Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “S.O.S.”

Another season of Agents of SHIELD has come and gone, and this one certainly went out with a bang.  Last week’s episode set the stakes for a showdown between SHIELD and the Inhumans, with Skye caught in the crossfire, and the season finale certainly delivered that and more.  This episode had it all, from shocks and surprises, to great character moments, to fantastic action and one-liners, to multiple character deaths.  It was an intense episode, resolving some of the season’s larger threads while setting things in motion for season three.  Let’s jump right into the two-hour season finale, “S.O.S.”, part one written by Jeffrey Bell and directed by Vincent Misiano and part two written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancaroen and directed by Billy Gierhart.
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Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Scars”

The penultimate episode of Agents of SHIELD was preceded by the excitement of Avengers: Age of Ultron and followed this week by the news that both SHIELD and Agent Carter have been renewed for a second season.  In between all of that, however, was an episode filled with surprises, setting the stakes for the two-hour season finale on Tuesday.  Last week we watched our heroes (plus Ward) launch an attack/rescue mission on HYDRA, reuniting the original team for the first time in what felt like ages.  This week showed us some of the aftermath of that mission, as well as the events of Age of Ultron, as the power dynamic at SHIELD was shaken up once again and the conflict with the Inhumans finally came to a head.  So let’s take a look at “Scars,” written by Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc and directed by Bobby Roth.

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Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “The Dirty Half Dozen”

Skye - The Dirty Half Dozen

Leading up to the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron, SHIELD gave us a big episode which tied into current events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without losing sight of the progression of the show and its characters.  Last week gave us a tense showdown between HYDRA, Coulson’s team, and Cal/Skye/Lincoln as a result of Ward teaming up with Coulson, and left Mike and Lincoln captives of HYDRA.  This week brought some big changes, including a reunion of our core six characters, some surprisingly dark turns, some of the best action we’ve seen on the show yet, and more than one death.  So let’s jump into “The Dirty Half Dozen,” written by Brent Fletcher and Drew Z. Greenberg and directed by Kevin Tancharoen.

Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Melinda” and “The Frenemy of My Enemy”

Melinda May

I’m back with another two episodes of SHIELD to discuss, finally catching up to the present.  The last two I covered saw Coulson’s team deposed and scattered, with some on the run, others stuck with the new regime, and Skye off with the Inhumans learning to understand her powers.  Our first episode (look for the second on page two), gave us something we’ve been waiting for since the show’s first episode, the story of how Melinda May became the Cavalry in Bahrain.  We also got some further intrigue and revelations from Skye and the Inhumans, as well as the situation becoming much less clear back at SHIELD.  So let’s jump into “Melinda,” written by DJ Doyle and directed by Garry A. Brown.
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Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “One Door Closes” and “Afterlife”

Bobbi and Mack - "One Door Closes"

It’s been a couple of weeks but I’m back with reactions to two SHIELD episodes.  The last episode I covered positioned all of the pieces for a climactic showdown between Coulson’s SHIELD and Gonzales’s “real SHIELD,” and in our first episode dealt with the immediate consequences of that showdown.  Allegiances were tested, secrets were revealed, and there were a few twists and turns along the way.  We also got some interesting flashbacks, and some seriously great character moments that gave the episode emotional heft.  Last season around this time things were torn apart by the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and SHIELD is at it again, once again shaking things up and taking the show in a new direction.  So let’s jump right into “One Door Closes,” written by Lauren LeFranc and Rafe Judkins and directed by David Solomon.

  • “One Door Closes” focused almost entirely on Gonzales’s SHIELD’s attack on Coulson’s SHIELD, but it interspersed that storyline with updates from Skye and with flashbacks to how Gonzales’s team came into being.  Things started in rough shape, immediately following (or even during) the events of The Winter Soldier.  STRIKE commandos loyal to HYDRA have attacked on of SHIELD’s aircraft carriers and have taken hostages.  In particular, they have Mack and his team at gunpoint, and they’re searching for the chief engineer of the ship.  One man steps up but is shot for being a liar when Mack steps up instead.  At that moment a cell phone slides into the room, distracting the HYDRA soldiers long enough for Bobbi to save the day, brutally executing them all.  She’s not alone either, as Agent Hartley (remember her?) is at her side, throwing her knife into HYDRA agents in a way that would make Xena: Warrior Princess prowd.
  • Bobbi and Hartley were sent in by Nick Fury to find and rescue Gonzales, and together with Mack they find him lying on the floor in a conference room with a badly injured leg.  They set his broken leg, but as the group prepares to get him to safety (with Hartley eager to kill more HYDRA bastards) Bobbi reveals she has another mission.  Always one to compartmentalize, Fury tasked Bobbi not only with saving Gonzales but also with sinking the carrier and destroying whatever sensitive information it might contain.  Hartley leaves to help rescue more SHIELD soldiers, but Mack and Gonzales stay in order to back him up on her mission.
  • The group heads for the server core, where Bobbi will sink the ship, and along the way they run into Hartley again, who is busy fighting back against HYDRA.  Some SHIELD agents have captured a gun on deck and are trying to retake the ship, even if that means fighting their way through fourteen decks of HYDRA.  Hartley wants to fight, but Gonzales and Bobbi insist on following Fury’s orders.  However, when they get to the server core, and Bobbi says that she has to stay behind to set off the detonation, their opinions start to change.  Gonzales insists that they follow orders, but the others point out that Fury is dead and they should reconsider.  Gonzales barks out that “This isn’t a democracy,” to which Bobbi replies, “Maybe it should be.”  That gives him pause, and eventually the group decides to fight back, and meets the HYDRA agents trying to break down the door with guns blazing.  Thus was the beginning of the “real SHIELD,” supposedly based on group decisions and transparency.
  • Back in the present, Bobbi returns to SHIELD, cutting some wires in the Bus and then heads to the server room and inserts a flash drive in one of the computers.  She then proceeds to Coulson’s desk and cuts into it to retrieve the Toolbox.  Coulson, meanwhile, is finally going to give Mack a chance to work on Lola, a real honor.  He was so impressed with Mack’s miniature version of the car that he spent a lot of time studying it, but he noticed something strange that Mack had added.  He offers Mack a chance to explain himself and say who he’s working for, assuming that he’s with HYDRA as all of the SHIELD agents around them draw their guns on Mack.  Bobbi is confronted by May, who tells her that she hates being wrong.  The two fight hard, and just as May gets the upper hand Bobbi sets off an emp, knocking out the lights and allowing her and Mack to escape.
  • Favorite Quote: May: “The last person who betrayed me, I broke his larynx.”
  • Coulson and May regroup, putting the place on manual lockdown and sending Fitz to restart the system.  Bobbi has a tablet hidden inside a false fire extinguisher which she uses to call Gonzales to say that she has the toolbox and that Skye is at another location, so they can start their attack.  Bobbi then runs into Simmons, who doesn’t know what’s going on.  Bobbi looks a little guilty as Simmons talks, and impatiently waits as Simmons hands her things from her bag as she searches for something that will be of help to the team.  But when Simmons hands Bobbi a second small device it knocks her out, and Simmons calls Coulson to tell him that she’s captured Bobbi.  They handcuff Bobbi to a railing, taking the Toolbox back, while May goes to search Bobbi’s locker, finding a gas mask hidden behind a false back.  Fitz finds Bobbi’s mysterious flash drive stuck in one of the servers, but before he can fix anything Mack arrives.  Fitz backs away, but Mack insists that he’d never hurt his friend.  Gas starts to pour into the Playground, knocking out everyone inside, and Mack lunges at Fitz and shields him just as the wall behind them is blasted apart and the “real SHIELD” invades.
  • In the aftermath, Coulson and FitzSimmons are captured, while May manages to elude everyone, hiding in the shadows.  Simmons is asked to tend to Mack, who was injured in the blast as he protected Fitz.  Bobbi and Agent Calderon (who seems to greatly enjoy seeing other people hurt) are sent to bring in Skye, while Coulson is taken in for a talk with Gonzales.  Gonzales admires what Coulson has built, but he lays out all of his objections to Coulson being in charge.  He reminds Coulson that he was brought back from the dead (“I didn’t ask for that but I’ve come to appreciate it”), had an alien map implanted in his head which he felt compelled to follow to a hidden city which caused Skye and Raina to be transformed and Trip to be killed.  Coulson points out that they accomplished their mission, which was to stop Whitehall and destroy the city, but Gonzales doesn’t care.  He asks whether Coulson can say for sure that he’s not some kind of alien messenger.  He also points out all of the things that Coulson has hid from the team, including what Gonzales suspects is inside the toolbox: a list of hidden things containing power which Gonzales wants to hunt down and destroy.
  • Coulson says that he searched for Gonzales after the fall of SHIELD, assuming he was dead.  He points out that Fury chose him to lead the new SHIELD, but Gonzales dismisses that by attacking Fury.  He says that Fury thought of himself as king, and made Coulson in the same mold.  Coulson gets angry, telling Gonzales that he should have approached Coulson to talk, rather than sending spies into his house, the same way HYDRA did.  He questions whether Gonzales believes that Coulson’s team will just join up with him, but Gonzales says he’ll let them make their own decisions.  “I already have,” says May, bursting through the door and ICEing Gonzales.  May opens a secret panel to reveal a hidden elevator, and shoves Coulson inside, handing him a briefcase and telling him to find Skye.  She says she’ll look after FitzSimmons, and before he can object she sends him away, closing the hidden door behind him just as agents swarm the room and she surrenders.
  • Favorite Quote: Bobbie (to Hartley): “I love your whole thing, you know that?”
  • As for Skye, she had a different experience in this episode.  She started things out by videochating with Simmons, lamenting playing solitaire and eating Simmons’ gross gluten-free biscuits.  She thanks Coulson for the snack pack he sent, but doesn’t like being cooped up alone.  Simmons insists that she just wants Skye to be safe, but they’re interrupted by Fitz grumpily asking how Simmons’ “science experiment” is going, putting an end to their chat.  Later she takes Simmons’ advice and tries on the gloves, which glow when she puts them on.  She starts to panic a bit and feel a little woozy, so she tries to call the base but can’t make a connection.  She checks the network cable connection, tracing it to the wall which gives a hollow sound when she knocks on it.  She breaks a piece of the wood paneling off to reveal hidden walls underneath that resemble the Cage on the Bus.  Only in this reinforced wall is the imprint of a Hulk-sized fist.
  • She hears an odd sound outside and starts to get really worried, conjuring up images of horror movies.  There’s a knock on the door, and she answers it to reveal Gordon, the Inhuman teleporter with no eyes, who asks if he can come in.  She lets him inside and he takes a seat on the uncomfortable couch, introducing himself and trying to act friendly.  He tells her that he knows she’s afraid, but that he’s a friend who is like her, only he had years to prepare for the transformation.  He tries to crack a joke by telling her that he wishes she wouldn’t stare at him, but it falls flat.  He tells her about his mentor (her mother, Jiaying), whose first act was to embrace him.  He asks Skye what her new power feels like, and she tells him it’s like a thousand bees trapped inside, and she can feel it all the time.  She worries she’ll destroy everything, but he tells her that her ability to tap into the natural vibrations of the world could become magnificent.  He asks why she wears the gloves that restrain her powers, and she says they’re for protection, but he wonders whom they are protecting.  “Most gifts come with a price,” he says, but says that they can teach her to manage her powers so that she can “be who you were meant to be.”  He offers to take her to a safe place where she can be with others like them, but he’ll only take her if she wants to come.  He leaves, telling her that he’ll know if she wants him.
  • She considers what he said, and decides to take off her gloves to experiment a bit.  She uses her powers to manipulate water running from a tap into a spiral, and for the first time she smiles to herself as she sees her ability as something good and beautiful rather than something of which to be afraid.  She isn’t given long to enjoy her powers, however, as she gets a phone call from May who tells her to get out.  May instructs her that there’s a panel in one corner of the compound which she can use to deactivate the laser fence and escape.  Skye asks who is coming for her, and May tells her it’s SHIELD, and when the power in the cabin goes out May yells for Skye to run now.
  • Bobbi leads a team to capture Skye, reminding them that Skye is a SHIELD agent and that they’re only to use ICERs on her.  They set out through the woods after Skye, but Agent Calderon decides he’d rather use real bullets.  Skye beats up one of the SHIELD agents, but is cornered by Bobbi and Calderon.  Bobbi tries to reason with her, but Calderon decides to end things right there, firing at Skye.  She holds her hands up in front of her and uses her powers to deflect the bullet, before sending a shockwave towards Bobbi and Calderon, shattering a tree between them and sending the pair backwards in a shower of splinters.  Calderon is hit in the chest by a chunk of wood, while Bobbi is just knocked to the ground.  Skye calls for help from Gordon, who appears at her side asking if she’d like to go “home”.  Before Bobbi can do any more, Gordon and Skye have vanished.
  • Favorite Quote: Coulson (to May): “That was a really good entrance.”
  • The episode’s final scene was also one of my favorites.  We see Coulson sitting at a bar down on the beach, ordering a fruity drink that comes with an excessive amount of tiny umbrellas.  The bartender makes a comment that he expects Coulson’s wife got the house in the divorce, when who should walk up but Hunter.  Hunter orders a drink of his own, telling the bartender to make sure to put some tiny umbrellas in it, and then says to Coulson, “Sorry I’m late.  An evacuation pod will wash up when and where it wants to.”  He remembers something and grabs a cocktail napkin, signs his name on it, and slides it over to Coulson.  He explains that Coulson offered him a job a while back, and he’s offering up the signed cocktail napkin as his contract.  “What’s the plan, boss,” he asks with a smile.
  • The most impressive part of last season was the way SHIELD was willing to completely shake things up and change the very nature of the show, taking our heroes from being part of a huge organization to being on the run from that same organization, now overrun with HYDRA.  Once again the show has ripped apart the foundation of our heroes, sending them on the run again but with even less resources, and now all split up as well.  As much as I don’t like to see these characters I love in danger, because I don’t want anything to happen to them, it’s thrilling to watch our heroes have to fight and scrap and improvise, and it really lets them show off their talents (both as characters and as actors).  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store, and in what direction things will go.  And at this point, if there’s a season three, we have to expect a big shakeup around episode 14-16.
  • I’m very intrigued by Gonzales, and not just because he’s portrayed by the fantastic Edward James Olmos.  From the way the character is performed, it seems like he doesn’t actually believe in transparency and democracy when it comes to running SHIELD, but he’s using it as a smokescreen in order to act on his desire to wipe out what he sees as threats.  In particular, he’s made several references to the theory that Coulson is stockpiling individuals with powers, though he hasn’t given voice to what use he thinks Coulson might have for them.  Maybe he’s afraid that Coulson is planning some sort of takeover, or maybe he thinks the line between Coulson’s tactics and HYDRA’s isn’t as clear as things appear.  He also threw out the theory that the toolbox contains some sort of index of powerful items that he intends to track down and destroy.  Is he really out to destroy them in order to prevent their use, or is he after them in order to grow his own power.  It’s tough when an actor is so familiar from another show (in this case Battlestar Galactica) that there’s a bit of bleeding through from one show to the next.  I feel inclined to trust Olmos, but what we’ve seen from Gonzales raises some concerns.
  • As I said above, one of my favorite moments of the night was Hunter’s appearance in the final scene.  I’ve been kind of lukewarm on Hunter thus far.  He’s entertaining and provides great snarky comments, but I hadn’t really accepted him as a member of the team until that moment.  And it was more than just the fact that he’s officially “signed on” with Coulson’s team.  At a moment when Coulson was at his lowest and everything he’s worked to build has been pulled apart, and he doesn’t have a friend in the world, there’s Hunter, just sauntering up to sit next to him at the bar, have a drink, and sign up.  I love that despite never really being a part of the team, he’s never questioned that Coulson is worth following, despite his faults.  Where Bobbi and Mack have been revealed to be double agents with conflicted loyalties, Hunter has been remarkably straight forward, despite Gonzales’s rhetoric.  And now that Bobbi seems to be struggling with what’s right and who to really believe, it’s a great change to have Hunter so sure.
  • The other two moments that really got to me in this episode revolved around FitzSimmons.  The most obvious was Simmons taking out Bobbi so easily.  Our little scientist has come a long way from someone unable to lie last season to being able to deceive Bobbi so smoothly and to pass off her little plan as simple singlemindedness.  I would totally have taken whatever Simmons handed to me and would have ended up unconscious too.  It felt completely in character yet also surprising, and a reminder of how far she’s come and how much she’s grown and has lived through.  She’s confident and cool under pressure, yet without losing herself.  The second moment totally made me tear up.  It was after the group was first captured by Gonzales’s soldiers.  Fitz and Simmons were sitting side by side on the floor in the lab, and despite everything they’ve been through recently and all of their disagreements, Simmons reached over to take Fitz’s hand.  But more than that, he returned the gesture, covering her hand with his, showing that despite their differences and issues they still care for each other and still support each other.

I could say more about FitzSimmons and especially about Skye, but I’d just start encroaching on the next episode, so click on through to the next page for my thoughts on “Afterlife.”

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Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Love in the Time of Hydra”

"Love in the Time of Hydra"

Every serialized show on occasion has to do what I call a “positioning the pieces” episode, and that’s exactly what we got on this week’s Agents of SHIELD.  These episodes often precede a much bigger episode or string of episodes, and based on the preview for next week things will definitely be big.  Last time on SHIELD was all about the character development, giving us deeper looks at Skye’s predicament as well as some background and intriguing history on her father and on the Inhumans.  This week the Inhumans story took a back seat to the show shuffling around its characters in a build up to next week’s showdown, but we also finally got to see what Ward’s been up to since he was shot by Skye in the midseason finale.  So let’s jump into “Love in the Time of Hydra”, written by Brent Fletcher and directed by Jesse Bochco.
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Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “One of Us”

Melinda May in "One of Us"

Last week’s Agents of SHIELD left us with everything seemingly in chaos.  Skye had shot herself in order to stop a quake she was beginning to trigger with two alien entities after her for the same reason but with different intentions.  Hunter confronted Mack about the secret Mack and Bobbi are keeping, and was answered with a choke hold from Mack that knocked Hunter out.  And the entire team was hit with the news that Skye now has powers thanks to the Diviner, and Fitz knew and has been lying to everyone.  This week we got to see Coulson’s team trying to find some answers and a bit of stability, while being confronted with just the sort of chaos they want to avoid.  We got a few answers, a revelation or two, some backstory, and a dose of emotion in “One of Us,” written by Monica Owusu-Breen and directed by Kevin Tancharoen.

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Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Aftershocks” and “Who You Really Are”

Skye in "Aftershocks"

Agents of SHIELD is back!  Actually, it was back last week, but due to other plans I was unable to post a reaction, so tonight you’ll get two for the price of one.  First up is “Aftershocks,” the Spring premiere, written by Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon and directed by Billy Gierhart.  We were left with quite the cliffhanger in the fall, with Trip dead and disintegrated, Skye and Raina transformed, Whitehall killed, Ward shot (by Skye) and teaming up with Agent 33, and everything having changed for our heroes, even if they don’t know it yet.  Well these past two weeks gave us some answers while raising more questions, and the drama and the tension within the group has risen to new levels, so let’s jump right into “Aftershocks,” while you’ll find “Who You Really Are” on page two.

(Note: I’m changing my recap/reaction posts again.  For season one I simply wrote recaps, but in the fall of season two I wrote recaps and instant reactions, and it was simply too much to handle.  It burned me out to the point where I neglected other aspects of my blog and completely turned me off to the idea of recapping Agent Carter.  I love discussing the show far more than simply regurgitating it, even if it’s fun to dive into the details and relive each episode.  So I’ll be posting reactions to each episode instead, in the style of my “instant reactions” from the fall, but perhaps not as instant.  I’d love to post they immediately following each episode, but I’m not going to force the issue.  The reaction format allows me to hit the highlights of each episode, breaking it up into more digestible chunks, while giving me more time to focus on theorizing or analyzing the episodes.  I really appreciate those of you who regularly read what I have to write, and I hope you understand why I want to make a change to how I do things.  Thanks!)

  • So I lied, because the first thing I’m actually going to is talk about Agent Carter.  I thoroughly enjoyed SHIELD‘s filler show, which managed to both feel like it belongs as part of the MCU while also striking out on its own path.  More than anything I loved Hayley Atwell as Carter, but the rest of the cast was also great, especially James D’Arcy (a personal favorite) as Jarvis.  The show had some great moments, including Carter kicking ass at any possible chance, the complicated relationship between Carter and Howard Stark, and Carter’s boss diving out a skyscraper window and exploding.  The post-war time period was the perfect setting for a show like this, which both allowed us to reflect on the gender politics of today through the lens of the past while also giving us an outlet for fantastic clothes, music, cars, and style.  However, I did have some issues with the show in general, which I hope might get resolved if the show comes back in a similar capacity next year.  I felt the overarching plot of Stark’s stolen weapons and Stark branded as a traitor was not particularly interesting.  It had its moments, but the recurring motif of “why would Stark have invented this?” got a little old.  Things picked up in the last handful of episodes, particularly once the Black Widow program made an appearance and a larger conspiracy emerged, but in all I feel like the show needed a grander or at least more interesting threat driving the plot.  Still, I very much want the show to return, if for no other reason than it makes SHIELD much more enjoyable by giving it a more predictable schedule.
  • Though, as a last thought on Agent Carter I have to say that I was really disappointed, particularly early in the show, by the press’s focus on the mystery of Carter’s future husband.  We got references to a husband (with some credit given to Steve Rogers for setting the two of them up) in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it seemed it was all anyone could talk about during the first two episodes.  Here is a kickass agent, who is fighting against the sexism embedded in the system and is a feminist icon, but all anyone can talk about is her husband?  Some things seemingly never improve, I guess, but we should live in an age where a woman (real or fictional) is not defined by whichever man to whom she chooses to attach herself.
  • Ok, finally onto SHIELD.  “Aftershocks” opened with a really intriguing scene, set in 1983, where we saw the immediate after effects of Terrigenesis, the transformation triggered by the Terrigen mists that come out of a Diviner.  We watch as a boy flashes around the room, teleporting in the style of Nightcrawler.  Skye’s mother, now called Jiaying, is brought in to help the boy, who she calls Gordon and seems to know.  She’s there to help him and “show him the way.”  She tells him that it’s ok to cry and he says he’s trying but he can’t, because he has no eyes.  This is a familiar face from the fall finale, as we saw him telling an unnamed person on the phone that he was on the case regarding Skye and Raina.  Jiaying and her colleague discuss Gordon, saying that he’s the ideal age for the transformation, in that he’s old enough to understand what’s happening but young enough to adapt, but Jiaying seems weary of the entire process.  She says that she won’t be around forever to help them, despite her gifts.  We’re left with a lot of questions from this scene, including exactly what’s going on here, what their goals are, and who they’re answering to.  Clearly they’re trying to help people who transform, but are they causing the transformations?
  • Favorite Quote: Skye: “I feel like a leper.” Bobbi: “Leper?  I think you’re a rock star.”
  • This episode was full of some big emotions, and one of the first emotional moments was right near the beginning.  Simmons is down in the city, doing research and preparing to drown it at the bottom of the ocean, when a cleaning person goes by with a wheelbarrow full of debris and a fragment of Trip’s solidified face is resting on top.  It’s pretty horrifying, made all the more so by the callous way the nameless scientists coldly deal with the situation, leaving Simmons to suppress her emotion for the time being.  It was quite the punch to the gut to start the episode.
  • So “Aftershocks” had two main, parallel plotlines.  The first, and more emotional, involved Skye and the immediate reaction of what she’s going through, but the other was more complex and perhaps more shocking.  In the aftermath of Trip’s death, Coulson was on the warpath, taking the fight to HYDRA.  He set up a deal to send Bakshi to Talbot, and then staged a car crash, hijacking, and his own death in order to make Bakshi think he had escaped, allowing them to track him back to HYDRA.  Meanwhile, we got a look at supposedly the leadership of HYDRA, now one man short with the death of Whitehall.  The coming of Bakshi caused a rift that allowed two of the HYDRA heads to take out the other three, fearing a betrayal, leaving only two for Coulson to deal with.  He sent in his team to take out Bloom and recover Bakshi, leaving only one HYDRA head, Dr. Levy, in place, and seemingly silencing the HYDRA threat for the moment.  It was a pretty bold stroke, but it was also remarkably cold blooded of Coulson, who never seemed to have a problem taking out HYDRA agents (he did kill Whitehall), but who never actively sought them out and assassinated them.  The entire finale to this plotline was straight out of the end of The Godfather, when Michael Corleone had the heads of the other five families killed (in similar ways).  I wouldn’t have expected it of Coulson, but it felt in character, and like a big step as Coulson grows into fully becoming the director of SHIELD.
  • Favorite Quote: May: “I count four left, you know what that means.” Coulson: “Not really.” (May leaps over the truck and “kills” the attackers.) May: “It means I do that.” Coulson: “Good to know.”
  • Speaking of HYDRA, there were two offhand mentions that tied into the larger MCU.  Baron Von Strucker was mentioned twice, and we’ve previously seen him in the mid-credits scene of The Winter Soldier, looking over the Maximoff twins in their cages as we get a look at their powers.  They, of course, will have major roles in Avengers: Age of Ultron, due in just a couple months.  Also of note was that Skye’s survival of the Diviner incident was called a “miracle,” a term Von Strucker used to describe the twins.  Marvel is forbidden from using the word “mutant” in the MCU because Fox owns the film rights to the X-Men franchise and mutants, so they seemingly settled on “miracle” for the twins.  But it’s interesting that the word was used to describe Skye, and it makes me wonder if there’s a chance the twins gained their powers through Terrigenesis and are in fact Inhumans.  It might be a good way to set up the future Inhumans movie, particularly if we assume that most MCU fans don’t watch SHIELD.
  • I found Raina’s story in this episode particularly compelling, and it featured some wonderful acting from Ruth Negga under some impressive makeup.  There’s no doubt that Raina got a bum deal as far as her transformation is concerned, coming out covered in thorns and looking like a monster.  She’s strong and powerful, tearing up some SHIELD scientists, but mostly she’s hurt, hurting, sad, lonely, and feeling betrayed.  Her encounter with Calvin, the Doctor, was particularly tragic, with her insisting that Skye got what was due to Raina.  Calvin is simply delighted that his Daisy was there and transformed, but he hates Coulson for robbing him of his revenge on Whitehall and for taking Daisy/Skye away.  But I felt so much sympathy for Raina, particularly when Calvin remarked, regarding her thorns, that she always liked flowers, but Raina simply replied that they hurt.  The way she talked about her insides feeling like gravel, and how she cuts herself whenever she moves, was heartbreaking, and made all the more worse by Calvin’s coldness.  I’m actually hopeful to see what will happen with her and Gordon, as I think Gordon can help her, and that the two will understand each other given the unfortunate aspects of their transformation.  Whether they team up for good or for evil is another matter entirely.
  • Favorite Quote: May: “They’ll never take us alive? Really? Little over the top, don’t you think?” Coulson: “I only had a day to come up with this whole thing. Besides, if I let you write the script no one would say anything.”
  • Coulson’s team seems to be fraying at the edges a bit.  Hunter and Bobbi may be closer than before, but she’s lying to him while she and Mack use Coulson’s model Lola to scan his office looking for Fury’s toolbox.  (Though I loved Mack’s shameful, disappointed look when he admitted to Coulson that he couldn’t make the model fly.)  Mack, meanwhile, is struggling with his anger and taking it out on everyone around him, including Coulson and his previous bff, Fitz.  Fitz is improving, both with his mind and motor skills, but he’s also lying to others, even if it’s to protect Skye.  And then there’s Simmons.  You can’t blame Simmons for being the most broken (after Skye, maybe) over what happened.  Simmons and Trip had a blossoming relationship, and clearly her feelings for him were deeper than she admitted out loud, and for him not only to die but to die as a result of the superpowered, mysterious, alien technology that she was so fascinated by must make her feel equally betrayed and guilty.  The way she talked about how people with powers were a “plague” to be “erased from existence” was shocking and saddening, but also completely understandable.  But it was tough to watch her say those things in front of Skye.
  • And then there’s Skye.  Poor Skye, who watched her good friend die and can only blame herself for what happened.  Skye, who has new powers she has to hide, yet which she can’t control.  It’s much easier to empathize with what the others are going through than with Skye.  We’ve probably all been betrayed, or lost someone close to us, or had someone we love be ill or in an accident, and we can understand the types of anger, grief, and confusion that go with it.  We can see where Simmons is coming from, or understand Bobbi sweetly bringing Skye a quarantine survival kit, or Fitz wanting to protect her secret so much that he’s willing to lie to the others and change Skye’s DNA sample.  But it’s hard to understand watching your friend die while you gain superpowers that you can’t control.  However, the feeling of uneasiness in your own body, of not fully being in control, and of fear of yourself, is probably universally relatable.  I was very worried that Fitz would turn her in or betray her, and so I was so touched when he protected her and she hugged him at the end.  It’s hard to imagine how much it meant to have a friend in that moment for her.
  • Favorite Quote: Bobbi: “Drop the accent, you sound like a douchebag.” Hunter: “Now you know what it’s like for me to live in this country.”
  • “Aftershocks” was full of smaller memorable moments, from the reminiscing about Trip and how he would have replied “Come on, girl” in his familiar accent, to Fitz using the term “inhuman,” and others in between, and while I have more thoughts on this episode, they tie into “Who You Really Are,” so click on to the next page to keep reading!

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Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “What They Become”

Skye and her father, "What They Become"

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.

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Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “What They Become”

*Update: My full recap of “What They Become” is now live.  Read it here!

Theories were confirmed!  Mysteries were solved!  Questions were answered!  Many more questions were asked!  Characters died!  Tonight’s episode of Agents of SHIELD wrapped up the first half of season two with action, excitement, drama, and emotion.  It also potentially changed the MCU permanently, and could potentially have as large an impact on the show as Captain America: The Winter Soldier did last season.  We won’t see SHIELD again until March, with Agent Carter to fill the gap, so we’ve got plenty of time to theorize and speculate.  Also, I’ve got plenty of comic book research to do just to keep up the appearance that I actually know what I’m talking about.  But for now, read on for my instant reactions to the episode and the new developments for the show, and check back tomorrow for my full recap!

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