Tweetable Takeaway: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s focus on “game-changing” reveals renders a characterless winter finale that’s only “okay.”
Airtime: Tuesday at 9ET on ABC
By: Dana Leigh Brand, Contributor
After being mercilessly menaced on Twitter by the entire cast and crew for a week, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.’s winter finale “What We Become” doesn’t live up to the hype. It was good, but it wasn’t amazeballs, screaming at the top of my lungs, freaking out good like last week. Last season’s winter finale suffered from the same issues: it ended so catastrophically that I didn’t really care. What are the stakes if literally everyone is in deadly peril? You know they can’t all get wiped out.
For so much going on, nothing really happens. The first forty minutes or so is setup and exposition. May and Tripp pull some fancy flying moves to get rid of Hydra missiles which, for me, was the high point of the episode. Blessedly, Mack-trauma at least gets us Fitz and Simmons gabbling science at one another and working together again, though they still seem prone to hurt each other more than anything. (Come on, guys, seriously. I love you to bits but even I’m getting tired of you not talking to each other about the shit that’s really bothering you both.) Bobbi digs through the debris of Mack’s garage for a USB drive she tries to hide from Hunter (he calls her on it but doesn’t actually care what she has up her sleeve.) The team splits up into their assigned units: Bobbi, Hunter, Coulson, and May are going to storm the place Whitehall has set up camp; Fitz, Simmons, and Tripp are sent to set up bombs in the underground temple. Skye meets her father who kindly, finally, tells us his name (Cal) and then spends a solid ten minutes telling Skye what we already know about her family. MacLachlan and Bennet are fun to watch, sure, but really, guys? What exactly did we gain from that? He also, later, drops Skye’s actual name: Daisy. That’s cool, except anytime I hear “Bicycle Built for Two” I only think of Hal 9000 so hopefully they intended for that to increase the creep-factor.
Action/stakes ramp up when Whitehall figures out Skye’s relation to Dr. Crazycakes and ties up pretty much everyone. Coulson’s team storms in while FitzSimmons and Tripp set up bombs in the corridors below. Unfortunately, all this action leaves little time for anyone to be more than a plot device. I’m not sure what all they could have done besides run around checking off their action/tension boxes, but I felt completely disconnected even from my science goobers. Long story short: despite best efforts, everyone and everything that shouldn’t be in the temple of the underground alien city ends up there anyway, alien hoodoo occurs, and the whole thing starts to crumble, sparking a giant quake (*cough*seebelow), and everyone in peril.
Quick Google search of “marvel daisy” renders up who Skye is (father conveniently named “Cal”). And Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. already has a better origin story for both of them than those fascinatingly reprehensible wiki-summaries of their comic book origins. Raina, on the other hand, appears to have sprouted some sort of quills all over her body. I don’t even care enough to try and research that one. I’m sure they’ll tell me when they feel like it. I meant to get to this last week but, well, things got hectic and I got crazy (I’m better now) so it’s as good a time as any. If you’re like me and avoid the time/money/annoyance sink that is comic books but have a bad addiction to comic book films, when Marvel released their massive movie dump a few months ago you just stared at your screen (when you were done squealing) and said “wtf is The Inhumans.” I will spare you the inevitable wiki-dive: as far as I can tell, the Inhumans are an ancient Kree experiment with human genetics. Which sounds like at least one person that we know. This is teetering towards Guardians of the Galaxy territory, and I gotta say: I didn’t think GotG was that great. There’s Marvel fluff (galactic soap opera) and there’s Marvel “holy balls this is good” (with sci-fi elements just the other side of unreal) and I prefer the latter. I feel like I’m watching the sad transition from the style I like to the style I’m never that thrilled with.
Whitehall I will miss. Reed Diamond menacing around the globe with his Nazi scientific amorality was super-fun, and he also was a perfect representation of Hydra as our team’s antagonist. I’m wary of shifting the villain focus away from Hydra, mostly for selfish personal reasons. The series got good when the Marvel-Nazis split from main S.H.I.E.L.D., simultaneously giving the show strong definable conflict and absolving the heroes of all culpability for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s more morally questionable acts. Also, the closer we keep things tied to Captain America the happier I will be–this is a proven phenomenon. I’m presuming Kyle MacLachlan (/”The Doctor”/Cal) is now our Big Bad. I’m going to have to see what style of villaining he goes with before I pronounce judgment.
I can’t tell you how much I wanted there to be an Infinity Stone in that damn Obelisk. (See, I still pay attention to the fluff.) But, surprise, there’s more than one Obelisk anyway. Seems like they’re just keys to turning Inhumans into Inhumans.
Mack and Bobbi are into some sort of secret, unauthorized business that I suspect has to do with all the tech they keep fielding from the remains of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Bobbi was into [whatever it is]with Hartley (the long-lost Lucy Lawless) and “doesn’t want Hunter anywhere near it.” Okay, girl. Bobbi also still has those dangling mysterious threads about what she did to get in good with Hydra. Pom-poms and cheers for Bobbi staying interesting.
Mack, praise the lawd, is as okay as one can be while trapped in a collapsing ancient alien structure. Last week, I was with Bobbi: getting an alien infection and a 100-foot drop onto solid rock tends to spell “TOTALLY DEAD.” I’m glad he’s not. Tripp, however, spent this season sitting on his butt or getting killed. I feel cheated. He had so much potential that we never explored. Maybe our new Super Girl will reverse the flow of time (or something), reconstitute his crumbled bits, and de-rock him. Tripp was also the never-drawn hypotenuse of Simmons’ love triangle (which isn’t even a thing. Do not get me started on the workings of Fitz and Simmons because we will be here all night.) If he doesn’t get un-stoned, well, at least he got to go out being flamingly awesome while barely healed from his last brush with death. He would also be our first A-Team S.H.I.E.L.D. fatality (though not the first casualty, Fitz.)
It’s almost as if they’ve fallen back into their own first season trap. The plot got so grandiose that the characters became irrelevant. And that’s hard to do this season because I adore every single one of them with all my heart. Sure, they talked it up like this was a “game-changer” of an episode. I suppose it is, what with people getting super powers and all. But really, I’d rather get back to the place we’ve been since Hydra came to light where even when the plot is foremost, we still get to hang out with the characters. Hopefully, all this destroying-Puerto-Rico business will give them a stage upon which to shine. I feel like, in theory, all the plot business of this episode (all five-minutes of plot business) should be pretty damn cool, but the execution left me completely apathetic.
I was anticipating needing sedation or cryostatis until March when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comes back, but after this I think I’m good. Rather than leave me hanging they’ve just left me tired. Season 2 was chugging along so hard and so perfectly this episode feels like I’ve been slammed into a brick wall. I’m looking forward more than ever to Agent Carter where hopefully they can’t push things so over-the-top that I stop caring.