While not quite as fun and spy-thrill-filled as the first two episodes this season, “Making Friends and Influencing People” was another solid outing for the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” crew. Only problem for them now is fair or no, each episode now is going to have to compare to “The Flash” episode before it on CW, so maintaining a level of consistency will be key so as it doesn’t come up short next to Barry Allen’s exploits week after week.
The episode starts off with a member we haven’t really seen yet. Simmons has apparently left SHIELD to join a Mayflower terrorist sect otherwise I’m at a loss to describe her pilgrim attire. This opening sequence had a real “Lost”-vibe to it where a character gets ready for the day while an unrelated song plays.
Skye is target shooting and pretending the targets are all Ward. She’s doing such a great job of keeping her heart rate under control she even impresses May. Mack and Hunter come by and Hunter is eager to make amends for shooting them last week with a stun gun. “Don’t be sorry. Just wait.” Well, not seeing anyone top May for line of the night. Hunter’s a double loser as he bet Mack that Skye had official SHIELD training. Now it’s time for him to count inventory. The new additions make these quiet time scenes so much stronger as the character dynamics are noticeably improved. Trip, Mack and Hunter are a lot more normal than the uptight original crew of May, Ward, Fitz/Simmons.
Simmons seems like a terrible choice for an undercover agent and she remains a completely unbelievable liar, but that’s the irony and charm of this subplot. Her Hydra supervisor wants her research to help track down Donnie Gill aka Blizzard. Fitz and Simmons helped take him down and Simmons is saddened to hear he’s on the loose after the Hydra raids.
Gill is hiding out in Morocco when two agents confront him. It’s unclear if they’re SHIELD or Hydra, but Gill doesn’t care as he freezes one and shatters the hotel owner. It seemed more of a commercial break death than a necessary one.
Simmons is back home – only to find Coulson there. It’s time for a debrief right after a steak dinner. Simmons confesses to Coulson she’s finding her mission hard as she can’t lie like Ward did to them. Ward’s betrayal was a major turning point last season and it’s good to see that the writers are still dealing with the team’s psychological scars from it — well, except for May as she’s nearly an emotional robot.
Coulson briefs the team that Gill is back on Hydra’s radar. Fitz has really come around now and knows Simmons isn’t around anymore while Skye is trying to get info from Ward. In one of the stronger scenes between the two, Ward succinctly explains the differences between SHIELD and Hydra: while SHIELD determines a threat, Hydra has already pulled the trigger. Having two undercover spy agencies going after each other has focused the show.
Simmons gets called upstairs where Hydra’s second in command, Sunil Bakshi, wants to know why Simmons didn’t reveal her connection with Gill. Although leery, Bakshi has Simmons accompany the strike team to recapture Gill. Bakshi reports to main Hydra boss, Daniel Whitehall, who is in the midst of brainwashing SHIELD Agent 33 and converting her to join Hydra.
Coulson gets the troops prepped as Hydra readies to storm the ship Gill is on. While the others are away, Fitz wants to know what Coulson is hiding and goes to the holding cell and is speechless to find Ward. Even though his faculties aren’t what they used to be, Fitz remembers Ward’s betrayal and he kills the oxygen in the cell until Ward warns Fitz of the team’s danger in confronting Gill.
As Simmons searches the boat looking for Gill, Skye, Hunter and May arrive. Fitz has Mack warn the others, but it’s too late as Simmons repeats the hypnotic suggestion given by Bakshi and Gill is back under Hydra control. Hunter goes to stop Simmons, but May shoots him in his bulletproof vest. Trip’s disappointment in not getting to shoot Hunter was great as was the revelation that May was in on Simmons’ undercover mission.
Safely on the deck, Bakshi orders Gill to freeze everyone inside the ship, but Skye takes out Gill with her sniper rifle and he falls into the sea with just enough uncertainty to bring him back if needed. And her heart rate is still solid. Detached killer Skye is a bit much, but it’s better than too kewl for everyone first season version.
Back at the base, Mack tries to sucker Trip into an inventory bet, but he’s not biting. Hunter tries to assure May that they’re even, but looks to Trip, indicating we’ve got a nice “Slap Bet” running gag to carry on through the season.
Coulson comes to Fitz and explains why Ward is on the ship. Again, the damage Ward’s betrayal did to the team is evident as Coulson says he can’t even look at Ward anymore. Coulson says there’s a lot more he’s holding from Fitz, but he does say that Simmons is undercover.
At Hydra camp, Bakshi reports to Whitehall, who receives a memo from the newly converted Agent 33. The brainwashing has taken hold. Bakshi wants to move Simmons higher up the ranks with the reminder that if she gets out of line, she can be made compliant.
Skye comes back down to talk to Ward. While she may want to hope otherwise, Ward says he hasn’t been hypnotized. He’s told her the truth because he wants her to believe him when he tells Skye that her father is alive and he’ll take her to him. So that’s his end game! Skye doesn’t want to hear any of it, but the damage is done and as she checks her heart rate, it’s spiking. Ward’s sunk his mental claws into her again and Skye seems powerless to resist…