Saturday, May 16, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episodes 21 & 22: S.O.S.

Now THAT was a season finale!

I've been very impressed with how much Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved this season. It's still not perfect, but it's much better and less uneven than last year. Hopefully Season 3 will be even better. But a note to the writers no, make that a warning— no more "S.H.I.E.L.D. Is Destroyed And Coulson Rebuilds It" story arcs, please. Two of those is more than enough.

Now that all the dangling plot threads have been tied up, I'm wondering where the series is going to go next. I guess Evil Ward will most likely be the Big Bad of Season 3?

Speaking of Evil Ward, I'm both pleased and very surprised that the show didn't redeem him. He's gone far, far beyond redemption at this point, and in my opinion he should remain the soulless, evil bastard that he is.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Get comfortable, it's a long one!

After killing Gonzales last week, Jaiying stages attacks on herself and on Afterlife to make it look like S.H.I.E.L.D. is responsible. Skye buys into her story, believing her former friends have declared war on the Inhumans. May arrives and tries to talk some sense into her, but Skye attacks. Her martial arts skills are no match for May's, so she uses her quake powers to knock her into next week. Coulson realizes what Jaiying is doing and is reluctant to retaliate, and orders the S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjets back to base.

Raina tells Skye she's had another vision, and sees her leading the Inhumans in place of Jaiying. She also says they'll never speak to one another again, which doesn't seem the least bit suspicious.

Jaiying heals herself by absorbing the life force of a captive S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, revealing just how she's managed to live for so long. She then confronts Raina and kills her. Skye witnesses the murder and realizes Jaiying isn't trying to protect the Inhumans, but wants to start a war with humanity. She's knocked unconscious by one of Jaiying's Inhuman thugs.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson talks with the captive Cal, to try and find out what Jaiying has planned. Cal flatlines due to the vials of drugs he took last week. Simmons injects adrenaline into his heart to revive him, which triggers his transformation into Mr. Hyde.

Cal/Hyde goes on a rampage until Coulson pins him against a wall with an SUV. He manages to talk Cal down, convincing him that Jaiying is using him and that she's the true monster. He agrees to help Coulson take her down.

Gordon teleports Jaiying and a captive Skye to the S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft carrier, where she begins taking it over, killing agents by exposing them to Terrigen crystals. She has several cases full of the crystals, and intends to detonate one in the air vents of the ship, and another in the upper atmosphere. Mack, who supposedly quit last week but is still on board, frees Skye and the two of them attempt to take back the ship. Unfortunately Skye's been fitted with disruptor gauntlets, so she can't use her powers.

Meanwhile, Mockingbird is being held captive by Evil Ward and Agent 33. Ward tortures Mockingbird, demanding she apologize to 33 for causing her to be captured by HYDRA. Mockingbird refuses, and manages to free herself. She savagely beats both Evil Ward and 33, but is finally overwhelmed and recaptured. Evil Ward then tries a new tactic he ties Mockingbird to a chair, with a rifle rigged to shoot whoever comes to rescue her.

Hunter and Fitz discover Mockingbird left with Agent 33, who disguised herself as May. They track Mockingbird's location and begin searching the building for her. May has a brilliant plan she breaks radio silence, announcing she's on the scene and searching for Evil Ward.

Agent 33 hears the message and puts on her May disguise. It's not long before Evil Ward shoots and kills her, thinking she's the real May. Whoops! I guess he's not always a step ahead of S.H.I.E.L.D. Hunter is about to stumble into Evil Ward's trap, when Mockingbird manages to scoot her chair back, taking the bullet meant for him. Hunter and Co. rush the unconscious Mockingbird back to S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson & Fitz arrive at the carrier to try and take it back. They go down to the hold to try and neutralize the Terrigen crystals. Fitz cobbles together a disruptor to prevent Gordon from teleporting. Right on cue, Gordon teleports into the hold, but Fitz activates his disruptor, trapping him inside. Coulson, Mack & Fitz, wielding axes, wrenches and pipes, battle Gordon, who can somehow still teleport inside the room. He's finally defeated when he teleports around Fitz's lead pipe. Ouch.

As Gordon dies, he drops a Terrigen crystal he was holding. Coulson leaps for it, and manages to catch it at the last second with his outstretched left hand. Hooray! After a beat, the crystal begins turning Coulson's hand to stone. Booooo! Coulson watches helplessly as the deadly Terrigen creeps slowly up his forearm. Suddenly Mack chops off his hand with his axe, saving Coulson's life. Holy sh*t!

Skye battles Multi-Woman, an Inhuman who can create endless duplicates of herself. She's quickly overwhelmed, but saved by Lincoln and his electrical powers and May and her ass-kicking powers.

Skye goes topside to stop Jaiying from launching the Terrigen-laden Quinjet. Jaiying stops long enough for a supervillain monologue, and then clutches Skye's head as she begins draining her lifeforce. Skye rallies and uses her quake powers to shove the Quinjet into the ocean, and knock her mom on her ass. Cal arrives and, wanting to save his daughter the trauma of killing her own mother, crushes Jaiying to death.

Later we see Mockingbird has survived, while Mack has decided to stick around after all. May decides to take some time off with her ex husband Andrew. Coulson recovers from his injury. He has a chat with Skye and hands her a folder labeled "Caterpillars," whatever the hell that means. He says he wants to form a new team of superpowered agents, with her as their leader (cough-Secret-Warriors-cough). Skye then visits Cal, who's now running an animal hospital. Apparently Coulson had him T.A.H.I.T.I.-ed, wiping his memory. Skye strikes up a conversation with him, and promises to return. Evil Ward meets with a bunch of thugs in a bar, and vows to reform HYDRA.

In the final scene, FitzSimmons is examining the weird Kree stone in the hold of the carrier. Fitz awkwardly asks her to dinner, and when she accepts, he leaves. Suddenly the containment unit bursts open and the stone liquefies, engulfing Simmons. It then reforms back into a stone, acting like nothing just happened. Holy sh*t again!

Thoughts:
• In this episode we finally find out just how Jaiying's been able to live so long— she's apparently some sort of Inhuman vampire who absorbs the life force of others.

• Why was Cal wearing headphones during his trip back to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters? To keep him calm? So he couldn't hear sensitive info?

• After two seasons of double-crossing and treachery, Raina's sudden demise seemed a bit... anticlimactic. 

I'm assuming her clairvoyant powers allowed her to see her own demise, right? And she willingly went to her own death, to open Skye's eyes to her mother's treachery.

I guess Raina's death leaves Ruth Negga free to star in AMC's upcoming Preacher series. Who knows though
 this is a comic book world. She could always come back somehow.

• After Cal takes his Mr. Hyde drug cocktail, he flatlines. FitzSimmons use a defib unit to try and revive him. Once again, we see it used incorrectly, like jumper cables. 

Just once before I die I'd like to see a character in a TV show or movie use a defibrillator unit properly, the way they're used in the real world.

• Cal says he's been tinkering with his super strength formula for years, but could never quite get it right. He says there was always some unknown but vital element missing.

Turns out the missing ingredient was adrenaline! Wow, that was easy! You know, if I was a crazed, unhinged doctor and I was trying to concoct a formula to give me super strength, I think adrenaline is the FIRST substance I'd try.

• Finally! Ever since we found out that Cal is actually Mr. Hyde from the comics, I've been hoping he'd "Hulk-out" on the show. He finally did it in this episode. Well, sort of. I was hoping for some kind of impossibly huge CGI version of him, but I guess they couldn't afford that on a TV budget. Instead we got a bargain-basement Hulk-out. I guess it was better than nothing.

• Call me crazy, but I thought Mr. Hyde looked quite a bit like The Flash's John Wesley Shipp! Maybe it's the forehead.

• Jaiying uses the Terrigen crystals to turn Agent Redshirt to stone. You know, the one with the impressive lumberjack beard? Apparently his death was supposed to be shocking, but since we've never seen him before (that I can remember), it didn't quite resonate.

• Mack meets up with Skye on the carrier and says, "Just you and me, Tremors." I hope that's not what they're going to start calling her. In the comics her codename is Quake, which sounds a lot better. "Tremors" sounds like she's some kind of jittery chihuahua or a shaky old woman.

• Loose end tie-up: Last season we learned that when Ward was young, his mentor John Garrett (the fake Clairvoyant) gave him a dog to care for, then later demanded he shoot it as part of a test. We never found out for sure if he shot his dog or not, until this episode. Agent 33 finally confirmed it. Buddy the dog, we hardly knew ye!

What kind of sick, twisted asshole shoots his own dog?

• I'm confused as to how Agent 33's nano-mask works. After her battle with Mockingbird, 33 has several large cuts on her "default" face. The fact that they're bleeding would seem to imply that there are tears in the mask. But when she changes into May, there are no cuts. And when she reverts back to her normal scarred face, the cuts are gone as well. So were the cuts only in her 33 face? I don't get it.

• One thing this show does very well fight scenes. They're always impressive and very well coordinated. Especially in this episode, when Skye fights Multi-Woman (or whatever her name was) and her clones. Not quite as good as last week's John Wick homage, but still pretty impressive.

• At least we won't be troubled by Gordon's dodgy eyeless facial appliance anymore.

One thing this series could do a lot better prosthetic makeup. I realize it's a TV show and they don't have an Avengers-sized budget, but some of the makeups this season were really lacking, especially in 1080p. Raina's hedgehog look wasn't too bad, but Gordon's was consistently terrible, and after all the buildup, Cal's transformation into Mr. Hyde was a bit underwhelming.

• Apparently Fitz is a Breaking Bad fan. When Gordon is trapped in the hold and can't teleport, he frantically asks, "What did you do?" Fitz replies, "Science, Biatch!"

• It seems a bit sketchy to me that the damper units could keep Gordon from teleporting out of the room, but not from teleporting within it. Oh well. After this week we won't have to worry about how his powers work every again.

• Holy crap! Mack cut off Coulson's stone-ified hand! I definitely did not see that coming!

You know, the second Mack picked up that axe earlier in the episode, I had a feeling someone was going to get dismembered. I just never thought it would be Coulson. 

I wouldn't worry too much about Coulson. I'm betting S.H.I.E.L.D. has a pretty good health care plan. I'll bet that next season he'll be sporting a new bionic hand, courtesy of Tony Stark. Or Fitz. Or Deathlok. Yes! Give him a Deathlok hand, complete with missiles and lasers inside.

• So according to Jaiying, Whitehall dismembered her and stored her organs in jars, searching for the secret of her immortality. Cal found her, stitched her back together, and she somehow survived.

Yet here she dies when Cal gives her a simple bear hug.

• As punishment for his many crimes, Cal was sentenced to the T.A.H.I.T.I. mind-wipe. He even says something about his new animal hospital being "a magical place!"

Let's hope his mind-wipe lasts longer than Coulson's did.

• At the end of the episode we see the Terrigen crystals that Skye shoved into the ocean dissolve in the sea water. They're then consumed by fish and eventually turned into fish oil pills. Does that mean there're going to be hundreds of Inhumans sprouting up soon, as well as a rash of deaths when normal humans take the pills?

• Sounds like Coulson and Skye are setting up the Secret Warriors, which was a Marvel comic a few years back. It featured Nick Fury leading a S.H.I.E.L.D. team of superpowered agents.

• This series just loves to tear down spy organizations then rebuild them. We've already seen it happen to S.H.I.E.L.D. twice now, and it looks like we're going to see HYDRA do the same thing next year.

• According to the producers, that final scene with Simmons being consumed by the Kree stone was filmed, but wasn't inserted into the actual episode until they knew for sure the show was renewed.

Good thinking. Because if the series was cancelled and ended on that note, I guarantee ABC headquarters would have been surrounded by angry fans with torches and pitchforks.

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