Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: 'What They Become'
In which we finally get some answers.
In the first half of its second season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t just turn things around—it downed a double shot of whiskey, strapped on a jetpack, and winked at the camera before blasting off into orbit like it were the easiest thing in the world.
The plot of “What They Become” is ultimately quite simple—thanks to all that setup that happened last week, it’s time for the payoff. May has to dodge the Hydra Quinjets that were ordered to shoot down the Bus and reunite with the rest of the team, Skye has to confront her father, and Coulson needs to keep Hydra from getting into The City and save Mac if he can. Once May rendezvous with the team in San Juan, they go about putting a plan into action: Once Morse and Hunter find out where they’re holding Skye, they join May and Coulson on the journey to save her, while Trip and FitzSimmons go about looking for Mac and rigging the City to blow.
Meanwhile, Ward takes Skye to finally meet her father.
In many ways, this is the scene all these 10 episodes have been building to. As great as the stuff that comes in the end is—we’ll get to that—this scene is the answer to the last real mystery from the first season, the conclusion of the first act (or Phase, if you will—this is a Marvel show) in the AoS‘ long game.
“I’m Cal. I’m your father.”
Kyle MacLachlan continues to excel in his role as the disturbed man who lies at the broken center of everything introduced in season 2. He tells Skye his name, about her immortal mother who was butchered by Whitehall, and his desire for revenge. He tells her that she’s gifted, like her mother. And then he starts humming to her—the same song we heard in the music box during last week’s cold open.
As some commenters pointed out, the song is Daisy Bell, an 1894 tune composed by Harry Dacre. Give it a listen. Pay attention to those lyrics.
There is a flower within my heart/Daisy, Daisy.
So who is Skye? And who is her father?
The answer, as many suspected, is Daisy Johnson, the daughter of Calvin Zabo, the supervillain also known as Mr. Hyde. But Daisy Johnson also has another name—Quake. Remember that.
In the middle of all these revelations, Whitehall figures out that Skye is Cal’s daughter, and gifted like her mother—he incapacitates Cal, and Ward—who tips his hand and takes Skye’s side when the Hydra goons move to apprehend her and Cal. Whitehall then tells her to pick up the Diviner, which she does—and it doesn’t harm her.
Skye, Ward, and Cal are taken hostage, but not for long—Coulson’s rescue team reaches the place, and Coulson kills Whitehall before the Hydra leader is about to shoot a bloodthirsty Cal. This turns out to be a bad idea—blind with rage, Cal is furious that Coulson took his revenge from him, and so he begins to beat him to death.
Meanwhile, Ward frees himself, then Skye and tells her to stay put while he clears the way.
She shoots him instead. It’s probably her finest moment thus far.
Having completed her transformation into a total badass, Skye then saves Coulson from her father, demanding he get gone and forget all his talk about Destiny and Diviners and anything else remotely comic book related. He agrees to disappear, but tells her that he’ll be there for her after she changes because no one else will understand. He then calls her by her name, confirming what was strongly implied earlier—her real name is Daisy.
Daisy then realizes that she has to do what her father says anyway after Raina has escaped to the city with the Diviner. As a result, Coulson goes after her, and Trip jumps back into the tunnels to disarm all the explosives he set down there, as Raina is led to a pedestal by Mac, who is still possessed by the City.
When Skye finds her, the Diviner floats on to the pedestal all by itself, sealing Skye in the room with Raina—along with Trip, who dives in too as Coulson is locked out with Mac. Inside the room, the Diviner opens up to reveal a blooming crystal, which then shatters, releasing a mist, which douses everyone in the room. Want to guess what happens next?
MOTHER-EFFIN TERRIGENESIS, THAT’S WHAT.
In a moment that proved another long-held fan theory right, it’s revealed that Skye and Raina are Inhumans, as cocoons form on their body after inhaling the Terrigen mists. And then as the cocoon falls away from Skye, the earth trembles as she emerges looking the same, yet very different.
Meet Daisy Johnson, the Marvel superhero known as Quake.
It’s an awesome moment even if you know it’s coming, and undercut with the sad realization that the Diviner killed Trip during the process—probably the biggest misstep in those pitch-perfect final moments, mostly due to this season’s failure to develop Triplett or give him any sort of meaningful story. He’s ultimately a safe person to kill because he was extraneous. And that’s a shame.
NEXT: Putting it all together
If you haven’t been following along these recaps, or the comments beneath them, then you might be a bit perplexed as to what all this means. Basically, it’s finally confirmation of one of the longest and most prevalent rumors regarding AoS and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.
Essentially, there was always a problem at the core of all these Marvel movies—there was no allowance for random superhumans to show up. Think about it—Iron Man is a regular guy. Captain America is a one of a kind military science experiment. Thor is from another realm. The Incredible Hulk is a botched attempt to recreate Captain America. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a bunch of aliens. Outside of them and the few examples we’ve seen on AoS like the Absorbing Man, there is no way for superhumans to sort of serendipitously appear, or be born with their powers—thanks to the fact that Marvel cannot use the word “mutant” in relation to its characters since the X-Men and all their trappings are off-limits.
The loophole was always the Inhumans, characters who had dormant superpowers that would manifest when exposed to a catalyst known as the Terrigen Mists, a process known as Terrigenesis. Given that Daisy Johnson/Quake is not an Inhuman in the comics, it’s very clearly how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to introduce superpowers to the world at large.
And there’s the secret to the twist in tonight’s stinger—there are other Diviners, waiting to awaken other Inhumans. (It’s hard to know for sure, but comicbook.com thinks the Eyeless Man is The Reader, a very new character that was created by Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman in Inhuman—a comic that just released its first volume, so catching up is very easy!) Given that one of the final movies in Marvel’s Phase Three is the Inhumans, odds are Marvel is playing a long game with this bit of mythology, easing people into the ideas that will slowly build into the more far-out and crazy stuff that comes with that part of the Marvel Universe.
I can’t wait.
If you had any reservations, now’s the time to get over them—Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is totally worth watching. You’re going to want to be here come March.
– There are several contenders for Best Quote this week, but “Best day ever” is probably my pick.
– As good as it was, this episode does leave an awful lot up in the air for three months—Morse’s thumb drive being a particularly puzzling bit that I couldn’t really connect to anything. Morse and Hunter continue to exhibit fantastic chemistry, though.
– Speaking of chemistry, I hope Ward gets to stay in an edgy adversarial role in the season’s second half, running off with Agent 33 to do their own thing. The moment where he tells Cal that he has no problem with seeing his dark side was laugh-out-loud funny.
– Once again, Patton Oswalt is very funny as one of the Koenig Brothers—although didn’t it look like he wasn’t really in that group shot on the Bus? Or is that just me?
– Again—it’s a complete shame Trip had to die. Coupled with the fact that Mac is currently… not Mac, it bears mentioning that the show’s treatment of its male cast members of color could be better.
– Who do you think Raina is going to be when she emerges from her cocoon?
NEXT TIME: Join me in January for Agent Carter. I’m pretty excited for that.