Agents of SHIELD, Season 2, Episode 10: “What They Become”
Written by Jeffrey Bell
Directed by Michael Zinberg
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on ABC
WARNING: This review contains major spoilers this episode of Agents of SHIELD.
In season one, the midseason finale of Agents of SHIELD, “The Bridge,”, was a lackluster, frustrating cliffhanger, an episode with very little guts and the nerve to pretend like the season thus far was building up to that point. In season two, Agents of SHIELD shows just how much has changed with its midseason finale, “What They Become.” Nearly everything set up gets a proper payoff, and the action hardly slows down, except for a few brief moments between Skye and her father. A character thought dead in “Ye Who Enter Here” is revealed to be alive, but the celebration is short-lived, as another beloved member of the team is killed off in a brutally fast, Whedon-esque manner. Skye’s dad predicts that today will be the “best day ever,” but by the time “What They Become” is over, no one walks away as the winner. Not SHIELD, not Hydra, not Ward or Skye’s dad, nobody.
By far, the most significant development of the night is the transformation of Raina and Skye with the Diviner/Obelisk. As many viewers suspected, Raina and Skye are Inhumans, and the Diviner reveals their true powers. Unfortunately, their powers will not be revealed until the second half of the season, which gives the audience a substantial cliffhanger, especially compared to season one’s vague promise of answers to Coulson’s resurrection. For the first time, however, Agents of SHIELD is setting up the groundwork for a Marvel film, The Inhumans, rather than reacting to Marvel films like Thor: The Dark World or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. By doing so, Agents of SHIELD is establishing itself as necessary canon in the Marvel universe, and making itself essential viewing in the same way that Thor, Captain America, and the Iron Man films were essential for the audience’s full enjoyment of The Avengers.
Besides being essential viewing, “What They Become” is also compelling viewing. The initial reason to stick with Agents of SHIELD largely revolved around seeing where Coulson’s team fit into the Marvel universe, but now that the kinks of season one are worked out, the show is exciting on its own. All of the characters are likable, and it’s nice to see what they have built together as a team, which makes Triplett’s death so painful. He was introduced on the show right around the time that season one took a turn for the better, and B.J. Britt played Triplett with an effortless, laid-back likability and humor that will be sorely missed on the show. The manner of his death is also very distressing, with Skye looking on as his face literally crumbles to pieces. As she is reborn out of this crumbling cocoon, he is dying, and there is nothing that she can do to stop it. It is a defining moment for Skye, and will certainly affect how she feels about her identity and whatever powers she possesses thanks to the Diviner.
If that is not enough for Skye to process, she also shoots Ward multiple times and leaves him for dead. Her feelings for Ward have clearly changed since season one, but her decision to kill him, rather than capture him, proves how much Skye is changing. Is her choice to shoot him a prudent decision, or a vengeful one? If it turns out that it is the latter, will her newfound powers change her role on Coulson’s team? Will May, Fitz, and Simmons handle her like Mike Peterson, rather than working alongside her? Ward is presumably rescued, with most of the bullets blocked by strategically placed bullet-proof material, so he will continue his role as the show’s Spike, but Skye did not hesitate for a moment to take him out for good. Coulson also takes the shot with Whitehall, but that is a clear-cut defensive decision to save Skye’s father. Skye’s choice to take out Ward while she is in no immediate danger is a switch in her character that cannot be undone, and if it goes unaddressed, it represents a profound ideological change to the team.
The only major complaint with the episode is that Bobbi and Mac’s ulterior motives with the Diviner and the hidden city are still a mystery. To be fair, though, the show will need some unresolved conflicts for the second half of season two.
Bonus: Did anyone notice that Skye’s father is named Cal, as in Marvel supervillain Calvin Zabo, a.k.a. Mr. Hyde? Interesting developments on Agents of SHIELD. Very interesting indeed.