‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Review: “Making Friends and Influencing People”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its third season 2 installment in "Making Friends and Influencing People,” as Simmons works with Hydra to recruit the unstable cryokinetic Donnie Gill (Dylan Minnette), while Fitz takes action against the team secrecy keeping him out of the loop.
Last week's ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode “Heavy is the Head” saw Coulson and the team reluctantly partnering with Raina to intercept Creel and the mysterious obelisk before Hydra could, while Lance Hunter faced a difficult choice from General Talbot., so how does ABC’s ‘Avengers‘-adjacent series continue its marvelous new season?
Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s season 2, episode 3, “Making Friends and Influencing People”!
It’s been an understandably big week for superhero TV, what with talk of ‘The Flash’ premiere buzzing all over town, ‘Gotham’ getting continually stranger, and ‘Arrow’ season 3 sure to pull focus tomorrow night. And while ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ has been surprisingly effective in its first two weeks back on the job, it’s hard to shake a certain sense of the show’s probationary period undoing any goodwill with an inevitable clunker. That isn’t the case tonight, thankfully, as “Making Friends and Influencing People” almost feels like the third act of a three-episode premiere for the series, organically picking up any lingering threads of the first two episodes, yet still managing to course-correct from a few weaker aspects last season.
It certainly shouldn’t surprise anyone that Simmons would turn out to be working with Coulson all along to infiltrate Hydra, and we’d question even the TV logic that the villainous organization would ever trust someone so close to the old regime, though putting the real Simmons off on her own proved a great use of Elizabeth Henstridge’s eternally sunny disposition, and a nice counter to her under-utilization last year. It’s been a bit difficult to contextualize Hydra as a threat, what with its vague schemes and ubiquitous logo presentation running a bit counter to the covert menace established in ‘The Winter Soldier,’ but Simmons’ chipper placement within the organization makes for a nice juxtaposition with the macabre and mysterious Dr. Whitehall, and should make for an exciting vantage point going forward.
And while “Making Friends and Influencing People” certainly emphasizes the separation between Simmons and Fitz, the story neatly dovetails as the addled scientist struggles with the secrets being kept from him, and facing the source of his bruised ego in the incarcerated Ward. Equal recognition should certainly be afforded to Iain de Caestecker as with Elizabeth Henstridge, as Fitz’s breakdown at the sight of Ward, and subsequent grave threats made for an especially ominous turn, signs that season 2 has well-learned its lesson in providing distinct character development for either scientist. That isn’t to leave Ward out of the equation either, as Brett Dalton too did some nice work tonight in sifting through the wreckage of his many lies as a means to manipulate Skye, yet seeming totally off-guard by the toll his actions had taken on the once-affable Fitz. Really, just a terrific scene for both.
On the more villainous side, tonight’s episode also returned Dylan Minnette to the fold as “Blizzard Project” Hydra escapee Donnie Gill, as both S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 and Hydra raced to recruit, or neutralize the threat. Gill’s introduction proved one of the weaker Marvel tie-ins of the early season, but we have to give credit to Minnette for transforming the character with a far more menacing presence this time around, a performance that well-compensated for the occasionally shoddy (if ambitious) effects work of his powers. Far more interesting however, was the time spent with Daniel Whitehall and the glimpses into Hydra’s mind-control abilities, which themselves may end up utilized on Simmons in the future.
Likely the most refreshing aspect of the episode lay in its ability to keep the rest of the team in play with C-stories that succeeded without pulling focus, as Skye continually monitored her training, Mack acted as a cipher of sorts for Fitz, and May kept up her half-jokey payback threats against Nick Blood for last week. The third or fourth overall mention of Blood’s ex-wife seemingly cements that the character might play an important part in episodes to come, though for now at least it was nice to see ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ keeping everyone in play without losing sight of the main mission with Donnie.
Those of you who caught the preview for next week’s installment might worry that ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ will return to more kitschy installments to fill its daunting 22-episode order, though it was nice to see “Making Friends and Influencing People” keeping up the stride without necessarily retreading any ground from the first two hours. No sign of alien writing, Skye’s father or the military this week, but it was great to see Fitz and Simmons given focus in a manner that expanded upon our images of the characters from the first season, without leaning on the chemistry between the pair, and all-the-while deepening the Hydra mystery we’ve come to anticipate.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- "Agent 33" is definitely a name that I remember from comics as is Doctor Faustus, but have no interest in looking up for myself. Help me out, internet!
- Really loved Simmons' wake-up scenes, and all their Whedon-y charm.
- You guys, Hydra scientists wear black lab coats. BECAUSE THEY'RE EVIL.
- Especially effective was Simmons expressing that her loyalties lie with science, making Hydra a means to an end that we've seen other Marvel scientists going evil over.
- I'm very glad that we learned the significance of Creel's "comply" line last week, just as the show was smart to point out that Hydra only brainwashes a select few, with most (including Ward) acting of their own free will.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s second season installment “Making Friends and Influencing People” keep up the momentum as successfully as you'd hoped? How do you think the show fares with its titular organization in Hydra-torn pieces? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ season 2's latest, "Face My Enemy" on ABC!