It seems like forever since we last checked in with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the other Marvel TV series that almost seems lost in the wave of universal acclaim for Agent Carter. The shame is that the series left us all hanging with a cliffhanger, a juicy one that had serious implications for the characters on the show and in the greater tapestry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Inhumans arrived with the sad passing of Trip and the sudden evolutionary leap of both Raina and Skye. Or do we mean, Daisy? Big change is hard to accept, and this first episode of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second half was all about trying to cling on to normal even if holding on to what’s normal is now impossible.
But first, a prologue. We see Skye’s mother, played again by Dichen Lachman, in an unknown location in 1983. She’s helping the eyeless Inhuman we saw in the final moments of “What We Become” cope with his new teleportation powers and lack of ocular organs. She’s kind, and encouraging, and her job in life is to “guide people through the process.” For fans, the dialogue shrewdly name-drops all the words we wanted to hear: “The Mist” and “Terragenesis.” For everyone else, it said one unmistakable thing, that turning Inhuman is a tough process.
Meanwhile, developments on the S.H.I.E.L.D. end of things dwell a lot on the depressing side, which is understandable given the loss of Trip, who turned to stone and fell apart because he wasn’t Inhuman-capable. It provokes some strong reactions in the surviving members of the group, especially and surprisingly, Simmons, who advocates for burying Raina rather than capturing her, as well as berating S.H.I.E.L.D. as a group for toying in the super-powers business to begin with. It’s a bit shocking to here the normally pleasant Simmons talking with such ruthless intention, but then it’s not so hard to think that the audience wasn’t the only one that was ‘shipping Simmons and Triplet last fall.
Mack was also out of character this week, struggling with the way the temple used him as a brainwashed bodyguard zombie. Henry Simmons got some nice moments, breaking Mack’s typical cool in showing both the anxiety he feels in being taken over by something alien, and the anger he feels at Coulson for putting them all in the position to be influenced by alien things. It also allowed a nice opportunity to develop the Mack and Fitz’s friendship, bonding over being broken and trying to figure out a way to cope with what’s happened.
Of all the characters to show some surprising growth out of the tragedy of Trip’s death, it’s Fitz. We see him stress out over rebuilding Skye’s health monitor watch, which, as you can imagine, yielded some interesting results once he was able to put it back together. While everyone else on the team lashes out with anger about alien powers, Fitz approaches Skye with typical human understanding and compassion. Never underestimate the value of a confident, someone that accepts even if they can’t completely understand. In an episode filled with grief, anger, and betrayal, Skye and Fitz’s hug offered just the right amount of sweetness.