We open where last week’s episode left off, with Hunter, Hartley, and Idaho in the fatal car wreck. May leaves Hunter – the “only survivor” – a tool to cut himself free while she pursues Creel. I do not, for a second, believe that Hartley is actually dead. There is no way that a series hires Lucy Lawless, only to kill her off in the first episode. Certainly the obelisk did something to her that we won’t discover until later in the season. Hunter is captured by the military, and taken to a secret meeting with Talbot. Talbot offers him $2 million to deliver Coulson to him in the next 48 hours. Hunter insists on a proper burial for Hartley, and they strike up a deal.
Tripp and Skye return the stolen plane – with cloaking ability – to the Playground, while May shadows Creel. Hunter returns, and it seems that Coulson and Hunter are planning a double-cross on Talbot. It’s like they are trying to recreate the success of the Ward storyline from season one – and doing so poorly.
May follows Creel to a bar, a suspected drop site. Bakshi never shows to collect the obelisk, but Creel is suffering side effects from handling it. There is a chunk of skin that can’t transform with the rest of him, and he seems to be losing control of his powers. A waitress clears glasses from Creel’s table and receives a shock. A few minutes later, the same obelisk creep consumes her.
Creel returns to his trailer and goes through his drawers, searching for an object that will help clear the obelisk creep from his arm. Nothing works. A secret cell phone rings. Bakshi. He promises that Hydra will take care of him. He scarcely hangs up before Reina shows up, offering to exchange the obelisk for carbine, a material from stardust that is three times harder than a diamond and can store energy. The creep reveals itself, peeking out under his shirt collar, and Creel is spooked. He takes the carbine and hides in his trailer.
All is not lost, though. Reina transmits a coded phone number to S.H.I.E.L.D. When Coulson calls it, she assures him that she is not part of Hydra, but she doesn’t want it to fall into their hands (she would rather it fall into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hands until she can get ahold of it). Either way, the carbine has a tracker in it. The team forms their plot to head into the field, and Hunter assures Coulson he can be trusted in the field.
Tripp sets up in a sniper’s perch while May, Skye, and Hunter stay in the surveillance van. Creel meets Bakshi in a public plaza, and he has the obelisk case with him. Turns out that Hunter can’t be trusted. He ices Skye and May (who, as Coulson puts it, lives for holding a grudge), then ices Tripp. Creel demands help from Bakshi, who reminds him that compliance will be rewarded. Creel closes his eyes, calms down – and obelisk creep disappears. Hunter takes a shot at Creel with Tripp’s mega-weapon, but Creel shifts to steel and the bullet glances off him. Bakshi runs for cover; Creel chases Hunter; and Reina makes off with the obelisk. Coulson appears with the device FitzSimmons created (before Fitz lost his Fitz-iness) that neutralizes Creel. Creel turns to stone, and Coulson doesn’t seem surprised that Hunter two-timed him.
In fact, Coulson offers Hunter a spot at S.H.I.E.L.D. He needs skilled assets, willing to do the wrong thing for the right reason. Hunter agrees, and Coulson needs him to sell him out.
Reina takes the obelisk to a mystery man, who is instantly identifiable as Skye’s monster father (in the pleasing guise of Kyle MacLachlan). He dares Reina to pick up the obelisk, and she does – hesitantly. The obelisk glows and lights up, but it doesn’t kill her. “It let you live. There is a difference,” Kyle MacLachlan explains. She wants to know how it works. “Bring me my daughter and I’ll show both of you.”
Finally, Coulson meets Talbot in an empty field and delivers him Creel, locked in a cryogenic state until he can be kept someplace safer. Coulson offers a deal: we drop off presents like this, and you give us some breathing room. Talbot won’t deal, doesn’t believe S.H.I.E.L.D. has the artillery to be a threat. So Coulson shows that they do: their bus has been fitted with a cloaking device, and they have the cloaked jet they stole from the military base. Talbot is a little bit impressed.
Also: Skye suspects something is off with Coulson – more than just the fact that he doesn’t have time for her anymore (although honestly, she does come across like a bratty little girl). So May checks in with him. He is overdue for an “episode,” so they take care of it. Apparently his “episodes” are when he is etching the codes into the wall. Not really sure how much of an “episode” it is if you can basically schedule it.
Overall, this episode was a little disappointing. It felt like a lot of cleanup from the season premiere. I am starting to see a pattern. The seasons will start off with a handful of monster-of-the-week-type episodes (I guess villain-of-the-week) with only the hint of a deeper, darker story arch. Then halfway through the season, we will turn the focus to the deeper, darker story arch, and things will really get rolling. Of course, with only the second episode of the second season, it is hard to really pinpoint a path, but it is starting out that way.