‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Midseason Finale Review: “What They Become”
Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ assembles its tenth season 2 installment with the midseason finale “What They Become,” as Skye finally comes face to face with her father, while Coulson and the team uncover the truth about the mysterious hidden city, and a larger connection to the Marvel Universe is revealed. Last week’s ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ episode, “Ye Who Enter Here,” saw Coulson and the team attempting to reach the mysterious hidden city before Hydra, while Skye protected Raina from a vengeful Agent 33. 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.,’ season 2, episode 10, midseason finale “What They Become”!
It shouldn’t go unstated that ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ really has shown a tremendous improvement this year, and that of the ten episodes aired thus far in the second season, not a one stands out as an obvious clunker, at least in the way last year tended to burn off hours before ‘The Winter Soldier.’ Still, that comes with something of an unfortunate side effect, as with anticipation and fan-speculation for tonight’s finale swelling to an all-time high, compounded by lengthy gap until the series' March 3 return, “What They Become” built itself up into a bit more than the sum of its parts.
Don’t get me wrong, by the standards with which we’ve enjoyed the previous nine episodes, no one aspect of tonight’s midseason finale particularly dragged, though I found myself for the first time needing to separate the lenses through which the various revelations appear. You see, at last identifying Kyle MacLachlan’s father as “Cal,” or Skye herself as “Daisy” rings tremendous bells for Marvel Comics fans, as would the “mist” that seemingly imbues Skye with superpowers, but I can’t imagine the more casual viewer would ascribe any amount of real significance to these developments, at least yet.
And yes, while showrunners may confirm in accompanying interviews that the mysterious city and Skye’s new condition help set up a certain 2018 Marvel movie, the fact remains that none of these buzzwords were said aloud within the episode itself, somewhat diluting their impact as a result. It’s almost as if “What They Become” wasn’t sure which quotient of the fandom to appeal to, and ultimately opted to play things safer than a three month airing gap necessarily called for.
The other aspect that worries me by tonight’s finale is that while most fans would agree that Skye’s often-espoused importance marred the first season’s actual development of the character beyond a duplicitous super-hacker, season 2 has provided a much stronger showcase for the character’s evolution as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Sure, the occasional “Let me tell you all the ways Skye has grown, other character!” speech still worms its way into dialogue. But Skye’s ultimate meeting with her father, as well as the subsequent conflicts with Ward and Whitehall, nailed how well the character subverts the damsel role. It’s especially effective, in the way Skye never once buys into Ward’s gestures, and quickly stands up to her father over Coulson, only allowing herself to break down once “Cal” had accepted her decision and fled.
That would normally inspire some confidence in the writers’ abilities to develop character over concept, if not for a climax largely built around Raina waxing further poetic about Skye’s destiny, or the nature of “what we’ll become,” before all the slo-mo and montage-work builds up Skye’s subsequent “transformation.” Other than her ultimate escape from the stone entombment, I worry that the approach will quickly slip back into exposition detailing Skye’s change and importance, without any earned payoff to back it up.
Questions of payoff aside, “What They Become” at least kept things rolling in a pretty brisk fashion, and otherwise delivered some strong (if sparse) set pieces. One doesn’t often get the chance to see aerial dogfights realized on TV, and while the Bus has never quite worked as a realistic means of transportation (smaller vehicles like the Quinjet read much better in aerial action), May’s escape from Hydra proved a strong note to kick things off. Not only that, but Clark Gregg got to break out his own physical skills against Kyle MacLachlan’s Cal, who continues to have a blast with the role, albeit registering his restraint of the character’s bestial side a bit more effectively than its unleash. We don’t yet know all there is to know on “Cal,” and the hour certainly sets things up for him to take a larger role in 2015, though the fight sequences might have ticked up a bit with some makeup or CG to augment MacLachlan’s feral attacks.
The central focus on Skye and her father also somewhat detracted from the other goings-on of the cast, leaving Ward’s motivation still somewhat muddied as he limped off with Agent 33, following Daniel Whitehall’s rather unceremonious dismissal from the story. Notably stronger were the interactions between Bobbi and Hunter, or the renewed teamwork of Fitz and Simmons, though “What They Become” didn’t quite leave enough room for either to impact the story. Even Tripp’s ultimate sacrifice seemed something of an afterthought (along with Mac’s survival), though that might have more to do with the series’ overall uncertainty what to do with Tripp, than tonight’s jam-packed installment.
In short, I’d offer that while “What They Become” operated as a fine ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ installment in and of itself, certainly another point to tally toward season 2’s score overall, it didn’t quite measure up to the expectations and hype around its position as a midseason finale. Marvel fans will have a field day speculating on the significance “Cal” and “Daisy” have for the characters, as with the Diviner’s “mist” and Skye’s new abilities, though the reticence to actually state or expound upon either development seemed to have somewhat undersold their significance.
Ironically perhaps, nothing earth-shattering just yet.
AND ANOTHER THING...
- You’d think a Hydra pilot might question the size of the explosions, relative to the size of the Bus, and absence of any falling debris.
- What’s the deal with Diego? Why can’t we actually meet or talk to Diego?
- Tripp deserved to know the truth about the Koenig brothers before he died. As do we.
- 10 bucks Ward helps Agent 33 fix her May-face, and the two hook up afterward. Writing!
- “Best. Day. Ever.”
- Production largely eschews portraying any actual “city” by keeping the action to a few dimly lit corridors, but is there no discussion of whether or not any people might actually live within its walls?
- So, Raina's a monster or something, with weird eyes. And that other guy doesn't have any eyes! Spooky-spooky!
Well, what say you? Did ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’’s “What They Become” keep up the momentum as successfully as you’d hoped? How do you think the show handled its Skye reveal? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back in March 2015 for our review of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’'s midseason 2 premiere on ABC, with Marvel’s ‘Agent Carter’ in the meantime!