It seemed a bit weird that Hydra’s head honcho Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) looked about 50 in 2014 when he was, at the very least, in his forties during Red Skull’s reign in World War II. Up until episode 8, The Things We Bury, I rather stupidly presumed it was a continuity error on the casting department’s part. But oh, how I was wrong, and being set right has subsequently led to even more questions about the Obelisk and the power it possesses.
It’s 1945. A scientist named Werner Reinhardt, who looks suspiciously like Daniel Whitehall, is interrogating prisoners in an Austrian bunker and it’s all a little bit dodgy. He starts experimenting on the prisoners, and the situation graduates to a lot dodgy. The Obelisk comes into play and the prisoner is forced to touch it. Like almost every other time someone has attempted to pick up the Obelisk, he immediately turns to stone and dies.
The episode keeps coming back to Reinhardt, who is woven in and out of the main story line as May, Simmons, Mack and Hunter play detectives in 2014, digging through the new S.H.I.E.L.D. base’s extensive SSR files. They need something on Whitehall, but what they find is not what they imagined. A prominent connection with Red Skull pops up and, sure enough, there’s an aged photo of Whitehall, looking middle-aged and perky as ever.
“What is this guy? Asgardian?” asks Hunter.
Flashing back to 1945, it’s Reinhardt who’s being interrogated this time. And who should play interrogator but Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), making her second (and extremely welcome) appearance of the season. The great thing about Peggy is that she’s a pre-established MCU character with a solo show on the way. We already know what her deal is so her limited screen time isn’t wasted with getting-to-know-you dialogue. Every time she appears it’s exciting, and questions start asking themselves. What is her game plan? Will this link to her show? Is it possible she’s actually more awesome and badass than I previously thought? As far as I’m concerned, she could cameo every other week and I’d always be happy to see her.
Digging deeper into Whitehall’s history it turns out that his time as Reinhardt wasn’t ‘a lot dodgy’ as previously established. It was completely messed up. A bloody and Frankenstein-esque surgery montage later, he’s a brand new man in the most literal sense of the phrase, and his patient – a woman who could touch the Obelisk without turning into Christ the Redeemer – is tossed in a wood of all places, missing most if not all of her organs.
Back in modern day America, Senator Ward is on the phone in his chauffeured car, being a bit creepy and minding his own business, when Ward Jr appears. He drags his older brother out of the car through the smashed window, and leads him into a forest. Once there, they have a demented little brother bonding session featuring wells, parents and wise cracks. If it’s even possible, it’s a lot weirder than the Reinhardt stuff going on right now. Emotions fly and I can now say with confidence that I have no idea what’s going on with Ward any more. One minute he’s trying to kill his senator brother, the next he’s hugging him and then he’s dangling him over a well in the ground. Ward is impossible to read, but it’s all terribly thrilling. This could go absolutely anywhere.
We’ve had a few weeks of mediocre episodes recently, but The Things We Bury has come off the back of them stronger, more thrilling and heaps entertaining. It might be too early to tell, but it feels like we’re getting to the start of the crescendo, the back end of the season when all we can do is shout expletives at the TV because of how insane everything is. The Things We Bury is exactly what Agents Of SHIELD should be: exhilarating, awesome and really, really fun.
But most importantly of all, Trip had the most lines he’s had since Season One this episode, even managing to slip in a reference to Dead Poets’ Society. Good work, writers. Keep it up.