for instance Captain America:  Civil War is the next Marvel  film to hit theaters. Not surprisingly, it seems that SHIELD may be setting things up for the  upcoming film; as it did in season one with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Build-ups to feature films aside, and possible allusions to same (Star Wars),  the end of the episode; the fall finale, has Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) in tears when she learns that Will is not back from the planet.  It also has Ward as an “it Zombie” aka possessed by an ancient HYDRA God standing in the dark for Malick to find.  

Viewers  see a return to that cool professional SHIELD agent that Phil Coulson was on the big screen. The guy who shoots Loki, and then “dies” the man who despite his diminutive stature and demeanor was ready, willing  and able to kill.

Stand out performances from Clark GreggIain De Caestecker and Henry Simmons make this one special for fans and guest stars Powers Boothe and Dillon Casey also impress.  One thing to point out is that disturbing look from Phil as Melinda May comes to hug him…Intense, cold and angry. Looks like “killing” Grant really did not give Coulson the closure he was seeking. 

Mad props to Henstridge who managed to make viewers cheer and cry with her actions.

ELIZABETH HENSTRIDGE
Jemma, aka Elizabeth Henstridge

As we wait for the new year and the next installment of the small screen’s  Marvel verse only one question remains. Was Phil Coulson making a Star Wars reference when he said Tatooine?  Fans may never know, but if that is what the writers intended, well done.

Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in when the fall break is done and see just how different “zombie” Grant Ward may, or may not, be from his old self…

Agents of SHIELD: Many Heads, One Tale (Review)

Agents of SHIELD: Many Heads, One Tale has Phil and Rosalind finally getting to the crux of their relationship, that pesky lack of trust (on both sides) and whether or not these two really liked one another or not.

CLARK GREGG

Agents of SHIELD: Many Heads, One Tale has Phil and Rosalind finally getting to the crux of their relationship, that pesky lack of trust (on both sides) and whether or not these two really liked one another or not. The subterfuge of Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe) is finally brought out into the open to Phil, Rosalind and to Grant Ward. 

Ward, in turn, learns that SHIELD brought someone back out of the monolith portal, although he does not know that it deals with he two former colleagues he attempted to kill, Fitz-Simmons.  Andrew Garner meets Ward and after some preliminary verbal sparring, Grant lets mustard gas into the cage for in order to trigger Andrew’s transformation into Lash.

Speaking of Fitz-Simmons, these two hesitant suitors finally lock lips and share a passionate kiss.  They kiss not once but twice. It does  not appear that this has cemented their relationship as Leo breaks away and repeats his assertion that the two are “cursed.”

Mack finally approaches Phil about the director’s dalliances with Rosalind and whether the ATCU head can be trusted. Coulson takes the intrusion pretty well since, as he tells Mack, he has never trusted Rosalind, even after they did spend some “sack-time” together. Phil also puts his “paramour” in a holding cell on his flying fortress and tells her that it could be her home unless she comes clean.

As the two spar verbally, Price comes to understand that Malick is the spanner in the works and that he actually is HYDRA.  The presidential advisor has infiltrated her organization for his own ends.  Malick also attempts to take Grant Ward (Brett Daltonout of the picture but fails and ultimately offers Ward a place at the top of HYDRA.

Fitz tracks down the image/logo that he discovered on the astronaut’s patch and learns that it is the same group who initially studied the monolith and that the logo is the forerunner to HYDRA’s octopus.  This then brings up whether Will, Simmons’ is an astronaut in shining armor, or whether he is a willing member or the organization.

Jemma actually believes that Will was a “blood sacrifice” and gets angry at Leo for trying so hard to rescue the man.

Lance and Bobbi go undercover to get into the ATCU computer system, Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) and May team up to follow clues discovered by Daisy and Hunter’s hacking of the system of their competitor. 

As Bobbi and Hunter continue their surveillance and accommodate Daisy’s monitoring of the ATCU database, it is revealed that the president’s new agency is not curing Inhumans but exposing normal people to TERRIGEN. Malick speaks with Dr. Garner, still playing both sides against the middle as Banks enters the facility and blows Hunter’s and Morse’s cover.

Price proves to be a “good guy” after all once she realizes that Gideon has been playing both her and the president. She instructs Banks (Andrew Howard) to assist Phil’s two agents in escaping the facility. 

Lincoln Campbell and May rescue Lance and Bobbi in the nick of time and Grant Ward begins the process of turning Andrew into Lash.  Somewhat disappointingly, Banks is not the big bad he seemed to be and neither is his boss, Rosalind.

Kudos to Powers Boothe for being the ultimate smarmy bad guy and to Brett Dalton for continuing to make Grant Ward a real nasty bit of work that one loves to hate.  The Fitz-Simmons triangle is still a good underlying story thread and hopefully Rosalind and Phil can now “kiss and make up” after their search for the truth.

Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in and try to keep up with all the twists and turns.

Agents of SHIELD Among Us Hide: Melinda May is Back (Review)

ADRIANNE PALICKI, MING-NA WEN

Lance is in the doghouse in Agents of SHIELD this week. Among Us Hide has relegated to the bench and May is not best pleased with his actions and she is not alone. While everyone is concerned for Dr. Garner and annoyed with Hunter, the real surprise is that Lash has been uncovered and Melinda May is back.  The reveal of the episode is that May’s fella is the big Inhuman monster that has been killing other Inhumans all over.

The team are still divided with how they feel about a number of things.  ATCU being the main issue.  Phil finally gets to see the facility and his visit is witnessed by Daisy, Mack and an “on the bench” Lance.

Simmons is still determined to go back and rescue Will (Dillon Casey) and Fitz, despite Lance’s warning about not helping the competition, looks ready to help. Although he is checking out the NASA employee’s background.  Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) shows off her Mandarin skills as she and May (Ming-Na Wen) track down Werner Von Strucker (played by the grown up Spencer Clark from Gladiator) and converse in the language to hide their intent.

With Hunter in trouble, he offers to drive for Daisy and Mack when she follows Banks (Andrew Howard), Rosalind’s right-hand man whom Daisy believes to be the Inhuman Lash.  Coulson and Price (Constance Zimmer) continue to dance around each other as each begins to admire the other. 

Someone breaks into Rosalind’s home and Phil tags along as she surveys the “damage.” He suspects her and also accuses the ATCU head,  of trying to “make him like her” and he learns that Price is  a huge  Margaret Thatcher fan.  Daisy, aka Tremors, is horrified at the  facility where Inhumans are put in some sort of cage to be incarcerated. Mack and Lance agree with her assessment and all are concerned that Phil does not seem to be affected by the sight.

HENRY SIMMONS, CHLOE BENNET, NICK BLOOD
Mack, Lance and Tremors in the HTS Home Theatre van…

Von Strucker seeks help from Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe, who had a cameo in The Avengers) and the man turns young Werner/Alexander over to Grant Ward by telling the new HYDRA head where he can be found.  Later, May and Bobbi attempt to rescue the lad but fail.

Not before Werner can tell Melinda May what really happened in the corner shop when they went to kill Andrew and not before Bobbi learns that she really is ready to be back in the field.

Lance and Daisy learn that they each have issues, in Hunter’s case it is anger he has problems with, and Phil is starting to like Rosalind. May is understandably upset to learn that Andrew is Lash and Lincoln gets in touch with Daisy.

Garner and Simmons share a moment and later the doctor quizzes “Tremors” on the whereabouts of Lincoln (Luke Mitchell).  The big reveal at the end of the episode was only shocking for those  not paying attention to the episodes thus far. 

The fact that Garner survived his encounter with young Werner, who looked suitably freaked out as he cowered behind that car in front of the exploding shop, was a definite clue.  As was the fact that Daisy has never been touched in all her encounters with Lash.  While Banks was “Tremors'” favorite suspect, the man has no Inhuman DNA and she now knows it is not Price’s lackey, she does not yet know that Andrew Garner is the big bad monster that puts holes in Inhuman chests.

POWERS BOOTHE
Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe)

Malick makes it clear to Ward that he has chosen HYDRA as his “side” and it is nice to see Powers Boothe still plays a great bad guy. His character will be around for  number of episodes and it will be interesting to see how Malick and Ward will get on.

After the swimming pool fight between Morse and Kebo (Daz Crawford), Ward seems to have lost his right-hand man but Bobbi has, as May suggested, learned from her experience with Grant and become stronger.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays on ABC and things look to be very interesting for May and the rest of the team.  Tune in and see how Andrew Garner turning out to be Lash changes the dynamic now that Melinda May is back as well.

Ah Agent 47, How I’ve Missed Thee…


The feeling of nostalgia was overwhelming as I popped the disc into the PS3 and waited for the latest update to load and install on Hitman Absolution. I loved the old Hitman with his bald pate complete with bar code and his cold blooded bad-ass killing instinct not to mention his sense of humour.

Who else would think of dressing up like a clown to infiltrate a party to get closer to his next victim (Blood Money), or dressing up as a Priest to take out the baddies in a Catholic Orphanage (Absolution).

Agent 47, that’s who.

Although in our minds (and actions) it is we who are really Agent 47; looking sharp and cool in the black suit with white shirt and red tie combo that makes up his professional attire complete with black leather “shooting gloves” and patent leather shoes. Forget Altair and Ezio and the other “new boys” on the block. Agent 47 was the original assassin and still is.

Now don’t get me wrong. I loved the Assassin’s Creed verse from its maiden voyage with the egotistical Altair who gets busted down to the assassin’s equivalent of a buck private. His journey back up and slow realization that someone wasn’t telling the truth still interests me and is the best of the franchise, in my opinion.

But Agent 47 with his “genetically manufactured” assassination skill which goes to prove that great contract killers are not just born, they are also made, has never bored me. Frustrated yes, but never bored. The times that I got frustrated with him was when I had repeatedly failed to stealthily kill the target and I was either killed or had to run for my life and try all over again. Of course when that happened, the thought of stealth went right out the window and I generally would “go Genghis Kahn” on everyone in sight and initiate a blood bath that old Genghis would have envied.

Frustrations aside, with my own limitations never that of Agent 47’s, the games are addictive and challenging in a way that other game’s just can’t replicate.

Looking at the Hitman franchise I chuckle when I remember how angry I would get at having to completely redo a mission because I’d been spotted or killed an innocent bystander. Absolution does not have that problem as you can save at “set” points in the game. So, yes, you still have to re-do some of the mission but not all of it; unless, of course, you want to.

The only problem I’ve had so far is that when I crouch, I can’t “un-crouch.” So you wind up crouch walking through crowds of people who do notice. I had an npc say, “Look at the hunchback.” Another told me to stand up and “stop acting like a child.” So far so irritating, but I cannot find a reference anyplace else where this problem is mentioned. So until I find a solution I’ll continue to have 47 hunched over after that first crouch.

*And before you say anything, yes I have pressed the O again and it changes nothing. He still crouches and looks bloody ridiculous. It must be some sort of glitch.*

I do have to say about the graphics at this point. As quickly as I could “get into” the old PS2 verse of Hitman, it did have a few issues with graphics. A lot of the PS2 games did. But you could ignore that because of the ease of immersing yourself into the role of 47. But the “last gen” graphics could give you a jolt now and again.


Not so Absolution. The colours and graphics are stunning. The textures are great and the overall appearance of the game’s set pieces look impressive. There have been no moments where I’ve been thrown out of the game because of a graphics let down. The game play itself is not difficult although, as I’ve said before, I am not the world’s expert at stealth. In fact despite the crouching problem, I’m doing pretty well. I still have moments where I get just that little bit too annoyed and rather than do a Genghis Kahn, I’ll do a Clyde Barrow and just start shooting.

When the opening cut scenes finished on the new game, slipping back into the world of Agent 47 felt as easy as slipping into an old pair of comfy sneakers (or patent leather shoes). I immediately found myself looking at the verse through familiar eyes. The world of stealth has not changed. You have a new “instinct” gauge that can be used to tell you where the enemies are and what path you should be taking. A little like Assassin Creed‘s eagle vision except that this gauge can run out of instinct and leave you blind.

I won’t talk about any of the games particulars, i.e. plot. But I will say it’s a good one, folks, it’s a good one. I will also say that 47 has learned a few new tricks, like how to kill with a screw driver, throwing a knife and an almost balletic way of using a fire axe to dispose of enemies. Just to list a few of these new kill skills. I’m sure he’s picked up a few other new ones since the last time we met but I haven’t encountered them yet.

The voice acting is top-notch. They’ve taken a page out of Naughty Dog‘s book and let the actors actually act with each other. No separate sound booths here with an actor reading his lines into dead air. They interact and even get to wear the motion capture suits a la Naughty Dog. It helps. There are some pretty big names attached to the project. Powers Boothe, Vivica A. FoxKeith Carradine, Traci Lords (ex porn star) and of course David Bateson is back providing the voice for Agent 47.

So apart from the continuing problem of crouching (or conversely not being able to stand up straight) I am loving this blast from the past with all its new trappings. It even looks as though the young girl that Agent 47 is trying to protect might be a new improved female version of him. It does sort of make me wonder is there will soon be a “Hitgirl” (and not Chloe Moritz from Kick Ass either). I am not that far into the game yet, I’m now competing with a pig-tailed brown haired version of Daisy Duke on a shooting range and not doing fantastically well. Of course, my aim is always a little off when I’m target shooting at two in the morning.

I did not realize how much I missed old baldy until I started playing Absolution. I suppose I could have gone back at anytime and played the old favourites, Blood Money or Contracts, but there never seemed to be the time. What with new games coming out and my tendency to replay all of the three Naughty Dog Drake games, I just couldn’t take the time.

But playing the long awaited “sequel” to Hitman, I’m sorry I wasn’t more faithful. Still, it has not taken me any time at all to get back into the swing of the Hitman verse and to fight off all the bad guys and terminate the targets. I’ve had to fight the compulsion to wear adult diapers and have my food given to me via a drip so I can play uninterrupted.

I also have to fight the urge to react badly to people who interrupt my game play for whatever the reason.