When Hydra launch an assault on a United Nations meeting, having the attackers pose as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, members of the United States government make the former security organisation their prime target. Thankfully for the team, Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is able to recognise the frightening new weapons that they have used and they are able to track down the real attackers.
‘A Fractured House’ is the first real weak episode of season two. The reason for this, a focus on Grant Ward (Bret Dalton). Ward was definitely one of the weakest characters in the first season, only really becoming interesting when it was revealed that he was secretly working for Hydra. Sadly, now that Ward is a prisoner of S.H.I.E.L.D. he’s even more boring to watch than in the first season.
Whilst the revelation that the United States Senator that is pushing for a task force to hunt down S.H.I.E.L.D. is Christian Ward (Tim DeKay), the older brother of Grant Ward was fairly surprising it doesn’t feel like this was used to the best here. After meeting with Coulson (Clark Gregg) things begin to get complicated when we learn that there’s a possibility that Christian wasn’t the abusive older brother that Ward made him out to be during the first season, and that Ward was the one torturing their younger brother. The inter-cutting between two brothers telling their own versions of events is a well made scene, though.
Sadly, any mystery of what may have actually happened and who is telling the truth here seems to have been completely wiped away by the end of the episode, when Ward escapes from captivity whilst being transported to his brothers custody, killing his guards. This also squarely puts to end any possible notion that there may have been some kind of redemption story for him this season.
Whilst the Ward story is weak the rest of the episode remains fairly entertaining, with the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. main team doing their best to locate those behind the UN attack and bring them to justice. After the brief but entertaining introduction to Bobbi ‘Mockingbird’ Morse (Adrianne Palicki) it’s great to see her in action for real this episode, especially working alongside Agent May (Ming-Na Wen).
The action sequences are competent, but lack any real wow factor that the series has shown it is capable of in the past, yet don’t fall into the trap of feeling flat and by the numbers. It’s a good indication that whilst the show has managed to find it’s feet and how it wants to go about telling its stories it’s not being lazy in its execution.
This episode also sheds more light onto the mystery of why Simmons would walk out on Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) when he needed his best friend the most. It would have been easy for the series to say that she was ordered to by Coulson, to make it something completely out of her control, but instead they take the brave choice of having it be a major part of their relationship this season. Fitz was getting worse with her around.
It’s something of a cliche for television shows to keep characters in love apart, and most come up with some pretty poor excuses to do so, but this one feels a lot more genuine. Simmons cares for Fitz deeply, but was presented with the revelation that being around him was helping to destroy his already damaged mind. She had to make the choice to hurt them both by leaving in order that he could one day be himself again. Whilst this was a huge sacrifice on her part it definitely leads to major baggage for the two of them to work through over the rest of the season.
Whilst the episode manages to move the plot and character arcs forward in organic and interesting ways the overall focus feels too clustered, and the inclusion of the heavy Ward elements drags at times. At least with Ward now out of S.H.I.E.L.D. custody there’s a chance that he might be able to do something interesting this season.
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