So THAT Was The Point Of Skye’s Story On Agents Of SHIELD

Illustration for article titled So THAT Was The Point Of Skye’s Story On iAgents Of SHIELD/i

The first two seasons of Agents of SHIELD have largely been built around the journey of Skye, along with Phil Coulson’s identity crisis. Last night’s season finale paid off Skye’s storyline, and we finally got to see what it was really all about. Spoilers ahead...

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When we first met Skye back in season one, she was an orphan searching for her place in the world. Throughout the first season, she decides SHIELD was her new family, but then starts to see the cracks in that organization. Meanwhile, we learn that a whole Chinese village was massacred when Skye was a baby, and death follows wherever she goes. And that she’s an alien artifact, of some sort.

In season two, Skye gets superpowers, finds out that she belongs to the race of Inhumans who were engineered by the alien Kree to be weapons in a long-ago war, and meets both her parents: the savage Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) and saintly Jiaying (Dichen Lachman). She struggles with the discovery that her father is a mass-murderer and that SHIELD might see her as a monster, before finally getting to a happy enclave where the Inhumans live and nurture their gifts.

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It all seemed pretty clear cut — an origin story for a superpowered hero, who learns to control her abilities and view them as a gift rather than a curse. Skye’s father, who is human, is set up as a cautionary tale, a man who became a monster. And meanwhile, SHIELD’s Agent Gonzales is set up as the main voice of those who see Skye as a threat rather than a friend.

But first, we see Agent Gonzales try to make peace with the Inhumans instead of wanting to attack them - - and then we discover that Jiaying is not as much of a saint as we’d been led to believe. In last week’s penultimate episode, Jiaying kills Gonzales during the peace talks and makes it look like Gonzales attacked her.

Jiaying’s True Colors

That sets up a finale in which everything is turned on its head. The Inhumans are led to believe that SHIELD is on the warpath, so they mobilize for war. And over the course of the episode, we get to reassess everything we’ve learned about Skye and her family.

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Cal, finally in full-on “Mr. Hyde” mode, is on the rampage at Coulson’s base, and Coulson spends the good part of an episode talking him down rather than just killing him. And eventually, we find out that he’s not the monster we’ve believed — he’s been manipulated by Jiaying the whole time. And Raina, whom we’ve seen as a villain since day one, really does just want to get the truth out. She lets Jiaying kill her, so Skye will witness it and learn the truth.

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Skye is on her way to her mother to sign up in the fight against SHIELD, carrying a token (which Gonzales had gone to great lengths to obtain for Jiaying). Her holding that token signifies that Skye is fully on board to turn against her old friends — so Raina’s sacrifice saves Skye from becoming the monster she’s always feared she was. In a further irony, the Inhumans put power-canceling sleeves on Skye’s arms, very similar to the ones which Jemma Simmons had made for Skye — and when Simmons had done it, this was seen as proof that SHIELD were evil and didn’t want Skye to master her gifts.

So in the end, the people we’ve spent most of the year thinking of as “the bad guys” wind up saving the day. And meanwhile, we learn the truth about that Chinese village that was massacred — they weren’t just killed to keep Skye’s existence a secret, but also to feed Jiaying’s hunger for life-force. She sucks the life force out of people in order to heal herself, and since she was vivisected by Whitehall, she no longer cares about human life at all — she just goes around being a vampire, more or less.

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Illustration for article titled So THAT Was The Point Of Skye’s Story On iAgents Of SHIELD/i

This puts a whole new spin on Skye’s identity crisis — instead of being torn between SHIELD, which sees her as a menace, and her “real” family, which loves and accepts her, she’s discovered that both sides are capable of being manipulative and kinda evil. And the formative tragedy of Skye’s life is no longer about people killing each other to keep her safe, but about her Inhuman mother being, well, inhuman.

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One of the best moments in the episode comes when Mac — who really gets to shine in this finale — is trapped alone on board the aircraft carrier, after the Inhumans have taken out everybody else. It sort of looks like the show is setting up a Die Hard-kinda scenario, with Mac fighting back alone. But instead, Mac goes to rescue Skye, whom he trusts despite all of his past misgivings about people who’ve been touched by alien influences. And then Mac teams up with Coulson and Fitz to take out the eyeless Gordon using tech that cancels out Gordon’s teleportation powers, and it’s kind of awesome.

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Speaking of which, Mac has a bit of a change of heart in general in this episode — he’s still suspicious of alien influences, after his experience with Kree technology, but he comes around to accepting Coulson as SHIELD Director. And he even saves Coulson from being infected with one of the blue crystals that Jiaying brought to the aircraft carrier — by chopping off Coulson’s hand, admittedly. Pretty much everybody gets to see Coulson handle a really difficult situation without escalating it, in this episode, so that’s a plus.

So Jiaying’s actual plan, the details of which I’m unclear on, is to bring a case full of crystals aboard the aircraft carrier, and use them to release terrigen mists. Anyone aboard who’s an Inhuman will be transformed, the way Skye was. Anyone else will die, the way Tripp did. She amplifies SHIELD’s homing beacon and transmits on all channels, so every single SHIELD agent everywhere will come to the aircraft carrier and get terrigen-ed. But Skye warns Coulson, who sends most of the agents away — and then Skye knocks the crystals into the ocean, where they turn some fish into Inhuman fish (??) and wind up inside fish oil capsules sold in drugstores everywhere.

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Jiaying winds up getting killed by her own husband, Cal, who saves Skye after he’s finally gotten over his jealousy of Skye’s surrogate dad, Coulson, so they can team up to save her. Cal gets rewarded by having his memory wiped, using the TAHITI protocol, and goes off to become a veterinarian.

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So what was Skye’s whole story about? I guess, that who she’d turned herself into is more important than who her parents are — when Mac gets her out of her prison cell, he tells her he doesn’t need her superpowers, but her hacking skills. And after spending most of the past two years fearing that she’s inherently a monster, Skye finds out that it’s really her mother’s awful choices that made her monstrous, not anything intrinsic.

Speaking of monsters and identity crises...

In the episode’s “B” story, meanwhile, Grant Ward and Agent 33 have captured Bobbi Morse, and they’re torturing her to make her confess that she turned in Agent 33.

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When Bobbi was undercover at Hydra, she gave Hydra the location of a SHIELD safehouse, because the alternative was having her cover blown and risking the lives of dozens of agents. Bobbi hoped the safehouse was empty, but in fact Agent 33 was there — and she spent months being abused and brainwashed by Hydra.

Ward wants Agent 33 to get “closure” by seeing Bobbi confess the truth — even after she’s already seen Bakshi get what was coming to him, and a few other people who were responsible. But Bobbi refuses to break, saying over and over that she would make the same call in the same situation, and that’s what Agent 33 signed up for when she swore an oath. In one particularly badass scene, Bobbi breaks out of her restraints in the middle of being tortured, and manages to kick Grant’s ass pretty decisively before being taken down.

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So Grant, instead, sets up Bobbi with a deathtrap that is designed to kill her ex, Lance Hunter, when he comes to rescue her. There’s no way to stop this death trap, so Bobbi puts herself in the way of it instead, taking a bullet for Lance. (And maybe, helping to repair their broken relationship. We’ll see, I guess.)

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Meanwhile, Melinda May, who’s sick of having Agent 33 impersonate her, gets a cold-blooded revenge — she uses the fact that all the SHIELD agents have gone radio silent to trick Agent 33 into impersonating Melinda one last time. Agent 33 thinks she’s setting a trap for the SHIELD agents, but instead she only runs into Grant Ward, who kills her thinking it’s the real Melinda.

The sad thing is, Agent 33 already had her best chance at closure — she was at Coulson’s base, getting slowly reintegrated into SHIELD. Over time, she could have regained everyone’s trust and remembered who she used to be. She could have come back from her brainwashing, which would have been a painful process but worth it. Instead, she throws all of that away for a pointless revenge — sorry, “closure” — scheme.

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Illustration for article titled So THAT Was The Point Of Skye’s Story On iAgents Of SHIELD/i

What was Grant Ward planning to do with her? Was he just really in love with her and wanting her to get the same kind of finality that he got from dealing with his family? Or did he plan to use her for some larger scheme? We’ll never know.

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In the end, Grant has stopped sitting on the fence, and has finally gone back to Team Hydra — except that Hydra is in tatters, so he has to rebuild it from scratch, starting with a pretty unimpressive group of louts that he finds in a bar. (I liked them saying, “Well, normally, you cut off one head, two grow back. But lately...”)

Other stuff

Melinda May still hasn’t repaired her relationship with Coulson — which seemed to be on the brink of a major crisis last week — but they’re at least working together this week. And she calls up her ex-husband Andrew in the middle of the crisis, to check in the way she used to when they were married. The episode ends with May taking some time off for the first time ever, preparing to go on a romantic getaway with her husband. (Yay.)

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Illustration for article titled So THAT Was The Point Of Skye’s Story On iAgents Of SHIELD/i

Meanwhile, Fitz and Simmons also revisit their relationship — now that they’re friends again, Jemma wants to bring up the topic they haven’t discussed since they were at the bottom of the ocean. Leo isn’t really into discussing his feelings for her, since there’s no point — until Jemma says there might actually be a point.

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And at the end of the episode, they’re all set to go on a possibly romantic dinner together, until Fitz clumsily opens the box holding an ancient Kree artifact — which swallows Jemma up and leaves no trace. Oops!

Final thought: Agents of SHIELD remains a massively improved show. That said, in retrospect the second half of the second season hasn’t blown me away quite as much as the first half did. When Hydra seemed an unstoppable threat and Whitehall was a truly menacing villain, the show had a certain amount of urgency, and I liked seeing SHIELD on the run and being hunted by the authorities as well as Hydra. Last night’s episode had a lot of somewhat repetitive scenes where Jiaying tries to manipulate people, leaving me feeling as though the Inhumans storyline had never quite gotten as much traction as the earlier Hydra one did. Still, it did pay off pretty well.

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Contact the author at charliejane@io9.com.

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DISCUSSION

Cool_Breeze
Cool_Breeze

SCIENCE BIATCH

Holy shit.

That was a fun ride. Unlike Agent 33, many of the characters got closure, including May, Cal, and Skye. We finally met Hyde, and god was he glorious. Mockingbird is a certifiable badass. MACK.

Dude.

1. How freaking amazing was it watching Cal all doped up on his serum, baked out of his mind from all the different drugs in the formula? His mood swings from loopy to cold to hot to confident to braggy were amazing to watch. I love how they used headphones to keep him occupied, and it reflected the way Banner used BEATS BY DRE ™ (c) (ALLRIGHTSRESERVED) to calm himself down after a Code Green. Keep his mind on something else and he won’t go all rage-y on everyone. Awesome.

Fitz was right. Cal was intimidating. I liked the other nod to the movies, when Coulson used the battering ram HYDRA used against Fury’s SUV in The Winter Soldier to keep Hyde pinned to the wall. I also liked how Hyde showed Coulson he could move the car anyway at the end of their little conversation about Skye. Cal is different from Banner in that when he is Hyde, he still has control. And a VERY big temper. Banner is completely overtaken by the big guy, and it takes a lot for Banner to come back.

Hyde’s best line of the night: “There goes the feeling in my legs!”

2. Can we please just all agree that Coulson is the BEST Avenger of them all? He is unflappable. UNFLAPPABLE. The Coulson we saw last night was the same Coulson who told Stark he would taze him and watch Supernanny while Stark drooled on the carpet. This was the same Coulson who walked up to the Destroyer and asked if it was unregistered Stark tech, and complained that no one told him anything. This was the Coulson that took out two dudes in a gas station with flour and some powdered doughnuts. HE IS THE BEST.

It’s official: Coulson is the Hyde whisperer.

All of his quips last night were fucking hilarious. Coulson telling Hunter that Ward’s logic wasn’t logical. Coulson unable to decide if he was happier that Mack hadn’t left yet or that Mack agreed with him. Coulson stammering after Hyde told him not to call her “Daisy.” Coulson’s gut feeling that Cal took ALL OF THE DRUGS. Big Boat, Poor Signage. As action packed and fast paced as this show was last night, I was cracking up the whole time. This is what Marvel has done consistently since Iron Man: They show us a good time.

3. Speaking of, I’m glad that they really didn’t stretch out the whole “who started it” thread for too long, and had Coulson IMMEDIATELY question what happened, and find out that it was a false flag fairly quickly. Simmons’ sarcasm was on point last night, especially when discussing Gonzales potentially starting the whole war: “No, Gonzales would NEVER attack a base UNPROVOKED.” Zing!

I believe the “attack” on the Inhuman camp was more for the other Inhumans than it was for SHIELD. Jiaying knew SHIELD would find out sooner or later, and the whole attack was to convince the other Inhumans that might not be in on her plan that it was necessary.

4. As strange as it was, I actually was sad that Raina got stabbed in the neck. Going along with my last point, though, I’m glad Skye saw it (er, not like that, that’s morbid) and realized fairly quickly that Jiaying was bad news. Marvel does a good job of NOT HIDING THE BALL for too long.

5. I’ve read a lot of people recently, especially after last week’s episode, who somewhat agreed (or more appropriately, understood) Jiaying’s position when she KILLED GONZALES AND SHOT HERSELF. I mentioned that the best way to stay secret does not involve STARTING A WAR, and some people justified her actions. I was starting to agree somewhat before this episode aired, and was reconsidering, until I saw Jiaying this week. She went full nutjob. NEVER go full nutjob. Cal was right: She might have had a good heart at one point, but it was ripped out of her.

6. Speaking of Jiaying: SHE FEEDS OFF OF PEOPLE. WHAT THE WHAT. I had a “haha ewww” when she told Skye that she healed with a combination of good doctors and the generosity of others. Yikes.

7. Hunter and Fitz make a good team. Apparently Hunter is able to finish his own sentences. Good for him! Going along with an earlier point, Fitz discovered Agent 33’s ruse pretty quickly (Don’t hide that ball!), and I loved the interaction between him and Hunter when he was trying to explain that there were two Mays. “There’s May.” “Yeah, and there’s the woman that one time set my 1967 convertible GTO on fire.” OH YOU. NEVER CHANGE.

8. Ward is creepy. Like, SUPER creepy. Fingernail torture on Mockingbird along with anesthetics so the pain hits her all at once? You can just fuck right off.

9. MOCKINGBIRD. Holy shit she is a badass. Some people were speculating that she was a double/triple agent for HYDRA, and gave up Agent 33 to Whitehall specifically. Turns out, she gave up a SAFEHOUSE that Agent 33 happened to be in. That’s kind of different. Unlike Jiaying, he logic was sound. I love how when Ward began the torture, she reminded him that any apology she gave would be hollow. DUDE. When Mockingbird tried to convince Agent 33 that she was being played, and Ward said he was rehabilitating her, and she responded “TAKE HER TO HAWAII.” Awesome.

Something I noticed: When Mockingbird was whimpering with THREE FUCKING NEEDLES in her fingers, and Ward got close, for a few seconds right before the most awesome escape ever she hardened up. While she was talking to Ward, she didn’t waver or grimace or whimper or anything: She was about to strike and Ward didn’t see it coming, just like Coulson didn’t see him coming. That was straight out of Black Widow’s playbook (just like when she “interrogated” Loki).

10. Mockingbird’s escape attempt. God damn that was good. She pulled those needles OUT OF HER HAND AND STABBED WARD IN THE BACK OF THE NECK WITH THEM. My god.

11. Did anyone else audibly laugh at Ward for shooting Agent 33? I sure did. THAT’S WHAT YOU GET ASSHOLE.

When Agent 33 took the walkie-talkie, and May mentioned radio silence before asking everyone to meet in the southwest corner, My first thought was that she knew Agent 33 would have May’s face on, and May’s message was a signal to the other agents to shoot anyone who looked like May. Little did I know that maybe her plan was to get Agent 33 in a May mask, so Ward would do the dirty work for her.

Well played.

12. Speaking of Agent 33. Even though I was happy that Ward had to shoot his girlfriend because he’s an asshole, I felt bad for Agent 33, because for as long as we’ve known her, she’s been manipulated. First, Hydra got to her on Mockingbird’s information, and tortured and brainwashed her. Then, Ward got a hold of her and did his own brain washing, and convinced her that he was right. Ward was doing to Agent 33 what Garrett did to Ward. Then she got got. That’s a hell of an existence.

13. Another Avengers shout out: When Coulson and Simmons were talking about Hyde’s formula (Peppermint? Really?) and Simmons said it was a bad idea, Coulson said “every attempt other than Cap was ill conceived.” Nice.

14. I like some of the powers they were giving Jiaying’s cohorts in this episode. It shows the range of powers we will likely see next season. The Ginger Ninja was DOPE. I cracked up when she told the other Inhuman that she was headed to the engine room. Oh and she was also in the conference room, too, where we get a jump cut to two of her kicking ass. NICE.

15. Mack. Mack, Mack, Mack. You had the line of the night NAY, season. When Gordon popped in there, and Mack asked who he was, and Gordon responded with “Gordon. Who are you?” and Mack replied “THE GUY WHO KILLS GORDON” I stood up. At 10:30 at night in my dark living room, I stood up from the couch to watch what happened next.

That was spectacular.

Side note: I love how Mack calls Fitz Turbo and Skye Tremors. I also like how Mack thought HIS mom was bad when she started watching Fox News. Zing! (Although, that does make her kind of bad…)

Another Aside: WHAT THE SHIT MACK CUT OFF COULSON’S HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I guess Coulson was NOT protected due to his Kree influence. I wonder if he gets a Luke hand or a Koenig Hand….

16. Something we haven’t seen since before Bahrain: May cracking a smile while explaining how excited she was to kill Ward. Relaxed May is the best May. Do good Melinda. And come home.

17. ANOTHER Movie connection: When Coulson sent the other Quinjets away, and gave his orders to the agents in his jet, he reminded them to save as many people as possible. This is a running theme in every Marvel movie since Iron Man: Saving innocents. Iron Man saved that town from the Ten Rings. Every movie since has had the heroes take active steps to make sure innocent people are ok. From Thor sacrificing himself to the Destroyer to Cap taking out the Chitauri in that lobby, to the Avengers getting people off of Ultron’s floating city. Keep this up.

18. Fitz’ line of the night: Science Biatch!

I loved how once they all had Gordon corralled; they all had steel pipes or axes to use as blunt objects to batter him around. That looked so fun!

19. This episode was about closure. May got closure of the whole Bahrain issue, and is talking to her ex-husband again. Skye got closure because she finally realized who her family was, and got closer to her dad. Cal got closure in that he got to keep his promise (yikes) and doesn’t have to live with everything he’d done for Jiaying anymore. Closure.

We’ll see what kind of closure Ward gets next season.

20. Cal chose Tahiti to help forget what Jiaying put him through. I hope that animal hospital is a magical place, indeed.

21. SECRET MOTHERFUCKING WARRIORS. It may not be its own spinoff show, but ITS HAPPENING! SKYE GETS TO PICK HER TEAM! WHO WILL IT BE?

My Guess, Lincoln, Raina (maybe she lived? Who knows), Mockingbird (who I don’t think is done being an agent, I think she was done playing games with Hunter), and who knows who else. We shall see.

Nice touch: Skye has to drive Lola because, you know, that whole hand issue.

22. Simmons was absorbed by the rock. Does this mean it’ll affect her like the Kree blood did Coulson, or the Kree Sentry did Mack? Hopefully, Coulson. And maybe she’ll have anti-Inhuman powers derived from the rock.

23. Welp. Those Terrigen Crystals are going to infect a LOT of people. It’ll be like Stan Lee hulking out after drinking the tainted soda from Banner’s bottling plant. We just saw the source of the powered-person of the week for next season. BRING IT ON. MY BODY IS READY.

TL;DR: SHAME ON YOU THIS IS IO9 WE DO THE READING. GET YOUR ASS BACK UP THERE.