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As Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. moves into its fourth episode of the second season, I have to say that I’m fairly impressed. They’ve managed to take a series that was a giant, flaming turd for the majority if its first season run and turn it into something that has us guessing. This week, the show pushes itself even further and keeps the momentum of the first three episodes while introducing some of the casual humor that S.H.I.E.L.D. has tried (and mostly failed) to capture before. ‘Face My Enemy’ keeps the plot rolling while alleviating some of the serious tensions that have been building – the hallmark of a potentially great show.

Last week, we saw all sorts of crazy shit going on. H.Y.D.R.A. and S.H.I.E.L.D. were racing to recruit people to their respective sides. Simmons was playing the unlikely role of a double agent. Coulson was trying to convince General Talbot to be nice-nice friends with him. And Fitz appeared to be sinking into the well of crazy, potentially to never return. While this week doesn’t resolve anything in the long-term (let’s leave the mid-season finale for that great task), it does manage to keep the ball rolling.

We start with an exploding church and some priests. Apparently, a painting in the church survived said explosion. It also happens to have some familiar crazy drawings all over it. And while it may not be an artifact, it is yet another clue to the strange things that are going on in Coulson’s head.

CLARK GREGG, MING-NA WEN

Enter the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. They’re after the painting so they make some undercover plants in the form of May and Coulson. Team S.H.I.E.L.D. must figure out a way to get the painting before other interested parties can acquire it. Unfortunately, General Talbot happens to be at the party as well. While he and Coulson do seem to strike some sort of truce, the painting goes away with Talbot before the team can snatch it up. And… wait… is that Talbot chatting with H.Y.R.D.A.? Oh shit.

Naturally, things are not as they seem. Still, it’s a showdown of the two opposing forces as each attempts to gain control of the painting while shutting down the enemy team. It’s a great face-off between the good guys and the bad guys that is more than just flash and show. Only the cleverest will survive this war, and the latest episode of the show proves that even audiences may not be aware of whom that most clever team is.

talbot

Episode four was a lighter episode, despite the serious elements of the plot. The writers took the two gravest characters and put them into a situation that neither were comfortable with. In the process, they brought humanity to both Coulson and May without sacrificing the show’s momentum. This, in my humble opinion, is the mark of thoughtful writing.

Also, every element of the show felt as if the two teams – S.H.I.E.L.D. and H.Y.D.R.A. – were on equal footing. It never felt like Coulson and his team were being bitch-slapped, nor did it feel like H.Y.R.D.A. was too incompetent to run a liquor store, let alone fight against one of the world’s top intelligence agencies. While this may seem a no-brainer, you might be surprised at how poorly this sort of thing is handled on the vast majority of suspense-oriented television shows. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does a good job of making it all seem at least mostly realistic.

My major complaint for this episode was the battle of May versus anti-May. We’ve already seen that May is the baddest muther-fucker around. To have her struggle for so long was little more than a way to extend the limited action of this episode, as if the writers felt the need to fill some sort of action quota. Whether you like May or not, you have to admit that she’s a killing machine and not easily upset by some casual member of H.Y.D.R.A.

Also, the actor that plays the main baddie for H.Y.D.R.A. is just annoying. I dunno what they’re doing with this guy, but I wouldn’t be upset if he just mysteriously vanished from the series altogether. Seriously – acting lessons!

All-in-all, a clean episode with few flaws that kept the overall series going without pandering. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can keep this attitude up, it may avoid the pitfalls of many other shows and achieve audience interest and complexity at the same time. Here’s to hoping…

Next week, another look at Simmons as she goes undercover. Also, Skye is stepping up to play an important role. Click on the video below to see what ‘A Hen in the Wolf House’ has to offer.

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