“Many Heads, One Tale” aired 11/17/2015 *****stars
Written by D.J. Doyle & Jed Whedon
Directed by Garry A. Brown
*spoilers contained within*
By Joe Grodensky
Last week, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed that Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer) is secretly working for Hydra. It becomes clear when she receives a phone call from Gideon Malick (Powers Boothe). Which is why tonight’s episode is appropriately titled, “Many Heads, One Tale”, the hydra was an eight-headed monster of Greek mythology which Hercules defeated. Whenever someone thought they cut off the head and killed it, the head grew back and the monster lived on. This went on until the right head was cut off. Just like the monster it was named for, Hydra has many heads that always seem to grow back.
The episode opens with Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and Malick discussing Hydra over a huge dinner. Malick tells Ward that the Von Strucker family vault Ward has been looking for doesn’t exist, but Ward is not buying it. When Ward starts questioning Malick, Malick quickly leaves the room, setting up Ward to be ambushed. Using his extensive training, Ward easily takes care of the ragtag group of henchmen and tortures the ones who managed to survive for information on the vault. One of them tells him of a vault located in Germany. Ward smiles and then shoots the men, stating he now knows the main vault to attack first. He then gets on a plane, threatens the passengers and crew and ejects himself from the plane. Ward finds the vault with Malick there first and immediately draws his weapon. Malick tells Ward his opinion of him has changed from being a threat to being an asset. He tells Ward that Hydra has existed for centuries before World War II as he shows Ward a stone which is a piece of the monolith that swallowed Gemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) and sent her to the alien planet. Hydra intends to use the planet as a breeding and training ground for a grand army. Ward has his own intentions for an army and pumps chemicals into Andrew’s cell, turning him into Lash.
Speaking of the monolith and Gemma, Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) takes his research to every level possible as he tries to find out what the alien symbol found on Gemma’s phone means. He eventually does find an answer and the answer but as he tries to explain it, Gemma screams she’s had enough and storms out of the room. Fitz follows her and they start to argue over the fact that no matter how close they get to each other, fate rips them apart. Gemma confesses she loves Will but Fitz fires back that it’s not real love. She just fell for him because she was lonely on an alien planet. Gemma agrees but adds Fitz was still the one who risked his life to bring her back. They embrace and kiss but Fitz pulls back, says their relationship is doomed and walks out of the room. Later on, Gemma regains her composure and joins the team when Fitz explains the symbol is pagan and, like the stone in Hydra, came from the monolith that sent Gemma to the alien planet.
While Fitz and Simmons question their love for each other, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Rosalind are questioning their loyalty to the uneasy truce they’ve made while they were trying to track down Lash (Matthew Willig). They seem very close when they are transporting Dr. Andrew Garner’s (Blair Underwood) body to the A.T.C.U. to be put in stasis. Mack (Henry Simmons) thinks Coulson and Price are a bit too close so he decides to approach Coulson about it. Coulson retorts that it’s none of Mack’s business to know what he does in private. Shortly after the conversation, we see Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) talking about S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and where their relationship is headed. Coulson did not directly answer Mack’s personal questions about Rosalind but he gives him a clue with the announcement of “Operation Spotlight.” The mission will be the infiltration and hacking of the A.T.C.U. in hopes of discovering what the organization is really up to.
“Operation Spotlight” starts with Daisy and Mack hacking Rosalind’s phone to access the A.T.C.U.’s building plans therefore guiding Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Hunter (Nick Blood) through the building to the server room. Bobbi poses as an F.B.I. agent while Hunter is a computer-hacker-for-hire under the guise the A.T.C.U.’s servers are vulnerable and they will clean any current viruses and secure the system from future problems. In the meantime, May and Lincoln fly to the facility to provide an extraction for Bobbi and Hunter when they finish their jobs. On the way there, May apologizes to Lincoln on behalf of Andrew for Lash killing Lincoln’s people. Bobbi makes it to the medical wing where Andrew is supposedly being held but doesn’t find him or any cures there. What she does find are supplements used to make the A.T.C.U.’s employees Inhuman. Hunter and Bobbi are made and as they try to escape, Inhuman security and employees try to take them down but Bobbi uses her skills, and batons, to defeat them and make it to the extraction point where they meet May and Lincoln.
While S.H.I.E.L.D. is busy going under the radar infiltrating the A.T.C.U., Coulson is going under the radar to infiltrate Rosalind’s mind. He regales her with stories of his college days and how he was recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. and even shows her around the facility. When he gets her to a containment room, Coulson calls Rosalind out on her allegiance to Hydra. When she tries to explain herself, Coulson cuts her off and says he knew as soon she brought up the T.A.H.I.T.I. project that she was Hydra based on the fact she had no contact with S.H.I.E.L.D. outside of himself when she brought it up and he never told her. She tells him Malick told her about T.A.H.I.T.I. and she has been in contact with him from the start.
The symbolism was the best part of this episode. Starting with the title, “Many Heads, One Tale,” you can see the focus on Hydra and how they are slowly rebuilding. Which head is the main head? Is it Ward? Maybe it’s Malick. It could even be Rosalind. Hydra has had many different heads but all have told the same story of the monolith stone. Even the Von Strucker vault story arc evokes symbols of a hydra with various locations but only one has the stone. I applaud the creative team behind this episode for that nice touch while giving us an interesting and intriguing plot. As I’ve said in the past, this is S.H.I.E.L.D.S.’s best season so far.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesday nights on ABC at 8pm Eastern/7pm Central. Check your local listings.