‘What They Become’ Plot:
With Hydra creating their own shortcut into the underground city, Director Coulson (Clark Gregg) makes it his top priority to get there first. However, Skye (Chloe Bennet) is in Hydra custody, and Coulson must save her. Will S.H.I.E.L.D. get there in time to stop Hydra and The Doctor (Kyle MacLachlan), or will big changes come to both Skye and Raina (Ruth Negga)?
As we all know, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is very uniquely situated within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead of being a full grand scale extravaganza like each of films, S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the small side with the intention of giving the MCU some extra depth. Most of that has been responding to events in films. Where we currently are is because of what happened in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Thor: The Dark World received some follow up too. Obviously, The Avengers dictated a lot of this show’s first season. In an extremely bold move, “What They Become” finally gave us the other side of the equation. Nothing in this episode is in direct response to a movie or something that happened to the major superheroes. Everything that happened here is actually setting up what is to be one of Marvel’s biggest films on their recently announced schedule. It was all theory before, but it’s a straight up confirmation now: The Inhumans are here and Skye and Raina are two of them.
Raina’s true identity remains a mystery, but “What They Become” revealed Skye to be Daisy Johnson, AKA Quake, and The Doctor as Calvin Zabo, AKA Mr. Hyde. Both characters play prominent roles within the comics series and Johnson is actually the illegitimate daughter of Zabo. What’s interesting is that Johnson isn’t an Inhuman in her original incarnation, and neither is Zabo but he is unchanged here. Johnson in particular is just someone who has powers like most other superheroes and supervillains. Yet by making this change, in a process that comic fans know as Terrigenesis, Marvel is giving regular viewers a very simple way to get into this mythology. Should this show go all the way to 2018, we have plenty of time to work through Skye/Daisy and learn even more about who the Inhumans are and what their purpose is. It’s obvious that Marvel’s intention is to make us all experts by the time The Inhumans hits theaters. This is, without a doubt, the greatest weapon in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s arsenal, and it successfully expands the entire MCU to greater heights.
This Inhuman reveal is a big deal too, so it needed a big episode to go around it. “What They Become” pulls this off in spades. From start to finish, this mid-season finale was focused, tight, and never lost track of what its real purpose was. This was the moment we’ve been waiting for all season. Rightfully so, the best parts of the episode revolved around Skye/Daisy interacting with Cal. Marvel really found the perfect actor in Kyle MacLachlan to play this role. Cal is obviously extremely unstable and watching MacLachlan work through the rapidly shifting emotions with such nuance is incredible. The fact that the show doesn’t skirt around his true intentions is great too. He wants to kill Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond), and once his daughter is back with him, he immediately sets out to do that. His rage is so fierce, he goes on an all out brawl with Coulson when he takes down Whitehall instead. These too obviously want to stop the same man, but vengeance has been the main driving force for Cal after all these years. To not have that quenched is justifiably frustrating.
The rest of the team saw plenty of action too. Exactly as I wanted last week, “What They Become” immediately opened up with some exciting aerial combat. Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) saved everyone because she’s super badass, but I can see her getting upset about losing both Skye/Daisy and Raina. Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), who looks to be back in nearly top form, and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) played crucial roles in the team’s mission too. They worked together perfectly for the first time all season and seeing that Fitz-Simmons magic back was really fun. Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) didn’t have much to do other than sneak around like typical secret agents, but I don’t mind them playing second fiddle after all the attention they’ve received recently.
Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) continued to be the wildcard too. It’s made clear throughout the hour that he doesn’t work for Hydra nor S.H.I.E.L.D. He simply took Skye/Daisy to meet her father so he can keep his promise. What will he do now that Whitehall is dead? I’m not sure, but I like the idea of him and Agent 33 going out into the world as freelance agents. They’re both highly trained killers who ultimately only look out for themselves. Best case scenario, the writers don’t have them picking sides when the show returns in March, keeping them apart and unique. Ward really is best when he’s not shackled to a single team, and Agent 33 is that perfect blank slate to make a new character. She literally has someone else’s face and I’m sure Marvel will find a way to put someone else’s on there so Wen doesn’t pull double duty. Also, Skye shooting Ward was such an amazing touch. I’m glad that entire romance is gone forever.
Of course, I can’t let this review go by without saying goodbye to Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt). I’m actually surprised he lasted this long. Seeing as this show just loves putting the main cast into life threatening situations, Tripp always had a bigger target since he was only on the recurring cast. When he was saved from near death a few weeks ago, I foolishly thought, “Hey, he might be okay.” But then Tripp got locked into the room with Raina and Skye/Daisy, and I immediately thought, “He’s so dead.” Not long after, he died, fulfilling my initial prediction for the character several episodes late. I really liked Tripp, but it never felt like he became fully fleshed out as his own character. He was always there to do work but wasn’t much more than another agent on the team. In fact, his death here felt unnecessary. Why did the writers make it go this way? The Terrigen mist transforming Raina and Skye/Daisy was enough. I can see the writers playing up a PTSD angle for Skye/Daisy, but that almost feels unnecessary with everything else going on with her. At least Mac is back to normal.
Where do we go now? Well, “What They Become” was fairly conclusive. Whitehall is dead and the city fulfilled its purpose. The Obelisks are filled with Terrigen crystals that give superpowers to those who are descended from humans experimented on by the Kree centuries ago. Hydra is obviously still around, but this show can’t only be about S.H.I.E.L.D. fighting Hydra forever. That’s lame. The final scene however gives us a good idea of what to expect. It’s very possible that the man holding his own Obelisk is the Reader, and it’s even more likely that he will make it his goal to get more Inhumans. This means we could see this guy tracking down Skye/Daisy and Raina in the near future. It’s also a safe bet that the next half of the season will be all about the team learning more about the Inhumans and Skye/Daisy adapting to her new found ability to make earthquakes with her mind. She’s now one of the few people with legitimate superpowers in this universe. I, for one, cannot wait for all of this. What a way to enter the winter break!
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.