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MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: “What They Become”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t seen an episode so simultaneously satisfying to longtime comic-book fans and frustrating to its general audience as it does in “What They Become”. Marvel maniacs should be elated, for the show has just introduced a mythos that lines up perfectly with that of the comics’ Inhumans. The Obelisk (or Diviner) is confirmed to be a key given to mankind by the Kree when they once visited our planet, in order to change humans into a race of superhumans via the Terrigen crystals it unlocks. We watch Skye undergo this cocoon-induced transformation — known as Terrigenesis — along with Raina. In doing so, they open the door for S.H.I.E.L.D. to contribute a vital piece of lore to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which has an Inhumans movie scheduled for release on November 2, 2018). Up until now the show has reacted to events in the MCU. Now it has the potential to trigger them. What’s more, Skye now stands as a bona fide comic-book character — Daisy Johnson, the daughter of Calvin Zabo, the supervillain Mr. Hyde. Actor Kyle McLachlan’s crazed scientist is given the name Cal, and he tells Skye she’s named Daisy (after the song). So it’s too great a coincidence to be otherwise.

At the same time, all of this means nothing to the average television viewer, which S.H.I.E.L.D. might need more of in order to survive. This season’s post-Winter Soldier cat-and-mouse with Hydra has, without a doubt, offered a far more satisfying experience than last year’s awkward procedurals and uneven tone. But after a long string of episodes giving the rest of its cast time to shine, S.H.I.E.L.D. again appears set on making itself the story of Skye. And if she was a Mary Sue last season, how much more so will she be now that she’s the team’s only superhuman? Her rebirth (into someone who can apparently generate earthquakes) also comes at the cost of Trip, who’s killed by flying crystal shards, and, after turning to stone, demolished when Skye emerges from her cocoon. The agent is one of the very few who hasn’t enjoyed a spotlight this season, his role usurped by newcomers like Bobbi and Hunter, after bringing some much-appreciated cool professionalism to season 1’s team of rookies. Now, sadly, he never will.


“What They Become” also fails to give us a satisfying spectacle with its revelations. S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t possibly provide the visuals of the Marvel movies, and it may be unfair to compare it to the outstanding grandeur that The Flash (which airs just an hour beforehand) offers each week. But after a half season of anticipating a lost city so grand it’s haunted Coulson’s every waking moment, it’s a letdown to get little more than a few nondescript rooms and tunnels below an industrial plant. The Inhumans and their world of Attilan were, after all, designed by Jack Kirby, whose imagination knew no bounds. Just a little style here — and a little less sub-par ’70s Doctor Who — would be appreciated.

Where this week’s episode entertains, however, is in MacLachlan’s performance. The scene in which his character meets Skye just might be the most entertaining so far this season. He generates humor, rage, joy, spite, menace, sympathy, and insanity all in the span of a few minutes. I’m honestly not sure how much of his role is supposed to be played for laughs, and I don’t know if I’d call what he does great acting. Its over-the-top bravura would be more at home in, say, a Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie than a Marvel Studios production. But watching him creepily stroke Skye’s hair as he hums “Daisy Bell” is absurdly entertaining.

As for the abbreviated death of Whitehall, well, I’m hoping the Hydra head is somehow regrown in the next episode. Because without him, and with Raina’s allegiance again uncertain, the show suffers a serious villain gap.

Declassified Deliberations

— Just what form has Raina taken? We only see glimpses of her post-transformation. She appears to have porcupine-like spikes, talons for fingers, and birdlike eyes.

— With Agent 33 now without a master, and half her face missing, she’d make a superb Madame Masque. Come on, Marvel, do it!

— Yes, Skye shooting Ward point blank as soon as he freed her was satisfying. But Raina’s observation that he’s helped her out of love foreshadows a half season of pining that I’d prefer not to witness.

— “Now that he’s served his purpose I’m gonna kill the man that destroyed my life. Best day ever.”

Next: The bad news is that S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t be back until March. The good news is next month we get the double-sized premiere episode of Marvel’s Agent Carter. So watch this space, true believers!

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

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  1. Matt Miller says:

    Why weren’t Coulson and Trip affected by the “city” when they went in without their hazmat suits?  

  2. Pau says:

    I think that the mid-season finale delivered in a big way. I didn’t know about Daisy and after a 5 minutes search on the internet I can’t wait to see how they use her from now on. Chloe Bennett is fine, not great but still serviceable. 

  3. JamesDaBear says:

    They never said that was Attilan. They might search those tunnels more in the months to come. The guy at the end, who you didn’t mention, gives me reason to believe that’s not the only place where someone can get their Inhuman powers
    There was something incomplete about this episode. There was something incomplete about the previous episode. But when you watch them together, as I did today, they work on the same level with all of your best MCU content to date. Unfortunately, they didn’t air them together, as they should have.

  4. Urkel says:

    The Inhumans setup would have been such a magnificent and brilliant storyline if not for one thing….  Chloe Bennett is not a Movie actor. 
    The character of Skye was only made worse by Bennett which is what made it difficult to enjoy a show revolving around her. So now with a superhero cape now put on Her shoulders is disappointing. This is a potential Avenger, Inhuman and leader of Shield. And it’s played by a very attractive but mediocre TV actress. 

    • some guy says:

      But… but… the pretty!

    • Momokomoko says:

      I completely agree with this.. Quake is such a badass and as pretty as Bennett is, her best attempt at looking badass is pouting like a spoiled brat.. I don’t mean to hate on her but nooooooooo… 

    • Loveliest says:

      Maybe she can get better… I’d love to see her do well in a movie.  

  5. simmonsno1fan says:

    I have such a problem with the whole idea of a mary sue character, especially with aos. And not with the fact that they ‘exist’, because according to the media that is undeniable. But what about the men? Ward is just as much of a Mary-sue as Skye was, if not more (his apitude tests were the highest in shield since black widow- plus he has a super tragic backstory that left him in prison and then deserted in the wilderness for a year.) So why is it that Skye is the only character that is labeled a mary sue? Regardless of how much her character grows and changes, this is still brought up time and time again (while it has never once been mentioned that Ward was a mary sue character)

    • Kevin says:

      And she’s not even a Mary Sue.  People want to dilute the term to mean “any character I don’t like,” but it has a specific meaning.  A Mary Sue is a fanfic character who has no flaws, is better than all of the canon characters at everything, and is instantly liked by those same characters.

      That’s not Skye at all.  Skye’s an audience identification character (as the outsider who becomes part of SHIELD), or maybe a proxy character for the creators, but she’s not a Mary Sue.

  6. Solid Muldoon says:

    It’s four years until The Inhumans comes out. Four years! How can the movie and the show possibly tie together? 

    • M3TSCH says:

      By introducing the Mythology now in Order to skip some awkward Exposition in four years. Maybe we will even see Skye in the MCU sometimes soon. Civil War would be a great vehicle for that

  7. The entire episode was entertaining and suspenseful.  Sure I could’ve done without the Bobbi/Hunter stuff, but it didn’t annoy me that much and I do want to know what was on that flash drive.  I’ve sampled all the comic book based shows and AoS is the only one I’ve stuck with.  I care about these characters, I want to see what happens to them every week.  This is a great time to be a comic book fan!

  8. Insightful Panda says:

    First off, the eyeless man was The Reader – a recent Inhuman addition – most likely. And his powers are kind of ridiculous… and cool! 
    But yes, brilliant episode! Skye’s grown so much since Season 1. I’ll miss trip; but his death did pair well with Skye’s rebirth. As for freaky Raina . . . yah. She definitely looks more Inhuman than most 😉 lol

    • Rambo says:

      That wasn’t Reader. Looked more like Libra to me… which would make sense if Raina is actually the Mantis. She’s the one who operated the Diviner… which is “Mantis” in Greek. Her mutation looked a lot like Mantis’ son from the comics.