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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - What They Become - Review

The fall finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “What They Become,” was written by Jeffrey Bell and was directed by Michael Zinberg. It’s Bell’s first episode this season, and Zinberg is new to the show but previous credits include The Good Wife, The Blacklist, and Rizzoli & Isles among many others. This was an intense episode which answered some big questions but asked a bunch more, and we’ll have to wait until March for more answers. In the meantime, we can enjoy Agent Carter, however!

The episode featured some amazing special effects – from the initial sequence of fancy flying to Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Raina’s (Ruth Negga) transformation. There were some exceptional performances, most noticeably from Kyle McLachlan (Cal) and Bennet. We got some nice moments and lines, but we also lost one of my favorite characters – Triplett (BJ Britt) – or at least it sure seems like we’ve lost him. Of course, I’m hanging onto the rumors that we will see Triplett in Avengers: Age of Ultron. He was seen on set in costume in September, so my fingers are crossed that that isn’t a flashback scene. I’ve heard some good theories that maybe he’s transformed like Skye and Raina, but his new ability is to be invisible or turn into a gas…

If I had one complaint about the episode it’s that we had relatively little of Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen). Wen, of course, is now doing double duty as Agent 33 though – and doing a great job, playing an entirely different character. I especially liked her performance when she comes to Ward (Brett Dalton) after Whitehall’s (Reed Diamond) death – she’s completely lost and vulnerable – emotions we’ll never see with May! We do get a couple of great scenes between Gregg and Wen, as May. We see how well they work together as Director and second. May tells Coulson that Whitehall didn’t ask for Skye, Ward just took her. Coulson rightly surmises he’s taken Skye to meet Daddy-dearest – a nice reference to Mommie Dearest the memoir and movie about an abusive Joan Crawford.

When May wants to beat herself up about not shooting Ward, Coulson reassures her that Skye can take care of herself because of what May has taught her. He tells her, “You’ve transformed her into an agent who’s smart and tough and capable.” It’s our first reference to transformation. Even Ward admires May’s work in turning Skye into an effective agent. I loved Skye telling Ward that she’s learned to control herself because “In S.H.I.E.L.D., they train you to control yourself, HYDRA wants to control everyone else.” Ward tells her flat out that he’s not loyal to HYDRA, and his immediately siding with Skye and Cal after she picks up the Obelisk proves it. It’s hilarious, however, when Skye uses what Ward taught her – never turn your back on the enemy – to do what May wanted to – shoot him! Of course, in Ward’s defense, he doesn’t see Skye as the enemy – or at least he didn’t before she shot him! Dalton is terrific in this scene – he looks more emotionally hurt than physically hurt, though he’s clearly in trouble physically.

May tries to prevent Coulson from going after Skye, but he insists that it’s his fault that she’s down there. He also assumes responsibility for setting everything in motion and admits he’s pretty curious – after all the carving and so on – to see what it’s all about. Of course, he’s prevented from getting into the chamber itself by Mac (Henry Simmons) who is alive! And in fact, who is released from the temple by the end of the episode, so at least we get Mac back. I’m a bit surprised that not-Mac wanted to stop Coulson as Coulson should also have the alien DNA. But again, Skye’s reaction to the injection was different from everyone else’s too, so maybe just an injection isn’t enough, maybe it has to be deep in your DNA. It also still begs the question about how Trip was even able to get into the temple itself – and without his hazmat suit. After all, he seemed to be unaffected by the Obelisk crystal until he kicked it and it embedded itself in his chest.

Of course, at the heart of this episode, is the reunion between Skye and Cal. McLachlan is simply amazing in the first scene. He’s sweaty and nervous, but you clearly see the love he feels for his daughter. Bennet plays off of his performance perfectly. You see her resisting being swayed, but unable to prevent herself from being affected and unable to deny the feelings she has – her own yearning to be reunited with her family. When she accuses him of being a monster and a murderer, he admits it’s true, and she looks disappointed. But he goes on to explain that he’s lost everything – though lost isn’t the right word: “I didn’t lose you. I wasn’t careless. You were stolen from me.” As he remembers, Cal begins to lose his temper and Skye steps back, clearly a bit afraid – again the give and take between the actors makes this scene.

We learn that Skye was born in China and her mother was Chinese. When Cal finally apologizes, we see clearly that Skye is affected: “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you. That I couldn’t protect you or teach you about the stars or sing you to sleep” – and there’s a beautiful catch in McLachlan’s voice at this point. I was curious about what he meant by teach you about the stars – is he alien? Raina may have said that she and Skye are human, but is she sure about Skye or even telling the truth?

        Cal tells Skye the brutal truth about her mother’s death and exactly what Whitehall did to her. He then begins humming the tune from Skye’s dream, telling her that her mother used to sing it to her. He gently places his hand on her shoulder – and she lets him comfort her. Before he can tell Skye what happened to her – which we basically know – Cal tells her there will be plenty of time to talk – really? When does that ever happen!? First, however, he has to kill Whitehall: “Best. Day. Ever!” Once he leaves, Skye allows herself to breakdown.

Before Cal can kill Whitehall, Cal, Skye, and Ward are all captured. Was anyone surprised that Skye could pick up the Obelisk? We have another chilling encounter with Whitehall as he tells Skye about her mother’s special gift – she didn’t age. And then he utters his chilling “Discovery requires experimentation” – he’s going to discover Skye’s gift. Coulson arrives in the nick of time – of course! – and Whitehall leaves giving Cal a chance to remove the restraining device.

        Cal doesn’t release either Ward of Skye because he doesn’t want her to see him kill Whitehall. I felt a little badly for Diamond as Whitehall’s death felt a bit anti-climactic. I loved the scene though – we see Cal stalking up to Whitehall and Whitehall about to shoot Cal – why doesn’t Cal look worried about that?! – and suddenly Coulson shoots and kills Whitehall from behind. I adored Cal losing it and Gregg’s face as he says “You’re… welcome?”

This leads to the epic fight between Coulson and Cal, which only Skye can break up. She pulls Cal out of his murderous rage by calling him “Dad.” Skye is devastated that she can’t shoot him. She lets him go, telling him she’s not going to the temple and that she’s going to stop the whole thing. He assures her it’s going to happen – it’s her destiny: “I’ll go. But I’ll be waiting for you. After you change, no one else will understand. They’ll be afraid. Change is terrifying. But I’m your father and I love you. I will always love you. Daisy.” So we learn Skye’s true name. The speculation is that she is Daisy Johnson – aka Quake.

Her actual transformation appears to be accompanied by a quake so this seems like a good bet. I’m also betting that people like Coulson who are used to dealing with people like the Hulk and Thor won’t be put off or afraid of her. Of course, Skye is consumed with guilt for not killing Cal and apologizes to a woozy Coulson, who is unable to stop her before she runs off to “make it right.” Again, Bennet is tremendous as she is torn between her biological father and her surrogate father. There’s a beautiful moment before she leaves Coulson when he cups her face and she places her hand over his – a nice echo of the scene in which she allows Cal to touch her shoulder, but the touch from Coulson is more intimate and clearly more welcome.

I thought the actual transformation was really well done. Skye and Raina are covered in what looks like a black tar – it’s moving and undulating, but it still looks a lot like what happened to everyone else who touched the obelisk. When Trip is covered, he looks more like the others – who, sadly, all died. As I said, Skye’s reaction and her blasting the coating off, creating waves of energy, certainly backs up her becoming Quake.
But what about Raina? Somehow, I doubt she’s going to be as happy with her own transformation. Skye still looks human, but Raina seemed to be sprouting claws and some sort of whiskers. There is only a quick glimpse of her in the shadows and she certainly seemed to have some sort of gigantic, buggy eyes too – has she turned into some kind of insect-like creature? Or were the eyes more feline, suggesting that she’s become Tigra? Either way, we’ve seen Raina use her feminine wiles and good looks to sway others in the past, so if she’s lost them, how will she cope?

We see very little of the other members of the team. Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Hunter (Nick Blood) seem to be growing closer. Bobbi seems to be upset about the loss of Mac. Hunter comes across her going through Mac’s things under cover of tidying up the garage because Mac would hate to see it like that. In reality, she was looking for a thumb drive and hides it in her pocket. Hunter is also missing Mac – one of the very few people he trusted. He also reveals that he knows Bobbi has hidden the thumb drive, but is trusting her enough to believe the drive has nothing to do with him – but does it have something to do with the rest of the team? S.H.I.E.L.D.? HYDRA?

We do get some really lovely Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) moments. Fitz thinks Simmons is just humoring him by saying that Mac is alive, but when she explains that due to the alien technology there could be hope, he apologizes and admits that she has a good point. It helps to clear the air between them a bit, and very much like old times, they then simply concentrate on the problem at hand. Given how the runes glowed when Mac touched them, Fitz and Simmons are clearly onto something by assuming it may work in the same way as the Obelisk. This also leads them to realize that the city can likely also sense who belongs – so they suggest the hazmat suits to hide their presence.

When May and Coulson have to go and help Bobbi and Hunter, Fitz and Simmons go down with Trip to help plant the Howling Commando detonators – and yeah for more Howling Commando! I loved Trip and Billy (Patton Oswalt) bonding over the detonators. I also really enjoyed Billy taunting Trip with the possibility that he and his “brothers” are robots. As an aside, I heard at least one person speculate that maybe Triplett actually is a triplet…. Down in the tunnels, Simmons is worried about what to do about Mac, but Trip tells her if he’s dead they’ll bring back the body, but if not, it’s not Mac and they’ll be doing him a favor. In the end, luckily, once the transformation occurs, the city releases Mac and Coulson saves him – hopefully…

Perhaps the best Fitz/Simmons moment in the episode is when they are running out of time and Fitz insists that they split up. He points out he has a map and knows explosives, and he insists on going – though Simmons doesn’t want him to. As he sets off – in the wrong directions – Simmons calls “Fitz!” and he automatically corrects his direction without her having to say any more. They are definitely getting their mojo back!

As the episode ends, everyone would seem to still be in peril. We don’t really know what the transformation has done to Skye and Raina. Coulson and Mac are still in the tunnels while May, Bobbi, and Hunter are also experiencing the earth quake – Skye quake?? Will Billy and Sam (also Oswalt!) have instituted the Theta protocol? But the last scene is even more disturbing as we see there is another Obelisk – and likely at least one more on top of that – as a man with no eyes asks someone else if they are “seeing” this – the obelisk IN HIS HAND is glowing and pulsing. So. More obelisks and more people who can touch them. Are they friend or foe?

What did you think of the episode? Are you excited to find out what Skye and Raina really have become? Were you as sad as I was to lose Trip? Happy to see Mac back? Do you think Whitehall is really dead? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Forever, Defiance, Bitten, Glee, and a few others! Highlights of this past year include covering San Diego Comic Con as press and a set visit to Bitten. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.


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