While I will take issue with how we got here, the two-part season 2 finale for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. represents the high watermark point for the entire show, the highly satisfying and massive climax to a bumpy roller coaster ride. One could make the argument for several of Season 1’s show-saving stretch run, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier fallout and game-changing episode “Turn, Turn, Turn” and the season 1 finale “Beginning of the End” leading the pack, along with its stellar first half of season 2, culminating in the explosive mid-season finale, “What They Become,” but “S.O.S.” lived up to its name, saving our S.H.I.E.L.D.
So much insanity has happened leading up to this battle, with nearly everyone acting out of character for the sake of plot and conflict, but we begin with Jiaying, the leader of the Inhumans, declaring war on SHIELD, a bullet wound in her shoulder. Of course, she shot herself, after murdering Edward James Olmos’ Gonzales, who actually seemed to be taking peace seriously, despite all appearances to the contrary. This action marks a massive left turn for Skye’s Mom, who goes from enigmatic but seemingly benevolent leader to Big Bad, a transformation that feels surprisingly natural and satisfying, even if it leads to one-note villain territory by the end.
After seeing her mother shot, Skye’s ready to war with her former home, SHIELD, herself, as Skye continues her (understandable) ping-ponging allegiances. Thankfully, she’s not under false pretense for too long, and before she uncovers the truth, we get a great fight between her and her former CO, Melinda May. May, of course, wipes the floor with her, until Skye uses her quake powers, casting her out of Afterlife: “You’re not welcome.”
Jiaying’s shot heard round the mysterious Inhuman bunker wasn’t the only part of her plan, as Gordon and Nameless Strong Dude commandeer a quinjet and shoot into the city, perpetrating the belief that SHIELD has broken the peace talks. While this is ultimately explained, it’s an awkward beat, because we’re not really sure Gordon’s completely in Jiaying’s pocket at this point. But Gordon may as well be lining Jiaying’s pocket, for how completely he follows her vision for the future.
Speaking of visions, Raina has seen the future, and she warns Skye about Jiaying, that she’s misleading her people. Raina wanted to lead, wanted to kill Jiaying and Skye, but has accepted her fate: that she’s “the Thorn that protects the Rose, or in this case, the Daisy.” Raina’s destiny is to help Skye achieve hers: to lead the Inhumans. When Raina says that they will never speak again, you might as well start buying Raina’s departure flight off AOS. This isn’t particularly surprising, given she nabbed the co-lead in AMC’s Preacher next season.
Amid the impending crisis, Coulson is the only one trying to avoid escalation, as he has to constantly talk down Agents Weaver and Oliver, who are super annoying. Lincoln’s the Inhuman equivalent, accusing Skye of being in on SHIELD’s “treachery” from the start. Cal, however, is not annoying: he’s drank his vials, and is singing his Daisy song insanely onboard the quinjet. Cal is delightful.
Fitz and Hunter, meanwhile, are tracking Bobbi, who’s quinjet has gone missing. This is a throwaway prototypical “tracking” scene, but it’s wonderful, because Hunter and Fitz has been one of the most enjoyable pairings in the latter half of this season, and it also emphasizes how far Fitz has come. In the pilot, Fitz was imagining Simmons and talking to himself, and could hardly talk out loud. Now he’s finishing Hunter’s sentences in gloriously cute fashion. While every other character has been broken or bent or repurposed for the dumb SHIELD 2 subplot in some way, Fitz remains Fitz, the MVP of season 2.
Unless you wanted to make the argument for Grant Ward, who has easily become the series’ best villain, and is scaling up the ranks of MCU Villains every time I see his impeccably stubbled face. He has brought Bobbi to Agent 33, to interrogate her and bring her closure. Why? Because Bobbi is apparently the one that sent Cara to Hydra. To get her to admit her mistake, Ward breaks out the needles (last episode, Bobbi revealed she doesn’t like needles, but who likes needles?).
Ward combines paralytic and anesthetics in his torture of Bobbi, enabling him to dole out horrifying damage without Bobbi feeling it until later (which is just so creepy, clever and AH). But Morse doesn’t fold: she apparently had to sell out the SHIELD Safehouse location in which Agent 33 was located, in order to save dozens of lives. It was a difficult call, but one she’d make again. I love that she owns it, even if it’s kind of fucked up. Of course, why apologize when someone’s shoving needles under your fingernails?
Jiaying’s hurt and needs to heal, and apparently she does that by SUCKING THE LIFE FORCE OUT OF PEOPLE, a vampire succubi. Shittt. Afterwards, she implores Skye to join her side, that she’ll need her in the war ahead. Skye’s ready to join up, until walking in on her mother and Raina. Raina knows that Skye is the only person who can save the Inhumans, and knows that she did indeed become an angel after all, a guardian angel for her half-sister. A herald, even (but not a Herald), one who can show her people what Jiaying really is. Of course, Jiaying stabs her in the neck, killing Raina…but Raina was right: Skye saw the whole thing, thankfully realizing everything immediately. Unfortunately for her, she’s quickly knocked out by Gordon and The Unnamed Heavy.
Coulson and the rest of them also learn the truth about Gonzales, when they see footage of Gordon and strong guy (not to be confused with Strong Guy) attack their own people using SHIELD’s quinjets. He still manages to buy three hours from Weaver and Oliver before they retaliate against the Inhumans. Coulson comes to a freezing and jittery Hyde, who’s apparently taken a concoction that features every drug ever made (and a dash of peppermint!). The mixture could kill him, but it was worth the risk, because he’s there to take out as many SHIELD agents as he can.
It takes Hunter and Fitz way too long to figure out that Bobbi left with Agent 33 and not May, considering they know where May is, and they know Agent 33 is May whenever the plot mandates it (and you’d also think her cell would be empty). They figure Ward is behind it and as May puts it, “Ward’s logic is rarely logical.” He’s the Anti-Spock. Tired of his shit and Agent 33’s rampant identity theft, May teams with Hunter to save Bobbi, knowing full well they’re entering a trap of Ward’s own design.
And that trap is devastating. Bobbi tried to tell Agent 33 that Ward’s manipulating her, and while he totally is, clearly some part of him cares. She told him about the Dog, after all, Ward’s first murderous act on the road to Big Baddery. Ward confronts Bobbi…WHO GOES COMPLETELY BADASS, escaping her bonds and shoving needles into Ward’s head, leading to an incredible, brutal Daredevil-level fight between the two. It’s an even match until Agent 33 joins and turns the tide, Ward breaking Bobbi’s leg. He gives Cara a gun, offering a chance at a bullet laced closure. But she can’t do it, because she wants death. It wouldn’t help. So instead, the unpredictable, brilliantly evil Ward concocts his trap: chaining Bobbi to a chair, and beside her a gun geared to shoot the first person that enters the room to save her. The intent is clear: Bobbi will have to witness someone she loves die trying to save her.
Coulson, meanwhile, tries to foolishly save Cal when he flatlines. He removes him from the invisible bunker thing and takes him to med-bay, where Simmons thinks it’s a good idea to inject him with adrenaline. It, of course, is the final touch, what kickstarts his strength-seeking formula, FINALLY becoming Mr. Hyde. Unfortunately, he looks like a live-action version of the Croods, or take your pick: a Monstar, a neanderthal Herman Munster, a remnant from the Geico Caveman ad campaign, Quasimodo? Whatever your choice, it’s unfortunate how awful he looks, because his transformation was something teased all season. I understand why it’s crappy though: it’s on a TV budget (though Buffy‘s monsters always looked pretty damn good and that was 15 years ago) and they didn’t want to take away Kyle MacLachlan’s face and ability to emote, because he’s the best actor on the show.
Back on the helicarrier, the Inhumans invasion begins, with more nameless “gifted” people boarding the ship, including a plot convenient multiple woman that would make Jamie Madrox angry/horny. Of course, a self-made army is the only thing that could take down Mack, who has some of the best and most badass moments of the finale, making up for any and all of his Shadow SHIELD/alien racism bullshit, as the next episode becomes Mack & Axe vs. All, and it’s a decidedly even fight.
Of course, it also helps that Jiaying has brought Skye along with her on the ship, for no viable reason. But it doesn’t look like it’ll matter when she breaks out a briefcase of Terrigen crystals. “We begin,” she hisses, as we head into Part 2.
Mr. Hyde starts his rampage, but it doesn’t get very far: Coulson slams him with a car, and reinforces it with added weight to prevent him from escaping. This is when we put it all together, that Cal has just been a pawn of Jiaying’s all along, acting on his wife and the mother of his child’s behalf. As Coulson says, “Your wife made you do it,” trying to talk him down. Cal thinks he’s a monster, Buster Bluth style, but he’s not. He has a big heart like his daughter, there’s good in him worth salvaging. I love this moment, as Skye’s two father figures finally connect, even if it’s a little too convenient to blame Jiaying for all of Cal’s actions (blame the woman!). But it’s a well-earned twist that makes us feel for Cal even more than we already have, a testament to a truly stirring guest turn by MacLachlan. As Cal says, Jiaying was never the same after he “reassembled her” piece by piece. She used to have a big heart like the rest in his family, but Whitehall tore it out. Now she must take lives to heal…but it was never enough to heal her heart.
Then, he shoves the car aside, ready to help Coulson’s cause and save Skye.
Though Mack doesn’t need any help doing everything: “it’s you and me tremors,” he says as he frees her. Mack’s not completely down with her, but he needs her skills. But she has inhibitors on, man! Not those skillz: HACKER SKYE is back, y’all. Because we’re all nostalgic for Season 1 Skye. Somehow, I kind of was.
Jiaying does some house cleaning for us, murdering Agent Oliver with one of the crystals. This gives Lincoln second thoughts, because it’s a little too evil for his tastes, and we’re supposed to care for his feelings.
But no subplot had my attention more than the one involving Bobbi, Hunter and May. The entire episode could’ve been Hunter playing Russian Roulette with doors, looking for his former, future and present lover. It was so simple but effective, as he searched the compound, while Bobbi tries to inch her way in front of the gun.
Then ABC unleashes what might be the best minute of the entire show or episode, when Hunter enters, and Bobbi takes a bullet. At first, I thought it was in her skull, but it was in her shoulder/back, an injury nearly every important TV character could survive from. But it still had crazy impact, as Hunter held Bobbi in her arms. This is followed up by May’s cunning decision to radio a fake rendezvous in a sector where Ward had cleared out all of their soldiers. She knew Agent 33 would hear this and take on May’s face, and the tragic result is Ward killing his beloved, believing her to be May. It was surprisingly moving, and a crazy cold-blooded maneuver by May, but a necessary one. RIP Agent 33, a character that had one of the saddest arcs in the entire show. She was a random but plenty competent SHIELD agent who got captured, brainwashed, lost her face, and then fell in love with a sociopath, losing herself completely, and then her life. Her story had run its course, but her contribution on the show will be missed.
After the events, May makes a call to Andrew, apologizing for not telling him everything she should have. It’s forced and kind of wedged inbetween the seams of the episode, but Whedon and Tancharoen clearly wanted May to finally come to grips with The Cavalry events.
In a moment reminiscent of Ramon Cisco science-ing off-camera, Fitz has created a quantum entanglement device, which should impinge Gordon’s teleporting ability. He’s going with Coulson and Cal-Hyde into a certain trap (just once I’d love to see a team turn around when they sniff out a trap), but before he does, Simmons comes to him. She wants to talk about what happened underwater on the boat. Fitz’s reaction is perfect, even if it’s the writers playing a cruel tease (it’ll only get way way worse) with the audience: “This. Now?” as he’s about to risk his life. “There’s nothing to talk about,” he says, gathering his things. Before he leaves, Simmons grabs his arm: “Maybe there is.” AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, FitzSimmons. It’s incredible how much I WANT this, even though for the greater part of a season, it’s been crickets and bad Simmons characterization. Desire only grows more potent in its absence.
Skye convinces Lincoln of the truth, and just when she’s getting to him, Mack drops him, because Mack gives no shits about anyone. Mack is fucking Rambo right now, and it’s awesome.
Where’s Deathlok? I guess ABC shot their J. August Richards load previously, and it’s not like there’s room for Deathlok, but you could obviously use a cyborg when you’re walking into a death trap promising Terrigen crystal gas through the vents.
These two hours had SO SO many great moments, but this one might be my favorite. Gordon and Mack meet in a corridor. “Gordon, right?” Mack asks. “Who are you?” Gordon asks. “I’m the guy who kills Gordon,” Mack says, and it’s the best line of the entire show. And hilariously, a second later, Gordon teleports behind him and punches him in the back of his head. So it won’t be easy…but it’s certainly awesome, as Fitz and Coulson join the fray, Fitz running around setting up his de-teleportation devices. “Science, beyotch!” Fitz says, when Gordon can no longer escape.
Meanwhile, Skye gets a pretty impressive, slo-mo heavy bout with the Ginger Ninjas (the Multiple Women moniker given by Mack). Lincoln joins the fight when he sees Melinda May do a very River Tam pose. Unfortunately, “more redheads are coming,” something I wouldn’t typify as a problem per se. Hilariously, Lincoln’s like, “we gotta take down the source,”and uses his electric power to shock and knock out the Original Ginger Ninja with ease.
Cal goes to Jiaying, and tries to talk her down, hoping to reunite his family, one last time. It doesn’t work, as Jiaying locks him up, at least temporarily.
Then the episode goes supernova:
Skye approaches her Mother, who’s about to Terrigen the hell out of the helicarrier, trying one last time to talk her out of it. But Jiaying decides it’s the right time to quote Darth Vader in a gender-swapped Star Wars scene. But there’s no last minute heroism from Jiaying, as she starts STEALING THE LIFE OUT OF SKYE. Fortunately for Skye, her powers CAN’T BE INHIBITED, and a quake frees her from her mother’s death grip. Then Jiaying TRIES again, stealing her life force again. Jesus Jiaying, calm down. Skye’s going to go Quake crazy, but Cal intervenes. He doesn’t want her daughter to carry that burden, so he gives his wife a Hyde Hug, which crunches her bones into dust, killing her instantly.
The fight with Gordon is terrifying, but it’s Fitz, not Mack, who deals the final blow, a pipe impaling Ol’ No Eyes. Except, Gordon has one last contingency: a Terrigen Crystal, that drops from his hand. That’s when Coulson goes ESPN Top 10 Plays, making a diving catch, saving them all from death. But perhaps he sacrificed his own: his hand begins to ash, smoke and blacken, spreading down his arm…is Coulson going to die again? NOT TODAY. Mack’s axe hacks off Coulson’s forearm, ending the Terrigen Death Stream with one clutch cleave. Hoo boy. Mack MVP of this episode.
How do you follow that up? Even the aftermath is heavy, Doc, as we get a glimpse at what’s next for our surviving heroes and villains next season:
- Coulson’s taking his missing limb in stride, sarcastically saying that Mack didn’t ask him before chopping it off, which is why he didn’t quit. Now he’s in charge of alien artifacts, his healthy mistrust coming in handy, working with FitzSimmons in studying/safeguarding the Kree Goo.
- Andrew, May’s ex, may not be her ex anymore, and he’s now Coulson’s official therapist, hinting at an expanded role next season, and a potential love triangle.
- May, however, has asked for time off, for the first time ever. She’s actually smiling as she’s packing her bags…but she’s not stupid, and never not May: she grabs a gun. She’ll obviously be back.
- Morse is alive, but isn’t stable, surgeries aplenty in her future. But Hunter is by her side, both of them calling the other stupid, as it should be.
- Cal and Skye have a touching goodbye. Cal knew he didn’t have a Hollywood ending in his future, and is clearly so thankful to have met his daughter, who’s better than he imagined her to be. And he imagined her perfect. Aww. It’s heartbreaking, as Skye promises to visit in his prison or…
- …his veterinary clinic, as Cal has undergone the Tahiti Program. Skye visits her father, introducing herself, the pair starting over. This is poignant, but fucked up. Did Cal enter the Tahiti Program willingly? If so, it seems out of character. He surely regrets his actions, but he saved Skye and got to know his daughter. Did Skye make the decision for him? If so, that’s kind of fucked up, robbing her Dad of his memories without his permission. It’s certainly one way to put Kyle MacLachlan on ice, but we probably haven’t seen the last of him.
- After List, Bakshi, Stucker, etc. have fallen, another head of Hydra hasn’t popped up. There’s no one to lead the remaining Hydra agents across the globe. Except…well, Ward, who misses having a team. His plan? “Closure.” Shivers, man. (Even if I’m tired of Hydra, the ever fascinating Ward will likely rejuvenate the whole concept)
- The Terrigen Crystals fell into the ocean, and are apparently eaten by fish, which are caught by fisherman, and then put into Fish Oil. Which means…we have an epidemic on our hands. Will this kill everyone who uses Fish Oil? Give powers to everyone? Or just make Fish Oil that much more effective? Also, if it’s in the water, technically isn’t everyone screwed?
- Skye’s taking a leadership role with the Inhumans, or at least, within SHIELD and their facilities to help the Gifted. The program must be anonymous and secret, which we know won’t last through Civil War. Until then, and until Coulson gets a new robot arm (hopefully not Ultron tinged), Coulson’s getting shotgun, Skye driving Lola, leading the way into season 3, an all-new, all-different direction for a complicated, inconsistent but always fascinating show. See ya next year.
- Oh wait, sorry I have to break everyone’s heart first, in a moment that will remind viewers of Fred and Wesley in Angel. While working with the Kree Goo, Fitz adorably asks Simmons out for dinner. He leans on the structure and something clicks, and then he leaves Simmons to make her mind. Simmons, grins, clearly going to go on a date, clearing going to bring happiness to the universe…until the Kree Goo escapes its glass prison and envelops her, swallowing her back into its stone form. Whatever happens next, it’s clear: we’ve seen the last of the Gemma Simmons we know, as we’re assuredly entering Dark Willow/Phoenix/Ilyria territory, as this Kree weapon has the power to incapacitate the Inhumans in their entirely. Whatever version of Simmons we see when she gets spit back out…she just might not make that date with Fitz. There’s a long journey ahead for FitzSimmons shippers, ie. everyone who watches this show.