Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap: 'Making Friends and Influencing People'
In which we catch up with the real Simmons, and an old acquaintance returns.
Well, you guys called it.
“Making Friends and Influencing People” catches us up with Jemma Simmons, who sat out the first two episodes (give or take a HeadSimmons). The promos for this week’s episode played up the fact that she had defected for Hydra, and while that would’ve been interesting, the show went for the obvious choice and—well, let’s not skip over the beginning, because damn.
The cold open starts with Daniel Whitehall fawning over some liquor he got early on in his inexplicably long life, which is now especially priceless and tasty. He’s breaking it out for a special occasion—it’s his go-to drink for brainwashing people, A Clockwork Orange style. His victim is a woman whom we only know as Agent 33.
We’ve not met Agent 33 before. Even in the comics, she’s extremely obscure—she’s only appeared in three issues. Agent 33 from the comics is an expert in Greek mythology and is tasked with recruiting Hercules to S.H.I.E.L.D. when Ares starts causing trouble (yeah, Marvel has versions of those guys, too.)
Does this mean that we’ll be seeing Hercules on AoS sometime soon? Probably not, but go ahead and add him to the wish list if you like. Can’t hurt.
With that bit of creepy out of the way, we finally drop in to see Simmons for the first time this season by way of cheery montage set to ‘God Help the Girl.‘ This montage, of course, ends with the confirmation of what we saw in last week’s promo: Simmons is now working for Hydra. We know this because Hydra hilariously has it’s insignia plastered over the wall in their labs—it might as well say: WELCOME TO BAD GUYS, INCORPORATED. ENJOY YOUR STAY.
Meanwhile, at HQ, Skye is at the firing range for training with May. They talk a bit about how Skye needs to keep a clear and level head at all times, but really the whole point of the scene seems to be the introduction of this week’s Special Guest Star: Skye’s Fitbit™.
Also in this scene: some tension between Skye and that charming rogue Lance Hunter, but May has to be all like “leave enough room for Jesus” and is a total buzzkill. Or maybe not. I’m going to need your help on this, shippers. I am bad at shipping. Like, I don’t even return things to Amazon. Just won’t do it.
But enough of that. Back at the Hydra Cave, Simmons is being harangued by her boss to do all the science things she’s been doing, but faster. There’s a strict timetable they have to adhere to, with Avengers 2 coming out this May and all.
Turns out, the science stuff that Simmons is doing is related to someone she knows—Donnie Gill, the S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit she had saved with Fitz during the (pretty good) season 1 episode “Seeds.” If you saw that episode, you’ll know that it left Donnie Gill in a very interesting place…
NEXT: Donnie and Queen Elsa should talk.
…after that freak accident that gave him freeze powers, or “cryokinesis,” if you know the lingo. Now hiding out in Morocco, Donnie has been found by Hydra agents and on the run. But running isn’t a thing that Donnie wants to do anymore, so he decides to take the fight to them—after he finds out that the Hydra goons were supposed to take him to the Maribel del Mar.
Later that evening (or maybe at the same time, you never can tell with time zones) Simmons comes home after a long day of working with the terrorists, and boom! Coulson’s there. And now we’re back where we started: Simmons is, in fact, a double agent.
Ultimately, this is a pretty great decision. It gives Simmons her own interesting story where she can be tested and valuable and do other things besides be charming in a lab. And speaking of charming, let’s take a break and talk about her hair. It’s great, isn’t it? A plus, Elizabeth Henstridge. Another in a great series of Good Hair Choices in season 2 of AoS, from Skye’s Action Grrrl bangs to Ward’s Sadness Beard. Feel free to sound off about this in the comments. I won’t say much more about it because that’s pretty much all I know how to intelligently say about hair.
From here on out, the episode takes on a pretty straightforward trajectory: Everything’s in place, now it just needs to be brought together. And so Simmons is suspected of hiding something by her new Hydra pals—they bring up her association with Donnie Gill, which she never mentioned (and I should mention that they do know she is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, it would’ve been hella awkward if they didn’t), and come up with a ridiculously stressful way of testing her loyalty: sending her out into the field with a strike team to collect Donnie.
Donnie, if you remember, is heading to something called Maribel del Mar. As Coulson and the gang find out, this is a ship docked in the Port of Casablanca, and of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, Gill is there, freezing up the ocean for some reason. But as Fitz notices when Coulson is briefing them on Gill’s location, Skye’s not present. According to Coulson, she’s “working another angle.”
Fitz is frustrated by this. He is frustrated by a lot of things lately. This is going to be important.
NEXT: Here’s lookin’ at you, Ward.
That “other angle?” It’s Ward. Skye is interrogating him about Hydra’s protocol for dealing with “gifted.” Meanwhile, Agent 33 continues to be tortured by Whitehall.
Aboard the Maribel, Donnie Gill attacks the ship’s captain, telling him how he’s fed up with running from Hydra—he wants to take them out. Lucky for him, they’re on their way. So is S.H.I.E.L.D., except they don’t know that Simmons is with the Hydra goons, and Hunter almost takes her out. May stops him, but blows their cover, and Simmons and Gill make a run for it.
And once again, Fitz is the best part of the episode. Back at HQ, he argues with HeadSimmons about everything the gang is keeping from him, vowing to find out the complete picture—he has some suspicions about Skye’s “other angle,” and he finds it: Ward’s cell.
It can’t be stressed enough how great Fitz is in this season. Although the majority of season 1 felt so inconsequential, Fitz’s condition gives AoS a level of pathos and humanity that’s been lacking. While I’d argue that it’s not quite fair to call AoS a Joss Whedon show, it’s a step toward the complex, broken characters that are a hallmark of his work.
And man, does Fitz have a great scene with Ward. Furious and unable to adequately express himself, Fitz decides to show Ward what he did to him. Over Ward’s protestations that he was trying to save his life by stranding Fitz and Simmons at the bottom of the ocean instead of shooting them, Fitz vents the oxygen from Ward’s cell, giving him a taste of the oxygen deprivation that left his brain damaged.
The torture, however, is cut short when Ward realizes what Hydra is going to do, and Fitz immediately tries to get in touch with the Bus and warn them about Hydra’s trump card: brainwashing.
It’s too late, of course. Gill is already under Hydra’s sway and about to freeze the entire boat with Hunter and May inside—except Skye shoots him, and he falls into the ocean. Skye also takes a shot at Simmons and Whitehall’s European Lackey, but intentionally misses thereby giving Simmons the opportunity to maintain her cover.
NEXT: Settling into a groove.
Back at Hydra HQ, Whitehall is approached by his lackey, who wants to talk about Simmons. He thinks she’s wasted down in the lab, and he wants her upstairs with them, working on big stuff—she’s proven herself. Whitehall is pretty chill about it. You’d be pretty chill about trusting people, too, if you had a way of completely brainwashing them into being compliant drones, as we see when Agent 33 strolls in, chugging a full glass of Hydra Kool-Aid. Things are looking quite frightening for Simmons.
In Ward’s cell, Skye interrogates Former Agent Sadbeard about Hydra’s brainwashing—which Ward says he never underwent (a good thing; if Ward is to be redeemed, it shouldn’t be easy). He also tells Skye that he knows where her father is—and that he can take her to him one day.
Given that Daddy Skye now possesses the Obelisk, chances are that’ll happen sometime very soon.
Make mine Marvel: Although there wasn’t a whole lot of progress made on the mysteries introduced in the two-part premiere, making Hydra under Whitehall a genuinely creepy foe is much appreciated. Also, it’s nice to see AoS become less apprehensive about being a comic book show—although Donnie Gill falls into the ocean, Triplett tells the gang that they never found his body, which is TV speak for “This guy is definitely coming back later this season.” It’s pretty safe to say that Donnie Gill is now fully on his way to becoming his comic book alter ego: the supervillain named Blizzard.
The Inhumanity of it all: A lot of you (and others around the web) seem to think that AoS is going to introduce the Inhumans in a big way. It’s an extremely plausible theory, but man does it open a can of worms. Watch this space, we’ll be talking about them more as time goes on.
NEXT WEEK: We’re doing the party thing again? Didn’t we do this exact thing at this exact time last year? May and Coulson had better be charming as hell.