SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Principia,” the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Werner von Strucker has returned to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but he’s not the same man he used to be. The opening scene of “Principia,” the latest episode, revealed that Werner has manifested an eidetic memory thanks to his time in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s memory enhancer in Season 3.
The episode opened with Warner seeing a therapist, who recounted the ugly events of Season 3: “You need to open up about the trauma that led you here, starting with your father’s abuse and the torture at the hands of Mr. [Grant] Ward and S.H.I.E.L.D.” — events that left Werner in a coma. “Show them some improvement, so they don’t drug you to the point where thoughts are hard to come by.”
However, that was exactly what Werner wanted. “I remember everything,” he explained, then made an implicit threat to the therapist’s daughter using precise details he had picked up from earlier sessions. He then stabbed the therapist in the hand with a pen, hissing, “I told you, I remember everything. I’d like that thorazine now please.”
Despite his outburst, Werner later woke up at Hale’s facility, where he ran into Ruby. He demanded to know where he was, to which she told him they were in “a safehouse” and that “I live here.” He went on to reveal that he knew her from when they were children — and, in fact, knew where she had gotten the scar on her forehead: “I was supposed to be watching you, so I got blamed. My father beat me in front of you and your mother.”
Realizing she was the daughter of General Hale, Werner put a knife to Ruby’s throat and demanded answers. Hale herself entered soon after and explained that “they wanted to chemically lobotomize you, so I had you transferred.”
Werner was quick to tell her he wasn’t interested in her agenda: “I don’t want anything to do with my father or his name or Hydra.”
At that, Hale laughed. “Hydra. Such a boys’ club. So much testosterone… We had overlapping interests back then, but I hated his guts, if we’re being honest,” she explained. “I can use you, Alex. I know what you can do, because I’ve read your S.H.I.E.L.D. file, your psych evaluations. I pieced it all together. S.H.I.E.L.D. zapped your brain when you were in the memory enhancer. Something was bound to happen. I mean, how much do you remember?”
“What you mean is how much do I remember that my father said or did or wrote down,” Werner responded bitterly.
“That’s valuable information, and your father is one of the reasons that Hydra went off the rails. See, what I’m building here is something new. A better future for you! For you, and for Ruby. Can you help me do that, Alex?” Hale asked, to which Werner said he’d rather die.
She paused at that, then let him return to his room in peace. However, she had backup plan that involved Ruby: “Get his trust. His love. Whatever it is you need to do to get inside his head. We need that information.”
Under her mother’s orders, Ruby went to visit Werner in his room. She walked in as he woke from a nightmare. “I don’t just remember words and facts. I remember pain — every beating I’ve ever taken — like it’s new, over and over,” he told her.
“I never knew my father, but my mother… She’s a tyrant. Keeps me locked up here and makes me do things things that I don’t want to do. She’s using me to get to you,” Ruby revealed. “Everything I did — ignoring you, letting you touch me, taking me hostage — that was all planned. The grand seduction of Werner von Strucker. Gain his trust by any means necessary. You made the right decision. She doesn’t care about you or me. She only wants what’s in your head, but — whatever she’s planning — it’s not going to be any different than Hydra or S.H.I.E.L.D. unless… it doesn’t have to be her team. It could be our team. Only she wouldn’t know until it was too late.”
When he turned her down, she pressed on. “With all of those bad memories? Maybe the key is to bury them under newer, happier memories. If you’re not here tomorrow, I’ll understand, but if you are…” She trailed off, walking out of the room before she finished her sentence.
Her tactic worked and she discovered Werner in the cafeteria the very next day. “I thought about what you said. You’re right. The future’s ours,” he said.
“Then you should see who else we’ve got: one of your father’s old experiments. But I don’t need to tell you that. You remember everything,” Ruby replied with a smile, then led him to the gym, where Absorbing Man was working out.
Hale was impressed with Ruby’s success. “How did you convince him to stay?” she asked, to which Ruby replied, “I told him the truth.”
With this addition, Hale has herself a team of three: Carl “Absorbing Man” Creel, Werner von Strucker and her own daughter Ruby. Each team member has a different strength. With his ability to become the same substance as whatever he touches, Absorbing Man brings the braun. Werner, possessing an eidetic memory, brings the brains. As Hale’s protege and a master manipulator, Ruby will likely take on a leadership role. At the time of writing, it is unclear what Hale’s plans are for this team — aside from taking down S.H.I.E.L.D., of course.
Airing Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 stars Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Henry Simmons, Ian De Caestecker, Natalia Cordova-Buckley and Elizabeth Henstridge.
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