It’s time to power up the Obelisk and kill a few folks as Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. signs off until March 2015.
Let’s bitch it out…
Huh. I’m of two minds about that fall finale.
Part of me feels like this was a solid summative piece, nicely encapsulating a number of recurring plot points and paying off several big character arcs.
The other part of me feels like it was one big tease, with the only truly significant thing happening in those final moments as the walls close in and we finally get the pay-off on the title ‘What They Become’.
A lot of this has to do with a confirmation and/or denial of expectations. Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t exactly known for its twists and turns. This second season has excelled at being consistent: consistently interesting, consistently engaging and consistently character-based (something S1 struggled with until its post-Winter Soldier episodes). That’s not to say that SHIELD doesn’t take risks;simply that more often than not what we imagine will happen, does happen.
And so we see Ward (Brett Dalton) escape with Agent 33 (Ming-Na Wen), despite being shot three times at close range. We see Kyle MacLachlan’s Doctor go apeshit on Whitehall (Reed Diamond) only to miss his opportunity to revenge. We have charges set in the tunnels of the alien city which are turned off moments before they explode. And, in true fall finale fashion, a member of the team falls…
I suppose that I should be surprised that it is Triplett (BJ Britt) who dies instead of Mack (Henry Simmons), but I’m not. The same issue that I raised last week with Mack can just as easily apply to Trip. What was disappointing about Mack potentially dying last week is just as disappointing with Triplett; neither of them have been used effectively this season so killing them off feels like a weak attempt to infuse the drama with “stakes”. It’s hardly stakes, however, when you kill off a character that has barely existed on the periphery for 10 episodes. It just feels poorly executed.
The details surrounding Trip’s death are by far the most interesting aspect of ‘What They Become’. As soon as Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) father agrees to leave because he believes that she will return after she is “changed” it was clear that the writers have to either go for it or disappoint fans. The idea of something alien altering Skye has been giving me Angel flashbacks since it was introduced and thus far the comparison is apt. On S5 of The CW show, main character Fred (the wonderful Amy Acker) was infected by alien dust, died and returned as a completely new character, Ilyria. It was easily one of the best creative decisions the show made and while I doubt that SHIELD will go quite as far, Skye is altered before episode’s end. Unlike Raina’s (Ruth Negga) bird-like complexion, it’s not clear yet who or what this new Skye is. Does the force she expel offer a hint or is that simply a result of breaking off the cocoon-like exterior the Obelisk coated her in?
Unfortunately for Trip, as soon as he raced into the room his fate was sealed. We knew from Mack’s reaction last week and previous encounters with the Obelisk that humans who do not have the right moxie don’t make it. Trip’s rage when he mistakenly believes Skye has died puts him in contact with the Obelisk and just like that he turns into a dusty husk. Chloe Bennet gives good cry face as she realizes his fate, but by this point the intention is to end the episode on a cliffhanger, so there’s no time to process his passing. I guess we’ll have to wait to see how the others react to new Skye and dead Trip when the show returns in March.
- Most of the other team members have relatively unmemorable roles to play: Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) get some time in the field setting up bombs, Hunter (Nick Blood) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) continue to flirt, May follows Coulson (Clark Gregg) around until he needs to be alone so that he can get his butt kicked. It’s “action-packed” but lacking any kind of real excitement.
- Ditto for the plane maneuver that opens the episode. There’s so clearly no real danger and the Hydra agents are paint-by-numbers dumb to believe they were successful. If nothing else, this just felt like an opportunity to show off the increased FX budget.
- Better is the slow-mo reveal of Skye’s rebirth. Sure the cocoon looks fake and the slow-motion is a bit cheesy, but it’s hard to deny that Skye’s forceful return “pops”. There’s a clear suggestion that the team (and show) has its first real superhero.
- Are we all in agreement that Whitehall isn’t dead? I fully expected the mysterious man in the coda to be him, alive and well, but I can’t imagine that Whitehall was killed by a few mundane bullets. If he is actually gone, that will be deeply disappointing.
- The expanded background on the Doctor and Skye’s history is interesting, but doesn’t really add much that we don’t already know. More often than not I found myself overly distracted by MacLachlan’s sweaty brow. Was that an artistic decision or was this episode just filming on a really hot day?
- Bobbi (after telling Hunter not to die): “He likes to hear it.” Hunter: “Who doesn’t?”
- Raina (as the walls close in): “I gotta admit, I’m just the tiniest bit nervous.”
- Coulson (as Mack attacks him): “Seriously? Again?”
Your turn: did you anticipate that Skye would actually undergo a “change”? Were you glad to spend so much time on her backstory with her father? Are you surprised that Ward and Agent 33 got away together? Disappointed that Trip has died? What are Skye and Raina now and how does that tie into the mysterious blind-man in the coda? I’ve got my suspicions, but I’d like to hear your thoughts below.
Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now on hiatus until March 3, 2015. In the interim, Marvel’s Agent Carter fills in the Tuesday 9pm EST timeslot on ABC, so we’ll see you back here Jan 6 for its debut. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to mark your calendars for the fourth annual Bitch Awards. The fun begins Monday, Dec 22!