With ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ premiering in the United States on Friday, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are gearing up to take on another formidable foe. But before Captain America and company clash with HYDRA and whatever else gets in their way, another team reassembles in an attempt to take down the organization first. That’s right, Coulson gets the band back together as the original ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ team joins together to rescue Deathlok and Lincoln the Inhuman from the clutches of Dr. List and his evil experiments. However, things aren’t exactly the same as before when Coulson, Skye, Ward, May, Fitz, and Simmons get back on the Bus.

In this week’s episode, we saw a number of alliances and reunions. Hunter and Mack made up. Agent 33 returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. and was welcomed with open arms by Bobbi. Mike Peterson and Lincoln tried to escape the clutches of Dr. List. But one partnership in particular stood out among the rest. In order to fight the HYDRA threat, Agents Coulson and Gonzalez had to let bygones be bygones and unite to rescue hostages and try to cut off another head of their common foe. While friction was very much still present between the two leaders of opposing S.H.I.E.L.D. factions, it was good to see them come together for the greater good. I mean they each had their own agendas, but it still worked out. Also, seeing Clark Gregg and Edward James Olmos onscreen together was just glorious. They’ll likely be butting heads again before this season is over and I can’t wait to see it.

Of course, the most important reunion was the one that saw the original six members of Coulson’s crew come together for a mission. This is particularly troublesome because of Grant Ward and everything that he put everyone through. And in a lot of shows, the main characters would have simply forgiven their comrade that fell from grace, but the agents made it perfectly clear that Ward is not welcome back into the fold. My favorite part of the episode was Ward’s heartfelt speech. After telling everyone about his regrets, they all just shut him down. It’s not an easy road to redemption for Ward on this show. He really has to earn it and at this point it’s unclear whether he will ever earn it.

Ward’s involvement also brought out some interesting sides to members of the team. We’ve previously seen how Fitz feels about the decision to include the person who that caused him severe brain damage, but in this episode, we get to see the other half of the coin. Jemma Simmons was affected as well and her reaction to Ward working with the team again stirs up a plan of action that no one expected. When Fitz brushed off her plan of killing Ward, Simmons actually went through with it. She ended up ending Sunil Bakshi’s life instead, but Simmons still went to a pretty dark place. Ward pointing that out didn’t help matters either. It’s so interesting to see how far Jemma has come since we first met her in the first season. But now that her path seems to be going in a very different direction than we first anticipated, I’m even more curious to see where she ends up when this season is over.

Another character that has gone through some intense changes is Skye. Her changes are a little more obvious than Simmons’, but there are some cool new changes nonetheless. We’ve been seeing how Daisy Johnson has been coping with her new powers and being around her parents, but this week we got to see how the old Skye and the new Skye blended together as she used her powers in the field for the first time. The sequence where she fought off some HYDRA agents felt very ‘Daredevil’-esque as Skye flipped, rolled, shot, and quaked her way through the enemy stronghold. After the Netflix series featuring the Man Without Fear premiered, ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ certainly needed to up their game. They may not have reached that level yet, but the stunts department are certainly bringing their A game.

Another big thing about this episode was the tie-in to ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ Many expected the mentions of Baron Strucker and the twins, but this episode truly acted as a lead in for the movie because of the Theta Protocol, which turns out to be the Avengers themselves. Once Coulson saw that they couldn’t handle Strucker and List alone, he told Maria Hill to initiate the Theta Protocol by heroically proclaiming, “Bring in the Avengers!” On top of that, Raina saw the outcome of the battle with Ultron in her visions, proving that this threat can affect all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe including the Inhumans in Afterlife. Both were really cool moments for True Believers following the MCU as a whole and not just the movies.

However, I do have something to say about Theta Protocol and ‘Age of Ultron.’ Having seen the movie already, I’ll save the comments about how it tied into Joss Whedon’s film for the next review, but why is it that Coulson wouldn’t share the information regarding Theta Protocol with May? It definitely was a big deal that he hid his interactions with her ex-husband from her, but I feel like a fancy codename for the Avengers might not have that many repercussions if Coulson shared that intel with the person that is essentially his right hand. I know that Fury kept secrets from Coulson, but after seeing how all that turned out, you would think that Phil would conduct his business a little differently.

Regardless of that small quarrel, ‘The Dirty Half Dozen’ might be one of the best episodes of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ so far this season. There was great character development, interesting storylines, unbeatable action, and it sets the stage for the biggest superhero movie of the year. What more could you ask for? Oh wait, I could ask for the Bus NOT to get blown up, but we can’t get everything we want in life. Either way, this episode rocked.

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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ starring Brett Dalton, Ming-Na Wen, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Adrianne Palicki,
Chloe Bennet, and Clark Gregg airs on Tuesdays at 9:00pm on ABC.