Mission BriefingAfter murdering Agent Koenig, Ward has absconded with Skye, hoping to finally get the encrypted S.H.I.E.L.D. information off of the hard drive. Coulson and the team move to find Ward and rescue Skye, but Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) shows up to providence with the U.S. government, hoping to convince Coulson to stand down, since S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't rightly exist anymore.
The AgentsEveryone's on deck this week, but not necessarily playing for the same side. Ward has essentially kidnapped Skye so she can decrypt the hard drive while Coulson, Fitz, Simmons, and Triplett are following the breadcrumbs left behind by Skye. Meanwhile, May is stirring things up behind the scenes, and Maria Hill provides some much-needed backup in a special guest appearance by Cobie Smulders.
Mission FalloutMay gets into contact with Maria Hill, who is pursuing work in the private sector after the dismantling of S.H.I.E.L.D. May wants the know the identity of the person behind the T.A.H.I.T.I. project, hoping it might finally give Coulson the answers he’s been seeking, but all Maria has to offer is a cryptic riddle left by Nick Fury (Director Fury is apparently a poet in his off hours).
Meanwhile, Coulson and his team are wondering what happened to the Bus and their missing agents. Surveillance shows May leaving Providence a little while after her fight with Coulson. Fitz wanders around the base and discovers a secret message scrawled onto one of Keonig’s Faux windows: “Ward is HYDRA,” just as Gemma is discovering Koenig’s body stashed in the supply closet. Simmons examines Koenig and determines that Ward was the only one who was capable of killing him. Fitz freaks out, as he’s wont to do, and the team works on figuring out how to save Skye. Luckily, they discover that Bus is in Los Angeles, but not before Providence comes under attack. Maria Hill shows up with Colonel Talbot and U.S. military in tow. She urges Coulson to stop working under S.H.I.E.L.D. and accept that the agency doesn’t exist any more. She suggests that the agent allow his staff to walk away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and join the private sector. Coulson informs Maria about the Ward situation, and the agent helps the team escape so they can go after Ward and rescue Skye.
Elswhere, Skye tells Ward that the location needed to decrypt the drive is the same diner where she first met Mike Peterson in the pilot episode. Ward rushes Skye to decrypt the drive, but she expertly stalls for time, giving the HYDRA turncoat enough jabbering Technobabble to keep him satisfied. Skye needles into Ward about his allegiance to S.H.I.E.L.D., and reveals that she knows he’s really a member of HYDRA. She calls the police to the diner, but Ward quickly subdues them. Skye almost escapes, but is soon re-captured by Deathlok. Deathlok, always the pragmatist, tells Ward he has only five minutes to get Skye to decrypt the drive. Ward confesses that his feelings for Skye have always been genuine and the he was just “following orders,” but Skye his revolted by Ward’s true colors. Deathlok stops Ward’s heart and forces Skye to tell him the encryption site before starting it again. The agent reveals that the drive needs to be 35,000 feet in the air before it can be unlocked.
Before Ward can get the Bus in the air, he finds himself locked in a standoff with Maria Hill, who's piloting another Jet. The two exchage verbarl barbs which gives Coulson enough time to sneak aboard the Bus. Coulson locates Skye and escapes the Bus mid flight in Lola, Coulson’s flying corvette, but not before the drive is unlocked.
The team shacks up at a skeezy motel, having lost not only their agency but their home. May surprises Coulson in his motel room. She reveals that the lead behind the T.A.H.I.T.I. project was Coulson himself. In a message sent to Fury before his death in The Avengers, Coulson reveals that the T.A.H.I.T.I. project was created to revive a mortally wounded avenger, but that the project should be shelved due to it’s horrific side-effects. Coulson learns that he was, in fact, searching for himself this whole time. How exestential.
Most Valuable Agent This Week’s MVA goes to Skye for managing to outwit and outgame Ward at his own game. Not bad for a new recruit.
Mission Highlights- Adrian Pasdar is back as the burly, no-nonsense, fake-mustache wearing Colonel Talbot. Let's hope he sticks around a while.- I love Ward’s insistence that he’s definitely not a Nazi. Evil terrorist? Sure, you’ve got me pegged, but a Nazi?! Whoa buddy, let’s not jump to conclusions.- “If I come out, will you shoot me? Cause then I wont come out."- Chloe Bennet gives some of her best acting yet in this episode.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.