The second season Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really hit the ground running with its first two installments. Together they managed to tell a compelling story with surprising twists, establish a new and complex status quo, and even feature a supervillain in the form of the Absorbing Man. The opening two-parter was great, but could the series maintain the quality from those episodes as it dipped back into its episodic “mission-of-the-week” structure with episode 3?
Let’s find out!
“Making Friends and Influencing People”
We open on the (apparently) immortal Hydra Nazi Glasses Guy patting himself on the back for having patience while he attempts to Hydra-ize an “Agent 33” through a brainwashing technique straight out of A Clockwork Orange (hey, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it). Apparently, Hydra Nazi Glasses Guy is actually named Daniel Whitehall, who is a Hydra agent known as “the Kraken” from Jonathon Hickman’s Secret Warriors comic. However, I don’t him being immortal, so he may be Daniel Whitehall in name alone.
Once the episode proper begins, we check in with (non-imaginary) Simmons through a charming montage of her morning routine over the song “God Help the Girl”. This is the kind of thing the show would never have done in season one, and I love that they’re doing it now. Sequences like this give a series personality, and that has been something Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has desperately needed. More stuff like this please. Anyway, Simmons eventually makes into work and we discover that she is now a scientist for Hydra! *audible gasp*
Meanwhile at the Playground, Coulson explains that Hydra seems to be poaching assets left and right, leading to returning character Not Iceman (Donnie Gill from season 1, episode 12 “Seeds”) hiding out in Morocco. He’s immediately sold out to Hydra, but escapes after freezing two guys to death. Before he leaves, he pushes one of the frozen guys over and shatters him for no reason. The definition of “adding insult to injury”.
Simmons comes home to find Coulson waiting for her in the kitchen with groceries because she’s totally undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. and definitely not Hydra. *phew!* He cooks dinner for the two of them and Simmons shares her intel on Not Iceman. Coulson takes the intel back to the team and presents it as an opportunity to beat Hydra to another powerful asset.
Back at Hydra, Simmons is called upstairs to speak with a Hydra Middle Management guy who explains his distrust of her. Simmons swears her allegiance to Hydra, but Middle Management wants to test her loyalty so he decides to bring Simmons on the Hydra mission to obtain Not Iceman. But with S.H.I.E.L.D. looking for him too, this is probably going to get awkward (and of course by “awkward” I mean “potentially deadly”).
Fitz is upset that the team is going on the mission to bag Not Iceman without him and doesn’t trust that they are telling him the whole truth. He sneaks into “Vault D” and discovers Evil Beard Ward in a cell. After a bit of an emotional breakdown, Fitz begins to lower the oxygen levels in Ward’s cell, recreating the incident that gave him brain damage. This is probably the most powerful scene in the episode. Fitz’s pain and frustration is on full display here and it’s heart wrenching to watch.
Hydra find the cargo ship that Not Iceman is hiding out on and Simmons is sent in to gain his trust, but fails when S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive on the scene and send everything into chaos. Not Iceman attempts to escape, but that Hydra Middle Management guy finds him and uses a trigger phrase to reboot his brainwashing, making him loyal to Hydra.
Not Iceman starts to freeze the cargo ship with the May and Lance trapped inside. Seeing this, Skye shoots him with a sniper rifle. He topples over the side of the ship and (painfully) crashes through the frozen water below, freezing solid as he sinks to the ocean floor (goodbye, Not Iceman). Skye takes a second shot toward Hydra Middle Management, giving Simmons the opportunity to push him to safety and win his trust.
May checks in with Skye who is dealing with being forced to shoot Not Iceman, her first kill. She’s also worried about Simmons working undercover for Hydra, but May thinks she can handle it. Coulson finally comes clean about Ward with Fitz, explaining that Ward is the best shot they have at gaining any intel on Hydra. He also explains that Simmons is on an assignment, but doesn’t tell Fitz what that assignment entails.
Hydra Middle Management comes to Whitehall and suggests that Simmons get a promotion that would keep her closer to them on the upper levels of Hydra. Middle Management believes she can be trusted, and if he’s wrong they can always “make her comply” like Not Iceman and Agent 33 (who is now totally Hydra brainwashed).
Finally, Skye goes to talk to Ward and he takes responsibility for all of the choices he made as a double agent for Hydra. He wants to be honest so that she’ll believe what he has to tell her next: Skye’s father is alive, and he’s looking for her.
What does Hydra have planned for Simmons? What else is Coulson hiding from the team? How much longer will Fitz’s brain damage last? Is it really permanent? When will we find out more about Skye’s father? And what is his connection to Ward?
Turns out, we had nothing to worry about. Another stellar episode from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to mean they won’t letting up on their “pedal to the floorboard” attitude any time soon. I already loved the new status quo for the characters this season, but the addition of Simmons working undercover at Hydra might be the best yet. I really think this show is hitting its stride, and I can’t wait to see how it all continues to progress.
What did you think of this week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Let us know in the comments!