Now that’s how you do a mid-season premiere.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hit the ground running in the first of what will be an uninterrupted run of episodes for the back half of the season, diving into the aftermath of Skye’s transformation and Tripp’s death. While the first half of this season was very much about the team coming together after being torn apart by Hydra — and the struggles that they went through as they re-learned how to trust — it’s clear that the rest of season 2 will be about the team coming together once again…only this time, they’re being torn apart from the inside.
But before we talk about Skye’s “Daisy Johnson” transformation and its affect on those around her, let’s dive into this flashback: a young boy with no eyes teleports in an empty room, while a woman watches. This is 1983: the boy’s name is Gordon, the woman is Skye’s mother, and this is our first real look at an Inhuman in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. world. I’m on board. (More importantly, did you catch that Skye’s mother said that she had been training Gordon for a long time, but she wouldn’t live forever? It’s the comment that segued into Skye waking up in the quarantine ward, and something interesting to think about. What other powers, if any, did Skye’s mother have that she could possess, besides being Daisy Johnson?)
Skye’s been dreaming about Tripp’s death, and is basically on the verge of having a PTSD breakdown, as the events of the finale would be hard to deal with even without the superhero thing. Coulson tells Skye everyone is dealing with Tripp’s death in their own way (May’s beating up a punching bag, Fitz and Mack are working in the garage, you know, the usual) before telling her that the Obelisk brought the Temple down. Skye, naturally, blames herself for what happened to Tripp, even as Coulson gets angry and tells her that they didn’t fail. This whole scene was part of the show’s cold open, and it was, by far, one of the most emotional and impressive exchanges I’ve seen between Chloe Bennet and Clark Gregg.
During an apparent gathering of recent Hydra heads (with an empty chair, RIP Whitehall), the members are not only stuck in an argument about who should replace Whitehall. They’re also quite unhappy thanks to recent events, and one of the men offers Whitehall’s position to anyone who can wipe out S.H.I.E.L.D. for good. Meanwhile, back in the cave, where Simmons has been working (as her own version of “dealing with Tripp’s death”), a researcher is killed by a deadly unseen creature with thorns on their face. Simmons shoots at it (LIKE A BAMF — does anyone remember when Simmons was too terrified to even touch a firearm, back in season 1?) but the culprit gets away. Simmons soon figures out that the killer is Raina, who has transformed into her own Inhuman state after being hit with the terrigan mist. She decides to come back to the team so she can do more research about Skye, having procured some of Raina’s tissue to study.
It seems that each person on Coulson’s team is visiting Skye in quarantine, and talking to her/helping her in their own way. I really like this set-up, because it not only allowed for more emotionally charged moments between the characters, but because it also it helped ground an episode that moved fast, with a lot of action and a lot of information. Bobbi brings Skye a “survival” kit with cards and headphones and, of course, protein bars. Because who would want to be in quarantine without protein bars? Skye’s not doing too well mentally, but unlike Coulson’s heated exchange, Bobbi takes the gentle way out: she tells Skye she’s a rockstar and reminds her of how awesome she was. Can I have Bobbi Morse as my life mentor, please?
Coulson finally calls a team meeting, in which all hell breaks loose once he tells them he’s planning on trying to pull off a prisoner exchange with Bakshi to get to Hydra. Mack gets angry at Coulson, insisting that he’s putting them in danger, and blaming him and Skye for being too caught up in their alien tech to think about the lives of others. The others soon start arguing, which leads Skye to start quaking, and it’s kind of like the whole lab scene in The Avengers, except without the glowing scepter and Hulking Bruce Banner.
Coulson and May start to drive with Bakshi when they’re ambushed, and seriously, what is it with S.H.I.E.L.D. people and car crashes? May and Coulson start attacking the soldiers who are shooting at them, and Coulson manages to pull Bakshi out of the car, when another soldier shoots both Coulson and May and takes their prisoner. The soldier reveals himself to be Hunter — surprise! But don’t worry, he’s not really Hydra, he’s just playing along so they can carry out the rest of their plan. May and Coulson have staged their deaths, and Bakshi calls Hydra while believing Hunter is on his side.
Simmons has taken her turn with Skye, and she tells her about Raina — how she was different and changed, and altered genetically. Skye freaks out again, thinking she’ll cause an entire epidemic, repeating what Mack had said in the argument earlier: that she should’ve destroyed the power instead of trying to understand or control it. I need to say it again — Chloe Bennet is really doing some of her best work in this episode, and it’s amazing to see how much she’s grown since the first season…and even since the last few episodes.
Cal finds Raina sneaking around a dock, and we get our first real look at Raina’s transformation. What has she become? I’m not sure at this point whether we’re looking at an actual Inhuman from comic history, or someone entirely new…but either way, I’m intrigued, and I can’t wait to learn more. Cal is upset that Skye has gone back to Coulson, and is by no means done with making Coulson’s life a living hell. Raina, meanwhile, seems to be a parallel of Skye — upset at her new self, and miserable. She pleads with Cal to fix her but he insists that it’s what she wanted, before basically telling her she doesn’t have to live with it…if she knows what he means.
While Bakshi goes inside the Hydra home, Bobbi joins Hunter in the car. He’s still trying to find out Bobbi and Mack’s secret, which Bobbi admits is…a support group for people who survived the Hydra infiltration. You know, kind of like those support groups for people with mental trauma. For such a big hinted secret, Bobbi gave that up way too easily, so I’m going to assume that this is only sort of kind of true in the sense that there’s something deeper waiting to be unearthed here. But let’s talk about how much I’d missed the chemistry of these two together. Seriously. I would watch a spin-off of their snark. You couldn’t get better chemistry if you tried.
Bobbi and Hunter break their cover and storm the Hydra base, killing basically everyone much to Bakshi’s dismay. He’s been promised to Talbot, per Talbot’s agreement to give them the resources to help with the infiltration, and I really wonder where we’re going with this particular thread of story. Bakshi is too good of a character to keep underground, so I’m guessing there’s a point where he meets up with the M.I.A. Ward, perhaps before he makes it to Talbot’s at all.
While Mack apologizes to Coulson for his earlier outburst, Simmons tells May about Raina, suggesting they break protocol and kill her. Skye overhears the conversation, and it can’t be good for someone who is now different and volatile to hear her friend talking about wanting to kill someone who is ALSO different and volatile. It doesn’t get much better when Fitz finally goes to visit her, saying that his studies have found that her heart rate is so off the charts, it’s almost…inhuman. Well done, Marvel. An increasingly emotional Skye tries to hide the powers she can’t control, but Fitz puts together pretty quickly that she’s the one who triggered the earthquake in the cave.
Simmons and May start to question what happened to Skye once they see the destruction, and Skye is clearly terrified of herself and of the consequences that will come with people knowing what she can do. In what amounts to one of the best scenes of the night, Fitz steps up and takes the blame, claiming that Skye’s DNA is unchanged, and that no one needs to worry. His evidence is enough to let them release Skye from quarantine, and Fitz admits to Skye that he swapped the DNA results — she is changed, probably more than anyone can handle, but they can keep it a secret for now. Skye breaks down and Fitz comforts her, and I really, really loved everything about this moment. I loved seeing Fitz become more capable again, sure of his abilities and able to be the strong one rather than the timid one, after spending so much of the first half of the season in depression. And I love the potential of a Fitz/Skye friendship, and I hope we get more of it. (Though we already did the Tripp/Simmons friendship last season and I don’t want to repeat another round of jealous lab buddies.)
Raina decides to take Cal up on his offer — no, she doesn’t have to live with it — and walks into traffic, which stops all around her. Another batch of soldiers corner her and try to take her in, but Raina refuses, and a force appears around them. Who rescues her? Gordon — grown up Gordon, who has apparently mastered teleporting. Inhumans, everyone!
While the team trades stories and memories about Tripp in a more somber moment, Mack confirms he’s found Fury’s toolbox in Coulson’s office and he confirms it with Bobbi, who says she’ll “make contact soon.” Ah, I knew there had to be more to the secret than a support group. But just who is Bobbi going to call? The Avengers, perhaps? Will this lead to Fury telling them that their friend is indeed alive, since no one seems to know in the Marvel universe outside of Maria Hill? It would be a way to tie things back into the MCU for sure…
Odds & Ends:
- Did you catch that in the Hydra meeting, the “man” that was being spoken for was Baron Von Strucker? We know Strucker from the credits of Winter Soldier, where he was shown keeping two other people with powers locked up — Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Nothing is ever casually thrown around on this show and given that Avengers: Age of Ultron will be htiting theatres right before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs its finale, it’s pretty safe to assume that this storyline will tie in somehow. Maybe w’ll be seeing an appearance from Strucker somewhere down the line?
- I wasn’t prepared for the Easter Egg of the Howling Commandos photo on the wall in Tripp’s mom’s apartment when Coulson goes to tell her about her son’s death. Talk about being burned by emotions.
- I will gladly start a fund for “S.H.I.E.L.D. lady spies riding motorcycles.” Come talk to me, Marvel.