The second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has presented both the better and weaker qualities of the show. While the season began with much more momentum and maintained it better than season 1 did, the quality bounced around as S.H.I.E.L.D. still struggled to figure out what it wanted to be and consistently maintain that ideal.
But “S.O.S.” demonstrated the show at some of its absolute best, with the many character and narrative arcs coming to satisfying conclusions while setting up the show for a different but engaging third year (which is now official!) in two of the show’s finest hours.
There’s plenty of ground to cover in the two-part finale, so without much more delay, let’s dive in and discuss everything that worked so well throughout both halves of “S.O.S.”
Jiaying kicked the war between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans into full gear at the end of “Scars,” and her plans took root in the opening moments of the finale. Gonzales dead, she blames him for the bullet wound she inflicted on herself, has a lackey steal a quinjet and blow up her building while pretending to be S.H.I.E.L.D. The chaos leads Skye to believe the Inhumans are in the right, despite May’s attempts to tell her otherwise. And so comes the first of many fights during the evening, in which May shows just how more adept at hand-to-hand combat she is.
Unfortunately for her, Skye has those pesky powers on her side and knocks her former trainer (and, at this point, possibly former friend) off her feet while fleeing with Jiaying and the others.
Simmons radios back to Coulson to fill him in on the attack while May recovers. Though Agent Weaver wants to attack with full force, Coulson advises they wait until they can see more of the full picture.
The two sides head back to their corners—Jiaying is patched up and maintains her health (by, uh, sucking the life out of another person), while Simmons, May, Cal, and other agents head back to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ.
During this (brief) period of rest, Skye checks in with Raina, who claims their destinies are intertwined. Skye is destined to lead the Inhumans, and Raina is the one to show her the way. She makes one last promise to her as Skye remains skeptical. They will never see each other again.
Skye mentions her distrust of Raina to Jiaying, who thinks they need to end the conflict and prevent S.H.I.E.L.D. from hurting them again. Skye remains hesitant of attacking the people she called family, and remains conflicted for the moment.
Meanwhile, Coulson and Weaver continue to debate the merits of attacking, and Mack, who was getting too old for this s–t, decides to stick around until things are settled once he hears about Gonzales’ death. And either way, Coulson has every intention of settling this conflict. Though other members of his team are a bit preoccupied: Hunter and Fitz discover Bobbi left with Agent 33, and not May as they originally thought (more on that in a bit…).
Coulson also uses this time to speak with Cal, who’s been returned to base, along with the three empty vials he had with him. He’s looking for super strength, but for now it’s simply made him a bit stronger but emotionally unstable. Coulson tries to discover Jiaying’s plans through him, but he’s making little progress.
Skye, on the other hand, makes a startling discovery when she comes upon Jiaying and a dead Raina. All at once the truth bubbles to the surface. Jiaying isn’t interested in protecting the Inhumans; she wants to march them into battle, and she’s silenced Raina to make sure no one stands in her way. Sadly, that means also having one of her lackeys knock out Skye to prevent her from opposing Jiaying as well.
NEXT: Cal(vin Zabo) rises! Plus: Is Bobbi safe?[pagebreak]
But Jiaying will face opposition from the unlikeliest of places: Cal. During his argument with Coulson, the elder Johnson passes out and flatlines, only to be revived by Simmons. Her injection proves to be the missing ingredient to turn Cal into Calvin Zabo, however, as Cal returns to life with more strength, rage, and distorted features.
He rampages about HQ in the closest the show may get to having a Hulk-like figure around, and it takes Coulson slamming Cal into a wall with an SUV to stop him. Pinned down, Cal is forced to hear Coulson’s plea. He plays to Cal’s one true goal—protecting Skye. She’s like a daughter to Coulson too, and he recognizes that the one true threat to their shared kin is Jiaying. The idea of stopping Jiaying at all costs initially infuriates Cal, but the family man recognizes that the woman he stitched back together is not the same woman he fell in love with.
So he agrees to help, and not a moment too soon, as Jiaying and Gordon have infiltrated the Iliad, taking Weaver and the crew hostage, leaving Mack to lone wolf it down in the boat’s halls with nothing but an ax. He finds a bit of backup when he stumbles upon Skye locked up in the ship’s hull. He frees her as Jiaying hopes to draw all of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the light.
The Kree object on the ship is secured, Jiaying has begun exposing crew members to Terrigen crystals, and Mack and Skye are the only two on board who can fight back.
What could possibly go wrong?
The capture and rescue of Bobbi Morse
Before going any further, let’s rewind to trace a bit of Bobbi’s plight in the two-parter. Last we saw her, she was kidnapped by Ward and Kara, and “S.O.S.” explains why. Ward wants her to apologize to Kara for essentially being the reason Agent 33 has suffered so much, and they’re even willing to torture the apology out of her. (Sidenote: I can’t stand torture-by-fingernail. It seems to becoming more and more standard practice, but as someone who hates cutting his fingernails, I will never not squirm at the sight of it.)
But Bobbi doesn’t want to apologize. She believes she made the right call to protect her cover with Hydra, and, given the chance, she’d make the same choices all over again.
Ward isn’t happy with this lack of results, and so he does the next best thing to hurting Bobbi—hurting someone she cares for. He turns on her phone, which Hunter and May track to her location. Ward has left a special surprise for them, rigging the door to Bobbi’s room to fire a rifle and kill the first person to step through it.
May and Hunter, along with a few other agents, appear on the scene. Kara takes out one of the red shirts, stealing their radio while the others scour the facility. May makes a play that ensures her survival, however, sending out a radio message and mentioning the sight of her face.
Kara, overhearing the call, puts on her May disguise, but runs into Ward who, without hesitating, sinks a few bullets into faux-May. And so, the woman he fought to protect for so long meets her end at his own hands, Ward tricked into killing Kara. This distraction also gives Hunter enough time to find Bobbi, opening the door only to… not be shot. Bobbi, gagged and unable to warn him, leans in front of the gun’s sights, taking a bullet to the shoulder. May and Hunter do their best to rush Bobbi back to HQ, bringing everyone together under one roof.
NEXT: The bodycount rises as the final showdown begins.[pagebreak]
Finish the Fight
And with everyone together, Bobbi under the care of Simmons, and May ready to help in the assault on the Iliad, the showdown commences. Coulson and the team head out, Fitz having built disrupters to fend off Gordon’s teleporting abilities, May along to provide kickass support, and Cal to… well, to be Cal.
They arrive on the boat, where Skye and Mack have split up to try and stop Jiaying’s efforts. Skye runs into Lincoln, who has been having doubts, and while Skye appears to be convincing him of Jiaying’s ulterior motives, Mack enters to knock out the poor guy before running off to find Jiaying’s Terrigen crystals.
He’ll have some help on that, as Coulson and the team land on the Iliad ready to fight. Cal confronts Jiaying in a hall, but Gordon stashes him away (temporarily) in a locked room.
And Gordon remains busy, running into a confrontation with Mack, but as Coulson and Fitz arrive on the scene, the now 3-on-1 fight takes a turn when Fitz’s disrupters prevent Gordon from teleporting out of the room. Everyone’s swinging something heavy and metal (Mack his ax, Coulson a giant wrench, and Fitz a pipe), but it’s Fitz who lands the accidental killing blow. Gordon transports into Fitz’s weapon, ending his teleporting career as a crystal falls from his hand.
Coulson leaps to prevent it from cracking open and killing them all, but as he grasps it, his arm begins to turn to stone. Fear not! Mack comes in to save the day by CHOPPING COULSON’S ARM OFF. Guess the answer to “How do you solve a problem like a Terrigen crystal” is “Something sharp and a clean swing.” (And for more answers, read Natalie Abrams’ behind-the-scenes look at that moment.)
The battle rages on throughout the ship, as Skye comes face to face (to face) with a duplicating Inhuman. The show delivers another extended one-shot fight scene, Skye bobbing and weaving to fend off the many clones. Unfortunately, they overpower her until Lincoln and May rush into battle. The two are able to take down the clones, as well as the original Inhuman, as Skye makes her way out to the ship’s deck to confront Jiaying. And she’s willing to kill.
When she arrives, Jiaying, monologuing her hopes to Skye, uses her life-sucking powers on her own daughter. Thankfully, Skye has grown enough over the season to overpower this threat, throwing Jiaying’s quinjet full of Terrigen crystals into the ocean and knocking her mother down. But Skye is not the one meant to deal the final strike. That’s Cal’s job. He makes good on his promise, killing Jiaying so Skye doesn’t have to live with that action.
Jiaying’s gone. Gordon’s gone. The crystals are at the bottom of the sea. The fight is over… for now.
And with (temporary) peace, Coulson takes stock of his team, with a little help from May’s ex, Andrew. Bobbi offered him some straight answers, and we see her tell Hunter that she “can’t do this anymore.” Mack respects Coulson but is still freaked out by all that alien stuff he’s got going on. Mack will be sticking around, though, to investigate the presence of the Kree stone at the base despite his wariness. And May is shown packing up her things and dressing in civilian clothing (to perhaps take some time and rekindle her life with Andrew?).
Andrew tells Coulson his team needs a little time off, a chance to experience life outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. And that might be okay for the time being. Coulson has some plans brewing, and for now they only pertain to Skye.
Speaking of Skye, she bids farewell to her father, promising to visit him to provide him with another best day ever. But as they hug goodbye, he tells her the truly best day of his life already happened—the day she was born (and suddenly the room I watched the episode in became very dusty).
NEXT: Coulson and Skye embark on a new secret mission.[pagebreak]
And Cal’s future is to live out his days operating a veterinary clinic, his memories erased thanks to Coulson. But that isn’t the only Johnson family plan Coulson has in store. He presents Skye with a dossier labeled “Caterpillars” (check the N.O.T.E.S. below for more), asking her to help lead a team of powered people.
It’s uncharted territory, and Coulson expects their actions, both already committed and yet to come, will have a tidal wave of effect on the world. Both agree that their work will need to remain hidden, but that may be difficult, as we see Jiaying’s Terrigen crystals have opened up in the sea, infecting the sea life, and, by extension, the fish oil pills made from the mist-laden fish.
And it looks like keeping their work in the dark will prove more difficult than ever come next season.
- TEASE: S.H.I.E.L.D. had to leave us with at least one ridiculous cliffhanger, and it comes in the form of the Kree stone swallowing up Simmons. Earlier in the episode, Simmons wants to discuss what Fitz said to her in the season 1 finale. And while they never directly discuss it, they make it clear to each other that there’s more than friendship between the two. Fitz even adorably stumbles his way through asking Simmons on a dinner date, but her disappearance will likely put a damper on that plan. Hopefully he doesn’t have to wait as long for that meal as Captain America has waited for his dance with Peggy Carter. (And on the note of Simmons, read what Elizabeth Henstridge had to say about that huge cliffhanger.
- The episode also leaves Ward picking up the pieces of Hydra. With all the major players in the organization out of the picture, it looks like, for the time being, he’s the one in charge. And he’s quite excited to put a team back together.
- One last note on Ward: I love that the show didn’t try to redeem him (in the eyes of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team). His turn in season 1 added such life into the character and elevated Brett Dalton’s performance. I worried all season long they might try to have him turn back, but I’m glad they’ve committed to a full-on evil, and now vindictive, Ward. (For more on Ward, Brett Dalton spoke with EW.)
- The May and Skye fight that opens the episode offers Ming-Na Wen a chance to be hilarious without uttering a word. She fends off Skye’s jabs with what looks like boredom before Skye pulls out a superpowered punch.
- Cal’s concoction in the vials included, according to Simmons, several steroids, metabolic enhancers, methamphetamines, gorilla testosterone, and a drop of peppermint. I guess that last ingredient is to improve the aftertaste?
- May calls Andrew earlier in the episode, which makes his appearance at the end make much more sense. It’s also a sweet moment where she apologizes (well, apologizes as best as May could) to him.
- The single-shot fight sequence for Skye doesn’t quite reach the heights of her last extended altercation, but the effects still proved fun as she fought against the many clones.
- Effects that worked less well? The CGI backdrop for when Skye and Jiaying talk on the ship’s deck. It’s understandable at a TV budget, but the lighting was distractingly fake from certain angles.
- Bobbi’s comments about being done were likely included for the potential spin-off were it to become a reality. Now that it isn’t, she’ll likely have to backpedal on those words in season 3, as that was likely scripted and filmed before the decision occurred.
- Cal’s farewell indicates, at least to me, that we won’t be seeing as much of Papa Johnson next season. I hope the writers can find room to bring him back, however, as Kyle MacLachlan once again made me misty eyed. He plays Cal with such tender chaos, evoking the perfect mixture of the sweet, honest love for his daughter with the mad beast that lurks beneath the surface. And he’s impressed week after week, culminating in his beautiful goodbye to Skye.
- There were many amazing quotes in this episode, from Fitz channeling Jesse Pinkman to say “Science, bee-yotch” (when did Fitz have time to watch Breaking Bad?) to Coulson saying “It’s a big boat with poor signage.” But my favorite line goes to Mack when, after identifying Gordon, the teleporter asks who he is. “I’m the guy who kills Gordon,” he replies.
- And last but not least, the dossier. The term Caterpillars on the side presumably refers to the team Skye will be leading, which conveniently is a term used to refer to members of Fury and Daisy Johnson’s Secret Warriors team. While I’m sure some changes will be made if the Warriors transition from page to screen, it’s a safe bet the show will at least inch in this direction. (For more on that check out Natalie Abrams’ postmortem with Jeffrey Bell.)
And that’s a wrap on season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Thank you for sticking along for the ride through the good, the bad, and all things Inhuman. Let me know your thoughts about the finale and the season as a whole, as well as your hopes (and maybe even some dream characters) for season 3!