Agents of SHIELD season 5, episode 15 review: Rise and Shine
General Hale adopts a dog, Ruby goes back to school, Coulson eats cereal and meets more aliens, and Fitz has two pocket knives on this week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD.
One reason I love Agents of SHIELD is its ability to shore up perceived weaknesses inside of a single episode. Like the scrappy long-suffering super team it features, the show is often at its best when you think you’ve spotted a fatal weakness, only to see that flaw turned into strength moments later.
In what has been an ambitious and surprising season, one of my only complaints has been the relative blandness of second wave villains General Hale and her daughter Ruby. While Ruby brought about the menace with her shocking dismemberment of team favorite Yo-Yo, and Hale has served adequately as an insidious inside military woman – a dark, subtle American villainy to contrast with the bumbling, patriotic well-meaning heroism of series standout Glen Talbot – neither have been compelling from a personal standpoint.
And with fewer and fewer episodes remaining before the catastrophic long-foretold conflict of the season comes about (and inevitably brings in an even more dangerous enemy, presumably Gravitron in some shape or form) it seemed unlikely for this to change.
Then this week’s episode rolled in and completely blew that out of the water.
In one of the best offers of the season Agents of SHIELD managed to hit nothing but high notes in offering us fascinating insights into the mother-daughter duo of death, and even managed to shake up our expectations regarding Hydra. Again.
After the obligatory barbs are exchanged between Hale and the captured Coulson, we find the narrative jumping 28 years in the past to find a young Hale as she nears graduation at a Hydra boarding school where everyone seems to be House Slytherin, hidden in the very compound Ruby and the youngest Von Strucker now find themselves.
A young, ambitious, obviously talented, Hale navigates the waters of what is a (predictably) evil educational offering for upper-class rich kids. It’s pretty much a boys club, and despite her abilities – or perhaps because of them – Hale finds herself the subject of no small amount of jealousy from the supreme cool kid, Baron Von Strucker himself.
After speaking briefly in class about a potential device that has no purpose *cough* *creating Gravitron* *cough*, the two get into a gym class altercation – which Hale appears to handily win – then take the Hydra equivalent of Fallout’s G.O.A.T. test and discover where they will be placed in the organization. A young Jasper Sitwell is placed undercover due to general smarminess, Von Strucker is pegged for supreme leadership, and Hale – who has caught the eye of none other than Daniel Whitehall – is selected for a special breeding project by virtue of her reproductive abilities. Hale is less than thrilled, and does every evil feminist proud by boldly asking for another assignment, one that benefits her obvious qualifications, but a glare from Whitehall convinces her that this is an honor that is not to be refused.
Afterward, we skip forward 26 years to accompany Ruby as she attends the very same boarding school. Like her mother, she is impressive and ferocious – though not as devoid of compassion, as is demonstrated when she is unable to pass the final Hydra test of killing her dog, a traditional rite of passage within the organization, one that Hale conquered easily. And like her mother, she is held back by a patriarchy that is reluctant to embrace the change that Ruby represents.
Fortunately for the killer-in-training, Hydra falls apart before she can suffer the same wing-clipping as her mom. The organization is virtually eradicated apart from Hale, her daughter and
one respected instructor absolutely no one else.
Fast-forward another year and half and we find Hale having made contact with an imposing alliance of aliens known as The Confederacy, a (literally) shadowy organization of space invaders that has promised to protect Earth in exchange for, among other things, Gravitonium. In order to gather the necessary resources, Hale undertakes the subtle kidnapping of the previously mentioned, now utterly heartbreaking bad guy-turned-good guy-turned-sob story General Glenn Talbot, who was last seen getting shot in the head by a LMD of Daisy Johnson.
Unfortunately, Talbot’s story doesn’t get much more uplifting from there.
After struggling through rehab and frightening his own family, Talbot’s recovery is reassigned to Hale, and is to take place at (you guessed it) the same damn bunker the school was at. His stay is even more unpleasant than Hale and Ruby’s tenure, and he ends up being tortured for information by would-be super soldier Ruby. Should have been a dog, Talbot.
Finally, we’re back to the present. Coulson who is a wiser and more world-weary veteran of weird happenings than those previously shown, calmly examines his surrounds, understands a game is being played, grabs a bowl of “Oops! All Berries” and gets his crunch on like the captain he is. Gotta get up pretty early in the morning to get Mr. Phil Coulson soggy in milk, y’all.
Left with little recourse but open diplomacy, Hale sets up a joint meeting with The Confederacy. Afterward, Coulson and Hale attempt the most ambitious crossover event in entertainment history (or something) and bring Hydra and SHIELD together to fight off this new alien menace. Only when Hale reveals her plan to infuse either Ruby or Quake with the power of Gravitonium (give me a G, give me an R, give me an AVITRON!), Coulson realizes, through his bogus journey to the future, that this isn’t going to end well, and tells the Hydra leader as much. Hale, however, fixated on being the hero the world needs, if not the one it neccessarily deserves, sees this as shortsightednesss and moves ahead with her world-destroying mission.
A peek back at the rest of the SHIELD team is a snapshot of disharmony, as Fitz’s recent acceptance of his evil Doctor side has left a re-powered Daisy feeling less than cordial. Still, when you’re up against super villains, it’s sometimes best to fight fire with fire, or so May advises. Meanwhile, Yo-Yo gets rearmed and Jemma learns to accept her fate, using Elena’s fatalistic leanings to embrace the inevitability of Fitz-Simmons, something the viewers have done for the past five years.
Using a pocketknife trick, that, (if intentional) is an absolutely brilliant callback to the knife scene in 12 Angry Men, Jemma tells Fitz that Deke is their grandson. Therefore, they, logically, must make it; they are unstoppable.
Fitz, proving why he is my hero on this show, says what I thought for the first quarter of this season, “But he’s the worst!”
I know, Fitz. I know. But he grows on you. Really, he does. Trust me.
Original article at Fansided