On Tuesday night, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered upon its exceptional promise with a fairly massive and impactful midseason finale. We won’t see the show until March, giving us that much more time to mourn the death of a main character, and process the many revelations in “What They Become.”
Ward (Brett Dalton) left S.H.I.E.L.D. alive in return for Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Raina (Ruth Negga), actions that went against Daniel Whitehall’s orders. Whitehall (Reed Diamond) attempts to rectify Ward’s truancy by sending his jets after the Bus. This gives us another all-time Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Sultan of Badassery, moment. Instead of a flurry of kickpunching, she channels her inner Maverick, and wrangles the Bus straight down. Hydra follows, locking on the Bus with their missiles. At the last possible moment, May activates the ship’s cloaking device and jettisons off excess cargo to attract the missiles’ sensors, providing Hydra with a explosion that convinces them that they took out the Bus. Wrong. As Trip (B.J. Britt) says, there’s only one word to describe that flying, and it’s Fancy. Oh Trip.
Coulson (Clark Gregg) and company meet back up with the rest of the crew in San Juan, where Trip’s Howling Commandoes tech FINALLY pays off, after feeling like a snazzy development toward the end of last season (it was a key plot point in my now totally defunct spec script). It’s so ancient it won’t be detected by the temple’s alien security. FitzSimmons (Iain De Caestecker & Elizabeth Henstridge) join Trip on the mission to blow the temple to smithereens/Death Star chunks. The not-lovers hypothesize that Mac (Henry Simmons) isn’t dead, that the city is controlling Mack, and that he can still be saved. The would-be love triangle put on hazmat suits, and before they hop in, we get another Koenig joke, where Sam (Patton Oswalt) explains that his brother’s circuits are fried and he’s recharging. Coulson sends the brothers away to safety to de-clutter the finale episode, leaving us with at least one unanswered question.
Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) blames herself for Mac’s “death.” Hunter (Nick Blood) comforts her, but he knows that she’s hiding something. This is the other subplot left dangling by the end of the episode. They also do other spy stuff that seemed fairly useless. My favorite new character is Diego, Bobbi’s silent and absent contact and a plot point masquerading as a “character.” ABC really didn’t want to pay an actor to actually play this guy (Carlos Rivera Marchand would say otherwise), as we only see him blurry in the fringes of various frames.
EVIL LAIR TIME: Ward ushers Skye into Hydra’s base, and fulfills his promise. He leaves Skye with… her father. The crazed Doctor (Kyle MacLachlan) gets emotional, nervous and thanks her for coming. Skye’s not enthused by his choice of words. She didn’t come; she was forced into the meeting at gunpoint. Skye calls him a monster, and the Doctor, or Cal as he refers to himself, agrees. This means that the popular fan theory about the Doctor’s idea is true: he is Calvin Zabo a.k.a. Mr. Hyde. Essentially, Marvel’s small screen equivalent of The Hulk.
Cal gives us more information about her mother, that she was born in China, that they worked at a clinic, and the horrible atrocities that Daniel Whitehall committed upon her. It’s like an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. version of How I Met Your Mother, as told by a HIMYM alum no less. Skye tries to get him to help her escape, but he explains that this is her destiny. She comes from a line of people with gifts, that the transformation has to happen, to incite “the change.” Afterwards, Cal hums a song that Skye recognizes (her mother used to hum it, of course), and then gallivants off to kill Whitehall; the “best day ever.” Kyle MacLachlan has been a welcome presence to the show, but this was easily his best episode yet, cementing himself as one of the best villains on a show that now can stake a claim to three great ones (Whitehall, Mr. Hyde and the Clairvoyant/Agent Garrett). Based on the remainder of “What They Become,” it certainly seems like AOS could rely on MacLachlan to be an even bigger presence moving forward.
While SHIELD has been monkeying around by the temple and getting Mac maybe-killed, Hydra’s smarter, taking a shortcut right into the sanctified chamber. Trip and FitzSimmons have to dial up the bombs before they get there and activate the Obelisk. They enter the hole Indiana Jones style and split up, Fitz going off on his own. This sets up for a FitzSimmons emotional climax… but it proves to be misdirection. That will-they or won’t-they isn’t going anywhere, folks.
In the meantime, Whitehall has a powwow, bringing Skye, Ward, Cal and Agent 33 all in the same room. He proves his intelligence by surmising everything that’s going on: that Skye was saved because she can touch the Diviner, that Cal wants him killed, that Ward can’t be trusted (but he thinks he can make Ward “comply”; good luck). And indeed, Skye touches the Diviner, and survives. Her brief escape attempt is quickly thwarted, however.
Whitehall’s about to do bad things to Skye, to remove her gifts like he did with her mother, when Coulson and May arrives at the bunker. Whitehall goes to investigate. Cal appears ready to transform into Mr. Hyde, leaving Skye behind because it’s safer. He reaches Whitehall, ready to attack, but the moment is stolen from him by Coulson, who shoots down Whitehall, apparently killing him. I don’t blame Cal for being angry; this was his moment of revenge. I’m also kind of ticked at Coulson; I wanted to see the Mr. Hyde transformation, or wanted to see a more satisfying end to Whitehall, if this is indeed the end for who seemed like this season’s Big Bad. Cal reacts by beating the pulp out of Coulson, the two fathers in Skye’s live fighting to the death.
Ward frees Skye, and she rewards his efforts by shooting him about a billion times in the side. “Never turn your back on the enemy. You taught me that,” she says, as Ward bleeds out on the floor. YEAH. Skye arrives just in time to save Coulson, calling Cal “Dad” to stop him. She sends Cal away (or else), refusing to go down the hole with the Obelisk. Cal respects her wishes, but before he does, he reveals Skye’s real name: Daisy. That means Skye is Daisy Johnson, AKA Quake, who is indeed Mr. Hyde’s daughter in the comic books. She gets her powers from the “Hyde formula” in the books, but that’s thankfully been altered here.
For whatever reason, this inspires Skye to go against exactly what she said, going after Raina down into the temple. She meets up with Mack, who is still evil/controlled, but leads her to the temple, presumably because she’s one of the worthy. Coulson goes down after them, because he’s the hero, and quite frankly, “wants to see what all the fuss is about,” the voice of the audience. This is right after Trip and company have successfully dialed up the bombs to explode. So naturally, Trip goes after them to deactivate the bombs, because Trip is the perfect, selfless human. Gulp.
Skye reaches the temple, where Raina has the obelisk, ready to put it on the pedestal of alien-ness. Before Skye can stop her, the Obelisk activates itself, flying from her hand onto the mount. Then the temple starts closing in. Before it shuts, Trip slips in. Coulson’s unable to, blocked by Alien Bodyguard Mack and, you know, rock/underground infrastructure.
That’s when $#*! goes down. Raina and Skye each become enveloped by stone, petrified like Isabelle Hartley and anyone else that has died by touching the Obelisk. Trip tries to stop it, kicking the Diviner into oblivion like Jean-Claude Van Damme. But he pays for his heroism with his life, as he’s similarly petrified. And unlike Destiny’s children, he’s not escaping. The stone cracks around Skye and Raina, as they emerge from their Terrigenesis cocoon, now changed, suggesting that they’re now Inhumans, changed by the MCU equivalent of the Terrigen Mists. Or at least the Earth offshoot. I expect the Inhumans Attilan and Terrigen Mists to be on a slightly grander scale. Even so, immediately afterwards, the temple is crumbling, likely because of Skye’s new earthquake powers. We have no idea how Raina is changed, as she continues to be the show’s X factor and most mysterious character. I’m sure the flower dresses had some purpose.
Tear time: Trip’s reduced to dust in the aftermath, and the fan-favorite has perished before he ever got a chance to reach his true potential. The show arguably needed to have tragedy hit, with many deaths reversed already in 1.5 seasons, but this one hurt. Trip was a soldier of the highest order, with an intriguing Howling Commando back-story that was never explored, as well as romantic chemistry with Gemma Simmons. Instead, he’s another agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a startling brief shelf life. Trip got lost in the shuffle this season, reduced to stereotypical one-liners that somehow worked because B.J. Britt bleeds charm. Hopefully we’ll see Triplett again in the MCU, whether in One-Shots, flashbacks, or otherwise. My prediction? He’s added to Agent Carter as Gabe Jones, Trip’s grandfather and founding member of the Howling Commandoes, originally played by Derek Luke in Captain America: The First Avenger.
While it’s gonna take awhile to get over Triplett’s death, there’s so much more to ponder. I love that Agent 33, now without Whitehall to steer her around, saves Ward, promising a weird good/evil Team Rocket to plague SHIELD throughout the rest of the season.
Plus, we’re not getting rid of the Diviner so easily: there’s more than one, as we learn when another lights up, and is held by a man with no eyes, who explains to someone on the phone that there’s “Someone new. Tell them I’m on it.” Somebody, presumably not Hydra, is interested in Skye and Raina and the Inhuman business. They’re likely Inhumans themselves.
We won’t get the answers until Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, March 3 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. In the meantime though, we have a pretty great consolation prize: Agent Carter.