Agents of SHIELD is racing into the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron with guns blazing (literally) to deliver one of the most entertaining episodes of the season. Sure, it’s a bit cookie-cutter. But “The Dirty Half Dozen” not only brings together the original six, it also delivers on all the main points that make the Marvel Universe the juggernaut it has become over the past decade or so.

The story in and of itself is nothing special, but this one is all about reunions, making nice (even if only pretend) and coming together toward the endpoint that we’ve been working backwards from ever since the Avengers sequel was written and shot before anyone picked up an Agents of SHIELD season 2 script.

Additionally, the one-line zingers are in top form, so much so that it becomes evident how lacking that department has been lately. So before we break down the episode — and the whirlwind final five minutes that truly set the stage for Age of Ultron — I give you the top three lines of “The Dirty Half Dozen”:

Bronze: “He’s like Candyman” — Skye, when Ward enters as his name is uttered

Silver: “I’m really starting to wish I hadn’t eaten that Hot Pocket earlier” — Coulson, as the plane hides in the debris of the exploded Bus

Gold: “I thought her gift was spinning really fast to collect gold rings” — Skye, on Raina’s appearance

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Apologies and Forgiveness

The co-existence of the real SHIELD and the Gonzo SHIELD has forced everyone to choose between good and other-good, but it’s time for them to reunite to battle a common foe: HYDRA. Baron Von Strucker and Dr. List are experimenting on empowered individuals at their Arctic compound in an effort to recreate their gifts, and after tracking Gordon’s powers led to the ambush at Cal’s office, they now have two more test subjects in Lincoln and Deathlok. So a rescue operation is in order.

But first, Coulson and Gonzales must put aside their petty differences, and to prove he’s trustworthy, Coulson offers up Fury’s Toolbox. He’ll breach the facility with a small team, save the prisoners and then bomb the facility. Which works for Gonzo because he’s not risking any of his agents, and he doesn’t expect the plan will work anyway. So win-win. 

The established truce brings Hunter, Fitz, Ward and Agent 33 back into the picture, and because Raina has seen Lincoln being tortured and Skye saving him, Gordon is convinced to break the rules and teleport Skye to the SHIELD base.

And also before the mission, Jiaying apologizes to Cal and asks him to stick around Afterlife for a bit (as everyone now knows they are Skye’s parents), Mack apologizes to Hunter, Coulson apologizes to May for all the secrets, Ward awkwardly apologizes to everyone for everything that he’s done (“And Ward, no more talking … to people,” says Coulson), Morse offers Agent 33 help regaining her memories and Simmons tells Fitz of her plan to kill Ward with a splinter bomb.

Discovery Requires Experimentation

Because we haven’t heard the creepiest line in SHIELD history since Dr. Whitehall’s demise. And so List and the converted Bakshi, who is still providing intel to Ward, tear apart Deathlok and Lincoln, trying to isolate the genetic code that makes them special. But no one other than twins (Ultron alert) has ever survived past a certain point in the testing, and these two subjects are teetering on the edge.

With Skye and Ward back in the mix, Simmons talking herself onto the team as the doctor, Hunter being shot and Mack sort of being a traitor, this mission is all about the original six, at least for now. Sure, Morse wants to go. But Gonzo puts the smack down because he too has a sense of year-old nostalgia expects it to be a suicide mission.

After Ward talks about how killing the sense of the team family is his biggest regret (you know, more than killing his actual family), the team lets HYDRA blow up the Bus so that May can pilot the smaller jet through the debris and land in seclusion.

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Skye’s Video Game Moment

The agents are greeted on the inside by Bakshi before splitting into two groups. Skye, Ward and Simmons go for the captives, while Coulson, May and Fitz head for the computer room to disable the security systems for bombs set to drop in 15 minutes. 

Dr. List flees as soon as they make their presence known, and Skye uses her Quake abilities to take out some baddies. They find Deathlok, sans eye and leg, in bad shape, and he tells them Lincoln has been taken into surgery. Skye goes after him and embarks on one of the coolest fight scenes in SHIELD history. 

She takes out an entire room of HYDRA agents, one by one, seemingly in one take, with the high and quick-moving camera angles that make it feel like a cutaway scene from a video game. She then finds Lincoln flat-lining and quakes his heart back into a functioning state. 

Ulterior Motives

Everyone is playing nice to start, but once the facility is secure, true colors are revealed. Simmons attempts to kill Ward as he looks for something to carry out the injured on, but Bakshi takes the hit for his new master (thus revealing his true loyalties) and disintegrates. 

She assumes Ward is going to kill her after he exclaims, “We’re on the same team!” But he instead points out how much she’s changed and expresses his disappointment. Then he makes his own escape.

Coulson is taking a bit too long in the HYDRA computer system to collect what he’s really after, and May has to threaten to shoot him to convince him to leave. Once everyone is safely back at HQ, Gonzo reveals he only went along with the plan because he wants his own empowered people for study, and he plans to hang onto Skye. 

Ward calls Coulson, saying he left because he didn’t want to end up in a jail cell or with his brain scrambled, but he urges SHIELD to help Agent 33 because she used to be a contributor but had it stolen from her. He’ll do what he can, but 33 is sad because of that whole imprinting thing. He also no longer looks like he’s in the arctic, chatting outside, so he must have hijacked some sort of fast-moving vehicle. Or global warming.

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Rapid-Fire Movie Connections

Coulson makes good on his deal with Gonzo, opening the toolbox and telling him to enjoy it until Fury comes back for it. Because — bombshell — the real director is still alive. Oh, and Maria Hill is on the phone.

She asks Coulson if he “found it,” and it’s revealed that the real purpose of the HYDRA raid was to search for Loki’s Scepter — the weapon that killed Coulson — which has the ability to control minds. It’s currently located on Sokovia, the imaginary home of the Maximoff twins, at HYDRA’s base. And Theta Protocol is ready, so it’s time to assemble the Avengers.

The scene plays out juxtaposed with Raina being confronted by Jiaying and then challenging her authority, but then she collapses into a vision of the scepter and violence. “Consequences are upon us,” she cries out in terror. “Men made of metal will tear our cities apart, and the world will never be the same.” Dun dun DUNNNNNNN.

Out of the Living Room and Into the Theater

That was a lot to cram into one episode, even before the last 10 minutes or so served as an extended trailer (which preceded the actual trailer that aired in the epilogue section), but things are finally coming together. 

While it remains uncertain exactly how the Avengers film will alter the Agents of SHIELD world, it is clear that the final two episodes of season 2 will focus on the Inhumans and the different proposals on to how to deal with their existence.

How do you think the season will play out? And do you wish everyone had just forgiven Ward and invited him back to the team? I find that I enjoy everything more when he’s around. Are you glad that the buildup to the movie is over and that Agents of SHIELD can finally focus on itself again? And what about the original six reunion mission?

So now it’s time to go see Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend, and for the love of god, watch Daredevil on Netflix if you haven’t yet. It’s dark and phenomenal.

You can watch Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday at 9pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order