The pieces were all in position, the stakes were set, and the drama had reached a fever pitch. Everything was ready for a dramatic showdown in the midseason finale, and that’s just what we got. The rules have been changed, and going forward nothing will be the same. Characters died, mysteries were solved, new questions were asked, and things set off in entirely new directions for the rest of the season. In short, this was a big, exciting, important episode for SHIELD, one that delivered on the promise of season two thus far in almost every way imaginable. So without any further ado, let’s find out “What They Become”, written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Michael Zinberg.
This week’s thrilling episode picked up right where things left off last week. Ward, Skye, and Raina board their quinjet and detach from the Bus, as the squad of HYDRA aircraft circles back around for the kill on Agent 33’s orders. May orders Trip to the cockpit to find them some cloud cover, but she won’t let the Koenigs activate the cloak yet. She tells them to grab a seat and lock in, because it’s going to get bumpy. Joining Trip in the cockpit she learns that the nearest cloud cover is 20,000 feet below them. The Koenigs and Hunter fight over seats while May slams on the breaks, bringing the Bus to a stop in midair, before sending it diving straight down towards the clouds, pursued by HYDRA quinjets. They get a missile lock on the Bus just as it enters the clouds, and they fire. As the missiles approach, May launches some ejector seats/escape pods out the side of the Bus (does it not have any chaff?), and activates the cloak. The missiles hit the escape pods and explode while the Bus glides unseen to safety, fooling the HYDRA pilots. “Woo!” Trip says, “the word for that kind of flying is ‘fancy’!” She tells him to head for Puerto Rico while she calls Coulson to let him know that HYDRA has Skye.
They land next to the SHIELD quinjet just as Coulson, Bobbi, and FitzSimmons are returning from the city without Mack. He tasks FitzSimmons with finding a way to safely get down before talking with May. She tells him that Ward’s orders from Whitehall were to get Raina, but that he either called an audible when he saw Skye or he has his own agenda. She says he mentioned something to her about keeping his promise, which Coulson thinks means he’s taking her to meet “daddy dearest.” He tells Bobbi to check on her contact, Diego, to make sure that he doesn’t tell HYDRA, who are definitely on their way, anything about the entrance to the city. She looks like she’s going to object, but he tells her they’ll do everything possible to rescue Mack, but the most important thing is to stop HYDRA.
Trip has been digging through his old Howling Commandos box and has found four mechanical detonators from 19145. Koenig would rather have 10, but they need all they can get since electronics don’t function down in the city. He tells Trip that Dum Dum Dugan would be proud, but the design of the detonators means they can’t trigger the bombs remotely, so they’ll have to set the timers and run. They’ll set four charges around the city which should destroy it. Simmons thinks she’s found a way for them to safely move around in the city, but she’s more concerned with saving Mack. Fitz tells her that she doesn’t have to act like Mack’s still alive just because he was Fitz’s friend, but she genuinely thinks he might be. She says that Mack might have been hijacked by the city as a defense mechanism, using him to protect it and treating him like a zombie. Given the way the Diviner reacts to being touched, it makes sense that the city would have some self-defense. She insists that there are many possibilities other than Mack being dead, and if he’s still alive then there’s hope that he can be saved.
Bobbi, meanwhile, is in the garage going through Mack’s stuff. She finds a flash drive just as Hunter walks in asking what she’s looking for. She passes it off as cleaning for Mack, as he wouldn’t want to see his garage in disarray, going on to say that she knows it’s her fault that Mack’s dead. Hunter says that no one is saying that, and that heard it wasn’t Mack who came out of the hole. He tells her she did what need to be done, but wonders why she thinks he’s dead. She says between whatever infected him and the hundred foot drop he must be dead, and “when this is all over I’m gonna cry for like a week.” Hunter tells her to come to him, and he gives her a big, comforting hug. She’s surprised at first but after a moment she gives into it. He tells her that Mack is one of the best, and if he really is dead then the number of people he trusts on the planet just plummeted. She says that she thought he didn’t trust anyone, and he says he misspoke and that there are just some people he mistrusts less than others. Bobbi says she could use some backup, and Hunter wryly replies that he knows a guy and asks if she wants him to check if he’s available. “Is he good?” she asks, coyly. “Good enough to know you’re keeping a thumb drive from him,” he says. He tells her he wants to trust her but it doesn’t seem like he does just yet.
May and Coulson sit together, lamenting the fact that Skye was taken. He tells her she made the right call, but she thinks she should have put a couple of bullets in Ward’s head. Coulson reminds her that then they would have blown the Bus out of the sky. Six SHIELD members are alive because of what she did. He says she transformed Skye into an agent who is smart, tough and capable. As Ward leads Skye down a hallway he notices the same thing, how she’s checking the HYDRA agents, weapons, and exits forming a strategy. He asks Skye how her marksmanship is coming along and she tells him to give her a gun and he’ll find out. Ward admires her restraint, and she tells him she’s learned control, while HYDRA is only interested in controlling everyone else. He says he’s not loyal to HYDRA, but she reminds him that they played the game of “let’s kidnap Skye” before and it didn’t end well. Ward isn’t concerned about that, he only wants to keep his promise. He opens a door and she finds herself face to face with her father, who is standing waiting for her. “I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do,” Ward says, leaving them alone and closing the door behind him.
Skye’s father watches her, and after staring for a moment tells her that the way she tilts her head is just like her mother, wondering abstractedly about the effects of nature vs nurture. He gets a little choked up and says he’d promised himself he wouldn’t get emotional, it’s just that he’s waited so long for this moment. He takes a deep breath, determined to try again, and says, “Hi, I’m Cal. I’m your father. Would you like to sit down?” Skye just shakes her head and he says he doesn’t want to sit either. He thanks her for meeting with him, and it’s then that she loses it. “Are you serious?” she asks. “I was kidnapped off a plane at gunpoint!” He apologizes, asking that they not lose their heads, and admits that he’s a little nervous. It’s a big moment, a father-daughter family reunion. He had plans, including little almond cookies and maybe flowers, but he didn’t want things to go like this or to be here. “My god, you are beautiful,” he says, distracted. He says he’s not sure what she knows about him, and she pipes up with the answer. “You’re a monster, a murderer, there’s a trail of death wherever you go.” “Those are all true,” he says, “but you need to understand that my little girl… you… were taken from me and my world fell apart. It was the worst day of my life losing you, but I didn’t lose you. I wasn’t careless and I didn’t forget you were stolen from me. I wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always a…”
He can’t seem to call himself a monster, so he starts from the beginning. He tells her that she was born in China, her mother was Chinese, and that they were so happy when she was first born. He worked at a clinic, people liked him and he liked himself. He trails off until Skye interrupts him angrily and asks what happened. “This is the thing I want to say,” Cal says, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you, that I couldn’t protect you, that I couldn’t teach you about the stars or sing you to sleep. I know I’m a terrible disappointment but I’m here now, and everything that’s about to happen is supposed to happen.” He says he’s going to take care of her, but she tells him if he wants to do that he should get her out of there. “Oh, maybe I haven’t been clear,” he says. “You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. This is your destiny.
Bobbi and Hunter have gone to spy on her contact, Diego, who is early to his meeting and is wearing a suit, two things that mean nothing to Hunter but tell Bobbi that something’s wrong. Two HYDRA agents walk up and shake his hand, and she debates whether he has sold out SHIELD or is playing HYDRA. The three men walk towards Bobbi and Hunter, who have to decide whether to attack or not. At the last moment, she turns towards him and starts kissing him just as the men walk by, once they’re gone she finds a note that Diego dropped giving them an address in San Juan.
“You can’t say you’re sorry or that losing me ruined your life,” Skye tells Cal, “and then kidnap me and say that my destiny is to be with you and team HYDRA!” She opens the door but is met by two HYDRA guards. She tells her father to tell them to get out of the way, but he closes the door, telling the guards it’s just a little misunderstanding. He tells her that after today nothing that’s happened will matter, but she says of course they matter. “You work for Whitehall and HYDRA. They’re the bad guys and that makes you a bad guy.” He says he doesn’t work for them, but he needed them to find her and put the pieces together. He tells her it’s not her fault, and then sets about answering her questions about her mother. He says she was special, and though that word is used a lot in this case it means she had a gift. She came from a long line of people with gifts, and Skye has one too and was brought there to receive it. It’s her birthright, and she’ll undergo a transformation to receive it. He says that Skye’s mother worked at the clinic with him, helping to translate, when one day a group of men came looking for her, calling themselves SHIELD. He tried to find her but they told him she was dangerous. He left Skye with people he trusted and tracked her mother to Europe, but by the time he caught up it was too late. He tells Skye that Whitehall cut her to pieces, taking her organs and blood for himself, and when he finished butchering her he dumped what was left in a ditch like she was garbage. He says he’s sorry, and then he starts to hum “Bicycle Built for Two” that we heard last week in Skye’s dream. He puts his hand on her shoulder as she suddenly remembers having heard the song before. “She used to sing it to you when you were a baby,” he tells her. A HYDRA agent interrupts, saying Whitehall wants them. Cal tells Skye that there will be plenty of time to answer her questions later. But now that Whitehall has served his purpose, “I’m going to kill the man who destroyed my life. Best day ever.” He walks out and Skye buries her face in her hands and cries.