'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Review: "Seeds"

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Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its latest installment in “Seeds,” as the team returns to SHIELD academy to investigate a mysterious rash of cold snaps plaguing the students, while Coulson and May uncover the secrets of Skye's true origins..

Previous ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “The Magical Place” saw the team partnering with Agent Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows) to retrieve Coulson from captivity, while the agent himself finally unlocked the secret of his mysterious resurrection, so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series keep us marveling at its inaugural season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s twelfth episode, “Seeds!”

One night by an academic facility pool, Donnie Gill (Dylan Minnette) is interrupted in his studies by the appearance of several youths looking to use the pool after hours. Donnie ignores them, at least until the girl Callie notices the pool rapidly freezing behind her classmate Seth, and warns him to get out. Seth’s leg is briefly trapped in the ice until the others free him, placing a S.H.I.E.L.D. towel over the frigid student.

Back on the bus, Coulson obsessively pours over the files of his demise, while downstairs Fitz and Simmons reveal that they created the device that nearly froze a student, and have been tasked with returning to the academy to investigate. Upon arrival, Fitz and Simmons find themselves popular among the scientific academy’s students, while Ward greets Agent Weaver in hopes of interviewing the student nearly killed by the device, trying to find the “bad seeds” that might want to harm their fellow students.

May advises Coulson to stop obsessing over his files, instead focusing on their own mission to Mexico City, tracking down the former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent partnered with the woman who dropped Skye off at the orphanage before dying. Meanwhile, Ward brings Skye to see the facility’s “Wall of Valor” while Fitz and Simmons begin a lecture to the students about the danger of potential. Midway through the lecture, Donnie finds himself freezing over, soon completely encased in ice. As Fitz and Simmons work to free him, Skye smashes the device causing the cold, thus saving Donnie. Elsewhere, Ian Quinn converses on the phone with an unseen figure, wondering why the device didn’t work.

Donnie can think of no one who might want to target him, as Agent Weaver corroborates that Donnie has neither friends nor enemies. Ward sends Fitz to befriend Donnie and see what he can learn, while he, Skye and Simmons head to an underground boiler room bar where the students frequently let off steam. Meanwhile in Mexico City, Coulson and May set up in an alley to wait for former agent Richard Lumley, while Coulson notes that Melinda has been talking more than usual to compensate for his stony silence. Just as May goes to share the secret she’s been keeping with Ward, Coulson spots Lumley across the street, and the pair pursue him into a dead end.

Lumley reveals that Skye herself was an “0-8-4” that an entire Chinese village had died to protect, while the agents tasked with protecting her were slowly killed off, at least until they managed to hide her existence by shuffling her around to different orphanages. May urges Coulson not to tell Skye the truth, while back at the academy, Fitz visits Donnie in his room to bond with him, helping him to complete a complex power source he’d been designing in his spare time. Over at the bar, Ward speaks with Callie about how excited Seth and Donnie had been to meet Agents Fitz and Simmons, leading the team to realize they’d staged the attacks to get Fitz’s input on how to fix their device. Once Fitz is alerted to the news, he finds Donnie working on a much larger freezing device, before Seth knocks him out.

Skye and the others put together that Seth and Donnie must have had a backer in building the device, likely that of Ian Quinn, whom Seth’s father works for. The boys meanwhile contact Quinn looking for an extraction now that they’ve been compromised, but Quinn suggests they turn on the device as proof of its worth. Back on the plane, Skye confronts Coulson about his ignoring her, to which Coulson decides to tell her the truth about her history. Outside, it begins to hail as Donnie and Seth’s device creates a super-storm around the academy.

Once the storm grows beyond control, Donnie desperately attempts to shut the device down, before its explosion sends both of them flying backward. Overhead, May manages to pilot their plane directly into the eye of the storm, allowing the team to retrieve Donnie and Seth, though Seth ultimately dies of his injuries, before the storm finally dissipates.

In the aftermath, a bitter Donnie is sent to the Sandbox for observation, while Coulson acknowledges to May that he heard her earlier confession about Ward, and trusts her to break it off with him if necessary. Skye revisits the Wall of Valor on campus as Coulson marvels to May that Skye didn’t allow the revelations to destroy her, but rather took comfort in the fact that she’d had a S.H.I.E.L.D. family looking out for her all her life. Awhile later, Donnie realizes he can freeze the window of his transport, while Coulson calls Ian Quinn to warn him of their next confrontation. Before Quinn hangs up however, he reveals that the Clairvoyant wanted him to say hello.

OUR REVIEW:

Coming off of the many reveals of last week’s “The Magical Place,’ It isn’t hard to observe ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ attempting a bit of course correction, here moving directly into addressing the Skye mystery, one of the few lingering threads from the first half of the season that hadn’t landed in the manner showrunners had hoped. Coulson himself even attests to a meta disinterest with keeping further secrets, clearly speaking to the fanbase as a whole, though at least with Skye, our lacking investment with the character prevents expectations from jumping too high.

And yet, by the same token, the writing seems to belch out yet another non-explanation that only raises further questions, forcing us to consider if Skye could be set up for superpowers, or what might have led S.H.I.E.L.D. to designate her an “0-8-4” worth losing multiple agents to protect. It isn’t going to endear us to the character any more than the damage already dealt by her presence (what, was it five minutes before she decided Coulson was ignoring her?), but at the very least, we’ll give the series credit for further attempts to curtail its nosedive.

Rather than linger on the mystery (or lack there of) however, “Seeds” treats us to another adapted Marvel character, reinterpreting frequent ‘Iron Man’ foe Blizzard as a S.H.I.E.L.D. academy student whose intelligence isolates him from others. The wrapping proves a bit more palatable this time around, including a S.H.I.E.L.D. academic setting to help further our understanding of the organization with more than a few Marvel nods along the way (hello, Bucky Barnes!), though most curious of all, this seems to be the exact same story as with previous Marvel inclusion Franklin Hall (Graviton), the situation almost copy/pasted to fit the story.

Observe: Fitz and Simmons investigate a plot surrounding a S.H.I.E.L.D. academy figure to whom they have a personal connection (history for Hall, empathy for Donnie), before learning that the figure has secretly been collaborating with Ian Quinn, until their experiment goes haywire and threatens the public, they’re ultimately defeated, and sent to a top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Oh, but don’t forget that the destruction of their tech imbued them with powers of their own (gravity, freezing), for next time!

Of course, by now this has come to represent ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s modus operandi, an inherent clumsiness that belabors even its best episodes, as “Seeds” rapid pace at least zips along with enough coherence to pass the hour. Nevermind, you, if Donnie and Seth worked on their device from night into day, as the inconsistent setting would suggest, what disbanded the super-storm in the end, or why the most miniscule of explosions would kill Seth, but somehow instill freezing powers in Donnie. Nevermind Skye’s reduction to an “object of unknown origin,” or a convoluted plan that saw two students nearly killing one another to lure Fitz into making a minor technobabble that completed a complex freezing machine. Nevermind, you, why S.H.I.E.L.D. overlooked that a cadet's father actively works for a wanted international criminal, and could develop a doomsday device on their campus for said criminal.

They’re trying, and the less we think about it, the more it works. Yes, we realize the denial we’re in.

Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest outing “Seeds” finally answer the other long-awaited mystery of Skye's parents? Did the series fare any better in introducing its second major Marvel villain? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and join us again February 4 for another all-new recap of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s latest episode on ABC!

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