“Everyone deserves a second chance, but let me be clear; there will not be a third.”
We’re 10 episodes into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., at the mid-season finale, and it’s clear that everything has been leading to this. An old face returns, the people behind Centipede begin to put their dastardly plan in motion, and there are a whole slew of references to episodes past. Now that the show looks to have everything in motion, one has to wonder if the overall quality of the show will improve in the second half of the season.
Last night’s episode kicked off with a bang, as we see Edison Poe (Cullen Douglas), the creepy fella from the prison post-credit scene a few episodes back, being broken out of said prison by Centipede powered mercenaries. Poe soon meets up with the girl in the flower dress, Raina (Ruth Negga), the person who recruited the likes of “Scorch,” as seen in Girl in The Flower Dress, and Mike Peterson, the super-powered bad guy-turned-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent from the first episode. As we heard in their aforementioned post-credit scene, we’re again teased about this character, The Clairvoyant, who, while we still have no idea who he/she is, I’m excited to see.
So, apparently, couples spend quality time beating the shit out of each other. In all seriousness, it was exciting to get to see a bit more of this relationship unfold, but I found myself wishing it were a bit more of a conventional relationship. I don’t know why I’d expect that from two of the most serious S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that ever existed, but it would have been neat to start to see at least a glimmer of normalcy coming from Agents Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). We’ve established that they both have that emotional capability in the two previous episodes, and maybe it’s just a case of them not feeling that way toward each other, but if they do, I’m just not feeling it. Sure, Ward has a conversation with Coulson (Clark Gregg) about figuring out women, which hints that he might actually have feelings for May, but that’s it. When Ward has a close call (which we only know was a close call because of the preview for the show’s return) toward the end of the episode, Melinda May doesn’t even seem to shift her focus to him for a second. Maybe this is what they’re going for with these two, but I’m not all that excited about it going forward. One of the main reasons this storyline was appealing to me was that it brought a bit more humanity to each of these characters, but they don’t seem to want to move in that direction; not yet at least. At this point, they’re just going through the motions; May yelling at Ward for flirting on the ship, trying so hard to keep the whole thing under wraps even though the situation has to be obvious, accusing Ward of protecting her because he’s a man, which the show admittedly does a great job of turning on it’s head by having Ward explain the tactical reasoning behind his move. From the time this relationship was teased, at the end of The Well, to now, my excitement for this storyline has plummeted. I’m all for a slow build, but they haven’t given us any sense of growth in the story since then. They could give us so much more and still tease it out over the rest of the season; I mean, how long can this secret relationship really stay a secret, on a plane full of people that work with secrets for a living?
One of the big deals about this episode is that it marks the first time in which a super-powered member of S.H.I.E.L.D. has the chance to work with the team, and that takes place in the form of Mike Peterson return. It’s an interesting perspective, for sure, as we’ve seen Mike on the other side, and now, with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D., he’s training to be an actual hero. Even though it’s unlikely, and is a pretty big departure from their normal formula, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Mike, maybe even adding him as a regular fixture on the team. He not only adds to the team with his powers, but he’s got chemistry with just about every team member, and a great backstory to boot. Sadly, considering his guest star status, it says a lot when he’s one of the more interesting characters on the show. His super-strength aside, he’s got ties to everyone on the team, and I think there’s a lot to be explored there, should we see this young hero return.
As much as I’d love to blame Melinda May, I think I’ve grown to not give a shit about Skye (Chloe Bennet) even more, so it was downright painful to sit through the scene between the two. With the prospect of putting May into something interesting with Ward on the table, which in all honesty could include Skye, why the hell do they need to saddle her with this “help me find my mother!” garbage? To be honest, I couldn’t care less who Skye’s mother ends up being at this point, and I don’t understand how anyone could. Not only is it way too early to even work toward revealing something like that, I feel like we haven’t had a chance to really get to know, or care about Skye yet to be shocked by who her mother is. Even if it turns out to be someone crazy, like Melinda May (or hell, even Simmons), would anyone really care yet? We’re still learning who these people are, and haven’t even established enough of either character for it to have any effect on the established formula. The idea of finding Skye’s mother is something that they should have kept on the back burner until sometime around the end of season two, before finally revealing in the third season.
Much to my dismay, FitzSimmons (Iain De Caestecker)/(Elizabeth Henstridge) weren’t used for much other than background noise this week. Other than a funny little scene with Mike, where he reveals that their weapon actually saved his life, stabilizing his Extremis, there isn’t much that they really had any part in. I love their relationship, what little we see of it, but they’ll never have any chance to develop it at this rate. As I’ve read in the comments of our past reviews of the show, I may be in the minority with this, but I think that a little more attention given to these two would bring people around to actually caring about this wonderful little pair. It’s a show that’s supposed to concentrate on the people behind-the-scenes, after all, but these two manage to be behind-the-scenes of behind-the-scenes, somehow. At least their role as comic relief works well enough.
The Bridge featured a lot of build-up to the inevitable, and apparently soon, reveal of what really happened in “Tahiti” with Phil, after taking a scepter to the heart from Loki. Coulson mentions, in his conversation with Ward, a woman from his past, whose relationship ended with his death. I’m not sure if this will lead somewhere, playing a role in future episodes, or if it was just to give some perspective to May-Ward, but it’s an interesting thought. In addition to giving a peek into Ward’s own thoughts, it kind of gives us a look at Coulson and what he’s lost as well. In the teaser for the show’s return in January, we’re told that we’ll already be finding out what really happened to Coulson, and, for the most part, this episode served mainly to get him in a position to have to reveal the truth.
With the way things ended, we’re left with so much still up in the air, and the show can go just about anywhere at this point. Well, it could have. For those who stuck around to see the preview for the January return, you already know that just about everything goes back to normal in the very next episode or shortly thereafter. Heck, they even outright say that Coulson’s big mystery is going to be revealed! As far as mid-season finales go, that killed a lot of the anticipation that could have been built up by changing just a few minor things to build excitement and leave us hanging a bit. Did they have to show the characters whose fates were in question alive and well in the preview? I can’t see any long standing consequences coming out of tonight’s ending, and it was a pretty anticlimactic shot at building to some suspense at that. If we’re to follow Coulson’s advice to Mike Peterson, I’m not sure that they’re doing as well as they could with the second chance that many viewers have granted them.