How Does Whitehall Stay Young on 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'? Skye's Mom's Story Was Confusing
Viewers have known for a while that Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. bad guy Daniel Whitehall is apparently immortal, not having aged a day since World War II. This is a fact that Director Coulson and his team finally caught onto in last week's episode, when they learned that Whitehall was formerly a prisoner of Agent Peggy Carter. And the audience learned that, in fact, Whitehall did age into an old man during his incarceration... but that he stumbled across something that reversed the aging process and has kept him young ever since. That something? It was Skye's mom.
Back during World War II, Whitehall and his Nazi/Hydra cohorts were experimenting with the Diviner, trying to divine its true purpose (pun intended). They did this by ordering locals to touch it, hoping something cool would eventually happen. Without fail, they all succumbed to the Diviner's terrible power, turning into what looked like solid ash and dying, just like Lucy Lawless's Isabelle Hartley in the season premiere. The only exception? A beautiful young woman who, when she touched the alien object, survived — and caused the object to glow.
After an old Whitehall was broken out of prison by Hydra, they went back to the village... and found that same woman, who hadn't aged a day. Whitehall conducted vicious experiments on her that led to her death, and somehow stole her immortality for himself. (We then learned that this woman was Skye's mother and Skye's dad, aka The Doctor, is pursuing a vendetta against the Hydra baddie who murdered her.)
But what did Whitehall do to Skye's mom? How does this immortality thing work? And what does it mean for the future of the show?
Skye's mom was an Inhuman & now Whitehall is too
Last week I articulated my Master Theory of S.H.I.E.L.D. in which Coulson's city is the Inhuman capitol of Attilan, Skye is an Inhuman, and her father is the unhinged exiled usurper Maximus the Mad. The first two points are likely still correct, although last week's episode showed us that Skye's alien heritage came from her mother, not her father, which means that The Doctor =/= Maximus. (Unless both of Skye's parents are Inhumans, of course.)
Whitehall's bloody experiments on a person with special abilities reminded me of District 9 and how everyone wanted to imbue themselves with Wickus' alien powers — the military by dissecting him, the local thugs by eating him. Could Whitehall have gained Skye's mom's immortality in a similar manner? Did he transplant some of her organs into himself? Her heart perhaps? Or did he gain her powers by consuming her? That would be a dark twist, even for this "dark" season of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It's the "Magic Blood" trope... again
In an essay published this July, Entertainment Weekly columnist Darren Franich titled 2014 as "The Year of Magic Blood." He pointed out how three of the year's biggest films revolved around blood that imbued people with magic powers and the quest by others to attain it. There was Edge Of Tomorrow, in which alien invaders possessed blood that allowed them to rewind time... until Tom Cruise hijacked that power from them by getting doused in the magic hemoglobin. X-Men: Days Of Future Past revolved around the potential for Mystique's shapeshifting blood to turn the Sentinels into adaptable, Mutant-exterminating machines. And, in the most nonsensical use of the trope, there was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, in which Harry Osborn somehow deduced that Peter Parker's blood would save him from a hereditary disease.
Of course, this trope isn't anything new. Just last summer we saw both The Wolverine and Star Trek Into Darkness revolve around similar plots. In the former, the villain absorbed Wolverine's mutant powers by sucking out his bone marrow; in the latter, Kirk was resurrected thanks to a transfusion of Khan's magic blood. It shouldn't be too surprising to see Marvel jumping on the Magic Blood bandwagon.
Or maybe Skye's mom was supposed to be the next Supreme
Then again, maybe Whitehall's immortality doesn't have anything to do with transfusions or transplants or cannibalism. Maybe the powers are more mystical than that. Perhaps Whitehall is also an alien, and Skye's mother was stealing his immortality from him — feeling threatened, Whitehall killed her, and was allowed to keep his position as Supreme of the Inhumans. No? Too reminiscent of a certain AHS plotline? Oh well, it was worth mentioning.
Is this the Infinity Formula?
Regardless of how Whitehall stole Skye's mom's immortality, it seems very possible that this arc is leading up to a specific plot point from the comics: the Infinity Formula. Also known as the Forever Compound, the serum was derived from an elixir or immortality created by Sir Isaac Newton in the 1600s. It was most famously given to Nick Fury to save his life after he was seriously injured in World War II. There are three reasons why it seems this is where S.H.I.E.L.D. is headed.
For one, it coincides with the comics' timeline (Fury was injected with the serum during World War II; Whitehall discovered immortality during World War II). Secondly, the effects of the serum are hereditary: Fury passes the immortality down to his sons, Mikel and Nick, Jr. If the immortality is hereditary, then it's not a huge leap in this universe to imagine that they could be stolen by harvesting organs. Finally, there's a S.H.I.E.L.D. character who ties into the Infinity Formula storyline directly: Barbara Morse, aka Mockingbird. In the comics, after Bobbi is wounded in battle against Superia, her husband Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) begs Fury to save her by injecting her with a combination of the Infinity Formula and Captain America's Super Soldier Serum.
It's conceivable that S.H.I.E.L.D. has changed the origins of the Forever Compound. Instead of attributing it to a real-life scientist who lived several centuries ago, perhaps on the show Whitehall managed to derive it directly from Skye's mother's powerful Inhuman blood. It would be fun to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe's small screen sibling start to tackle more plots ripped directly from the comic books. Hopefully the mystery of Skye, her mother, and Whitehall's immortality will all be explained when Coulson & Co. reach that alien city.
Images: Kelsey McNeal/ABC; Giphy (4)