Synopsis for 3×17: Agent Daisy Johnson brings the Secret Warriors together for a mission that will affect them all; knowledge of Hive’s powers has S.H.I.E.L.D. mistrusting everyone.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Oh Agents of SHIELD. You have taken such a nosedive in quality since returning from the winter break. With a few shining moments here and there, the latter half of the season has been both disjointed and boring to me. However, this week showed an exciting change in direction for the season that actually kept my attention and my interest.

My main complaint with the back half of season three has been that it has done nothing to weave the storylines together that it spent half of the season preparing for. The slow ascent to the climax of the season as been agonizing, last week’s being the worst. If you couldn’t tell the Malicks are a painfully boring family to me. Haven’t we already seen a dozen iterations of evil rich white people? Despite my love for Bethany Joy Lenz, her character’s death was the only scene in the entire last episode that I watched with enthusiasm. It was such a stagnant episode that every time I sat down to write a recap, I found reasons to simply not write it. I watched an old episode of Bob’s Burgers, I painted my nails, I reorganized my bowls in the kitchen.

But boy am I thankful that this episode actually took us somewhere.

#hairgoals [ABC]
#hairgoals [ABC]
One of the best aspects of this episode was the way it was laid out for the audience. The seventeenth episode of season three was somewhat reminiscent of the seventeenth episode of season one, where Grant Ward infamously revealed himself as Hydra, one of the single best episodes of this entire show. In a classic who-dun-it move, the Inhumans are all suspected of being brainwashed by Hive and Coulson orders them ICEd, despite the fact that Daisy’s Secret Warriors just saved all of their lives from Hydra.

Despite my massive reservations about the Secret Warriors project, from the callous way they seemed to erase Skye’s character in favor of the comic book character Daisy Johnson to the way they kind of sidelined the entire plot for the whole season, my expectations for the team went from excited to “well I hope it’s more than just Daisy and Lincoln”.

I am honestly pleased to say that I was wrong about this. The Secret Warriors were genuinely fun to watch. We’ll jump past the nitpicking semantics, because I could pick apart the Secret Warriors, but I don’t actually want to. Joey and Yo-Yo get great little entrances, with Joey going on a date and Yo-Yo learning English (presumably so that she can chat up Mack again). Their Apple watches go off at completely inconvenient moments and they are called into the line of duty. Despite their reservations about SHIELD, especially Yo-Yo’s reservation about the government, they seem loyal to Daisy and are ready to come at her call.

Why do we ever trust the government at this point? [ABC]
Why do we ever trust the government at this point? [ABC]
They crash through to the base and ambush Hydra to save their team, who are now holed up in the tiniest closet in the world stuck at a dead end. May is injured and they’re basically hoping for a miracle at this point. Yo-Yo and Joey are immensely charismatic while fighting Hydra, and although their powers can still seem a little stilted to me, the momentum picks up and I don’t actually want to stop and point out the flaws.

The team splits up and infiltrate the base with Lincoln finding Malick and arresting him. They manage to escape with the team and Zephyr One. The mission is a resounding success for the Secret Warriors, though for Joey, it’s bittersweet. After landing his first kill, it’s left quite an impact on him. Honestly, give the shows frequent tone-deafness to simple nuances in character feelings, I’m surprised they even touched on this.

However, celebrations for the team and their first successful mission are halted after Coulson interrogates Malick and finds out the truth about Hive’s abilities. Ah yes, mind control. It’s only been hinted at within the show, but Malick confirms it. It’s a vague image of mind control, since Hive doesn’t actually puppet someone’s mind and tell them what to do step by step, it looks more like coercion. He influences them into his faith and makes them believe what he wants is what they want. It’s a sort of blanket brainwashing, rather than outright turning someone into a basic zombie drone.

With this knowledge, Coulson, being Coulson, decides that there’s a traitor amongst them and immediately sets into motion the plan to ostracize and investigate the Inhumans. Given Coulson’s massive nepotism of Daisy, I’m surprised he kept her out of the loop. In fact, he keeps almost everyone out of the loop. His intentions might have been good, but this quickly turns the Secret Warriors against SHIELD and then turns the team against each other.

Secret Warriors, enjoy your secret jail. [ABC]
Secret Warriors, enjoy your secret jail. [ABC]
One of the best scenes in this episode is seeing the team argue with each other, they bring up fair points of doubt and distrust. After all, Joey and Yo-Yo and even Lincoln (until very recently) are really just civilians. They don’t have experience in the spy game. And Daisy can talk a big talk and wear the uniform, but it wasn’t long ago that she was a hacker named Skye living out of her van. Daisy’s trust lies with Coulson, while Lincoln’s lies with Daisy. Joey and Yo-yo are kind of left out in the cold.

It’s not easy for Yo-yo to trust SHIELD. Not only are they the government, but they’re a shady branch. She’s had her own dealings with corruption, it’s no wonder she bristles at the idea of being quarantined and suspected of being a traitor. Joey has just gone through a traumatic event, he’s just killed someone. It’s a nice reminder that murder has consequences, it’s not just squeezing a trigger or breaking someone’s neck. We hear a lot of guilt from Coulson about killing Ward, but it’s kind of bogged down by revenge and his own questionable morals. Joey offers a refreshing side to the struggle of the spy game. Also high five to Yo-yo for the burn, “Aren’t you a spy? Learn Spanish.” No, Yo-yo, even Daisy is technically not really a spy.

The in-fighting breeds ill will and soon the guns are turned on Lincoln. The show pulls the classic double bluff and just when you think the culprit has been found, it flips it and turns Daisy into the true traitor. Despite the fact that the traitor’s been revealed, Yo-Yo and Joey are forced to stay for further observation. Their moods take a sharp shift from when they first returned from Hydra, it’s heartbreaking to see them so defeated, now essentially prisoners to SHIELD until they are allowed to walk free. It’s a reminder to them that they are still Others within this organization. There’s a brief flashback to the infiltration of Hydra that shows Hive infecting Daisy with the parasite and her coming back for the sphere that Daisy and Lincoln got from James last week.

Me? Brainwashed? How dare you. [ABC]
Me? Brainwashed? How dare you. [ABC]
For long time Skyeward fans, this scene was probably devastating. The two haven’t shared a scene since last season’s “The Dirty Half Dozen” that showed Skye distant to Ward (and before that it was when she shot him and left him for dead), so to go from that to Hive brainwashing Daisy is kind of a harsh blow. I’ll admit my bias to being a huge fan of Skyeward back when it was Skye and Ward, but for me, this season shows just how adamant the show is to erase any warm feelings audiences might have had for seeing the two together.

Not only has the show avoided the two even mentioning each other, but Skye is now Daisy with a boring relationship with “I’m not a good man” Lincoln (Loyal fans will recognize some of the recycled material from the early days of Skyeward), and Ward is dead and inhabited by Hive. On the writing front, they could really abuse the hell out of Ward’s memories and attachments to the team, that’s really where Hive can hurt the team. He does that in this episode by turning Daisy against the team. For the show, Skye and Ward’s old relationship can now be something that they pervert for the sake of turning Hive into a truly despicable character.

Nobody suspects Daisy Johnson! (Doesn't have the same ring as The Spanish Inquisition.) [ABC]
Nobody suspects Daisy Johnson! (Doesn’t have the same ring as The Spanish Inquisition.) [ABC]
Shipping aside, Hive’s abilities turn Daisy into a zealot instantly. Her plan coming back from Hydra’s base circulates around turning the team against Lincoln and escaping back to Hive. Her final speech with Lincoln puts some of Hive’s influence on her into perspective. Despite her manipulation, she seems keen on bringing Lincoln along, after all the point of Hive is to be a god to all inhumans and she doesn’t shy away from this fact.

Daisy really strikes a crippling blow to SHIELD as she leaves everything behind, while destroying the base in her wake. She kills Malick (a part of me was very happy at this turn of events), she frames Lincoln, she escapes the pods, and she makes off with the sphere while destroying any way SHEILD has of chasing her. As far as episodes go, this one actually has me reinvigorated for the final episodes of the season. I live under no illusions that it’ll likely destroy everything I really love about the show, but I’m kind of excited for it in some masochistic way.

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