This week on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D … Fitz and Simmons return to the S.H.I.E.L.D Academy. Coulson and May discover Skye’s origin. And a new super-powered villain is born.
This week’s mission
May leads Coulson to Mexico City, where they uncover the truth about Skye. The rest of the team investigates a series of incidents at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy where students are being frozen using technology originally developed by Fitz and Simmons. The net result? Two origin stories for the price of one.
Origin story I: Hello, Blizzard
Skye had previously joked about the Academy as being like Hogwarts, only to discover that it really is quite a bit like Hogwarts. There’s clear rivalry between different faculties, with each having their own distinct character. Both Science and Technology (Fitz and Simmons’ alma mater) and Operations (Ward‘s) consider themselves to be superior. The former has its own secret hideaway – an underground bar in the old boiler room – which the latter doesn’t.
To Skye’s surprise (but not Ward’s) Fitz and Simmons are treated like legends at Sci-Tech as they investigate an incident in which student Seth Dormer is almost frozen to death in a pool by a device designed by Leo and employing Jemma’s crystalline nucleation process. When a second attack targets genius loner Donnie Gill – who resembles a young Fitz in both dress sense, personality and capability – Ward sends Leo to stay close to him. The two seem to bond, as FItz helps Donnie overcome a flaw in his attempts to create a terawatt battery.
However, Seth and Donnie are in cahoots and working together to perfect a large-scale ice-making device for Ian Quinn, the billionaire industrialist from The Asset. They activate the machine, creating a super-storm which rains down a blizzard of ice on the campus. As they attempt to shut it down it explodes, killing Seth and imbuing Donnie with the ability to create ice from his own hands. Blizzard is born.
Origin story II: Skye – from unknown to ‘unknown’
Coulson is still in a funk after learning about the events of his ‘death’. May provides a diversion by tracking down Richard Lumley, the partner of the female S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who put Skye into an orphanage. Coulson tells May he’s had enough of secrets, and she reveals that she has been sleeping with Ward.
After Coulson takes flight in Lola to catch Lumley, they discover that an entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team was killed after tracking down and protecting an 0-8-4 – an item of unknown origin – in Hunan, China. The 0-8-4 was a baby with unusual powers, who is followed by death wherever she goes: Skye.
May warns Coulson against telling Skye but he refuses to keep it secret from her and tells her anyway. She realises S.H.I.E.L.D. has been protecting her for her entire life, and despite having now resolved the quest which brought her to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place, she elects to stay.
Another good episode
This was less spectacular than last week’s post-hiatus return but still a strong episode, with both halves of the story complementing each other well. Fitz and the others at the Academy provides plenty of light-hearted banter, showing the talent and optimism at S.H.I.E.L.D. and serving to offset the darker, militaristic tone of the previous episode. Seeing Fitz and Simmons hailed as uber-cool was a nice reminder that both are heroic in their own way, just as Ward reminds Skye that her willingness to fight the good fight also makes her a worthy team member.
The resolution of the Blizzard storyline is perhaps a little too pat. The misdirection of the whodunnit element is cleverly done, with the two ‘victims’ actually being the perpetrators. But the sudden shift in Donnie’s character upon learning of his friend’s death felt a little too much of a stretch. Nonetheless, a good, well-contained piece which elevates the status of Ian Quinn to a major Centipede player.
The May/Coulson Skye origin plot also works well, as the mystery of Skye’s ‘parents’ is briskly resolved, leaving her with a reason to stay on and us with a new mystery as to exactly what abilities she has. Coulson’s trauma is allowed to play out. We get a well-choreographed fight scene. And the normally reticent May blurting out that she has been sleeping with Ward is just plain funny.
Overall, there’s a good balance of action, effects and humour, ongoing story arcs are moved on at pace and there’s a growing sense of threat as we learn of the connection between Quinn and the Clairvoyant and witness the birth of a new super-powered villain. S.H.I.E.L.D. may have won a battle against Centipede last week, but it is a long way from winning the war.
Donald Gill was one of the versions of the Marvel comic-book super-villain Blizzard, who had the ability to emit freezing rays to lower the temperature of things around him and use ice as a weapon. His back-story is significantly different here, though, as the original Donnie was a criminal rather than a S.H.I.E.L.D. student and his abilities were derived from cryogenic units in his suit.
S.S.R. (S.H.I.E.L.D’s forerunner) and the evil organisations A.I.M. and H.Y.D.R.A. are all name-checked.
Skye picks out the name Bucky Barnes on Academy’s Wall of Valour, a reference to Captain America. Bucky was apparently killed in Captain America: The First Avenger, but returns to play a prominent role in the new sequel The Winter Soldier.
Ward: No uniforms, no rope course, no defined muscularity on anyone …
Fitz: No marching in place, no IQs in double-digits …
Ward and Fitz take it in turns to disparage the Sci-Tech and Operations facilities.