Marvel's Agents of SHIELD's mid-season finale hit, major secrets are revealed and more questions are asked - but what everyone wants to know is, how does it all fit into the Marvel Universe?!
This was a strong episode after several strong episodes. I found myself surprised, impressed and laughing more than once - and I wasn't the only one. I'd say I feel bad about waiting for the rest of the season, but I also know we'll be getting Agent Carter in the meantime. It's still good!
First, the Spoiler-Light Recap: Hydra has all its ducks in a row as they prepare to take the ancient city for whatever they can, but can Coulson's team stop Hydra before all of the non-SHIELD and non-Hydra factors make everything go radically south?
Minor Spoiler: They still won't say "Inhumans!" This is just getting silly now.
Well, even without official confirmation, we can give some educated guesses.
Now, on with the Comic Connections:
Okay, big deals first. "The Doctor" refers to himself as Cal, and although he doesn't say it, let's just assume from here on out that he is Dr. Calvin Zabo, also known as Mr. Hyde. As his name suggests, Hyde has been a rather mercurial character in the Marvel Universe - very much like a villainous Hulk. Sometimes he's a methodical supergenius, sometimes he's a raging ball of uncontrolled emotions, sometimes he's an anachronistic figure, acting as if he stepped right out of Stevenson's book. He's a scientist who has mastered various scientific fields, but he specializes in genetics. Having messed with his own biology for years, he eventually unlocked the ability to transform himself into a massive, superstrong bruiser able to give the Hulk or Thor a run for their money.
Then there's Cal's daughter. The good doctor confirms that Skye's real name is Daisy. Again, although they don't call her by her full name (partially because they'd have to explain how she ended up with the surname "Johnson"), let's assume she is Daisy Johnson, aka Quake. What's interesting about Daisy is that she's part of a growing number of second-generation heroes (and villains) who were born before their parents got powers, but somehow received powers as well. It's since been revealed that Zabo was experimenting on himself long before he became Hyde, but it also makes sense that Daisy (or even Zabo) could be an Inhuman. In the comics, Daisy was introduced as part of Nick Fury's underground network, a superpowered teenager that he personally trained and groomed to do what needed to be done. When Fury went off-grid, 18-year-old Daisy took over as director of SHIELD. Currently, Daisy is partnering (platonically) with Winter Soldier as the two of them preemptively kill potential threats to Earth.
Skye/Daisy's mother isn't named yet (presumably she's not the same prostitute listed as Daisy's mom in the comics), but they confirm that Skye was born in China, and that her mother "comes from a long line of people who have gifts." Whitehall suspects that her gift was to live really long, but in the comics that's a standard Inhuman trait. Skye also learns how her mother died (which viewers learned in "The Things We Bury").
Before moving on to the story, there's a bit more on the are-the-Koenigs-LMDs front. One of the Agents Koenig flat out trolls the audience by saying that his brother "fried his circuits" and needs "recharging." There's no direct confirmation for or against, but dang it, there's more to this story. Sometimes the best way to hide the truth is to just say it - no one will believe you anyway (as Rick Jones proved in the 2000 series Captain Marvel). Also, Coulson tasks whichever Koenig isn't recharging with implementing the Theta Protocol (whatever that is) if Coulson doesn't return from the mission. Oh and more significant to at least one of the team, Lance became the meat in a Koenig sandwich as the team's plane, SHIELD-616, went into evasive action.
Speaking of, to throw off their attackers, May ejected various pods, seemingly in much the same way Ward previously ejected Fitz-Simmons into the ocean in "Ragtag." The tactic works.
Since the Temple (not named, but again, probably the Temple of Randac) negates modern technology, Trip busts out some of his grandfather's "cutting-edge Howling Commando" bombs to take out the old city. They also name-drop one of the World War II Yahoos, Dum-Dum Dugan. By the way, Marvel recently revealed that Dum-Dum died in the line of duty in the 1960s, and every modern appearance of the mustachioed bowler-wearer has actually been a super-sophisticated LMD (amazing how those things can fool even experts sometimes).
At the same time, the team is missing Mack, although they can't decide if he's dead, recoverable, or completely replaced by Kree tech (the answer: a little bit of the latter two). Not yet ready to mourn, Bobbi goes digging through Mack's things for a mysterious thumbdrive, something she tries to keep secret from Lance. For his own part, Lance knows she's hiding something, but has decided to trust her. Seems this is part of that "other thing" Mack mentioned last episode. Also trusting Bobbi? Diego, her Puerto Rican contact. He helps Hydra (because he'd die if he didn't) but makes sure to tip Bobbi off. Bobbi seems like a popular lady.
Oh, and Lance has the greatest SHIELD pitch line ever: "Join SHIELD. Travel to exotic, distant lands meet exciting, unusual people - and kill them." Edit: Stick points out that a similar line was used in Full Metal Jacket, but the verbatim line is even older than that, going back at least as far as a 1971 poster. Still a great line though.
Although SHIELD tries to keep their backdoor to the ancient city a secret, Hydra burrows right in through the Theater Ponce de León using their SHIELD-made Plasma Drill. Fun fact: Ponce de León is an immortal in the Marvel Universe, and he lives in Florida.
Inside the theater, Doctor Cal unburdens his soul to Skye, even admitting that he is a murdering monster (although, to be fair, have we seen him murder anyone that wasn't evil?). At several points, Doc Cal's anger seems to boil over, leaving this viewer to wonder if MAoS has the budget to "Hulk-out" their own Mr. Hyde, but time and again, he's transformation-blocked. He gets pissed at Skye, but sings himself calm. He gets pissed at Whitehall, but gets neutralized by some kind of restraining bolt. He fights past that to kill Whitehall, but Coulson steals his thunder by shooting the old Nazi dead. He takes out his frustration on Coulson only to have Skye stop him from going even farther. Sigh. Maybe in the second half of the season.
Speaking of frustration, my satellite TV froze the second Skye touched the Diviner, then unfroze during the commercial break. Argh.
On the flipside, Skye shoots Ward the second she has a gun. No wishy washy stuff with that situation (heck yeah!). Wounded Ward escapes with the still-brainwashed but now-directionless Agent 33 (aka "Not May"). We'll be seeing these two later.
While Coulson's team of four takes out a building swarming with Hydra agents (go team!), Raina grabs the Diviner and heads down into the Temple. Skye, meaning well, goes after her. Coulson, realizing how bad this could be, goes after her.
Which brings us back to the B story. Trip and Fitz-Simmons used the backdoor entrance and planted the WWII bombs to take out the temple. The whole thing was played up with appropriate tension as they went down without electronics, noticed Sentry-Mack missing and even split up (the scenes had a nice Alien-vibe) - but they all made it out okay. Until, that is, Trip found out Skye and Coulson were still down there and took it upon himself to disarm each of the timed explosives. That poor, selfless sap.
While those guys didn't find Sentry-Mack, Raina did, and he let her pass. Then Skye found him, and he let her pass. But Coulson, he was not to pass so easily. Interestingly, even after the shellacking that Doc Cal gave him, Coulson was still able to outfight the superpowered Sentry-Mack.
Trip somehow gets past Sentry-Mack and ends up in the Temple first, finding Raina and Skye and the Diviner, which opened to reveal a crystal which then released a mist that in turn caused a chitinous cocoon to envelope the two young women. Interestingly, Trip seemed unaffected, but when he saw Skye in danger, he kicked the crystal, destroying it. A crystal shard struck and petrified him. Okay, this is entirely Inhuman stuff now. Inhumans gain their powers by going into a chamber (most prominently in the Temple of Randac) where Terrigen Crystals release Terrigen Mists, causing them to grow cocoons. The transformation process can take seconds or several days, but afterwards, they are transformed. Originally, Terrigen Mist was considered fatal to normal humans, although a few survived the process (this could now be retroactively explained as those survivors having Inhuman DNA), however the Inhuman king, Black Bolt, recently unleashed a Terrigen Cloud on the world. This cloud seems to have little to no effect on most humans, but causes any with Inhuman heritage to transform.
When it's all over, Mack collapses, presumably free of the Sentry influence. So Mack lives, but Trip dies? Still seems unfair. Also, we never got confirmation on who Trip's grandpa was!
We only get a glimpse of Raina's new form. Are those spikes or hairs growing out of her face? It's unlikely that she's Medusa (she'll no doubt be in the 2018 movie), but I wonder if she's some other little-known Inhuman. Avia? Iridia? Minxi? Tonaja? Or maybe the Nuhuman Naja? Or possibly the latest Inhuman, Xiaoyi, who has some interesting but ill-defined powers. Hmm... time will tell.
After all is said and done, we see another apparent Inhuman with his own Diviner. He senses the presence of new Inhumans, and informs some important woman on the phone. Oh, and he has no eyes! Spooky! Actually, this is probably the newly revealed Inhuman, Reader. Little is known about Reader so far, but he can't see out of his eyes so he makes up for it in other ways (most often borrowing his dog's vision through some kind of mental link), but it's said he can track anyone anywhere.
Now to wait a few months to learn more.
Bonus: Special Thanks
This week adds Quake co-creator Gabriele Dell'Otto (but not Hyde co-creator Don Heck or Reader's creators Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman - maybe next time) to the list of special thanks. Gabriele painted the Secret War mini that introduced Quake to the comic-reading world, and recently did an amazing Spider-Verse pin-up.
Bonus 2: Make Mine Puerto Rico!
Oh, and I promised Krakenstein and others that I'd mention Marvel's Puerto Rican comics! Not a full line of comics like Marvel UK, or unique to a particular region like Europa or the Japanese-produced Spider-Man manga, a few years ago Marvel produced a series of comics published simultaneously in English and Spanish targeted specifically at Puerto Rico. This was thanks in large part to honorary Puerto Rican Tom Beland (whose biographical comic True Story, Swear to God is really worth reading!). These comics included Fantastic Four in...Ataque del M.O.D.O.K.!, Spider-Man & the Human Torch in...Bahia de los Muertos!, and Fantastic Four: Isla de la Muerte! and introduced local Puerto Rican characters like the Chupacabra race and the vigilante Vejigante!
Next time: Agent Carter!