Agents of SHIELD – Season 2 Episodes 21 & 22
“S.O.S. Parts 1 & 2”
Another season of Agents of SHIELD ends and the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe takes a break from being on screens for a little while before Ant-Man comes out in July. Season 2 ends with a feature length finale entirely focused on the War between the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D. declared under false pretenses by Jiaying at the end of the last episode.
It’s a sticky situation for sure as Jiaying has made it look like S.H.I.E.L.D. have started this whole thing by meeting under a flag of peace and attacking. Of course the reality is far different as Jiaying killed Gonzales and shot herself to make it look like he attacked her. Couple this with commandeering a Quinjet to attack one of their buildings and it all doesn’t look so good for S.H.I.E.L.D.
I like how chaotic the opening to the episode is with both sides being really confused as to what’s going on. Coulson back at base is trying to control the situation but it deteriorates too quickly. It’s always good to see Coulson’s intelligence and faith in his judgement of others come into play as he immediately assumes that Gonzales would never do something like that. It’s too sloppy for him and isn’t something that Coulson thinks he would be associated with. The fact that he refuses to fire any shots without knowing more is as expected for his character.
As always the conflict was seen through the eyes of Skye as she tried to figure out where her allegiance would lie. We as the audience know both sides of it but we are also aware of the pieces that Skye is missing. Given the information that Skye has it’s easy to believe that she might make the decision that she does in terms of who to go with. She doesn’t know Gonzales well enough to trust him and so far has no reason to doubt her mother so siding with her makes a lot of sense. It’s a purely emotional decision but Skye is being pulled in so many different directions that it’s only natural.
Her fight with May once she chose was awesome. As good as Skye currently is she still can’t best the one who trained her. The fact that May starts off fighting one handed says a lot about the skill gap and Skye had absolutely no chance until she used her powers.
Skye continues to struggle with her decision which causes her to look for more answers from Raina who is all too happy to vaguely recount her visions. The information that is passed on turns out to be really accurate as we know it. Jiaying is misleading her people to fight a pointless War of her own making. The accuracy of the information here makes everything else she says all the more credible. I liked Skye’s impatience with the cryptic nature of the information as she has always been like that. It means that she doesn’t really listen to what Raina says and therefore is unprepared for it to actually come true. It also feeds into the fact that it’s an emotionally complex time for Skye right now and she’s not being as objective as she could be.
Chloe Bennet did a fantastic job of portraying the hurt Skye was feeling when she saw Jiaying kill Raina with her own eyes. That was the moment that Skye’s perfect family fantasy shattered around her and she realised that she had made the wrong choice. The pain was evident as Skye finding her family has been such an important thing for her development. Nobody likes to be lied to but it makes it worse when it’s your own family.
I found Jiaying’s transition into villainy to be a little on the unbelievable side. Not in the sense of her character motivations but in terms of Dichen Lachman’s performance. I found her change to be a little dubious. There should have been a bigger difference between her soft, understanding and motherly persona and her villainous general one. The duality of the character could have been an interesting thing to see especially as she switches tact when dealing with Skye vs. dealing with anyone else.
I can understand the motivation to protect her people from perceived threats but I was a little confused by her desire to unleash terrigen crystals on the whole world. I think global genocide is a little extreme for anyone to be seriously thinking about and I’m not entirely sure why she would want only the Inhumans to survive. There was a vague reference to wanting to build a new home but it didn’t come across clearly enough. I did like the reveal of her power to suck the life force from other people and offering that as an explanation of how she has lived for so long. It adds such a sinister edge to her abilities and gives them a price that comes a little too high.
On the other hand, the duality of Cal comes across perfectly. He seemed at his most unhinged in this episode as he sat there casually singing when being brought into custody. His physical transformation into full Hyde mode looked a little goofy especially since Kyle MacLachlan hammed up these scenes so completely that it was hard to take him seriously as a threat.
That being said the discussion he had with Coulson around doing the right thing was excellent stuff. Coulson has always been good at finding the emotional weak spot of people and exploiting it. In this case Cal’s is obvious since he adores Skye so much that using her as a bargaining chip is a good idea in terms of refocusing his energies onto something more productive. The dual nature of Cal’s psyche is best shown when he has Coulson by the throat but asks to accept his help.
Cal’s admission that Jiaying has changed over the years was really interesting. I like that it was a struggle for him to admit that to himself but it seems the extent of her mental corruption is quite extensive. It started innocently enough with elders sacrificing their life force so that she could live on but got worse as she stopped caring about other people and took the life force of an entire village just to heal herself without remorse. Even though the episode doesn’t really show us the extent of her villainy it’s still obvious from how people talk about her. It’s sort of against the show don’t tell mantra of writing but Kyle MacLachlan’s performance visibly sells how affected he has been by this.
The extended sequence on the aircraft carrier -or should that be downed HeliCarrier?- involving the invasion by the Inhumans was really impressive. The action was staged really well and there was always plenty of cool stuff to cut to. My personal favourite part of this was Mac doing his best John McClane impression as he worked to cause as many problems for the Inhumans as he could. I really appreciated that he only wanted Skye’s help for her hacker skills as they are sometimes forgotten about with her dramatic change in roles over the course of this season.
Mac is nothing short of a badass in this episode with so many awesome one liners. His reference to “Ginger Ninjas” being but one of these. He’s definitely very capable of taking care of himself and innovating on the fly so seeing how he manages to take advantage of the situation was really cool. I’m glad that he’s not really leaving as he’s a cool guy to have around.
Coulson and Fitz got some really cool moments here as well. I loved Fitz’ exchange with Mac about his plan to confine Gordon to one space. It was a nice callback to their friendship that has been developed over the course of the season and it was a genuinely funny exchange. Is Fitz over his brain damage now though? It seems to have gone away completely based on this and previous episodes. I was surprised that Fitz got the hero moment when he was responsible for Gordon’s death. It worked but was just surprising.
Coulson stopping the falling crystal was a great moment for him and the consequence of him losing his hand thanks to some quick thinking for Mac sums up the theme that nobody comes out of this season unscathed. I wonder what Coulson’s new arm will be next season. I’m hoping for an Iron Man arm but I doubt it. Maybe he’ll walk around with a Hulk fist from now on. I seriously doubt it but it’s fun to think about.
Jiaying’s actions do enough to turn her people against her. Lincoln is disgusted that she could murder the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with the Terrigen crystal and decides to help S.H.I.E.L.D. as a result. The moment where he reminded May that they’re not bad people but misled was a nice touch and showed that the situation isn’t at all black and white.
The whole War plot came to a really cool close on the deck when it came down to Skye’s family which was fitting considering that’s where it really started. Jiaying willing to steal her own daughter’s life force is a powerful indicator of just how far gone she is in terms of the value she places on lives that aren’t her own. She really has snapped but as I said above I wish that the episode had shown that a little more clearly. Skye defending herself by hitting Jiaying with the full force of her powers created a really cool situation. Jiaying was using Skye’s life force to heal from the damage that Skye was dealing, it seemed like a mutually assured destruction sort of situation and worked at showing Jiaying’s desperation to complete her mission as well as Skye’s determination to protect the world.
Cal stepping in so that Skye doesn’t have to suffer the trauma of killing her mother and assuming that responsibility for her was a nice coda to the whole thing. I imagine Skye won’t be unphased by the whole thing as it can’t be easy to watch your father kill your mother. It was a really poignant moment and absolutely delivered on bringing this familial relationship to an end.
It was great to see so many powers on display in this episode. From Lincoln’s electrical abilities to the woman who can multiply herself as well as Skye’s quake powers and the standard Gordon teleportation stuff. It felt like it was all a natural part of the world they live in and I hope the trend continues into the next season. As anyone who reads this website will know I really love super powers.
The most interesting aspect of the episode was Bobbi’s situation at the hands of Ward and Kara. It seems so appropriately insane for them to go to such lengths simply so that Kara could get an apology from Bobbi. Apparently when Bobbi was undercover at H.Y.D.R.A. she gave up the location of a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house in order to prove her loyalty. Unfortunately Kara was in that safe house and it led to the brainwashing that has her so completely messed up at this point. Bobbi reminds her that part of being in S.H.I.E.L.D. means taking the safety of many over a few and that is something that Kara should know. Deep down I imagine she knows that Bobbi is right but it doesn’t stop her wanting closure in the form of an apology.
Ward inflicting torture on Bobbi was really unnerving. The sight of the needles sticking under her finger nails was a little too much for me to take but I’m a little squeamish like that. It was definitely effective and the fact that Bobbi resisted shows how strong willed she is. I was worried that the show would attempt to redeem Ward this season so I’m really glad that they haven’t tried to do so. I much prefer him as a self interested loose cannon who behaves unpredictably. I can’t wait to see what he does as head of H.Y.D.R.A.
When Bobbi escapes and takes Ward head on it made for a great fight. Seeing two of S.H.I.E.L.D’s finest giving it everything they’ve got in a fight looked great and when Kara helped out Bobbi really gave it her best. Naturally she proved to be outmatched but I would have been annoyed had she won.
Ward’s trap that he sets to have the first person through the door to save Bobbi shot was really cold and very Ward. He even says that he hopes it’s Hunter as it’s clearly established that Bobbi doesn’t fear death so maybe the death of someone close would have an effect. The payoff to this when Bobbi takes the bullet for Hunter was excellent as well. Ward killing Kara when she looked like May before realising what he’d done was really nicely done. It looked like genuine regret on Ward’s part and it was a really twisted end to that equally twisted relationship.
I’m actually glad that the spinoff with Bobbi and Hunter was scrapped because having Bobbi on this show will be much better for everyone. She fits into this show really well and the cast probably can’t cope with losing her at this point.
May’s decision to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while surprised me and I wonder if this means that she won’t be returning for the next one. It made sense in terms of her character arc as she has been dealing with a lot of unresolved issues so now that those are sort of resolved she can go back to her husband and be a person again. I didn’t really feel that her arc came to a close but I suppose the fact that she takes her gun just in case makes sense in that regard.
It wouldn’t be a finale without some hints as to what to expect next season. Skye being the leader of a team of super powered agents reminds me a little of the comic Secret Warriors but here it also feels like a bit of a setup to Captain America: Civil War. Skye’s line about powered people being kept a secret particularly resonates on that topic. The whole Civil War concept will probably be a big part of the next season. Given what Skye said my guess is that she’s on team Cap!
I was a little surprised that Cal was put through the T.A.H.I.T.I. project to have his memory reconfigured. He seemed deliriously happy and it was a nice ending for him. I wonder if he’ll start to remember things the way Coulson did or if he’ll be allowed to keep his happy ending. His actions here certainly earned him that peace.
Over numerous reviews I predicted that this season would end with a sort of global Terrigenesis and I was sort of right. I found the execution of this to be somewhat hilarious as the implication that it will only be people who get that fish oil who might develop super powers. I hope they extend the effect of this because that’s very limiting. It should at least feed into the water or the fish themselves. I guess we’ll have to see what happens next season with that.
Lastly, I still have no idea what that Inhuman artifact could be. The fact that it sucked Simmons in surely won’t end well though. The behaviour seems to slightly mimic that of a symbiote but I doubt that’s it. Roll on season 3.
Season 2 is over and there’s lots to deal with over this extra long episode beyond the conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans.
In setting up the War Jiaying played it really well by keeping S.H.I.E.L.D. confused and engineering a really elaborate demonstration to convince her people to follow her. Skye remained at the center of the whole thing with her having less information about both sides than the audience to better understand what informs her decision to stay with her people. Skye making an emotional decision rather than a rational decision makes a lot of sense given her current circumstances.
Her fight with May was really cool as it showed the massive skill gap between the two of them. Skye only gets the upper hand when she uses her powers but before then she is completely outmatched.
When Skye finds out what her mother is really up to the hurt is brilliantly portrayed by Chloe Bennet who puts across the betrayal felt by Skye perfectly.
Dichen Lachman doesn’t quite sell the duality of Jiaying as well as she could have. I never really got the impression that she was any different when being a general for her people rather than the caring, nurturing presence she has been up until this point. It would have been good to see a bit more of her being unhinged rather than various characters telling us.
Kyle MacLachlan plays the duality of Cal excellently as usual. His physical transformation looked a little goofy and wasn’t helped by the cartoonish performance but he had some excellent dialogue with Coulson who talks him into doing the right thing by his daughter.
The carrier siege parts of the episode were immensely entertaining to watch. It had tactics, super powers, intrigue and some really cool one liners from Mac who does his best John McClane impression in trying to retake the ship.
Mac is a straight up badass in this episode and has complete control of the situation as he slowly works to derail the plans of the Inhumans. He isn’t willing to relinquish control without a fight and he knows how to upset them.
The resolution of the War plot coming down to Skye, Cal and Jiaying gave the whole thing perfect closure. The fact that Jiaying was willing to suck the life force of her own daughter showed how far gone she is and Cal taking on the burden of killing Jiaying so that Skye didn’t have to was really fitting. It showed just how devoted to her he is.
Ward and Kara torturing Bobbi was the strongest part of the episode with the torture part of it being genuinely unsettling to watch. I’m easily squeamish when it comes to stuff like that and this episode certainly made me feel that way. I loved that it was all a twisted plan to get an apology out of Bobbi for giving away Kara’s safe house location to maintain her H.Y.D.R.A. cover. It felt appropriate for these characters to go to such lengths for something so innocuous.
Bobbi’s fight with both Ward and Kara was the highlight of the episode with Bobbi slowly losing ground but giving everything she has to stay in it. Losing makes sense considering she’s outnumbered by people at least as well trained as she is.
This episode generally delivers on action throughout. There are many engagements and most of them manage to impress with choreography and effects. A slight weak link is Skye’s fight with the multiple “Ginger Ninjas” but that looked great as well.
In terms of how this episode wraps up the season and looks ahead to the next I found lots of it interesting. Skye leading a team of super powered agents should be cool and it’ll tie nicely into Captain America: Civil War after Skye saying she believes they should stay a secret.
Cal having his memory reconfigured and being given a happy ending free from any of the trauma he’s experienced is oddly fitting for the character. I hope he gets to stay that way and doesn’t start remembering next season.
Coulson losing his hand isn’t really a plot point but it does tie into the overall theme of consequences given in this episode. Nobody escaped the battle unscathed and Coulson represents that by losing a hand. I’m sure he’ll get some sort of replacement next season.
May leaving to spend time with her husband is a strange one. I’m unsure if it signals her leaving the show completely or whether she’ll be back next season. I like that she took her gun showing that she’s not completely over everything.
I like the idea of the subtle Terrigenesis effect bleeding across the globe but does it have to be confined to fish oil? I hope that this is expanded for next season as it seems pretty laughable at this point if that’s all they’ll go with.
Simmons being sucked into the mysterious Inhuman artifact is an interesting thing to close on. I have no idea what that thing could be but I’m fascinated to find out. I can’t wait for season 3.