Agents of SHIELD hit the mid-season mark (and the beginning of a long winter hiatus) with an actual possible game-changer this week, leaving several characters in a severely altered state, and not all of them because of the secrets of the disco doorstop. Mysteries were resolved, shots were fired, and things will never be the same again (because change is the nature of existence, duh).

'What They Become' was directed by Michael Zinberg and written by Jeffrey Bell. As is tradition, I will subject it to my usual 'S.H.L.E.I.D.' recap process, and somewhere in there I'll offer you the shortest mea culpa you'll ever see about a nasty thing the show did last week that it sort of undoes this week, in the most dickish way imaginable!

  • S is for STORY

    As we left the team last week, Coulson (Clark Gregg) planned to blow up Schmattilan, the secret lost Schminhuman city below San Juan; and Whitehall (Reed Diamond) had given the order for his HYDRAplanes to shoot down the Wingycarrier.

    Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) quickly takes care of that cliffhanger, using cloud cover and cloaking tech to fool HYDRA into thinking it blew up the plane. Then it's back to the SHIELD field (their temporary camp outside San Juan) to rendezvous with Coulson and plot (a) the rescue of Skye and (b) the bombing of an ancient mysterious city of extraordinary cultural, intellectual, and scientific value to humanity. So heroic!

    Meanwhile, HYDRA is holed up in a fancy villa (they put the villa in villain), where Ward (Brett Dalton) introduces Skye (Chloe Bennett) to her father, Kyle MacLachlan (Kyle MacLachlan).

    This is a big deal. Skye has been looking for her father for a long time, though clearly she cooled on the idea since learning he's a murderous psycho. Kyle has been looking for Skye for even longer, and is so excited to finally see her again that he babbles and weeps and says he wants to give her almond cookies. So now we know what type of food the fans of this show are going to send to ABC in huge numbers when it eventually cancels this show.

    Kyle introduces himself as "Cal", which is so close to "Kyle" that it was almost a beautiful moment, but alas, it was not to be. Cal does not get the warm reception he was hoping for from his daughter. Skye, bless her, actually thinks all the murdering he's done is wrong. There's still some use of a moral compass on this show.

    Still, Cal MacLachlan beseeches his daughter, telling her how sorry he is he couldn't protect her growing up or teach her "about the stars." He says that her mother was "special", and takes pains to stress that he doesn't mean this in a gooey-eyed romantic way. She was legit special. This is the Marvel Universe; a gentle manner, a lovely singing voice, or sensitive eyes are not going to cut it for "special."

    Cal/Kyle explains that Mom was a descendant of the chosen Kreeple, and so is Skye, and she'll find out her special "gift" soon enough. He tells her -- and I'm paraphrasing -- "this is why you're here as a prisoner of Daniel Whitehall, who cut up your mother, by the way, and that reminds me, I must go and kill Daniel Whitehall."

    Oh, and he hums "Daisy, Daisy," because that is a clue. A clue so blatant and transparent that it could only be offered up in the very same episode that actually reveals what it's a clue to.

    Meanwhile; the ass-kickingly competent members of SHIELD -- Morse (Adrianne Palicki), Hunter (Nick Blood), May -- are assigned to bring back Skye and stop HYDRA drilling a hole into Attilan, with Old Man Coulson thrown in for good measure. The brainiacs, Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) -- babysat by Trip (B.J. Britt) -- don hazard suits to set bombs in Attilan without triggering its defense systems, because everyone knows ancient alien technology cannot detect onesies.

    Cal's plan to straight up murder Whitehall hits a snag when Whitehall drags Skye into the room and demands that League of Untrustworthy Stooges -- Cal, Ward, and Raina (Ruth Negga) -- explain why they're all so hung up on this Skye chick. Whitehall is no rube; he orders Skye to pick up the disco doorstop, having figured out that she's Cal's daughter. But Whitehall is a bit of a rube, because Skye uses the doorstop to insta-kill a HYDRA goon. Skye is also a rube, because she's surrounded by other HYDRA goons with guns, and an escape is not on the cards.

    Skye, Ward, and Cal are all identified as #TeamSkye. Ward and Skye are tied to chairs; Cal is slapped with one of Whitehall's little Claire's Accessories beads that allow Whitehall to electrocute him at will. But Whitehall's gloating is interrupted when the SHIELD agents raid the villa.

    With Whitehall gone, Cal promptly overcomes his electrocution bead, kills a guard, and goes after his nemesis -- only to have his moment of vengeance cruelly snatched away from him by Coulson, who shoots Whitehall dead.

    So Cal and Coulson have an old man fight instead.

    Meanwhile, specially trained SHIELD agent/HYDRA double agent Grant Ward is somehow able to overcome being tied to a chair (good effort though, Nazis), and frees Skye, because his brand of creepy idiot love knows no common sense.

    And Skye shoots him.

    A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    Skye then saves Fake Dad from being pummeled by Real Dad, and tells Cal to get out of here, you goober, or she'll kill him, you big sad puppy. He agrees to leave, but says she'll come back to him when she changes, because no-one else will understand. Oh, and he calls her "Daisy." We'll circle back to that.

    While Ward is dragged off by Agent 33 (Ming-Na Wen) to creep another day, Raina, Skye, and Coulson all head one by one into the underground city, where each of them runs into Zombie Mack, possessed by the spirit of Attilan. Because it's suddenly crowded in a city marked for demolition, Trip also goes into the underground city to disarm the bombs that he literally just got done arming. Honestly, some people.

    Raina finds the temple, which turns out to be just a plinth in a bare room. Imagine that scene at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but with a budget that says, "Can we simulate the unique beauty of concrete?" Skye catches up to Raina; Trip catches up to Skye. They all get trapped inside the temple chamber as the disco doorstep cracks open to reveal glowing crystals that create a fine mist, while Coulson is stuck outside dodging Zombie Mack.

    This turns out to be a good thing for Coulson. The crystal mist coats Raina and Skye with a crisp stony shell, and belatedly appears to do the same to Trip. Only, Skye and Raina's stone coating peels away, and Trip's... does not. Skye triggers an earthquake -- for you see, she now has earthquake powers -- and poor Trip crumbles to pieces.

    In the kicker, we see a second doorstop glowing in some guy's study. The fella calls a friend to say, "Are you seeing this? There's someone new." We pan up to see that the poor dear has no eyes.

    Who is he? No eye dear.

  • H is for HIGHLIGHTS

    So, that happened.

    Let's not be coy here; we all know what we saw. Skye (Daisy? Skysy?) and Raina were exposed to the Terrigen Mists, which awoke their Inhuman DNA and gave them superpowers. We have our first confirmed Marvel Cinematic Universe Inhumans -- and fairly solid evidence that there are other Inhumans out there, courtesy of Eyeless Joe.

    This not only introduces powers to the main SHIELD cast, with Skye likely to spend much of the back half of the season learning how to be a super-spy, but also expands the show's remit. We now have a hellmouth; a device through which multiple characters can be established as "super" without having to give each one a pesky distracting origin story. If SHIELD doesn't fully exploit that potential in the rest of season two, Heaven help them.

    The episode also featured some nice hamming from Kyle MacLachlan, especially when he declares the day he's reunited with his daughter and might get to kill his nemesis the "best day ever."

    Another big highlight; Skye shot Ward. That ought to serve as a clear and unambiguous statement; Skye and Ward is not endgame, it is not romance, it is not HYDRomeo and SHIELDiet. It's a nasty creep latching on to a woman who deserves better than his sick delusions of love.

    And if that's how the show plans to play this relationship, with Ward as Nazi LePew, I think there's dramatic potential there. I can more easily accept Ward as an interesting villain if I'm not expected to root for an unhealthy "will they, won't they" romance.

    I'm also sort of intrigued that he adopted Agent 33 as his henchwoman as soon as she was bereft at the loss of Whitehall. Until now, Ward has been a lackey; now he has a lackey. That moves him into a different villain league. On the other hand...

  • L is for LOWLIGHTS

    The Ward/Agent 33 relationship is another artifact of Ward's sickness. The woman was broken by her HYDRA brainwashing. She's a physically and mentally scarred replica of a woman Ward used to sleep with, and now she's imprinted on Ward as her new 'master.' That is the creepiest thing this show has ever done, and I'm a little afraid of the direction it might take.

    Another lowlight; At one point in this episode, Fitz goes off alone to plant one of the bombs, just to show that he's capable. This does not pay off in any way, which makes me wonder if this was meant to be resolution rather than set-up. Look, after stammering for nine episodes, Fitz can now plant bombs in antique cities. So glad we spent time on that storyline.

    Whitehall's death seemed a little abrupt, which of course was deliberate; he got a punk death rather than the operatic one Kyle MacLachlan had planned. It's also appropriate given how beige and boring Whitehall was as a villain. Still, I feel like we spent too much time with the character for how little consequence he ultimately had. But then maybe he's not dead? He has Skye's mother's superpowers, which turn out to be "ageing slowly", which is a really dull power for a really dull guy. But what if Whitehall has healing powers? What if Skye's mother still has healing powers? What if they're both still alive?

    Let's take a moment to note how incredibly boring that Inhuman temple was. A stone room with a plinth. They could not have done less. Come to that, look at the HYDRA goons' uninspiring costumes. The design on this show really aims low and misses.

    The biggest lowlight, of course, was the death of Tripp. Ah, here we are again...


    So here's my brief mea culpa; last week I complained about this show killing Mack, one of its two embarrassingly under-developed black guys. This week, he made a stunning recovery. In the closing minutes of the episode, the release of the Terrigen Mist seemed to wake Mack from his zombified state.

    Fourteen seconds later, Trip died.

    Yes, the show's other embarrassingly under-developed black guy died this week. So, take everything I said about Mack and apply it to Trip.

    Trip's death serves more of a point than his life seemed to; it establishes what happens when the mists hit a non-"special", and shows that the effects of the mist were contained to that one chamber -- we won't see Kamala Khan manifesting powers in New Jersey as a result of this exposure. I can see why the show had to kill someone here. I'm annoyed that the show never found a better use -- or storyline -- for Trip.

    (Edit: I'm told that maybe a piece of doorstop shrapnel was actually what turned Trip to stone. The scene was so murky that I didn't make this out, but if that's the case, I suppose the death of Trip serves less narrative purpose than I gave it credit for.)


    Meet Daisy Johnson, or as you know her, Skye No-last-name. Yes, Skye was secretly an established Marvel character this whole time -- or at least from the moment the showrunners got the approval to do this. In the comics, Daisy is a SHIELD agent with earthquake powers -- and now, so is Skye!

    Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell'Otto, Daisy Johnson is... well, there are no bad characters, so let's say Daisy is promising. A teenager with OMG the best SHIELD security clearance EVAR, who got to be head of SHIELD because she has violet eyes probably and is adored by Edward Cullen probably, she's never made much of an impact or picked up much of a following, which makes her the perfect character to throw to Agents of SHIELD. No-one on the movie side is going to miss Daisy Johnson -- or as I like to think of her, 'Other Maria Hill'. (Daisy is actually the first of the two largely indistinguishable female SHIELD directors with short dark hair to be established, but Hill has more traction.)

    Being Skye is actually the most interesting thing to happen to Daisy Johnson, and that tells you everything you need to know about that character.

    Fun fact: Daisy was modeled on Angelina Jolie's character in Hackers; Skye is also ludicrous fictional version of a hacker. It's all come full circle!

    Daisy Johnson's father is the villain Mister Hyde, created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. That means that Kyle MacLachlan is Mister Hyde, aka Dr Calvin Zabo, aka "the doctor," aka "Cal," which means his dramatic mood swings and hulk-outs suddenly make sense. One can only hope that Kyle MacLachlan will at some point don the character's familiar green opera cloak.


    What's Raina's new power? We saw Skye emerge from her stone cocoon and unleash her seismic fu; we didn't see much of Raina. Whatever she's become will presumably be the big reveal that kicks off the second half of the season. She may yet also prove to be an existing character.

    Will Skye start calling herself 'Daisy Johnson'? It would be sort of weird for her to do that given her relationship with her father -- and where would she pick up the name Johnson? It's neither her name nor her father's name, and it's probably not her Chinese mother's name. When is a Daisy Johnson not a Daisy Johnson?

    Who is the guy with no eyes? The popular theory seems to be that he's The Reader, a character created by Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman for the current Inhumans series. I'm not up-to-date with the book, but if this is The Reader, he may claim the record for the fastest book-to-screen adaptation of a Marvel character at three-and-a-half months.

    Are the Inhumans going to play into Age of Ultron? There's a good chance that the movie versions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will be Inhumans, since they can't be mutants. I'm curious to know how much freedom Agents of SHIELD will have to play around with this concept. As I've said before, I don't foresee a scenario in which Agents of SHIELD gets to be the tail that wags the Age of Ultron dog.