Agents Of SHIELD: 2.03 Making Friends And Influencing People
It's obvious that Agents Of SHIELD is a very different show to how it was a year ago and that confidence we have seen in season two is most apparent in the characters themselves. Skye has become Melinda May mark II, Couslon is now a shadowy figure at the head of SHIELD, Ward is currently a caged Hannibal Lecter and Fitz - poor Fitz - is utterly broken.
But this week we saw a marked change in Simmons too, so much that even her friends and colleagues commented on it. The mystery of what she was up to was finally revealed as she turned up undercover in a HYDRA laboratory. Thankfully she hadn't turned to the dark side; she was an inside informant, with Coulson acting as her handler.
The Simmons of season one was a terrible liar, something the rest of her SHIELD team noted when they discovered where she had been all this time. But season two Simmons, she was surprisingly able to hold her own, convincing the enemy that she is a valuable asset and quickly rising within the ranks.
Simmons undercover in HYDRA adds an interesting dynamic to the show; while I'm not convinced that HYDRA 'middle management' Sunil Bakshi wouldn't have figured out her connection to Coulson, there is a sense that they don't yet know who is in charge of SHIELD (Nick Fury is still publicly dead) and that does allow her to remain hidden within the enemy ranks and gain direct contact with the new immortal Nazi villain Daniel Whitehall.
What was more interesting was the mission she was sent on, recovering HYDRA asset Donnie Gill, who has upgraded to full Iceman-style powers since we last saw him in season one's Seeds. After The Absorbing Man in the opening two episodes, the appearance of Blizzard adds another lower-level super-villain from the comics, making the show feel much more connected to the movies. We haven't got any super-powered heroes yet, though the SHIELD crew seem to be managing on their own anyway.
I loved that Donnie Gill was recruited by HYDRA and used to take down a major SHIELD facility last season. It shows just how (pardon the pun) seeds were sown last year which are starting to pay off now. Figuring out what HYDRA's plan is now, including brainwashing poor Agent 33, suggests the war between these organisations is far from over and gives a sense of plot progression that was solely missing from early episodes in season one.
The other great moment was Fitz discovering the imprisoned Ward and trying to inflict the same damage to Ward's brain that he himself had. You were absolutely behind Fitz's decision and yet Ward has become more interesting of late - particularly his relationship with Skye - that you also wanted him to fail. Though at least Fitz got to save the day, despite his condition.
Making Friends And Influencing People was more of a slow burner than after the first two weeks but what it did was set up a load more plot points in an interesting way. Skye's father. Simmons infiltration of HYDRA. The brain washing of Agent 33. It leaves us excited for what next week brings.
While I enjoyed almost all of season one, I couldn't have said I was excited for the next episode...certainly not three episodes in.