Agents of SHIELD: 208 “The Things We Bury” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
I don’t really know where to start with this one.
Fortunately for audiences, but unfortunately for me as the one who has to recap the episode, “The Things We Bury” is one of those episodes where seemingly everything happens. So let’s jump straight in, and I’ll try and cover everything important that went down this week.
After discovering that the alien symbols are in fact a blueprint of a city, Team Coulson are hard at work trying to find the whereabouts of this mysterious place: Coulson, Skye, Trip and Fitz have headed to Hawaii to do something which Coulson is keeping close to the chest. He tells Skye that he has been thinking about what kind of Director he needs to be, that he clearly needs to do things differently from Nick Fury: while his predecessor wasn’t so great at communication, he was good at seeing the game five steps ahead of everyone else, and as such Coulson recognises the need to be waiting for Hydra at the city, rather than racing them to find it.
To this end, he sends Skye and Trip on some seemingly meaningless errands, Skye to deliver a watch to a jeweller and get an inscription on it, and Trip to deliver a button to a tailor, while Fitz stays on board the Bus and re-trains himself to install a transceiver in the field in under six minutes. However, as it turns out the errands are not meaningless at all, and are actually the constituent ingredients for an EMP to take out a communication array, allowing the team to hijack a backup station and use the satellites in an attempt to locate the city.
Unfortunately the Doctor, now in cahoots with Whitehall, and an armed Hydra team, are at the station waiting for them, and Trip is shot in the process. As Fitz installs the transceiver, Coulson has a run-in with the Doctor, who starts to help Trip but then, seemingly accidentally, reveals his identity to Coulson. However, in order to maintain his advantage, he slices one of Trip’s arteries and tells Coulson that if he spends the time it will take to stop him, then Trip will die: of course, Coulson chooses to save Trip and let the Doctor escape, and while this isn’t so great in the long run, their mission is successful and they manage to hijack the satellite array.
There are some interesting insights as to the Doctor’s motivations in this exchange, as well as some fun lines, as Coulson asks him if the Diviner is ‘Tesseract-level’ powerful, to which the Doctor replies ‘Sure…I don’t know what that is’. It’s a nice little poke at the idea that everyone in this universe is completely au fait with everything that has gone on, but also provides a hint as to how dangerous the Diviner really is.
Over on the Hydra side of things, we are treated to a number of flashbacks giving us some insight to the secret history of Daniel Whitehall: we get a glimpse of some of his experiments when he was full-Nazi, wherein he forced the inhabitants of a village to touch the Diviner one by one, until he found a single woman who could touch it without dying. He has her locked up to experiment further, but is captured by the SSR before he can do anything particularly invasive. While being interrogated by none other than Peggy Carter herself, he attempts to join the Allies as a scientist, but Carter instead wisely decides to lock him up in an SSR prison called the Rat, where he stays, getting old, until 1989, when he is released on orders of Alexander Pierce. He is taken back to his former base and is reintroduced to the woman he locked up, who hasn’t aged a day: he graphically dissects her and injects himself with a formula drawn from her DNA, thus explaining why he doesn’t look any older than when he was a Nazi.
Meanwhile at the Playground, Bobbi interrogates Bakshi, trying to figure out whether he has been brainwashed or just coerced into helping Whitehall through fear. However, he inadvertently refers to Whitehall as a peer of the Red Skull rather than a student of his work, which leads the rest of the team to Peggy Carter’s SSR files, and the discovery that Reinhardt, one of Red Skull’s lieutenants, is Daniel Whitehall. Before Bobbi can get anything else out of Bakshi, though, he slams his face into the table and breaks a cyanide capsule embedded in his cheekbone, which is some insane dedication to committing suicide. They manage to save him, and there is some slightly dull relationship-type guff between Bobbi and Hunter which ends with them knocking boots in the back of a car.
In other news, Ward manages to find his brother and kidnaps him, forcing him to uncover the infamous well that he supposedly forced Ward to push their brother down. The truth behind the Ward family drama is still left largely ambiguous, as Grant accuses Christian of being a monster while Christian appears, for all intents and purposes, to be a roughly decent human being, albeit one who was about to cheat on his wife. It’s definitely Grant that comes off as the crazier and more dangerous of the two, particularly as he readies himself to push Christian down the well. However, Christian admits to hating their little brother, mostly because he was the only one their mother didn’t torture, and this seems to be all that Grant wants to hear. He picks Christian up, dusts him down, and takes him to visit their mother: but it appears that he then made the decision to kill not only Christian, but both of their parents as well, seemingly as leverage to get in good with Whitehall, and the new villain triumvirate of Whitehall, Ward and the Doctor is complete.
But things are a little more complicated than that: in a brief final flashback, we see the remains of the woman Reinhardt dissected being stumbled upon by a man. A man who happens to be none other than the Doctor, clearly indicating that the superpowered and probably at least part-alien woman was in fact Skye’s mother. So it appears that the Doctor’s alliance with Whitehall is more complex than it first seemed, and that there is some double-crossing in the future of their relationship.
Finally, as the episode comes to a close, as Coulson hides his run-in with her dad from Skye, Team Coulson looks to the satellite imagery and discovers that they have found a match for the city.
Things are moving at an astounding pace for the Agents this season, and there were so many revelations and intriguing teases in this episode that it felt slightly overcrowded at times. However, considering where we were at this stage last season, ‘too much information’ is really the smallest of complaints, and “The Things We Bury” was a gripping hour of television.