‘Making Friends and Influencing People’
After something of a strong double header, this week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD falls on the formulaic side. While it features some decent moments and offers up interesting new avenues for its characters to explore, ‘Making Friends and Influencing People’ ultimately falls flat in its plotting and weak action.
Of course the big revelation this week revolves around Simmons. Having been confined to Fitz’s subconscious for the past two weeks, we finally catch up with live flesh and blood Simmons. Yes, as it transpires, our favourite British brain box is working undercover in Hydra, as well as living on a diet of sriracha and beer.
This was a great development for the show. Simmons undercover and loyalties tested – the possibilities are endless. After Coulson informed Simmons that she should “make friends” in Hydra, it finally seemed that new depth and complexity would be added to the show, raising it above the mere ‘Good Guys vs Evil Organization’ motif. But alas, that was short lived, as instead of this episode focusing on Simmons attempting to make friends with Hydra, she is immediately carted off on a side mission to attain the services of Donnie Gill, the young genius from last season who effectively transformed himself into Iceman.
No longer the frightened and lost young man he was back in season one, Donnie has now been upgraded to fully-fledged murderer. Not sure it matters though, as Donnie was never that much of a memorable character the first time around. Here though, it seems that he’s been reduced to nothing more than a bog standard ‘freak of the week’.
Donnie’s storyline finally did pick up in a suitable, ahem, chilling fashion (sorry), when Hydra number two, Bakshi, triggered Donnie’s psychological conditioning. That, coupled with the frightening, Kubrick-esque brainwashing of Agent 33 throughout, we get a lot more insight into how Hydra controls and manipulates its agents. However, this begs the question: are all Hydra agents brainwashed or are there at least a couple who believe in its philosophies and ideologies? Besides world domination and the mass slaughter of millions, what exactly are Hydra’s ideologies and philosophies?
For all the foreshadowing, it never once felt as if Simmons loyalties would ever be tested; there wasn’t even a hint that Simmons might find something or someone within Hydra that may yet test her. Hydra as an organization is so evil, so hell bent on world domination, that any tension that may be elicited from Simmons even remotely making friendships within Hydra is negated because of Hydra’s cartoonish evilness. I know it’s a comic book show, but come on, a little complexity wouldn’t go amiss. Hopefully as Simmons moves deeper within the Hydra machine, we may yet still be afforded the complexity that this show is so sorely lacking at the moment.
This episode continues to showcase Skye’s development from computer hacker to “Melinda May Mk II’. With the nifty little device of the heart rate monitor, conveying Skye’s decreasing detachment whilst out in the field, it allows for a couple of really terrific affecting moments for her character. Of course, when Ward lets slip about Skye’s father – after she puts a bullet in Donnie’s chest – it’s the best moment of the episode, and one of the best moments for Skye thus far.
Fitz, once again, is the saving grace of this episode. His scene with Ward is a wonderfully dark and intense moment; if only it had been given more time. We also get brief teases of Hunter’s she-beast of an ex-wife and Ward’s family, all of which will no doubt come into play later in the season.
‘Making Friends and Influencing People’ wasn’t a great episode, considering what it seemed to promise early on, but one which hopefully lays the groundwork for a little more complexity going forward.