As Coulson and the team arrive at the “Hidden City”, it seems that Marvel has set their sights on another game changing twist for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This episode functioned mostly to set the playing board for the mid-season finale and ends with several balls in the air. It opens with a dream sequence that’s fairly unusual for this show, featuring Skye in a floral dress. In the dream, we see very friendly Coulson and May seemingly abandon Skye. It’s possible this dream could be a really important sign of things to come. Firstly, it’s obvious Skye, orphaned for as long as she can remember, looks up to Coulson and May as her parental figures. Dreaming about them abandoning her has serious implications about her fears. She’s already called S.H.I.E.L.D. her true home, and for some reason she’s having nightmares about being abandoned again, but this time for being too different or dangerous. What’s about to happen to Skye? We know her father is a being of mysterious might, and it’s been alluded to that Skye isn’t completely human. “Poison tree, poison fruit”, they say in the dream. The second detail to point out is Skye’s dress. Raina has been consistently characterized as the Girl in the Flower Dress, and putting Skye in that attire establishes a link between the two of them.
Raina’s character development has been really sneaky. She’s an auxiliary character from season one that gradually evolved into a staple supporting character, and with this season she’s starting to take hold as a very prominent presence on the show. She’s no longer the mysterious woman who can serve as the Centipede middleman between S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Clairvoyant, but now a more developed zealot to the power of the Diviner. Her personal journey has always centered around unlocking the secrets of human potential, and now she’s learned she herself is among those chosen. After S.H.I.E.L.D. rescues her from Hydra agents, she reveals to Skye about the true nature of the Diviner, and actually name drops the Kree as the “blue angels” who arrived on Earth millennia ago. She tells Skye that the two of them are special, and they’ll be chosen as worthy to inherit the planet. Raina is so devout in her ideology, that once she realizes Hydra is trying to capture Raina so she can bring the Diviner to the temple within the Hidden City, she tries to get herself captured by them. Which is a shame, because Raina seems to be joining S.H.I.E.L.D., getting her very own lanyard from (yet another) Patton Oswalt clone. While the whole multiple-Koenigs thing is pretty silly it’s nice to have the reassurance that Oswalt’s lifespan on this show is virtually eternal. Raina’s escape plan is short-lived however, after May HILARIOUSLY hits the Hydra goons with her van.
With the return of Agent 33 now looking like a badly burnt Melinda May, we get to see Skye in her first worthwhile fight scene. She has a unique and deliberate fighting style that shows she’s still learning, but she proves herself as a very real threat for the first time in the series. She did snipe Donnie Gill back in “Making Friends and Influencing People”, but this is close up and personal action. The choreography is impeccable as always. The hand-to-hand combat has been the show’s strength since episode one. Using Agent 33’s malfunctioned holographic face mask is a good way to show off more of Ming-Na Wen’s martial arts prowess when May is otherwise preoccupied (running down Hydra goons with vans). When Agent 33 fails, Ward picks up the slack and boards the Bus to take Raina and Skye peacefully. Ward shows restraint in a way that he wouldn’t if he had been lying about only being loyal to Garrett. Now that Garrett’s dead, Ward has no allegiance to Hydra or S.H.I.E.L.D. and acts as a total free agent. He proves this by refusing to go along with Whitehall’s preference to blow the Bus out of the sky. Ward has no desire to see anyone on Coulson’s team hurt or killed. That doesn’t stop from Whitehall from ordering a missile strike on the Bus anyways at the end of the episode.
While all this went on, Coulson and Bobbi ventured into the Hidden City and ran into some problems. Namely, Mack turning into a super strong berserker after rappelling down a dark shaft and touching some ancient alien runes. Coulson, Bobbi, Fitz, and Simmons nearly get killed and when icers don’t work on him, Coulson orders lethal force, shouting “That’s not Mack anymore!” Bobbi finally manages to shock him and send him falling back down the shaft. So, Mack officially becomes the first member of the team with superpowers, albeit he’s also dosed with a brainless fit of rage. It’s reminiscent of the Asgardian rage staff from season one, actually. So with the end of the episode we’re left to wonder what will happen to Coulson and the gang in the depths of the City as they deal with an enraged Mack standing between them and the Temple; Whitehall’s imminent attack on the Bus as Ward takes off with Skye and Raina; as well as a possible story thread that’s only been hinted at so far. Mack and Bobbi briefly exchanged a hushed word about whether or not she’ll tell Hunter about something secret. Mack and Bobbi are in on something, maybe their own hidden agenda that was only shared by the two of them and the now deceased Hartley. Whether or not that will play a part in the finale remains to be seen.
One last thing: Fitz and Simmons. Ugh, my heart, Mack takes off to leave the two of them alone to finally have the talk they’ve been needing to have. Before Simmons can say anything to apologize for the way she left him, Fitz tells her that he’s moving to work with Mack in the garage. Not only is this a way to distance himself from Simmons, but it’s his way of embracing his new role on the team. He can’t keep up with Simmons anymore. Theoretical science just isn’t his forte anymore, but if he can work more with his hands (something he can actually practice) at least he can try to stay useful to the team. Simmons earlier confessed to Bobbi that she never saw Fitz as anything more than a friend, but this loss affects Simmons deeply. It’s just one of those painful things so commonly found in life where the friendship you used to have with someone just can’t ever go back to the way it used to be. This is absolutely the last thing I’d hoped from a good FitzSimmons chat. It’s sad, but brutally true to life, and hits way too close to home.
Hopefully this doesn’t mean one of them bites the dust in the midseason finale. I’m hoping for at least one or two characters to gain superpowers if the rumors about an oncoming Terrigen event.