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What “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s” Winter Finale Means for the MCU

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
What “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s” Winter Finale Means for the MCU

With all that went down in the last episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” it might be a little difficult to remember that “What We Become” was only a mid-season finale. Daisy Johnson! Terrigenesis! Inhumans! The episode just brimmed with revelations. Needless to say, many of the questions asked at this season’s opener have been answered. I’ve talked a little about how the show could use the Inhuman angle, but — with the Inhumans officially confirmed by name — where do we go from here? What happens on “AoS” now that their best-kept secret has been revealed?

Case Closed?

First, let’s talk about the Diviner — or, should we say, the Terrigen crystal?

A quick recap for those unfamiliar with the comics: Inhumans are Kree creations, borne out of the alien race’s experimentation with early humans. Abandoned by their creators, the Inhumans manufactured a way to empower themselves through exposure to Terrigen crystals, which emit a mist that alters their DNA and gives them superhuman abilities. Famously, the Inhuman Royal Family — composed of its king, Black Bolt, his wife Medusa, and several cousins — have powers ranging from a supersonic scream to bull’s legs that can generate seismic shockwaves.

It comes as no surprise then that, when Raina and Daisy — uh, Skye — were trapped in the hidden city’s chamber, the Diviner blossomed like a flower and revealed a crystal at its heart. Though it wasn’t called a Terrigen crystal, there’s no doubt that’s what it was; nothing makes this clearer than its transformative properties, which sent Skye and Raina into Terrigenesis cocoons. But while Terrigenesis itself is a huge reveal, the Diviner also has some other intriguing implications.

Let’s look at it this way: the Diviner is a case that houses the Terrigen crystal. The Diviner determines who is worthy and who is not, which in turn protects the Terrigen crystal, the prize inside. The crystal then rewards the chosen few with transformation. That is, the Diviner protects the Terrigen crystal, only allowing the Inhumans to undergo the crystal’s powerful effects. And how do we know this? Because the Terrigen mist didn’t kill Tripp; the Diviner did.

Hear me out: The Terrigen mist, which came off the crystal when the Diviner opened, only affected the two Inhumans in the room. Tripp only stood by and watched in horror as the transformation sent Raina and Skye into their cocoons. Alarmed that it had killed them, he kicked the stand to stop it, knocking it to the floor. The Diviner and its Terrigen crystal ruptured and exploded, which sent a shard into Tripp’s chest. Even if the wound didn’t kill him, the Diviner’s effect on the unworthy would have – assuming that that is, indeed, the true “Diviner” effect; we know so little about that as of yet, and death seems rather fluid in the MCU. The takeaway here is that the Terrigen mist, on its own merit, does not harm humans. And you know what that could mean?

Terrigen Bomb.

Tick-Tick-Boom

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the Terrigen Bomb. Back in October, when I theorized that the Diviner might have been a Terrigen crystal, I suggested that Whitehall’s plan to mass produce its effects may turn it into the Terrigen Bomb that Black Bolt detonated at the end of Marvel Comics’ “Infinity” event, which in turn spurred Marvel’s much hyped “Inhumanity” followup. (A quick catcher-upper: The Terrigen Bomb released the Terrigen mists into Earth’s atmosphere, triggering dormant Inhumans to undergo Terrigenesis.) Thanks to “What We Become,” we’ve seen the small-scale effects of the Terrigen crystal. As crazy and game changing enough as it was, how do they top it? By introducing the non-lethal Terrigen mist to the population at large, of course.

Just because Whitehall is (allegedly) dead doesn’t mean his vision is; cut off one head and all that. He’d shared his plans with his team of scientists long before Coulson took the kill shot, meaning that Hydra has not only been weaponizing the Diviner all this time, they also know much more about it than S.H.I.E.L.D. Though S.H.I.E.L.D. has the Diviner and its Terrigen crystal in their possession now, the very final scene in the winter finale revealed that there is more than one on earth. If Hydra were to find another Diviner before S.H.I.E.L.D., they may be able to tap into its secrets for the sake of causing widespread devastation, ignorant of the fact that the Terrigen mist itself is harmless. This is a loose end that the show didn’t resolve in its mid-season finale, and may very well save for the season finale.

Further, while the potential certainly exists, Hydra may not be the one to detonate the Terrigen bomb at all. Skye’s father Cal is a free agent, after all — a free agent who knows the secrets of the Diviner, or so he and Raina believe. If Skye does turn to him for solace or for help in controlling her abilities, he could seek to console her through the creation of more people like her, or conversely, perhaps he’ll create a Terrigen bomb for the sole purpose of convincing Skye to confide in him. Maybe he would just do it to stick it to Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. for tainting his reunion with Skye. Whichever way you cut it, Cal has all the motives and none of the reservations in creating a “weapon” of this magnitude. He’s a wild card.

As I’ve discussed before, a Terrigen bomb could both provide “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with a host of newly powered individuals with which to deal (a sense of direction!) and a tie to “Captain America: Civil War.” What’s more immediate, however, is how Inhumans and a potential Terrigen Bomb could impact Marvel Studios’ next big film: “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.”

Double the Trouble

On the same day that “What We Become” premiered, Executive Producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen confirmed that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” would tie in to “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.” Coincidence? Maybe not, especially considering that the film will feature two important characters who — like Daisy — had non-Inhuman origins in the comics: Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Like I suggested in my first “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” article, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are ripe with the potential as Inhumans, considering that the film right to mutants are currently locked up over at Fox. Where I originally tossed around the idea that Wanda and Pietro were experimented upon just like Coulson, “AoS” has made it clear that there exists a faction of people like Skye and Raina that are simply born with Inhuman DNA, meaning that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch could inherit these abilities. What’s more, their powers could have been activated under exposure to something like Loki’s scepter, one of the other Diviners — or a Terrigen Bomb. At this point, we know so little about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch that both scenarios could potentially fit the bill. However, with the escalating Inhuman presence in the show, the mysterious source of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s powers looks increasingly likely to have ties to Kree experimentation, especially now that the show has created a precedent for it with Skye’s true identity.

Now, before we really delve into this next clue, I want to preface it by acknowledging that the comics and movies tend to influence and alter the other even if they don’t necessarily mirror each other. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the MCU isn’t the only place where Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are evolving; as recently as “Avengers and X-Men: AXIS” #7, which arrived in stores the day after the “AoS” mid-season finale, their backstory got a retcon that will send shockwaves through the Marvel Universe for months to come: Magneto, it appears, isn’t really their father — and right now, that’s all we know. However, that alone has staggering implications for Wanda and Pietro, up to and including the idea that they may not even be mutants. If this turns out to be the case, that opens the characters up to a handful of new origins… like Inhumanity. This is all guesswork at this point, of course, but this particular development will certainly be something to keep an eye on as we near “Age of Ultron’s” May release date.

Loose Threads

A mid-season finale is just that: the final chapter before a break between two halves of a season. As such, “What We Become” wasn’t meant to answer all of our questions. Let’s take a look at a few holdovers from season two that the show will likely address when it picks back up in March:

Colonel Talbot: In “A Fractured House,” the sixth episode, Hydra — dressed as S.H.I.E.L.D. — attacks the U.N. as Colonel Talbot is giving a speech. Hydra uses a specialized weapon in the attack: a Diviner-infused, mechanized throwing star of sorts that vaporizes its victims in the same way the Diviner eliminates the unworthy. Several members of security and the U.N. council die this way — but not Talbot, who is struck in the arm and is shown to be simply injured in a later scene. Looks like Talbot might be worthy!

“What We Become’s” Mystery Man: The final clip of the winter finale is what really makes this three-month hiatus a killer: A mysterious figure, holding another Diviner, turns to the camera only to reveal his eyeless face. The list of candidates for this gentleman isn’t very long, but I’m going to go with my best bet: It’s Reader, from Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman’s “Inhuman” series. Though blind, Reader boasts the impressive ability to make real anything that he reads. In the comics, he works for the Ennilux Corporation, which pays him to rescue and recruit freshly-turned Inhumans. Reader has only appeared in a handful of comics so far, lending further weight to Marvel’s tendency to borrow or alter characters and events in the comics to match movie continuity — no matter how recent. This begs the question: How much of Soule and Stegman’s “Inhuman” will be influenced by “AoS” or vice versa? Is the Ennilux Corporation far away, and, if so, how many Inhumans can we expect to see in the new year?

Raina: I’ll be honest with you — I have no idea what’s going on with Raina, even after thinking on it for a few days. It’s clear that her transformation was much more physical than Skye’s; as she emerges, her face is covered in what looks like large, protruding hairs and her eyes are much larger and animalistic than they once were. However, that makes her transformation one of the most intriguing aspects of the episode! We’re only teased with a brief, foggy snapshot of her through the rubble, so we won’t have a complete picture until the show comes back in March. It’s worth mentioning that a character called Raina — a member of the Saurid race — exists in the comics as created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis. She resides in the Savage Land and possesses razor sharp nails in addition to powerful, elongated canines and heightened durability. Though I find this adaptation unlikely, it would be a fascinating character arc for Raina to go from a master of manipulation and persuasion to a creature of brute force.

Bobbi and Mack’s Secret: Like Raina’s transformation, I don’t have many concrete suggestions for what Bobbi and Mack are up to behind everyone else’s back. However, it does pose some interesting questions. Who are they really working for? Is it Fury? Is it Hydra (though I doubt this)? Were they on a “Secret Avengers”-like team following S.H.I.E.L.D.’s dissolution but prior to joining Coulson’s team? There was a sizable time gap there, after all. Will these characters, if they have been secretly working with Fury all along, cross over into the Netflix “Defenders” show? Or will they form their own team, something akin to the West Coast Avengers? There simply isn’t enough information yet to make an educated guess, but there is a host of possibilities that go hand-in-hand with this blip of a subplot.

And Now…

We wait. “AoS” is in a much better place now than it was this time last year. Instead of reacting to events in the MCU, it’s instigating them, which gives its stories much more gravitas and points it in a clearer direction. As long as the hiatus is, it fortunately won’t drag too much thanks to the long-awaited “Agent Carter” miniseries that starts up January 6. Regardless, the winter finale gave us a lot to think about before the show charges forward into a brave new world.

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