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With mid-season finale, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. breaks new ground

How the heck are we supposed to wait months to find out what happens next?


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 10, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 12:41 am CDT

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been teasing the arrival of the Inhumans for weeks, and Tuesday night’s mid-season finale did not disappoint. Far more shocking was, well, everything else.

First of all: what a cliffhanger. The episode ended with one of the main characters dead and the rest about to be buried under a pile of rubble. Most importantly, Skye got superpowers and was confirmed to be a character from Marvel Comics canon. Yes, the complaints about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. not including enough superhero references are now truly dead in the water.

We began with S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA competing to get into the hidden city beneath San Juan—a place that, while not actually named onscreen, is quite clearly Attilan from Marvel’s Inhumans comics. Both sides were convinced that the Obelisk, an alien object that kills almost everyone it touches, would unlock a weapon so powerful that it would massacre millions. Both sides were wrong.

The one person who was right about the Obelisk was Skye’s estranged (and deranged) father Cal, played by a deliciously crazy-eyed Kyle MacLachlan. Cal and his protégé Raina were convinced it would unleash a “gift” on the chosen few—including Raina and Skye, who are descended from a long line of “gifted” people.

Marvel Comics fans got their first hint of Skye’s true identity last week, when she dreamt about the song “Daisy, Daisy.” Did this mean she was Daisy Johnson, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and earthquake-powered superhero Quake? Yes, yes it did. Her father is the obscure Marvel villain Calvin Zabo, also known as Mr. Hyde. (The whole Jekyll/Hyde thing was definitely out in full force in this episode, with Kyle MacLachlan swinging between paternal affection and Nic Cage-esque homicidal rage at the drop of a hat.)

Once inside the Inhuman city, the Obelisk expelled something that looked a lot like Terrigen Mist from the Inhumans comics. The mist killed beloved new character Agent Triplett (who doesn’t have any Inhuman blood), but it allowed Raina and Skye to live. We don’t know what Raina’s powers might be, but Skye immediately triggered an earthquake that will presumably be cleared up on the other side of the show’s mid-season break. Because let’s face it, they can’t kill off everyone.

Skye’s comic book counterpart Daisy Johnson is currently the (suspended) director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and she plays a role in various storylines linked with the Avengers. But as with any other Marvel adaptation, it’s best not to focus too much on the details of her canon history. Marvel Studios likes to cherry-pick certain aspects of characters and storylines to build on new ideas, and that’s what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be doing with Skye, her father, HYDRA, and the Inhumans.

The introduction of the Inhumans fits in with one of the show’s ongoing themes: expansion. With each new revelation, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes more interesting and complex, and creates stronger links to the rest of the Marvel universe. The final scene of the episode was possibly the best example of all, as we see an eyeless man pick up another Obelisk and tell an unknown ally, “There’s someone new. Tell the others.”

This is a major revelation. The Obelisk we saw before wasn’t the “one ring to rule them all.” Instead, there are multiple Obelisks that can activate Inhuman powers. That means there are already more Inhumans out there, which supports the popular theory that they’ll take the place of mutants in the Avengers movies.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got off to a rocky start, but it has evolved into a satisfyingly unpredictable show with just the right number of plot twists to keep you guessing. Plus, it provides a bedrock of world-building to support the rest of the Marvel franchise. If you’re invested in the background of movies like Age of UltronCaptain America: Civil War, and 2018’s Inhumans, you should definitely be watching.

Correction: The hidden city at the center of the action is in San Juan.

Photo via Marvel

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*First Published: Dec 10, 2014, 10:54 am CST