Agents of SHIELD Review: “Making Friends and Influencing People”

Simmons Working at Hydra

– Spoiler Review 

“Making Friends and Influencing People” doesn’t chill (I couldn’t help myself) down Agents of SHIELD‘s already impressive second season, instead only adds even more intriguing and interesting layers. With the spot-on humor, a twisty plot, and great action/special effects, the return of another season one character set up some interesting events for SHIELD and Hydra.

From the opening scene to the last, AoS felt like it was one step ahead of viewers, playing a more twisted game than the previous two installments. It showed AoS‘s more confident tone, willing to mess with viewer’s expectations and it payed off several times throughout “Making Friends…” Whitehall and Sunil

After Creel seemed to respond to a specific phrase last week, the concept of brainwashing didn’t seem that far behind: in the opening scene Dr. Whitehall, the Hydra guy who hadn’t aged since the 1940’s, set out to have a fun night of brainwashing a captured SHIELD agent (Maya Stojan, Castle). Throughout the episode we got to spend a lot of time with Whitehall, and while we don’t know exactly what makes him (keep) tick(ing) or what he’s after, we finally got to know a little more about who he is, and boy is he kind of unique. I like his character, as he’s kind of old school villain-esque, twirling drinks and making big speeches, but he also cold and calculating.

SimmonsBut if you’ve been wanting to know what real Simmons has been up to, her over-happy opening scene led to the funny working at Hydra reveal. While I never imagined she would turn, it was nice to see Coulson at her apartment to clear things up rather quickly. Turns out she’s been tasked with infiltrating Hydra so Coulson has some idea on what they’re up to and how they operate. Simmons has never been a good liar, but her charm, friendliness, and non-obviousness lend her to be the perfect undercover agent. Seeing this character in such a unique situation really gives Elizabeth Henstridge a lot more room to show off her full set of talents. Even if the decision to put her in Hydra was based on giving the actress more to do, instead of a purely story choice, it’s hugely welcomed.

Donnie GillCoulson, thanks to Simmons, informs the team Donnie Gill is on the loose and the target of Hydra. Donnie was seen in last season’s episode “Seeds,” which I kind of remembered, where SHIELD students were being attacked by an ice machine at the Academy, forcing Fitz, Simmons, Ward, and Skye to invesitage. After Gill’s experiment went haywire, he tried to stop it as it was struck by lightning, transferring powers over to him. He chilled (last joke, I promise) out in the Sandbox until the whole Hydra-SHIELD war, and the team wonders which side trained him to use his ice ‘gifts.’ Dylan Minnette has a lot more fun as the character this time around and his desire to be left alone just won’t do for either side unfortunately.

Back at Hydra labs, Simmons is summounded upstairs by Whitehall’s underling Sunil because they know she’s keeping secrets. I was in Simmons camp, thinking they knew about Coulson’s visit, but instead they were mad she didn’t reveal she had met and worked with Gill under SHIELD. Her loyalty is then put to the test when Hydra goes out to obtain or kill Gill, the same place the SHIELD team will be to prevent Gill falling into Hydra’s hands.

Fitz Confronts WardWhile the entire team is away, Fitz and Mack are left behind at the base. Fitz notices how the team has been careful what they say around him, especially in this episode, and sets out to uncover the secrets he’s not being told, leading to a very powerful scene within the fun “Making Friends.” Iain De Caestecker’s performance this season gets a giant payoff in the emotionally charged meeting between Fitz and Ward. Between his breathlessness and wordlessness and Ward’s attempt at having Fitz understand his intentions, I found myself getting choked up a bit (no pun intended). While Fitz has every reason to be angry, I’ve believed Ward made the decision he did out of his caring for Fitz and Simmons, something he is adamant about here. Though a tad surprising Fitz went to such a dark place, his reluctance to finish Ward off was very fitting for the character, while leading to valuable intel regarding Gill.

Turns out Gill, who supposedly helped Hydra take over the Sandbox, only did it due to brainwashing. Simmons confronts Gill and is forced by Sunil to try the Hydra brainwashing, pissing off Gill even more so and forcing the SHIELD team to cover Simmons while simultaneously try to get Gill before he falls into Hydra’s hands. Sunil manages to enforce the brainwashing on Gill and has him freeze over the boat to kill May and Hunter still trapped inside. Skye saves the day by shooting Gill, who drops into the ocean and freezes over. This being a comic-book show, I doubt it’ll be the last we see of him (again).

Earlier in the episode Skye is shown continuing her agent training under May and has kind of become obsessed with controlling her heart-rate. It’s a little too obvious something would get her to break her cool this episode, but the specific event was a little surprising. Because it wasn’t Skye’s first “kill” that affects her heartbeat, instead it’s when Ward reveals he knows Skye’s father and will eventually lead her to him that Skye finally loses her new May-ish persona and can’t regulate her heartbeat.

Here are a few other things:

  • Special effects surrounding Gill’s freezing ability were really good, just like Creel’s in the first two episodes. The one guy falling apart in pieces was a little shoddy, but given their enhancement for the series as a whole, it’s getting easier to buy into people with gifts and not be shaken out of the show by some bad CGI.
  • Liked how we world hopped a bit this week.
  • Gears of War? Classic, to be sure, but surprised they didn’t try for some more recent (and more likely lucrative) video game product placement.
  • Liking how the episode titles match up with stuff from their episode: “Shadows” had Coulson discussing how Hydra retreated into the shadows; “Heavy is the Head” had Creel changing his head to something heavy enough to stop Hunter’s bullet; and this week Simmons was tasked with “Making Friends” and Hydra’s brainwashing/”Influencing People.”
  • There’s some great laughs here in the episode, especially when everyone’s giving Hunter hell for knocking them all out in last week’s episode, with May promising to pay him back, “Don’t be sorry, just wait,” which she does in spectacular fashion

Making Friends and Influencing People

Coulson telling Fitz that he was keeping secrets because it was necessary for Fitz’s mental health and him being the director means there’s tons of secrets not only worked as a great scene between these two characters, but also as one where the show was talking to the viewers in a way: we’re still going to keep secrets, but we’ll definitely fill you in when you need to know. At three episodes in, we’ve discovered and learned a lot more secrets than the beginning ten of first season, so this promise from the creative team rings true. “Making Friends and Influencing People” is another great step in the right direction for a show that had it’s fair share of issues until this great second season.

+ Simmons’ new job

+ Fitz confronting Ward

+ Fun, action-packed, humorous

+ Good use of Donnie Gill and special effects

Heart rate monitor

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth. You can follow the website @MynockManor.

Season Two: 2.1 Shadows | 2.2 Heavy is the Head | 2.4 Face My Enemy | 2.5 A Hen in the Wolf House | 2.6 A Fractured House | 2.7 The Writing on the Wall | 2.8 The Things We Bury | 2.9 …Ye Who Enter Here | 2.10 What They Become | 2.11 Aftershocks | 2.12 Who You Really Are | 2.13 One of Us | 2.14 Love in the Time of Hydra | 2.15 One Door Closes | 2.16 Afterlife | 2.17 Melinda | 2.18 The Frenemy of My Enemy | 2.19 The Dirty Half Dozen | 2.20 Scars | 2.21,22: S.O.S.

Season One: 1.1 This is Not the End/1.2 Bridge and Tunnel | 1.3 Time and Tide | 1.4 The Blitzkrieg Button | 1.5 The Iron Ceiling | 1.6 A Sin to Err | 1.7 SNAFU | 1.8 Valediction