Incredible performances highlight an episode that answered a few questions and asked a bunch more.
Not many. We do wish Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. would both start acting a little more like secret organizations and ditch the logos on everything.
Brainwashing, panic, betrayal and more mysteries—all in just the first five minutes of this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Director Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team are in a race against Hydra to reach Donnie Gill (Dylan Minnette) a powerful gifted who can freeze objects merely by touch. As Donnie realizes Hydra and Sunil Bakshi (Simon Kassiandes) are in pursuit, it becomes clear that Gill is quick to anger and doesn’t hesitate to kill when cornered.
Simmons, who now works for Hydra, finds herself in between both teams as they close in to reach Gill first. Questions surround everything as this episode opens. What drove Simmons to Hydra? Which side will Donnie choose? Who is the mysterious Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond)? And who is Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) that he is working so patiently to brainwash? With so much to answer, let’s dig in to this week’s episode to sort through the real from the not!
You’re gonna make .. it .. after .. aa-aalllll.
No, we didn’t just time warp to the Mary Tyler Moore show. But our first glimpse of the real Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) out on her own certainly felt like a throwback to the beloved sitcom. We couldn’t help but see the connection as she went through her morning routine and made her way to work to the oddly cheerful tune “God Help the Girl.”
After the intensity of the opening episodes, it took us back a second, but that was nothing compared to the realization that “work” was Hydra. Simmons fans wailed in objection. Twitter was abuzz and when pressed, we’d all admit this didn’t set well with us. When she threatens Coulson at gunpoint after a dull workday, the truth comes out.
“Did you think I wouldn’t find out? Sriracha? Beer? That’s all? What kind of diet is that? While I cook, you debrief.” ~ Coulson
Jemma Simmons it appears, has been deep undercover.
Beautifully shot in the inviting light of Jemma’s kitchen, both Gregg and Henstridge eased into what might have been just two good friends enjoying a meal as she briefs Coulson on all she knows. This was the easy going and lovable Coulson we’d missed and it was a deep relief to finally see Simmons was okay.
She fills him in on Hydra’s move to retrieve Donnie and the race is on as both sides maneuver to reach him first. With her hair down and a more business-like attire, Henstridge was classic Simmons throughout this episode, if not a little more mature and independent. Regardless of any changes, it was refreshing to finally see her as herself.
Even under duress later as she’s interrogated and as she helps Hydra pursue Donnie, this is the Simmons we know and love. She feels right to us. But as Skye (Chloe Bennet) later points out, Jemma was never a good liar. So the real question becomes, how long can Simmons keep up this ruse and will she find herself in over her head? What happens if she’s caught? Compliance doesn’t sound like much fun.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
Iain De Caestecker has been brilliant this season. We were already impressed, but he stepped it up a notch in this episode. Paranoid the team is keeping secrets from him, he finally exorcises Casper-Simmons on his way downstairs by declaring “You are not here.” Checkmate. She vanishes and for the first time we have hope.
Fitz’s descent into darkness was just as creepy Skye’s. When he clears the opaque cell wall to see Ward (Brett Dalton) standing in front of him, we thought we might hyperventilate right along with him. Seriously, De Caestecker nailed this moment. His anxiety and panic felt so real we could feel it too. Even his breathing was a struggle.
It seemed the anger of being left out cleared his mind. We’re not sure about everyone else, but we had a bit of panic as Fitz seemed to flip to the dark side (albeit in a slightly jittery way). He gave up trying to explain how the lack of oxygen affects the brain and decided to show Ward instead—by removing the oxygen from the cell.
“They’re all gone after Donnie. I should be there with them. But I can’t be there because of you. Because of what you did to me! I’m damaged!” ~ Fitz
We weren’t sure Fitz could bring himself to kill Ward, but it was a good thing Ward had valuable intel to save his skin: Donnie has been brainwashed by Hydra. If De Caestecker doesn’t get at least some recognition for his dramatic performance in this episode, we’ll cry foul. His performance was extraordinary. We’ve been moved and pained all season, but this encounter with Ward was a new level.
Even the final scenes as Coulson reveals some of the things he’s been keeping from Fitz the performance didn’t let up. Coulson explains how much he’s detested Ward even being there as a troubled Fitz looked on, but with valuable information it’s better to keep the “devil you know” evil-Ward close than to lock him far away.
Fitz has always been a lovable character, but great writing and a talented actor have given him incredible depth. We don’t know how this will finally end, but we’ve certainly hoping there’s some happy for Fitz after this week’s heavy.
Patience is indeed a virtue.
Reed Diamond being on board for this season is some happy dance material. His charm and presence on screen are hard to forget. Evil-Nazi-Hydra Reed Diamond may be even harder to forget if this keeps up. He just oozed creepy charm from his opening monologue reminding us patience is a virtue all the way to his final triumphant brainwashing victory. We have our guesses on who Whitehall will ultimately be, but speculation aside, we’re loving Diamond in this role.
Up to now, we’ve only seen glimpses of him in the first two episodes, but whatever Whitehall is doing to maintain his ageless state could make him a mint with on the street. We’re sure the fine print would read side-effects include becoming an evil mastermind hell-bent on world domination. But that’s no worse than some medical disclaimers right?
In the meantime, Hydra it seems, is in the brainwashing business. And Whitehall enjoys it immensely. Watching Diamond glee over Agent 33’s fight to remain herself was a tad unsettling. We don’t know what kind of technology the Faustus Method uses, but we’re starting to wonder if our parents were on to something warning us not to watch TV at night in the dark (no, the irony of our name isn’t lost on us there).
“Compliance will be rewarded.” ~ Whitehall
We heard Creel (Brian Patrick Wade) utter those words in his van and now they make more sense. Donnie has been brainwashed and now Agent 33, whoever she is, is on board the compliance train too. All that aside, we’re starting to see what could be a brilliant connection under the surface between The Obelisk, Skye, her father, Raina and Whitehall. What do they all have in common? What did Whitehall mean when he told Agent 33 to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and be reborn? And we really do want some of Whitehall’s ageless cream. That stuff will fetch a fortune.
FINAL VERDICT: Thoroughly entertaining, this episode laid the groundwork for some story arcs that might last for quite some time.
This episode felt very much like a beginning of big things. The bits and pieces of the larger season arcs seem to be starting to filter in and props goes to writer Monica Owusu-Breen for weaving those larger threads in with some fantastic dialogue and action throughout. Hunter (Nick Blood), May (Ming-Na Wen) and Trip (B.J. Britt) especially delivered some of her wonderful banter throughout.
Director Bobby Roth had a challenge in building from previous material but starting some things that were completely new. He got great performances and captured several memorable moments in this episode. The Fitz and Ward encounter was especially riveting and we loved seeing a bit more humanity in Ward versus the creepier monotone approach. The cheerful intro and the warmth of Coulson and Simmons in her apartment debrief were particular highlights. The cheerful music, interaction, casual feel were all definitely a refreshing change of pace for this show and we liked the shift.
We didn’t have many nits, but we do wish Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. would both at least try to be a little more covert. Seriously, do they have to slap their logos on every wall, box and piece of paper? We’re thinking that if we ever get stuck running a secret organization from the shadows, the logo is the first thing to go. Just saying.
All else aside, make no mistake, this episode was about FitzSimmons. As much as we had fun watching Donnie freeze every Hydra agent in sight, it simply served to remind us just how close Fitz and Simmons were when they first met him. His frigid ability was the perfect metaphor for just how “out in the cold” both Fitz and Simmons seem now that they are both operating alone.
Henstridge and De Caestecker didn’t share any screen time at all as the real FitzSimmons, but almost every moment of this episode had their story written all over it and they each delivered compelling performances. We’re hoping that a day comes soon where these two are reunited and some happiness can find them both.
In the meantime, we’re 100% along for the ride and look forward to seeing where the FitzSimmons character arcs go before they meet again. Whitehall has us intrigued and though we didn’t get any new information on The Obelisk, Raina or Skye’s father, we’ll be happy to comply by watching faithfully in the coming weeks to see where all these plot lines end up converging. We hope compliance will be rewarded!
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- Who is this Agent 33? And how is Whitehall not aging?
- “Patience is a virtue. Compliance will be rewarded.” Proper brainwashing takes time.
- “You’re too sweet and you mix your metaphors.” Think he caught the grammar correction? Maybe not. lol @Lil_Henstridge
- “Don’t be sorry. Just wait.” She savors it. Hate-Fu is coming Lance! @nickdiscoblood @MingNa
- “The higher you go the scarier it is.” Hydra is not to be trifled with Jemma!
- Wow, that’s cold Donnie.. and I’m not just talking about the uncanny ability to freeze by touch either.
- Is it just me? Or is Hydra Jemma hotter that SHIELD Jemma?
- “I was never loyal to Hydra. I was loyal to Garrett.” Yep, that gets you off scot-free Ward. Not!
- That’s why Hydra will win. While a SHIELD agent is still contemplating right/wrong—Hydra has already taken the shot.
- Wow. This torture is torture to watch. Agent 33 is in deep trouble.
- “Skye’s asset and now Donnie. They’re keeping things from me.” “Don’t get paranoid on me.” I’m bro-shipping #TurboMack
- “I’m not interested. I’m not afraid. I’m pissed off.” Donnie means business.
- Yeah. They’ve got your back. That “job opening” line didn’t build confidence.
- Oh sh*t. Revenge-Fitz isn’t something that suits him.
- “May SHOT me.” “Man, I wanted to be the one!” HateFu #FistPump!!! @MingNa @iambjbritt @nickdiscoblood
- “So, we’re even? Right?” “’We’ are.” Love this show!! @iambjbritt @MingNa @nickdiscoblood
- “If I’m wrong. We’ll make her [Simmons] comply.” How does this make me feel? To quote Trip: “Awe hell no!”
- Woah. Yep. My heart rate is way up too Skye. That’s some heavy truth there. @ChloeBennet4
- What is up with the heart rate monitoring of Skye? Does May know something we don’t?
- Casual mention of Hunter’s ex again. Yep. She’s definitely going to make an appearance.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: 2×03 “Making Friends and Influencing People”