Previously on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ward dropped Fitz and Simmons out of a plane, brain-damaging one of them and turning the other into the most adorable ghost. May took Skye under very capable wing and taught her the Ways of the World, including: guns, swords, dagger, maces, and motorcycles. Coulson had some fits that caused him to do alien calculus for hours at a time. And both Hydra and the U.S. government came after S.H.I.E.L.D. from opposite sides.
In the best opening of this or possibly any television show ever, real Simmons sashays around her apartment and down the street and into her new offices in the Hydra laboratory to the tune of Belle & Sebastian‘s “God Help The Girl.” I have missed her face more that Fitz or Simmons has missed her face and don’t you tell me that’s not true because I know my business. S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t have the confidence or skill to pull off an opening like this last year, so cheerfully eerie it’s like the sun shining down on the shining down on the apocalypse, but it’s so deft and confident here that I’m smiling just writing about it. (Although, to be fair, that really could just be Elizabeth Henstridge’s face.)
One thing Simmons does not like about Hydra is her boss is always rushing her to present half-baked research and it breaks her Hermione-shaped heart. While she’s telling her boss some science words, she catches a glimpse at the file of Mr. Donnie Gill, who has broken free from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s facility for gifted kids, where he landed after Fitz and Simmons saved his ass from that storm machine last season.
Downstairs at Hydra, Daniel “Kraken” Whitehall is brainwashing some poor lady, Clockwork Orange-style. He calmly asks Agent 33 if she’s ready to comply, and when she responds in the negative, he says they’ll just start at the beginning, which is a very good place to start. Just your average mutant Nazi quoting The Sound of Music.
When Simmons gets home from work, Coulson is there, talking about, “Did you think I wouldn’t find out … that you only have beer and hot sauce in your refrigerator?” Because, duh, Simmons is doing double agent duty. She tells Coulson about Donnie Gill, whose powers make him IceMan, basically, and so Coulson decides that they’d better lay hands on him before Hydra does because they’ll brainwash him into being a bad guy. Unfortunately, while S.H.I.E.L.D. heads into the field from one direction, Hydra heads into the field from another—with poor Simmons getting tugged along so she can prove her loyalty to her new employer.
You might think Skye isn’t ready for a mission like this, but you would be wrong. She spends the first part of the episode in the firing range with May, destroying targets with a handgun. She’s got this new pulse tracker she wears on her wrist all the time so she can tell how calm she is, and under the tutelage of Malinda May, her resting heart rate is like 35. It jumps up a little when she’s getting ready to make her first ever leap from a jet, but she commands herself to calm down and herself obeys.
Both Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. have tracked Gill to a ship in the “Middle East” (that’s the only location description we get), which he has commandeered by trapping it in frozen water and then freezing everyone to death inside the boat. Simmons is forced inside to try to negotiate with him, and, like all of us, he is so mesmerized by her perfectness that he forgets to use his superpowers to kill her. He gets angry when she tries to tell him there’s a place for him at Hydra, where science is king and big-brained people are appreciated, but that just pisses him off. In Simmons’ ear, Hydra boss Bakshi tells Simmons some magic brainwashing words to tell Gill, but they don’t work.
I mean, they might have worked if she had more time, but she didn’t because S.H.I.E.L.D. showed up. Once May realizes Simmons is there, she shoots Lance to keep him from shooting Simmons. (“I wanted to be the one!” Tripp laments later.) He’s fine because he’s wearing his bulletproof vest, but I’d like to think she would have shot him anyway. Skye also gets her sniper sights on Simmons, which freaks her out a little, but she ends up killing Gill to save her, which also allows her to escape with Hydra and keep her cover intact.
(Skye’s heart rate jumps to like 70 when she sees Simmons’ face, but she keeps it together.)
While all of this is going on in the field and on the bus, Fitz decides to find out what kind of asset Coulson is keeping on the plane and just about loses his goddamn mind when he realizes it’s Ward. Ward tries to explain that he didn’t really want to kill Fitz and Simmons; he didn’t shoot them at least. Fitz decides to let him see how it feels to have your life saved by having your oxygen cutoff. I kind of thought Iain De Caestecker was the weak link last season, but he has crushed every single scene he’s in this year and also he has crushed my heart. I want to hug his sad little face. He doesn’t kill Ward, in the end, and Coulson thanks him for that, and also tells him he realizes how much progress he’s making.
Now that Simmons has earned the trust of her bosses, she’s headed up to the top floor of Hydra.
Skye is super worried about it. In her nightly debrief with May, she says she loves Simmons but that she’s kind of soft and a terrible liar. May tells her Simmons isn’t a newbie anymore and neither is Skye. They’re boss ass bitches and they’re gonna save the world.
Next week: May and Coulson do the rhumba!
What did you think of this week’s S.H.I.E.L.D.?