After the relatively fast pace of Agent Carter, I was sort of prepared for Agents of SHIELD to be a bit more leisurely, stringing us along in between big reveals and character turns. Which made last night's "Who You Really Are" a pleasant surprise, given how much stuff transpired. Spoilers ahead...
The main storyline in "Who You Really Are" deals with the fallout from Skye becoming an Inhuman with earthquake powers — basically, the comics character known as Quake. Nobody except Fitz knows the truth about Skye, and this is juxtaposed with the situation of Lady Sif, one of Thor's pals from Asgard, who's been stricken with amnesia thanks to a Kree weapon. Lady Sif knows nothing about herself or her mission, only basic facts that any Asgardian child would know — which leads to lots of funny moments in which she knows all about Kree physiology, but has no idea why the mention of Thor makes her smile.
Lady Sif is unaware of her own power as a warrior, and meanwhile Skye is hyper-aware of how dangerous she is as a superpowered being — which is driven home in the scene GIFed above, in which Skye holds back during combat training with Melinda May. When Skye first goes up against the episode's antagonist, a Kree named Vin-Tak, she has a shaking fit that causes the whole building to go wobbly and shakes her gun to pieces.
Incidentally, Vin-Tak is played by Warehouse 13's Eddie McClintock, and it's pretty impossible not to see him as a blue Pete Lattimer, dealing with some unusually strange artifacts. Especially since the episode was written by regular Warehouse 13 scribe Drew Z. Greenberg.
And here's a GIF of Pete Lattimer having just told the SHIELD team that they can't possibly stop him, only to discover otherwise:
Vin-Tak is here on Earth, because the Kree built that city that SHIELD found in Puerto Rico — the one that turned Skye and Raina into Inhumans, and caused the death of Tripp. Vin-Tak explains a version of the backstory of the Inhumans that we know from the comics. The Kree created a program to alter other species, in order to turn them into weapons, because they were in the middle of a drawn-out war. This didn't work on most planets, but on Earth it worked too well. The Diviner (aka the Obelisk) is just one of a number of such devices that the Kree left on Earth, which would be enough to create an army of Inhumans. (If SHIELD hadn't flooded that city.)
Vin-Tak realized that the city had been activated and someone had been transformed by contact with the Terrigen mists — so he rushed to Earth to neutralize the Diviners and deal with the newly created Inhuman(s). But when Heimdall saw that a Kree had come to Earth, he alerted Lady Sif, who came after Vin-Tak — only to get stricken and lose her memory. In the end, it turns out that the other remaining Diviners are missing — either in the hands of Hydra, or the clutches of some third party.
But at least Vin-Tak takes back his "truncheon" and restores Lady Sif's memory:
I kind of expected this episode to leave Skye's secret dangling — a lot of TV shows would have teased out the process of Coulson's team finding out that Skye is an Inhuman, over a bunch of episodes. Maybe a few more people would have started to suspect the truth, and things would have started getting harder to conceal, yadda yadda. This episode seemed as though it was going to toy with the notion of Skye's secret being discovered, while playing with the parallels with Sif's lost memories.
But instead, Agents of SHIELD exploits all the dramatic potential of Skye having a secret that only Fitz knows, with admirable efficiency, and then moves on. There's the aforementioned stuff about Skye holding back in training, and fearing her own strength. There's the awkward moment where she asks to stay behind on a mission, after her first time in the field results in that gun malfunction.
And there's the awkwardness between Fitz and Simmons. Fitz is furtively trying to study Skye's altered DNA for some hope of a cure, while Simmons is terribly gung-ho about beefing up their weapons against non-human enemies. Simmons is rolling out a new batch of Icers, which pack more of a punch, and could actually hurt someone — but they're more likely to stop a superpowered foe in his or her tracks. The zest with which Simmons, still upset over Tripp, proposes packing superguns, is a little unnerving.
And it leads to a bit where Fitz has Skye's real DNA samples, and tries to convince Simmons that they're just a simulation. It's unclear how long he would be able to pull that off, given that she's as clever as he is — but she also keeps underestimating him since his injury happened.
In any case, just when you think this is going to be a new status quo for a few episodes at least, everything breaks wide open. Right around the same time that Lady Sif gets her memory back, everybody sees Skye's powers in action, and they realize that she's also an Inhuman. They're hearing the worst possible version of what this means from Vin-Tak, who keeps describing Skye and Raina as human weapons, whose only purpose is destruction. In Vin-Tak's reckoning, there's no controlling these powers — they're just designed to wreak maximum devastation as part of Kree war tactics. So the only hope is to get rid of Skye and Raina, neutralize the Diviners, and hope that other Kree don't find out that they have the ability to turn humans into monsters.
So this leads to a situation where Lady Sif wants to take Skye back to Asgard, presumably to lock her up in one of those charming cells. And Vin-Tak just wants to get rid of her. The SHIELD crew has to protect her, without even being sure what's going on — but Melinda May has faith that Skye can focus and control her powers if she just follows Melinda's voice and uses the self-control from her combat training. (Side note: Every time Melinda May says "focus," I hear Dr. Ivchenko from Agent Carter.)
In the end, Skye isn't actually able to stop the earthquakes she's causing. And Lady Sif has cut her way into Ward's old prison cell, where May and Skye are hiding. The only way Skye can stop her powers is by shooting herself with a non-lethal gun, risking her own safety for the team. And this is enough to convince Lady Sif, at least, that Skye will do better if she's surrounded by the people she loves.
But Lady Sif cautions, at the end, that the process that's changing Skye may not be something that can be understood with logic. Even with super-advanced Asgardian science, some things remain beyond our ken, and this may be one of them, Sif says, before she and Vin-Tak take the Bifrost back to Asgard.
As for Vin-Tak, he gets into a rematch with Bobbi Morse, whom he smacked down earlier in the episode.
This time around, Bobbi is playing it smart, using fighting sticks to distract him long enough for Fitz to get the drop on him with a massive huge honking gun. After which Bobbi uses Vin-Tak's own mind-wiping truncheon — which only works when Vin-Tak is holding it — to erase Vin-Tak's memory, turning him into an agreeable literal-minded companion who seems vaguely reminiscent of Drax.
But everybody is pissed at Fitz for hiding Skye's superpowers. Fitz tells Simmons that now they're even, and that the way Simmons was talking about wanting to deal with Raina, he didn't think Skye would be safe if they all knew. And then, of course, everybody tries to say that Skye is their friend and they would never... except that there's an undertone of pitchforks and torches about the whole thing.
And Mac is the one who comes out and says the rest of them need to be protected from Skye, just as she walks into the room.
So Skye goes off, alone, to her new quarters — the super-cell where they keep threats like Vin-Tak contained.
The Skye thing isn't the only shoe that this episode lets drop, a lot sooner than I'd expected. In the main subplot, we also learn a lot more about what's going on with Mac and Bobbi Morse. Bobbi is sleeping with her ex-husband Lance, and it's actually going really well — they're getting along better than they have in a long time, and this time around Lance isn't objecting to Bobbi's commitment to SHIELD. Quite the reverse, in fact. Coulson has offered Lance a full-time position at SHIELD, and he's decided to take it. So now, Lance and Bobbi can finally be on the same team. Heh.
Except that, not. Because Bobbi's actually on a whole other team, with Mac. And they're scheming something, which includes a mysterious thumb drive, the toolkit in Coulson's office, and some kind of "backup." There's some plan that they're going to "pull the trigger" on soon, and when this happens, it'll be a huge betrayal to the rest of Coulson's team. At the same time, Mac does say definitively that they're not working for Hydra, and whatever it is, it's something that Lance might eventually forgive Bobbi for if he's not around to see it happen.
But if Lance is there when it goes down, then he might just try to kill his beloved ex-wife.
So Bobbi has to push her lover away yet again, this time on purpose. In the hopes that he'll leave SHIELD behind before shit goes down.
This, too, is a status quo that I sort of expected to be drawn out over a few episodes. Lots of Lance still wanting to make it work with Bobbi and Bobbi pretending not to be into him, while secretly being into him, so that he won't find out that she's actually scheming to ruin Coulson's day. Seems like the sort of thing that you'd see getting played out in real time.
Instead, we just get one arch scene, where Bobbi is working on figuring out Vin-Tak's special "truncheon" (which is a very funny word, as Lance observes), and Lance basically wants to boink her on top of the lab table, before being rebuffed. Here's the moment where Lance realizes he's being dismissed:
But Lance can put two and two together, and he's sort of guessed that the line Bobbi told him last week about her and Mac being in a secret support group together was crap. So he confronts Mac about it (probably the wrong choice, of the two of them), and Mac seems like he's going to have a reasonable conversation about it. For a second or so.
Then Mac puts Lance in a sleeper hold and knocks him out. Leaving Mac wondering what the hell to do with an unconscious dude:
All in all, this was a terrific episode, that did a lot to get rid of the lingering "we miss Agent Carter" feelings. I'm glad to see this show isn't sparing the horses when it comes to moving its plots forward. And between the even-more-perplexed-than-usual Sif and Eddie McClintock's overconfident Kree, this was also one of the funniest episodes, of either show.
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