By Amanda Gurall
[**Obviously if you are not ready for spoilers do not read this.]
Skye can take care of herself. You've transformed her into an agent who is smart, and tough, and capable. If there's a chance for her to turn the tables she will take it. -Coulson
The last few episodes leading to this mid-season finale have been stuffed with action and story lines which have all come together beautifully into the next jumping off point for the series. Starting right where we left off last week, the show opened with some really nice CGI work as the bus fought off the Hydra strike Whitehall reinstated mid-air. Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) takes control and in a maverick style maneuver tells everyone to sit down and buckle up while she takes a terrifying nosedive. Everyone wants her to hit that cloaking button but she waits until Hydra's missiles have locked on them before she releases some cargo and pulls up in full stealth mode. Hydra thinks they have four direct hits on the plane because their pilots lack attention to detail and the bus glides out of harm's way and over to San Juan.
The plane lands in Puerto Rico where their biggest enemy awaits, the future of the entire planet is at stake and they immediately turn off the cloaking mechanism. This is one point that annoys me, why not leave the plane hidden? Why potentially give your enemies a direct view of your massive plane and current base of operations? The team starts to regroup and strategize. Trip (B.J. Britt) finds some 1940's timers to detonate bombs without electronics and Sam (Patton Oswalt) gives a little shout out to Dum Dum Dugan which was fun world building that most fans love. We all like to know things, to recognize them and feel like we are included in this world but I am also enjoying looking into new characters and comic story lines I was not familiar with. It all works together really well and I am glad the show is becoming further integrated into the films.
Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are working out what happened to Mack (Henry Simmons) and Jemma Simmons theorizes the city reacts to the human invasion like white blood cells attack bacteria or a virus in our blood. So let's use hazmat suits! I thought that would have been common sense in the first place but what can you do? She also suggests Mack may not be gone but controlled like zombie ants taken over by a fungus. We all hope if this is true that it is reversible, unlike the Ophiocordyceps which you should Google now if you are not already familiar it is quite a thing.
We also caught up with Hunter (Nick Blood) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) sharing a hug over the loss of Mack. Hunter caught her taking a thumb drive from Mack's belongings and he decides to trust her which surprised me, I hope his trust is well placed.
Sam/Billy remained a solid part of the show this week, Especially when Sam joked that Billy fried his circuits and had to recharge himself. So far he has "joked" about the brothers being clones and now androids this has to be the writers having some fun with fan speculation.
Hydra has taken over a theatre in town which is located right above the hidden temple chamber they are all desperate to get to or seal up. Ward (Brett Dalton) brings Skye (Chloe Bennet) into a room, cuts her restraints and tells her he is not loyal to Hydra but he is keeping his promise to bring her to her father. And that he does as we find The Doctor (Kyle MacLaughlan) in his disheveled 1980's Sears suit waiting for Skye on a velvet couch. He is a sweaty and emotional ball of delusion, trying to enjoy what in his perception is a loving reunion he has worked and killed for. He wonders aloud if he should have brought little almond cookies and flowers like a deranged party planner.
Skye has come into her own as an agent and as an adult she is going toe to toe with him without breaking a sweat. He tells the story of their family and breaks down her defenses. In short, his name is Cal (it has been confirmed he is Calvin Zabo aka Mister Hyde) he was working in a lab in China and his wife helped him with translation. Skye's mom was from a line of special people and Skye was special too. He told her that people who claimed to be S.H.I.E.L.D. took his wife away and Whitehall (Reed Diamond) cut her to shreds removing all of her organs and her blood. Cal came across as sincere, apologetic and heartbroken as he went on to tell of his plans involving the Diviner, killing Whitehall and Skye's transformation. Skye looks scared and creeped out then he starts humming the Daisy Bell song from Skye's nightmare as he leaves the room. You have to appreciate an anachronistic song in film and television, it's always effective.
We get to see the plasma drill that Hydra is using to drill through the volcanic rock and it is halfway to the temple. Whitehall floats in and praises Raina (Ruth Negga) and Doctor Cal, starts to interrogate Ward about his actions with the plane and why he brought Skye along. Things get heated and Whitehall tells Skye to touch the diviner, she responds with a defiant "you first". However she does end up grabbing it when Ward and Cal start attacking the guards, I guess her father's words did get through to her after all? They lose their attempt to escape thanks to Raina and are bound and thrown into the kitchen. Whitehall is at his creepiest, telling Ward he will soon be "happy to comply" aka brainwashed and asking about Skye's special gifts while caressing her knee in a predatory rapey way. He then tells Cal who is on the floor after the surprise stick on neck taser (what?) was used on him that he will not be killed until after he watches Whitehall do terrible things to his daughter. Gross.
Lucky for Skye he is interrupted by the ruckus that Coulson and May make when they storm the theater. Hunter and Bobbi are right behind them and the four agents end up taking down the guards with very little effort and sassy quips. The guards might also be ex-storm troopers because they don't land a single shot but I can mostly forgive this as it's a means to a more interesting end. Ward produces a knife from..somewhere and cuts himself and Skye free, goes out the door and asks her to wait in her chair. Skye jumps up, grabs the gun from the guard that was knocked out and holy mother of Marvel she shoots Ward four times when his back is turned. YES. Yes, a thousand times yes. That was perfect even if he did survive.
Cal and Whitehall were about to shoot each other when Coulson intervened and killed Whitehall, sending Cal into a rage. This leads us into daddy fight '14 full of punching and some sort of pro wrestling move where Cal had Coulson's legs around his waist, then slammed him to the floor and proceeded to nearly beat the life out of him. He only stops because Skye has him at gunpoint and she tells him to get bent. He takes his one chance to escape but before he does, he calls her Daisy, DAISY. Comic fans all know where this is heading. I am going to call her Skye of the rest of this recap because to S.H.I.E.L.D. she is Skye and she may never be called that again. She has a loving and tearful talk with daddy fight champion by default Coulson. I love their relationship and hope future events do not change it very much. She is off to the temple to make things right.
While this was all happening FitzSimmons and Trip were in their bomb placing mission in hazmat suits. Some nice visuals of them descending into the city and running through it although I was expecting a lot more from this lost city and temple design wise. I have seen criticisms of the show's production design for being too bland, gray and generically sleek. I was not entirely in disagreement but once we found out about this city I imagined this was all done to contrast with this amazing city set. What we ended up with was some pillars, blank stone walls and dust covered symbols we saw only when Mack entered. Not every ancient civilization has to be ornate and not every alien environment has to be minimalist but this is just boring. Maybe they spent all their CGI money on the opening sequence and didn't want to build or it was a style choice but it was a disappointment for me. Coulson descends into this temple of doom because as he reminds May, just because Whitehall is dead it does not mean Hydra will stop. He is also curious.
Skye is tailing Raina into the city With Raina savoring every moment including being escorted by the now black-eyed Mack. Blacking out a character's eyes is a bit overdone but it is so visually effective especially when Skye comes across him and is shocked by the blank shiny eyes. Skye enters the temple chamber, a cylindrical stone room with space between panels and a column of light shining down on a rock pedestal. Raina is there and they argue but despite Skye's efforts the diviner lights up, rises from Raina's hands and settles onto the pillar. Meanwhile the team above realizes that their friends are in the city with only minutes to stop the clock timed bombs, Trip flies into action in a heroic move. He had already removed his hazmat suit so how he will survive or accomplish this is unknown. Unsurprisingly he is just fine, and he makes it to the last bomb with seconds to spare then makes it into the temple chamber while Mack is fighting with Coulson.
The diviner opens to reveal beautiful blue crystals then releases a blast of what we can safely assume is Terrigen mist, knocking everyone over inside and outside the temple. Mack seems to be removed from his possession and Coulson tries to enter the chamber but the doors have closed, he is anguished and helpless. Inside the two women are starting to be encased in what looks like stone, Skye reaches out to Trip in terror as it overtakes her entire body and he roundhouse kicks the crystals making another blast. He sits in defeat, crying out over the stone Skye figure in front of him but then a crack, and the stone falls away. It was actually a cocoon of sorts and the pieces fall away revealing two very alive Inhumans.
First we see a bit of Raina's face she now has reflective yellow eyes and what looks like spikes or new feathers protruding from her cheek, very creepy. We watch as Skye is reborn in slow motion, hair blowing in supernatural wind, she looks the same but is clearly changed and extremely powerful. I can see how some might find this cheesy but I thought it hit the right notes of wonder, fear and literal transformation. The chamber and the land above it starts to quake. Probably because Skye-Daisy will end up being "Quake" I hope she doesn't bring the entire place down before everyone gets out. We also saw a ghostly Raina after her transformation through the dust…I am not sure she is going to be too happy with her transformation but that will depend on what powers she will possess. Any guesses as to who she may be?
Everyone except for Trip. Poor trip looks down and sees some of the crystals have speared him in the gut, he realizes what's happening just as he is petrified. The breeze from Skye's transformation blows him away bit by bit it was surprisingly emotional the character will be thoroughly missed. We leave everyone above ground running for cover in what seems to be an earthquake. In the post credit scene we see a well appointed study and a glowing wooden box. A slim man opens the box and removes an activated diviner. He calls a woman and asks,"Are you seeing this? There's someone new. Tell the others I'm on it." And we pan up to see he has no eyes. Who the hell is this, how many others on earth are in the diviner club and will they work for the good or the destruction of Skye and Raina?
I thought this episode was the best of the season so far despite a few issues. I am looking forward to seeing how S.H.I.E.L.D. and Skye deal with her change and the rest of the fallout. What are Bobbi and Mack working on, and is Whitehall really dead? Agent 33 ended up helping Ward and they went off together, now that makes Ward much more interesting. What will be their motivations going forward? Will Ward attempt to take over Hydra? How long will Quake stay with the group, will this be her last season or will they draw out learning to use her powers? Lots of great questions up in the air for now and I am really glad we have Agent Carter to hold us over until the show starts up again. Agent Carter starts January 6th and if the previews are any indication, it is going to be fantastic.