‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Explores Trust Issues In ‘Who You Really Are’ (REVIEW)
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 2 Episode 12 – Who You Really Are
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been tackling issues of secrecy and trust in Season 2, and it’s only become more pronounced since the show returned. “Who You Really Are” throws the team into disarray, as it becomes harder to tell who’s trustworthy.
One of the things I liked best about this episode was that it didn’t pointlessly extend the “Skye is Inhuman” arc farther than it needed to go. This was a perfectly logical point for her secret to come out, and it helped lend value to the big screen crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since the appearance of Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) here has far more worth to the overall narrative of the season than her last appearance on the show. Basically, Sif turns up in Portugal with no memory of who she is or why she’s here, and the resulting investigation inevitably leads to a Kree man named Vin-Tak (Eddie McClintock) who is on the hunt for the remaining Diviners. However, his mission isn’t as sinister as it might seem, since he’s actually trying to recover the remaining crystals before the villains get their hands on them. A rogue faction of the Kree attempted to create an army of subjects with incredible abilities. Everyone who’s been changed by a Diviner is essentially subject to the control of a Kree, created as a weapon to destroy. That means Raina (Ruth Negga) and Skye (Chloe Bennet) are both dangers to the well-being of Earth. So it makes a certain sense that Skye doubles down on keeping her abilities a secret, since she still has issues with trust. She feels S.H.I.E.L.D. is her family, but she can’t trust that they won’t do what needs to be done to prevent her from losing control and harming Earth. She’s scared largely because of her uncertainty over what will happen to her if her secret gets out, particularly since Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) has been so vocal recently about superpowered humans being an abomination.
And yet, when push comes to shove, S.H.I.E.L.D. stands by Skye. Coulson (Clark Gregg) holds Vin-Tak off while May (Ming-Na Wen) ushers Skye to safety. Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) then fights Vin-Tak herself after both Coulson and Hunter (Nick Blood) fail to take him down. It’s a pretty moving story development, actually, as the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents essentially protect their own, no matter the cost. And, to her credit, Skye vindicates the team’s faith in her by choosing to ice herself when her powers get out of control. The episode builds up a storyline in which Skye manages to get control of her earthquake powers with help from May, but the narrative ultimately subverts the expectation of her success by having her fail. It isn’t simply that Skye doubts herself, but rather that she tries to get things under control and finds she’s unable to, suggesting that she might not entirely be in control of her own body. This lends credence (Kree-dence?) to Vin-Tak’s assertion that those affected by the Diviner are simply instruments with no will of their own. Skye’s self-harming act convinces Sif of her goodness, but it isn’t enough to keep the team from being split down the middle.
Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) continues to be one of the highlights of this show: after the climax (in which he takes Vin-Tak down with an oversized pulse rifle while Bobbi removes the man’s memory with the Kree’s own magic truncheon), Fitz rips into the rest of his team when they berate him for keeping Skye’s condition a secret. In much the same way Skye had doubts about how much she could trust the team, Fitz was uncertain he could depend on his teammates not to turn Skye over to the authorities. Ever since Ward left him a shell of the scientist he once was, Fitz has known what it’s like to feel like an outsider over changes you didn’t ask for. His defense of Skye and the condemnation of the rest of his team is the emotional highlight of the episode, because while Simmons insists that she wouldn’t have turned her back on Skye, Fitz is right when he says there was just no way for him to know that for sure. The reactions of the rest of the team seems to back up that notion, as Mack (Henry Simmons) outright says that they don’t need to protect Skye, they need to be protected from Skye. And, of course, Skye hears the entire thing and decides to lock herself away in a reinforced room where her powers presumably won’t be able to hurt anyone. At least for now.
But the damage has already been done. The “We’re All In This Together, No Matter What!” mentality of the group has been compromised, as has their inherent trust in one another. It serves as a major setback for the team, but one that feels like it has a lot of narrative potential. This is a group that only just solidified that sense of camaraderie and trust, yet within a short span of time they’ve lost Tripp and had Skye converted into a potentially lethal weapon. Watching this team work its way back to being the functional unit it was earlier in the season should make for a fascinating trajectory, even if it does feel like well-worn territory. But even with that being said, I don’t think I can really blame any of the S.H.I.E.L.D. teammates for being leery of having Skye around, particularly when her presence presents such a threat to the well-being of Earth. It creates an interesting moral dilemma, since these types of stories tend to teach audiences to privilege the greater good over the well-being of one character. Yet it seems we’re meant to be rooting for Skye to be given a chance here. Neither side is wrong for how they feel, although Sif isn’t far off the mark when she suggests that maybe the S.H.I.E.L.D. team isn’t best equipped to help Skye. They may be in over their heads, and if they fail, it’s going to be a lot more than just S.H.I.E.L.D. that goes down with her.
The rest of the episode centers on the relationship between Bobbi and Hunter. Coulson has made the offer for Hunter to go from being a mercenary to becoming a permanent member of the team as Agent Lance Hunter. And he’s accepted the role, since it’s allowing him to be closer to Bobbi. His rationale is actually kind of sweet, as he states that the reason they haven’t been able to make their relationship work has been because they’ve always been on opposite sides. But now they’re on the same team, so what’s to stop them now? Well, as it turns out, it’s issues of trust: Bobbi is neglecting to tell Hunter about her plan with Mack. Of course, it’s not because she doesn’t want to. Rather, it’s because Mack feels that if they let him in on their secret, he’d side with S.H.I.E.L.D. against them. “He’s a friend. I don’t want him fighting against us,” Mack tells Bobbi. “He loves you. And he probably will always love you. But I still think he might be capable of killing you.” It’s a powerful scene, since it suggests a farther reaching history than what we might know about. Mack has known Hunter for years, so if he could easily see Hunter killing Bobbi over their secret, then that speaks volumes about Hunter. I hope we get to see a bit of that dark side come out, so that it makes sense why Mack would want to keep him out of the loop. I’m not sure I buy his rationale about how keeping Hunter in the dark is the only way he and Bobbi will have a chance to be together down the line. If anything, it seems like Mack is making excuses to cover up his own sinister nature…
The episode ends with Mack choking Hunter into unconsciousness after his secret is discovered. Okay, the secret itself isn’t discovered, but Hunter deduces that there IS a secret between Bobbi and Mack. He demands to know what it is, and well…that doesn’t end well for him. If nothing else, the show seems to have a good balance on what to reveal and when. It made sense for the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. to discover Skye’s secret, but it feels too early for Mack and Bobbi’s secret to come out, so the arc is being stretched out a bit further. Hopefully, it doesn’t get stretched out too far, but right now, I think the show is making the right call in keeping the mystery hanging over our heads. That said, my theory is that the “backup” to which Mack and Bobbi were referring is Maria Hill. It would allow for Mack and Bobbi to be working for another organization (in this case, the U.S. government) without actually having to turn them into bad guys, because I think making them this season’s Ward would be a bad idea.
“Who You Really Are” allows Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep up its more patient, nuanced storytelling for Season 2. I’ve been impressed for most of this season, and this episode added considerably to the overarching narrative of this season. I could imagine some people being super irritated that Skye is such a focal point over the other characters, but I think the show is doing a good job making Skye’s issue feel like a community problem, and not just something Coulson and May will have to deal with on their own. This feels more like an ensemble show now than at any point in its run, since each member of the cast feels vital to the overall series. Even the people who aren’t there, like Ward, feel like an integral part of the endgame for this season. And I find that encouraging, as it suggests a more integrated approach to the storytelling. Everyone is in on this one, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be better for it.