Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 has two things going for it that the Season 1 didn’t: a gritty, dark tone and a plot that advances rapidly. The mid-season finale really moved the story along, but not without some emotional punches along the way. I love the direction the show is starting to take, and I love that for every question it answers it raises two more. Before I get started really discussing what I liked and didn’t like, just a fair warning:
HERE BE SPOILERS!
Kyle MacLachlan is amazing. It’s wonderful to see that his acting skills haven’t diminished a bit in the 25 years since Twin Peaks, which just makes me even more excited that Twin Peaks is coming back, but I digress. This episode revealed that his character’s name is Cal, which has to be referring to Calvin Zabo, AKA Dr. Hyde, a character from the comics who can transform into a monstrous alter-ego. This totally makes sense given Cal’s tendency to act like he’s always just a hair’s breadth away from completely losing it, and telling Skye that he doesn’t want her to see some of the things he can do.
However, I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see Cal reveal his abilities in this episode, if indeed he has any. I was really looking forward to seeing him take his revenge on Whitehall in a violent and super-powered fashion, but instead Coulson just shot the good doctor twice in the back, the way a true hero does it. This led to a nice fight between Cal and Coulson, but it felt like a poor substitute for the violent death Cal wanted to give him. Still, I suspect we may not have seen the last of Dr. Whitehall. He’s cheated death before, and such a anticlimactic and ignominious end seems inappropriate for the Machiavellian villain the show built him into over the past half season. Maybe Cal will still get his chance.
It’s nice to see more of Patton Oswalt on the show. I like how ambiguous they’re being about all the Koenig twins. Are they clones? Are they robots? And how many are there, anyway? We may never know for sure, and I like it that way because it gives Oswalt plenty of chances to pull off goofy gags. I was very curious about the “Theta Protocol” that Coulson told Koenig to implement if things went south. Fingers crossed that it involves an army of thousands of Koenig clones.
Skye reached heights of greatness in this episode before sinking to depths of stupidity and then redeeming herself with the cool reveals at the end of the episode. The greatness was her shooting Ward immediately when he turned his back on her. Putting five bullets into his side was great, but apparently he had armor of some kind on. Based on Stubbly McTraitor’s psychopathic actions up to this point (murdering his brother and parents comes to mind), she really should have finished the job, but I suppose I’d miss the big lug if he died.
The depths of stupidity was when Skye insisted on going into the pit after Raina and the obelisk, oblivious to the fact that Trip and Fitzsimmons had planted enough bombs to level the place. I just wanted shake her and go “What’s wrong with you?!” If she took a second to listen to Coulson, he could have told her the plan. The charges would have gone off, and Raina and the obelisk would have been buried under a mountain of rubble. Instead she ran off half-cocked because of some vague belief that she had to be the one to finish things, and her actions get Trip killed (more on that later).
Fortunately, her dumb actions ended up fulfilling Cal’s promise of giving her a gift of change. When Raina placed the obelisk on its pedestal, it opened up to reveal some blue crystals. Skye and Raina got encased in a weird stone cocoon thing, and emerged from them changed. This has Terrigen crystals and Inhumans written all over it. There’s no doubt now that Skye is Daisy Johnson, AKA Quake, Calvin Zabo’s daughter from the comics who has the power to create earthquakes. Raina’s transformation into something with needles on its face is more intriguing. Raina’s whole character arc has been questing after a way for humans to transcend their limitations. Now that she’s done it, I’m curious to see where her character goes from here.
Progress can’t come without sacrifice, and Trip had to give his life to the story gods to move Skye’s plot along. It seems like the cast expansion in Season 2 made it inevitable that the some members of the cast would get the ax eventually. Trip never really found his place in the dynamic of the show, and now he’s deader than Gwen Stacey. He hadn’t quite grown on me enough for me to be too broken up about it, but I’ll miss the guy. However, ninja-kicking the Obelisk was probably a bad idea, and it probably didn’t do anything to get Skye out of her cocoon any faster. Trip, like Whitehall, had a brusque and inconsequential demise. It’s a shame that two perfectly good characters didn’t get to make more of an impact in their death scenes, and that’s my biggest knock against the episode.
The introduction of the Inhumans, including the weird eyeless eyeless guy with the second Obelisk at the end of the episode, has big implications for the MCU. While Season 1 mostly dealt with monster-of-the-week villains and reactions to events of Thor: Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier, Season 2 seems to be leading the way in universe-altering events. The presence of Inhumans could mean big things for the upcoming MCU films, especially The Inhumans, which unfortunately won’t release till 2018. A lot could happen in the meantime, and I’m excited to see how things develop.
As a final note, I’m glad Mack got to live. If one black character had to die, I have to say I prefer Mack to Trip. Even thought Trip’s been there longer, Mack has already developed much better chemistry with the cast, especially Fitz. I’m also intensely curious about Mack and Bonnie’s weird conspiracy thing. Are they Hydra? Are they Skrull plants? Are they planning to open an Asgardian-themed steakhouse? Only time will tell.
Despite Skye acting dumb and two abrupt character deaths, I really liked this mid-season finale. Gotham and The Flash both had great conclusions going into the Christmas break, but I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. edges them both out. They could have dragged out the Hidden City plotline for the whole season, but instead we got a slew of huge plot revelations that have me even more excited for the return in March.