With all the chaos building to a head on Agents of SHIELD, they take a step back and dive into backstory in “Rise and Shine.” In an effort to persuade Coulson to unite SHIELD and Hydra, General Hale tells her story to him. Personally, I’m not all that convinced, although I do end up liking Ruby a tiny bit more than I did before. Then again, that’s not saying much.
Twenty eight years ago, Hale is teenager or so, being raised in a truly horrific barracks/academy under Hydra command. We see she’s a contemporary of Jasper Sitwell, traitorous SHIELD agent who showed up in several Marvel movies, most notably Winter Soldier. There’s a lot of talk about lecture and placement, when they’ll get their assignments. We also see Daniel Whitehall show up to offer remarks to the young Hydra-lings. There are hints about a Hydra answer to the Super-Soldier Serum that created Captain America, and young Hale impresses Whitehall with some of her comments during his talk.
There’s a prank that could have turned deadly against Hale in their gym class, and she takes direct action against the source of it. Even Hydra has rules, and she’s not looked on with favor. While Sitwell gets sent on to SHIELD, as we knew, Hale gets a special assignment from Whitehall himself. She’s less than thrilled about it, especially since Von Strucker gets a job she’d rather have had. She gets assigned to deep cover in the Air Force, and they dangle something she’s always wanted as a possible reward.
Two years ago, Ruby is going through some of the same regimen. Ruby clearly has a lot more attitude than Hale did. Hale looks on proudly as Ruby aces her combat training, but gets cautioned that she has some glaring weaknesses. Hale gets informed of Whitehall’s death (a few seasons ago on the show) and she and Ruby talk. Hale gets pulled away when Hydra is shaken by the capture of Gideon Malik (also previously in the series) and her co-conspirator gets captured by Talbot and a few others. Ruby stages a mini-rebellion and Hale backs her up, ending a grisly Hydra tradition.
Six months ago, Talbot is recovering from the injuries sustained when he was almost assassinated by the Daisy LMD. He’s clearly having some difficulties, and Hale is there to make sure he gets sent to a “special facility” to help with his rehabilitation. Talbot gets taken to the same place we’ve seen several times, and subjected to the same routine with Ruby giving him the silent treatment. Talbot comes up with a great nickname for Ruby while he and Hale talk. Hale tries to recruit him, but Talbot won’t bite, even when he sees some of what Hydra is dealing with. He gets dragged from the room, shouting that SHIELD and Coulson will come for him.
Twenty-four hours ago, so we’re finally almost caught up, Phil Coulson wakes up in the same room we’ve seen several times now. He manages to throw Ruby’s routine off-kilter by not playing along. Hale finally comes to Coulson, and they spar about Ruby and what she’s been doing. Over Coulson’s objections, Hale brings him to the alien device at the center of what Hydra is currently up to and brings him to a kind of meeting with the Confederacy, a group of aliens who have made an offer to Hydra. Some of what Coulson gets warned about looks to me like a hint about the upcoming Infinity War, the next Avengers movie.
The aliens have demands that don’t sit well with Coulson, and he voices his disagreement when he and Hale get back. Hale makes a few surprising declarations of her own. Hale isn’t happy when Coulson tells her about Whitehall, removing hope and/or doubt from her. She talks about the Hydra process they’ve been working on, and expresses both some doubts and a surprising alternative. Hale mentions the codename for the project, and it’s one Coulson and the viewers recognize, and is not at all reassuring. The interview doesn’t end on a good note of the two sides unifying.
Ruby then pays a visit to Coulson, and they talk. The topics range from the trip to the future to Daisy to recommended medication. To prove a point, Ruby has a prisoner brought in. It’s someone Coulson recognizes and he’s shaken. The prisoner gets dragged back out, apologizing over and over to the Director of what’s left of SHIELD.
In the present over at the Lighthouse, Daisy and May debate strategies. May fills Daisy in on the Hydra link, and Daisy seems more annoyed by their resurgence than anything else. Daisy is feeling a bit overwhelmed by what’s happening, and May gives her some version of a pep-talk before coming up with a suggestion on what to do next.
In this case, her idea is using Fitz’s new-found ruthlessness to their advantage. While she tries to steer his unshackled genius in a more useful direction, Simmons and Mack are operating on Yo-Yo. As far as I can tell, they’re fitting her with the arms Mack salvaged from one of the super-mechs they defeated. Mack expresses some concerns about how Yo-Yo has been acting, and clarifies what he means when Simmons misunderstands.
Fitz comes up with a few ideas about what Hale might be up to, but needs a few things to be sure. Daisy storms in, not about to let him have what he wants. She clearly and understandably hasn’t gotten over what he did to her, and expresses that in no uncertain terms. May, as she tends to be, is the voice of cold pragmatism over Daisy’s emotional outburst. Daisy comes up with a counter-proposal that surprises even May. Fitz and Simmons have a long overdue talk and she tells him about what she learned about Deke. It’s a very interesting conversation that gives Simmons maybe a bit more hope than is warranted, and ends the episode.
What I liked: Daisy not being ready to forgive Fitz makes perfect sense. I probably wouldn’t be either. I don’t blame May for being willing to use him, though. I had been wondering for a while what happened to Talbot, so I’m glad that was dealt with at least a bit. It was fun watching Coulson throw Ruby and company off their game. The possible tie-in to Infinity War was a nice touch they haven’t done in a long while.
What I didn’t: I get they tried to make Ruby a bit more likable, but I’m still looking forward to her demise, preferably at the newly robotic hands of Yo-Yo. I’m not sure I buy all the careful Hydra checking of Coulson missed his serious medical condition.
It was a decent episode. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5. It’ll be interesting to see how all this spins out as we await word if the show is renewed or not.