When Agents of SHIELD pulled its winter finale last year in its debut season, it was on a grim but promising note nonetheless. The show had been marred by inconsistent writing up until that point, with little to recommend itself beyond its overarching premise, and it didn’t hit its stride until much later in the season. And the new season has been pretty incredible up until this point, when everything has been ramped up, all the good things that is, and the show has delivered a much better experience, especially in the last two weeks.
In the latest two episodes, “…Ye Who Enter Here” and “What They Become“, with the latter of the two being the new season’s awesome winter finale, we get to see the biggest moments of the show to date. Yes, something that can actually match the Captain America: The Winter Soldier twist from earlier this year. Up until episode 9, we had learned that the symbols Coulson had been fixated upon carving everywhere was actually a 3D map of an ancient alien city, tied to Project TAHITI which used an alien corpse as its source. So it was inevitable that we would see more of all that and that is exactly what these last two episodes have shown us, a measure of how this mysterious alien city ties in to SHIELD and Coulson’s team, and just who and what Skye is.
Note: The review contains major spoilers about episodes 9 and 10, with 10 being this week’s winter finale.
To be clear, episode 10 isn’t exactly specific with Skye’s origins. That is, the show doesn’t outright say it. But the various references in both dialogue and visuals make it pretty clear. Skye (real name Daisy, as revealed to her by her father), is an Inhuman. The show has been building up to this moment in the second season, especially in the last month or so when we have finally gotten confirmation of the Kree being involved and Raina making some dire pronouncements that hint at Terrigenesis on a grand scale and the fact that the alien who gave his life-blood to make Project TAHITI happen was also a member of the Kree race, an interstellar race of aliens who created the Inhumans in the first place, and who are somehow involved in the mysterious alien city that Coulson and HYDRA have been searching for this season.
To be further clear, both episodes 9 and 10 are utterly fantastic. They can actually be considered 2-parter single story in that they are extremely closely-linked, more so than any other episodes in either season of the show. Ward’s treachery, Skye’s origins, her father, Team Coulson fighting off HYDRA to prevent it from gaining control of the Diviner’s vast powers, everything comes to a head in these two episodes and the winter finale ends on a really serious, really awesome note, of the kind that I wished the show could have done last year in the first half of the debut season.
The winter finale is basically what fans of the show have been demanding since the start, and what the writers and the executive producers have finally gone ahead and given to the fans. After all the heavy build-up of episode 9, episode 10 is basically an all-out slug-fest between Coulson’s SHIELD and Daniel Whitehall’s HYDRA as they both race towards the alien city to establish their respective supremacy. The character interactions are what really sell the concepts in the end though, proving that the show really has matured this year, and gotten better because of that.
More than anything though, both episodes are notable for the various losses suffered by both sides. It all begins with Team Coulson losing Mack in episode 9 when he is “taken over” by some kind of defense mechanism employed by the alien city and then later falling to his apparent death. And it continues in episode 10 where we see two outright deaths, one for both sides. Both deaths are shocking with their abruptness and the death on Team Coulson really made me sad while watching it all happen. It was a heroic death, sure, but that doesn’t lessen the pain of losing a character I came to really care about in the second half of the debut season.
And that’s what these two episodes, especially the winter finale, are all about. They are about utterly changing the status quo of the show, with some characters being retired from the present storyline and others being redefined as they are moved forward into the next phase of season 2. Every step of the way, writers Paul Zbyszewski and Jeffrey Bell keep you guessing as to the end game, and when you finally get to the big moment in the climax of the winter finale, you are in awe of what is unfolding before your eyes.
If there is any major criticism I have to offer of either show, it is that the death on Team Coulson, and the process of “change” for Skye happens far too quickly. I get that such are the requirements of the television format, especially since the show is now going on a month-long break, but still, it was too fast and lost some of its impact, though both things still packed one hell of a punch.
To me, episode 10 is what the show could really be about. When Coulson confirmed in a previous episode, 7 I believe, that the carvings he had been doing for the last several months were a 3D map of an alien city, I postulated that it would be the home of the Inhumans, Attilan itself. A friend recently made me aware of the possibility that it could also be the home of one of the rogue Inhuman tribes, such as the one that recent Inhuman supervillain Lash came from. Though I must admit, I find the latter theory unlikely since Skye’s father, himself a possible Inhuman character, knows far too much about the city and what its purpose is and what the Diviner, the obelisk that was the original 0-8-4, really does.
Still, when all is said and done, I must say that Agents of SHIELD has finally become a show that can really excite and entertain you. Both episodes 9 and 10 are perfect, or as close as it is possible to get to them. The whole deal with Agent Koenig really being innumerable LMDs based off a single design is also something that I’ve enjoyed much more of this season, especially in Koenigs’ interactions with both Hunter and Tripp, which have all been pretty superb and have topped what happened last year when the character first made his appearance on the show.
How far we’ve come!
Now, as we move into the break, all I can say is that I just can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen next. Pretty much two characters are taken out of the present timeline, with the possibility of their return being only with respect to any possible flashbacks. Of the characters who remain, things are going to be pretty hair-rising now since the entire status quo has changed and whatever is gonna happen next, it is going to be big and explosive. Skye’s father, played so brilliantly by Kyle Maclachlan in both these episodes, has finally gotten almost all that he wanted, and he too is going to be becoming a much bigger force on the show, or so I feel.
Agents of SHIELD Season 1 reviews can be found here. I’ve reviewed every episode so far.