Well, last episode is a lot to follow, especially since the end tag promised that we’d get to know a lot more about the alien map. But at this point I think I can trust the show to balance things off well with the likely manhunt for Ward. Am I right? Let’s take a look.
Rhinebeck, NY: the tattooed man from last ep has picked up an artist who is trying to remember how she knows him. “I do some carving now and then,” he tells her, then takes off his shirt and pulls out a knife. Yikes! Cue the screams and then… jazz?
Back in his office, the jazz isn’t helping Coulson. His compulsion to carve the alien map on the wall has ramped up dramatically. From the look of him, he’s running out of time.
Meanwhile, the Shield-only manhunt for Ward is on (since his brother has covered up his escape). In Philadelphia, Tripp spots him, but Ward’s able to escape because… C4 suicide vest. The hunt for Ward leads to Atlanta, where he makes Bobbi, then demonstrates that he’s still set to explode. However, he does not appear to spot Hunter on the bus to Boston. Oh, May’s flying around in the Quinnjet for what seems like days this ep. Hope that thing has a bathroom.
Sky finally comes up with a lead on the alien map: a murdered woman carved up with its symbols. She head’s to Rhinebeck with Coulson. Together they discover the artist painted a few dozen pictures of the map onto canvas. One of them is even signed ‘A magical place’. So… how many other people have vacationed in T.A.H.I.T.I?
It turns out the dead woman was a Shield agent who supposedly died years ago.
Hmm, sound familiar? Simmons discovers both the woman and her killer both had blue alien serum in their blood, which worries her, considering… Garrett, and the fact that both Skye and Coulson were injected with it. This convinces Coulson to get Raina’s memory machine out of storage and finally remember what T.A.H.I.T.I was all about.
Skye warns against this because… insanity, but Coulson reminds her that peoples lives are at risk. Mack, this year’s audience proxy is not too pleased about what he’s gotten involved with, but he is willing to help out in case Coulson loses it.
So… we are then treated then to a freaky and surreal recollection of the T.A.H.I.T.I project, whose subject’s resurrection starts promisingly, then they go nuts. The whole thing is pretty rough on Coulson, and he comes out of the memory machine screaming that he – “Needs to know!!” He also, more helpfully, remembers some names.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Ward visits what appears to be a HYDRA bar to meet up with Bakshi, then offers to get the man close enough to Coulson to kill him. May joins Tripp, Hunter and Bobbi at the pub and they head in to take down Ward, but… disappointment. He’s long gone, but has left a gift of a tied up Bakshi with “For Coulson” written on the duct tape slapped over his mouth. Ward’s quest for redemption has begun, right?… maybe.
It turns out only two of the T.A.H.I.T.I subjects are still alive. One is Carver, our tattooed assassin, and the other is now Hank Thompson, a welder with the most awesome model railroad set ever. Seriously, I want one. As per May’s orders, Skye takes Coulson down to Ward’s old cell because… insanity, again. Coulson, however turns tables, and it’s Skye that gets locked up. Oops.
Completely unaware of what’s going on, Mack and Fitz play a first person shooter while chatting about memory erasure. Fitz suggests brain’s never really deletes anything (this may be BS, actually). Simmons shows up looking for Skye, who they quickly learn has been trapped in Ward’s cell for quite a while.
Coulson by then has shown up at the Hank’s asking if he’s been carving the alien writing to. Hank tries to say, “go away!” but then Carver shows up. And he’s somewhat more persuasive (not to mention more psychotic) than Coulson.
Carver ties up Hank and Coulson, then starts cutting Coulson to help him ‘remember’. Hank, escapes with his family, leaving Coulson and Carver to fight it out over the alien blood that’s driving them both. Sky and Mack show up just in time for Coulson to show them that he’s figured out what the alien map is to: some kind of city, as seen in three dimensions through Hank’s massive model railroad set. Wisely, Hank later tells Coulson he prefers his family and life to the idea of returning to Shield, even if his memories of his current identity are fictional.
And, happily for Coulson, the compulsion to carve is now gone so he is able to tell his team that he is no longer in danger of going insane, and about the ‘city’. However, he adds HYDRA is also looking for it, so… again, season arc, but in a good way. And hey, thanks to Ward, they now have Bakshi to interrogate!
The episode wraps up with Ward cleaning himself back up. He then calls Bakshi’s phone, and guess who answers? Skye, of course. He reminds her of his promise, tells her he wasn’t impressed with the new recruits, then promises to see her soon. He does have some personal business to deal with first, however. Yep, Christian.
While not as heady and intricately written as last episode, this one is quite good on a few counts. The alien map reveal is managed in a disturbing, surreal, but finally life affirming manner. The episode also offers a subtext re: taking charge of your own identity, and offers several different views of this idea, all well realized.
Finally we get to see Ward in his element, deftly leading the crew to his gift wrapped Hydra higher-up. Ward, after a dodgy season one is now both intriguing, and not a bit scary. Very fine.