Reviews

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Making Friends and Influencing People”

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And, we’re back! (I know, we were technically back two weeks ago, but a long vacation without much Internet access caused me to be unable to write on the first two episodes.)

First, a little intro: if you came here because you were reading my EW reviews, than welcome and I’m happy to see you! If you’re a S.H.I.E.L.D fan new to my writing and website, I hope you enjoy your stay. I loved writing about the show last season, and am excited to be able to continue to share my thoughts about season two. I hope you’ll all join me in being excited as well. So without further adieu, let’s fire up The Bus and begin….

“Making Friends and Influencing People” was an apt title for an episode that focused on both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra using manipulation and trickery to get what they wanted. And especially apt for an episode that started out with Whitehall brainwashing poor Agent 33 in his upstairs Hydra lair (seriously, that looked both uncomfortable and painful.) But onto more important things, like: Jemma Simmons waking up! Jemma Simmons making coffee! Jemma Simmons working out! The peppy music and the on-the-go breakfast invoke an “Anne Hathaway circa Devil Wears Prada” type of deal, and from our sneak peeks of this week’s episode, we already know that Happy Peppy Simmons 2.0 is not just on her way to work – she’s on her way to work at Hydra. (Nice musical selection, by the way, if you caught the lyrics: “god help the girl, she needs all the help she can get.”) What we don’t know is if the writers have staged some sort of game-changing morally grey twist, or if Jemma’s working undercover. (More on that later.)

Meanwhile, Skye is practicing some shooting with May, while the two continue to compete for the title of “my personal favorite new pairing of season two.” Hunter interrupts their session, asking Skye if she’s ever taken anyone out. Nope. She’s also never been to The Academy, despite her S.H.I.E.L.D badge. May takes the opportunity to catch up with Coulson, who’s understandably a little more than upset to find out that Agent 33 has already been compromised. “I’m getting tired of losing my best and brightest to Hydra,” he snaps, while we flash not subtly to Simmons working in her shiny Hydra lab. She manages to catch Donnie Gill’s photo when her supervisor tries to push her to do her work faster.

You all remember Donnie Gill, aka Blizzard, right? In case you didn’t, the episode hinted at his arrival by providing us with a handy flashback to “Seeds,” where we first met the supervillian. Anyway, turns out that not only is Donnie still a little lonely, he’s also on the run, and he’s got a bunch of anger issues, which leads him to turn some agents as well as a café owner to ice before escaping – but not before stealing the now-frozen agent’s phone and realizing that Hydra’s after him.

Simmons returns to her apartment to find an intruder, which is none other than…Agent Coulson. The verdict is in, and as suspected, Simmons isn’t a double agent after all – she’s just undercover. Coulson laments about the contents of her fridge, which I kind of take offense to because it basically looks like the inside of my fridge. Over dinner, Simmons informs Coulson about Donnie, while Coulson advises Simmons that she needs to make friends if she wants to keep her cover believable. It’s all fun and games until Simmons asks how everyone is, because we know what she really means by that. (Sidenote: all the actors have stepped up their game big-time this season, but Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain de Caestecker have done some fantastic work so far, and it’s only been three episodes.)

Apparently, Donnie was taught to control his powers while he was in the sandbox, and while they were limited before, now they’ve escalated in a way that could be dangerous. Coulson doesn’t think that Hydra is necessarily trying to recruit Donnie as much as they see him as another weapon, and I kind of loved the small parallel of Fitz telling Coulson that Donnie had trouble making friends, since we had just seen Simmons give that same speech about herself.

Skye visits Ward (and his beard) again, and the result of their conversation is basically Ward admitting that Hydra will win because they aren’t afraid to be ruthless. S.H.I.E.L.D., on the other hand, is still holding back. He tells her he was never loyal to Hydra – just to Garrett – but Skye clearly isn’t willing to believe him.

At the harbor, Donnie ices a ship while Simmons tries overly hard to make friends at the lab (pro-tip, Jemma: don’t start with karaoke.) She’s interrupted by security, who take her away because they believe she’s been lying to them. Did someone bug Simmons’ apartment? Do they know about her secret meeting with Coulson? Not exactly. Apparently they found out that Simmons has been lying about the fact that she knew Donnie Gill. In a really great scene from Henstridge, Simmons (the self-admitted “bad liar”) sells her cover splendidly, talking through her nerves. What are the best lies? The ones grounded in truth. And so when asked where her loyalties lie, she wisely answers that they lie with science. And, by default, now Hydra.

(Hey, Simmons! You sold your lie! And now you’re going to be taken to recruit Donnie, to make sure you’re as loyal as you say. He’s dangerous, but don’t worry, we’ll have your back. Maybe.)

The team finds Donnie and his ice boat, and as they prepare for their mission, Fitz starts to realize things are being kept from him. Donnie, meanwhile, has hit his breaking point with Hydra and doesn’t want to hide anymore. He’s more than angry – he’s pissed off, which basically means everyone is going to die an icy death if they’re not careful. I really love how the show is incorporating key supervillians from last season now that Hydra is part of the “bigger picture”…it really is an interesting way to integrate moments from season one that could have been forgotten.

Fitz talks to imaginary!Simmons again, who tries to reason with him and tells him that he’s barely holding it together. That doesn’t stop Fitz from finding Ward’s cell, and upon seeing the man who is basically responsible for his almost-death, Fitz breaks down into a panic attack. (Who cried? Because my heart broke.) In one of the strongest scenes of the night, Ward tries to tell Fitz that he didn’t want to hurt him, and that he was trying to save him – to give him a way out, because Garrett wanted him to put a bullet in both their skulls. Fitz, however, is still too hurt and upset to process any kind of apology, instead turning down the oxygen levels in Ward’s cell in an attempt to show him what it felt like to be in his situation. “I’m damaged because of what you did to me,” he says, and thanks to Iain de Caestecker’s acting, you can tell it’s the first time he’s really allowed himself to accept what he’s been dealing with since they got rescued. Ward does manage to convince Fitz that he needs to know about Donnie, so I suppose the backhanded interrogation worked after all.

Back on the ship, May, Hunter and Skye infiltrate while Simmons tries to appeal to Donnie, scientist to scientist. “I’m tired of being used,” Donnie tells her, which ironically causes Simmons to start repeating Hydra’s words about rewards and complying, which are being fed into her comm unit by Bakshi. May takes out some Hydra agents, while Fitz tells Coulson what Hydra is really up to. Just as Hunter is about to take Simmons out, May shoots him, in turn pissing off Donnie who tries to ice Simmons. After a chase that ends with Bakshi finding Donnie, he’s asked again if he’s ready to comply. Something changes in Donnie’s eyes, and when Bakshi explains “we laid the groundwork and gave him a second chance,” we realize that Donnie has already been recruited – Hydra is just reactivating the brainwashing.

To Donnie’s credit, he realizes what’s happening but before he can try to escape, Bakshi orders him to ice everyone on the ship. Enter Skye, who finally takes someone out by shooting Donnie, who falls into the water, seemingly frozen. Skye’s actions mean that the team manages to retain Simmons’ cover, and they also pick up a whole collection of Hydra cargo.

Back on The Bus, Hunter and May share a moment where he snarks with her about being shot. I really love all the new blood this season, and how chemistry between old and new cast members has become almost natural. (All that to say, I’m loving May and Hunter, and can we please get an episode of just their antics?) May talks to Skye, who expresses her worry for Simmons, as well as the fact that no one has found Donnie’s body. Meanwhile, Coulson goes to Fitz, calling him out for snapping on Ward. He hates keeping him here, but he doesn’t know much about Hydra, and unfortunately, Ward’s his best chance at finding out their secrets. Fitz, still upset, asks if there’s anything else that’s been kept from him. “I’m Director, there’s a hell of a lot more,” Coulson replies. When we spoke with Clark Gregg at Comic Con, he mentioned that this was one of the hardest things Coulson would have to deal with in his new role – keeping secrets from his friends for their own good, when he knew how it felt to be left in the dark. Coulson tells Fitz that Simmons is on an assignment, and again, you can feel your heart break when he asks if she chose to leave of her own accord. Poor, poor Fitz.

Back at Hydra, Agent 33 – now fully brainwashed and transformed thanks to her programming – brings Whitehall a file while Bakshi mentions he wants to transfer Simmons upstairs. He trusts her, but…well, let’s just say that if things go south, she’ll be forced to comply herself.

As the episode winds down, Skye heads downstairs to see Ward again. She tells him that she’s figured out Hydra brainwashes people, but Ward swears that he was never brainwashed – that all his actions were his and his alone. I’m not sure whether this makes him a better or worse person, but I have a lot of feelings for Grant Ward that are probably more sympathetic than they should be, so I’ll leave it at that. He asks her to believe that he’s telling the truth, before dropping the bomb that her father is alive and looking for her. And if she lets him out? He’ll even take her to him. Skye clearly wants none of this, and leaves before she can fully lose it. Something tells me that this conversation isn’t over, though. Skye’s much too curious about her own history to let Ward’s words go. And we have the promise of Kyle MacLachlan to look forward to…

Share your thoughts below!

Quotables:

  • “I imagined they were all Ward” – Skye
  • “You don’t give the orders, trainspotting” – Skye / “I’m not Scottish” – Hunter

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