Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Inhumans & Terrigenesis Explained

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s season 2 Winter Finale hosts the show's biggest revelations yet and we explain how it all connects to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Agents of SHIELD - Terrigen Crystal and Terrigenesis

*Spoiler Warning: This post covers elements from from all of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to date*

This week saw the final new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for 2014, the midseason finale of season 2, and in it came the biggest payoff of the series to date. What happened in episode 10 ("What They Become") was so monumental that fans of the TV series not familiar with the comics may not even realize it yet so that's what we're here to discuss.

We already have up an explanation of the true identity of Skye and her father, as confirmed in the winter finale, and we're happy to see one of our theories realized on screen. Here, we're going to delve a little deeper into what that means and the 'how' of it all. What is the obelisk a.k.a. The Diviner and what was inside of it? What does that mean for Raina, Skye, and Triplett? What does this mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

In season 1 it didn't take long for the show to indicate that the tech savvy hacker Skye was special. She had a mysterious upbringing after a horrible incident involving S.H.I.E.L.D. (and as we learned, Hydra) when she was a baby. She was labeled a 0-8-4 for being "an object of unknown origin" and towards the end of the first season, she was cured of lethal gunshot wounds with the blood of a Kree alien (the blue alien corpse that also saved Coulson) with no negative aftereffects. It was clear that if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was embracing the source material in the comics - something we knew it had to do more of this season - that Skye, her mother and Raina were all Inhumans. And they are.


Inhumans Marvel Movie Logo Official

What Are Inhumans?

Now that Marvel Studios unveiled their movie plans all the way up to and including 2019, the TV division can finally peel back a few more layers and we can talk freely about the Inhumans, a film coming to theaters in 2018, without it being just speculation. We've talked about it at length in previous Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. discussions but as a quick recap, the Inhumans are a group of genetically altered people, the result of experimentation on early humans by the Kree ages ago. The Kree, who had setup shop in our solar system during a war with another alien species, saw how quickly humanity evolved. Since their own species was relatively stagnant in that regard, the Kree looked to solve their evolutionary issues by toying with us, or at least, create an army they could recruit in their war effort.

They eventually abandoned our solar system and the Inhumans created their own secret society, eventually discovering that rare Terrigen Crystals found on the Moon had a powerful effect on their biology and could grant them superpowers through a process called Terrigenesis.


What Is Terrigenisis?

In Marvel Comics, the terrigenesis process begins when terrigen crystals are exposed to water at a certain temperature, creating the terrigen mists. When a person with the Inhuman gene inhales the mist, it begins a transformation and a literal cocoon forms around them. When they break free of it, or "hatch," they will have changed (mutated). Sometimes this means they have new abilities/super powers, sometimes it means they've physically altered, even to a monstrous degree. We saw examples of both in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s season 2 winter finale this week.

The Inhumans society, mostly living in the high-tech secret city of Attilan that we'll see down the line, is intensely strict about genetics and their social hierarchy is build around assigning roles to people based on their abilities. They even limit breeding between Inhumans based around minimizing the more extreme mutations.

Agents of SHIELD - Terrigen Crystal and Terrigenesis
Terrigen Crystals introduced into the MCU

How Does This Work In The Show?

Skye's father, Calvin Zabo (a.k.a. "Mr. Hyde" in the comics), attempted to explain Inhumans and Terrigenesis:

"Your mother was special because she had a gift. She comes from a line of people who have gifts. You have a gift. It's why I brought you here, so you can receive it. It's your birthright. There's a transformation... a change that has to happen."

All of that makes a lot more sense after the episode's final sequence where Raina and Skye endure the Terrigenesis process. Raina was right all along in stating that everyone who had the Obelisk, or "The Diviner" as it's referred to as, and believed it to be a weapon were "all wrong."

"This doesn't destroy. It gives life, new life. We finally get to find out what we become."

The obelisk opened, revealing itself to be a container housing a Terrigen crystal. The crystal - and the mist that came from it being placed inside the buried temple on the pedestal - aren't actually lethal to humans on their own, just the protective casing is - a defensive measure to ensure only Inhumans use it and only in Inhuman structures designed for the terrigenesis process. Unfortunately for Agent Triplett, his heroic actions earned him a few container shards stuck in his stomache. Rest in pieces, Trip.

From the crystal and mists, to the resulting cocooning and transformation of Raina and Skye, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s handling of Inhumans and the terrigensis process is spot-on with Marvel Comics so the producers weren't making false promises when promising to "get more Marvel." This is the first time the show has lead the movies with a major story arc with long-term implications and for that reason, this winter finale is quite monumental.

Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) in Captain America 2 Credits Scene
Baron von Strucker

This is the beginning of the "age of miracles" as Hydra officer Baron von Strucker uttered in the post-credits button scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Marvel is just beginning to open the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a whole host of super-powered people. The Inhumans may serve as the backbone to that reality since Marvel doesn't have access to use "mutants" from the X-Men universe. This has been a lengthy origin story and going forward, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could look very different.

Writers and executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon hint as much when chatting with about the winter finale. "[It’s] not just her origin story, it’s the origin story of a bigger, other world," says Whedon. Tancharoen reveals that the Inhumans were part of the plan early in the process:

"It’s been a property in the Marvel Universe that we’ve been interested in since the beginning. Our tagline when we began the show was “not all heroes are super,” and we wanted to focus on that and highlight that for the first season. Now as we move forward we’re diving deeper into the Marvel Universe, and it’s our way of exploring a whole new world that may be comprised of people who have special abilities. We think that’s going to open everything up for us."

Skye (real name: Daisy Johnson) has transformed into Quake, a character from the comics who can manipulate and create earthquakes. As for Raina, we only saw a few visual hints of what she has become, something that doesn't look human.

"Raina has always been someone who walks into a room and knows she has all the power, and the ability to sway anything in her way. Part of that is her appearance. She’s always adorned herself in flower dresses, she’s always perfectly put together, and she’s a beautiful woman. Now we’ll see how this transformation affects her."

Kree confirmed. Inhumans confirmed, introduced and transformed. Mr. Hyde and Quake confirmed. The show isn't holding back like it used to. Coulson's team now has a super-powered field agent in Skye and a likely future Avenger in Mockingbird and was just confirmed to connect to The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Excited to see what happens next?


More: Agents of SHIELD's Kree Connection Explained


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return to Tuesdays @ 9pm on ABC in March 3, 2015.

Agent Carter miniseries will premiere with a two-hour event on January 6, 2015 @9pm on ABC.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2 on May 3 2019.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!

Sources: Marvel

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