Agents of SHIELD Season 2 Recap, Episodes 21-22: ‘S.O.S.’
Welcome back to the ComicsAlliance post-show analysis for Agents of SHIELD, the spy show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is where we break down each episode using our unique S.H.L.E.I.D. recap system — recapping the show, looking at highlights and lowlights, and exploring the show’s relationship to both the comics and the wider Marvel movie world.
This week, Jiaying starts a war, everyone fights everyone else, but only the very unlucky fight Mockingbird. The casualties mount up, a family breaks up, and it looks like Phil Coulson might need a hand. 'S.O.S.' Part One was directed by Vincent Misiano and written by Jeffrey Bell; 'S.O.S.' Part Two was directed by Billy Gierhart and written by Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen.
Last week, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) shot herself to try to motivate her people to turn on SHIELD. This week she shoots her house. More accurately,, she has Gordon (Jamie Harris) do it with a stolen Quinjet. It's pretty convincing for the Inhumans, but not so much for SHIELD, who are able to work out that they lost a Quinjet. They're getting smarter. So after a brief tussle between Skye (Chloe Bennett) and May (Ming-Na Wen) that ends in a fault — Skye uses her Quake powers to take May down — the two teams return to their respective benches to decide what to do next.
Skye seems to have chosen a side, freaks before geeks, but she has her doubts, so she asks Raina (Ruth Negga) what's going to happen next. Raina basically straight up says, "Your mom is lying about everything, and I'm going to sacrifice myself to prove it," but Skye is all, "Ugh, your riddles are too hard," and stomps out.
Later, Raina confronts Jiaying, so Jiaying murders her (once you pop you just can't stop), and Skye happens to see it, and is all, "Oohhh, now I get it." But it's too late. Mom takes Skye prisoner and drags her along (for reasons that seem more plot-convenient than plausible) as her team infiltrates the SHIELD boatycarrier, first to seize control of the Kree gloop in the hold, and second to lure out all remaining SHIELD agents (Patton Oswalt) and dose them with terrigen crystals. Convert or die! (But you don't get to pick.)
PS. Jiaying has actually been murdering fools for years, as sucking the life out of people is how she heals. The More You Know. (She's not Selene, because Marvel doesn't have the rights to Selene, but she kind of is Selene.)
Meanwhile, Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) is in SHIELD custody, and even though SHIELD knows that he took a triple dose of Super Psycho Serum (mint flavor), they decide that having him on-site is just fine. What's he going to do? Use super-powers to break out? Ha ha ha, there's no such thing as...
So, he uses super powers to break out and distract the agents while Jiaying seizes the ship. Coulson (Clark Gregg) pins Cal to a wall with a car, and tells him, "If you really loved our daughter, you'd stop all this madness," and somehow that works, and Cal joins Team 'Human' on their mission to take back the boatycarrier.
While all this is going on, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) is being tortured by Ward (Brett Dalton) and 33 (Maya Stojan). Partly they torture her by sticking needles in her fingernails; partly they torture her by talking about how in love they are. It's cruel. Bobbi almost escapes, but in the end it's up to May and Hunter (Nick Blood) to come to the rescue. Unfortunately, Ward booby-trapped Bobbi's room (Bobbi-trapped?), so Bobbi has to lurch in front of a bullet to prevent Hunter's enviable cheekbones being blown off. Poor kicked-around Agent 33 also gets shot (to death) by Ward, after May tricks her into assuming her identity one! last! time!
On the boatycarrier, Mack (Henry Simmons) is having a little Die Hard moment, the only free man on a ship overrun by Inhoomz. He's armed with an axe, and we see it enough times to know that it will be Important later on. Mack rescues Skye, and Skye convinces Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) to switch sides, because he saw Jiaying terri-kill-isis a bunch of Hoomz, including that one SHIELD guy who looks like Orson Welles and whho doesn't get many lines.
Among the Inhumans is a woman who can create unlimited duplicates of herself (Alicia Vela-Bailey). Yes, she is the Multiple Man, but a woman, and also Marvel doesn't have the rights to Multiple Man, so she definitely isn't that either. Let's call her Multicia. Fun fact: The actor is also Bobbi's stunt double, which is why her high-kicks are so persuasive. (There is another super-powered Inhuman wandering around, a guy with super-strength, plus Gordon and Linc, of course, but surprisingly that seems to be about it for super-Inhumans.)
Much fighting ensues. Much confronting happens. There are two major bouts. First, Mack has to prevent Gordon from opening a crate of crystals by a ventilation shaft, which will get every human on board fatally stoned. Mack is eventually assisted by Coulson and Fitz (Iain DeCaestecker), and it's Fitz who manages to be in the right place at the right time to put a chunk of wood through Gordon's chest. Gordon dies, and drops a crystal from his hand. Coulson leaps (rather slowly, honestly) to catch it.
Coulson starts to turn to stone, and Mack... chops off his arm with Chekhov's axe.
The second big fight is a mother/daughter Bechdelian throwdown (two named women fighting about something other than a man), as Skye tries to stop her mom taking a bunch of crystals onto a Quinjet to 'change' the world. Jiaying has had enough of her daughter, and it turns out she's not a great mom; she tries to suck the life out of Skye. Skye retaliates by quaking the Quinjet and its cargo into the ocean, and Cal steps in to break his wife's back with the last of his super-strength.
Once all the dust is settled (bye, Coulson's hand!), the team rebuilds. Coulson is one-armed and considering, 'Can I pull off that Winter Soldier look but without the eye make-up and the sexy pouting?", May is taking a vaycay, Bobbi is in recovery and contemplating having a spin-off show (spoiler alert: she'll decide against it); Mack's back, baby; and Andrew the psychiatrist (Blair Underwood) makes recommendations for the next iteration of the team, which will include super-powered secret warriors.
As for the surviving villains; Ward is rebuilding HYDRA with a bunch of skinhead biker toughs, and Cal is building a veterinary practice after having his mind wiped by the TAHITI process. Well, it's what the families of his murder victims would have wanted, after all.
In the first of two kickers, we learn that no-one bothered to recover the terrigenesis crystals that fell to the bottom of the ocean, so they seep into the fish, and the fish find their way into fish oil capsules, so a lot of people are going to either die or get superpowers next season.
In the second kicker, Fitz summons the courage to ask Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) out for dinner. I actually can't remember what she said; it doesn't matter. Moments after he leaves the room, the Kree goo collapses, sucks her into its depths, and reforms into a placid monolith. Bye, Gemma!
All told, a sold end to the season, with plenty of momentum and lots of fun, quirky moments. The biggest highlight belongs to season MVP Adrianne Palicki for her awesome fight scene with Ward and 33. She loses, but she certainly gives it her all. (Credit has to be shared, of course, with Alicia Vela-Bailey, so it's nice that she got to play a featured role in these episodes.) It's easy to see why Marvel decided not to give Mockingbird a spin-off; she's too valuable to Agents of SHIELD.
Coulson losing an arm was a nice moment, and probably sets him up to get some sort of enhancement of his own. The show needs more super-agents, and I hope the promise of a Secret Warriors set-up next season is followed through, but I feel like this show has made similar promises plenty of times. Then again, this episode had quakes, electricity, Hulking out, duplicates, a teleportation fight, and a life-force vampire. The show seems to finally get what universe it's in.
Kyle MacLachlan deserves a special mention, for being the actor to tackle his supervillainy with the most gusto this side of Wentworth Miller on The Flash. I'll forever be sad that we never saw him in Mister Hyde's opera cape, but maybe he'll get another shot. (The transformed version of Cal just involved a pair of Hulk hands painted to match his skin tone, and maybe Gordon's conspicuous eye-flesh slapped to his forehead, so an opera cloak couldn't look any sillier.)
I've noted in the past that this show could learn a few things about superhero storytelling from Teen Wolf. The one trick I didn't want it to pick up was Teen Wolf's habit of killing its female villains and letting the male ones live, but, here we are, with two guys getting away and three gals breathing their last.
Jiaying, Raina, and 33 were some of this show's more compelling villains. They were all women of color, and they all died in this two-part finale. I'm grateful that the show has two women of color among its heroes, and a cast where the women are generally more interesting than the men, but killing three villainous women of color and letting two of the three the white male villains live (and in one case build a new life) is a bad look. (Gordon also died.)
I should acknowledge, though, that I was wrong to think the show was getting rid of Mack. He seems to be sticking around, and hopefully Weaver (Christine Adams) will stick around as well, as the only other survivor of Gonzalez' SHIELD.
The worst dialogue in the episode is this May/Hunter exchange:
"Could be a trap."
"Most of my marriage to Bobbi felt like a trap."
I like you, Hunter, but for the love of Those Who Sit Above in Shadow, give this shtick a rest. "Excuse me, sir, do you happen to have the time?" "Sure, mate. Time enough to look back with sadness on my troubled marriage to Bob." Stop it.
How did everyone know Gonzalez was dead? It was a fair guess, but at one point an agent just straight up declares it so, without any verification. Apparently a feeling in your gut is good enough intel for this intelligence operation.
Why did no-one retrieve the terrigenesis crystals from the bottom of the ocean? Isn't that the sort of thing you call in Iron Man for?
Do we have to suffer lost limb prosthetics next season? Here's the thing about faking a lost limb; it always looks terrible. From Arrested Development to Game of Thrones, missing hands on TV give the impression that the person's arm grew longer to compensate. Suddenly the person has one standard-issue limb, and one Caterpillar P-5000 Work Loader limb. Don't do it, Agents of SHIELD. Give Coulson that cyber-limb as fast as you can.
Is Simmons dead? No.
Are you sure? No. But, look; she may be gone awhile. The last person to get pulled into a box of black goop on this show was Graviton, and as I lamented last week, we never saw him again. I think Simmons will be back. The real question is, how will she be changed? Will she have weird powers, or just another case of trauma? Agents of SHIELD loves to give its regular characters three-episode psychological damage, and it kinda seems to hate giving them superpowers. But maybe season three is when everything turns around!
Haven't you been claiming it's all going to turn around for the last forty episodes? Yes.
The season's over; let's do the final count on comic book characters introduced by the show this season, in ascending order of greatness:
- Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond): Old school HYDRazi. Comic version wears a crab hat. TV version does not.
- Karla Faye Gideon (Drea de Matteo): Attached scalpels to her fingertips, and no-one at SHIELD could work out how to remove them.
- Angar the Screamer (Jeff Daniel Phillips): Wants to go faster.
- Absorbing Man (Brian Patrick Wade): Once fought Daredevil's dad! But not in this show.
- Agent 33 (Maya Stojan/Ming-Na Wen): Face-shifting super-spy. Deserved so much better.
- Whiplash (Falk Hentschel): The second, more smoldering MCU Whiplash. This guy should have been in every episode.
- Lance Hunter (Nick Blood): Say, did he ever tell you about his wife?
- Izzy Hartley (Lucy Lawless): This season's dead lesbian. Can't wait for next season's.
- Mister Hyde (Kyle MacLachlan): Gets his strength from eating scenery.
- Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki): She is the show your show could smell like.
Only ten? Who did I forget?
The second season is over, and it's a good time to answer a question often asked of me; 'Why do you recap this show if you hate it?'
The answer, of course, is that I expected to like it more. I didn't know what this show would be when I started, but I had high hopes; Marvel Studios hadn't disappointed me before, and hasn't significantly disappointed me since. I'm a life-long Marvel guy; I wanted this show to be great at least as much as Jeph Loeb did. But wanting doesn't make a thing good. At every turn, I hoped this show would improve, and sometimes it did, but it never met the levels of my initial expectations. (To be fair, it's generally been better than its earliest episodes.)
And it's not that I expected a different show. I wanted the best version of this show, the show about spies in the MCU, with guest appearances by aliens, Asgardians, science freaks, evil organizations, and secret communities of enhanced humans. The show has all the things I wanted; it just didn't apply them with ambition or commitment. Think what this show could have been if it had made the most of villains like Lorelei, Angar, or Crusher Creel.
When the second season came around, I should have dropped it. I'd have been happier, and the fans who hate-read these recaps would have been happier. But the end of the first season saw the show at its best, and for neither the first nor last time, I expected the show to find its feet.
For me, it never did.
I didn't want to quit half-way through the second season, especially as I don't think anyone else at the site wants to even watch this show, let alone take over writing about it.
But now the second season is done, and I can officially say; I quit. I'm not going to recap this show any more. I don't have the time, energy, or inclination. I'm free. You're free. It's over.
Enjoy the rest of the show.
Phil Coulson, you fascist cardigan, you have no more power over me.