A clock reads 05:45 and an alarm begins to sound – in the form of an overly cheery Doris Day-style ditty – which kick-starts Simmons’ morning and an even cheerier montage. Simmons starts her day with a session on the treadmill in her twee and tastefully-decorated apartment before choosing the perfect outfit and heading out with a thermos of fresh coffee. She picks up a Danish on the way in to work because of course she does, and the whole thing is extremely Simmons-y. However you imaged Simmons lived before S.H.I.E.L.D., this is probably it.
“Morning, Theo!” she says to a man sat behind the front desk.
“That smile,” says Theo. “a breath of sunshine on an otherwise dreary morning.”
“Aww, that’s sweet. And you mixed your metaphors. Have a good day,” she replies before heading off to the lab. But the cheeriness stops there. There’s something overtly sinister going on, as signified by the Hydra emblem on the wall behind her.
Elsewhere, more shit is going down. A familiar face is back and wreaking havoc as Donnie Gill shows up in Marrakesh and is being pursued by Hydra operatives. (Donnie Gill? The kid who went to Fitzsimmons’ academy in Season One? He can freeze stuff with his hands. No?)
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, May continues to train Skye to be a real spy and Fitz’s brain damage storyline gets even more upsetting. He’s still having difficulty with communicating and Hallucination Simmons is still hanging around, but the story crescendos with Fitz discovering that Coulson has been keeping Ward locked up in the basement. The subsequent scene is emotional, slightly disturbing and the best of the episode.
We switch between OH GOD, NO and AWWWW throughout the rest of Making Friends And Influencing People. Some weird and eerie stuff goes on with Hydra (even more weird and eerie than usual, and in a darkened room), and Coulson greets Simmons with the love and concern of a father, and cooks her a meal of steak (“grass-fed”), fingerling potatoes and kale (“organic”). The scene is very sweet, and the second best of the episode if you are a sap.
This combination of pairing depressing scenes with nice scenes and swirling them into a bitter sweet episodic fondue ought to stick around for a while. It’s the TV equivalent of Marvel pushing you into the dirt, but then helping you up and apologising by means of a hot chocolate with marshmallows and squirty cream. It’s a nice combination, and the fun, sweet stuff softens the blow of everything else Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. dishes out – which is getting darker and darker by the week.