When we left off last week on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the fate of S.H.I.E.L.D. and many of its members were in the balance. Skye was living large in some sort of Inhumans luxury resort, complete with Raina as a neighbor and an as-of-yet unknown still alive mommy as one of her guides. Coulson, Hunter and Mike/Deathlok were out on the hunt and trying to find Skye. May was being convinced by Edward James Olmos that helping him bring Coulson in and settle the S.H.I.E.L.D.-on-S.H.I.E.L.D. violence was in her best interest. And Team Fitz-Simmons snuck Fury’s toolbox away from S.H.I.E.L.D. #2, hopefully to have Fitz figure a way to find out what’s inside before anyone else has a chance to. So where will ‘Melinda’ take us? If the previews are any indication, we’ll finally be getting a proper look inside May’s brain.
As the title suggest, we do get a healthy dose of May this time around. We begin her story with a flashback, seven years previous. It was a better time for May and she was working as an active S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in a still-functioning organization. She had a fiancé and was planning on having kids and all that good stuff. But the good times can’t last forever…
She heads out on a mission with Coulson (then still a regular, old agent) to find a “gifted” individual. The target is a woman named Eva. She’s in Bahrain and she has super strength. They try to have a talk with her in public, just to keep things friendly, but the plan quickly goes south. Some Russian gangsters show up and have a showdown with S.H.I.E.L.D. and their military allies and in the middle of it all a small girl gets kidnapped. The entire mess moves to a warehouse where the gangsters hold up, though the military ain’t having none of it. Unfortunately for them, they get smacked down in about a minute.
So in goes May to earn her long-standing title of “The Cavalry”. She runs into the military allies but they all appear to be under some sort of hypnosis. When May finally finds Eva, they have a showdown, the super enemy all-the-while muttering about how she needs pain. As it turns out, Eva wasn’t the bad guy after all. It was her daughter, another super-powered human that acts as an emotional parasite. So May is forced to put a bullet in her, which leads to the inevitable breakdown, a departure from active duty and the loss of her relationship.
Back in the present, S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 is trying to uncover the details about a secret project that Coulson’s been working on called the Theta Protocol. May is upset that she didn’t hear anything from Coulson concerning this project, so she enlists Simmons to find out more. As it turns out, their boss has been working behind the scenes and spending a whole lot of money on something. What’s more, May’s ex is involved somehow. Nobody knows what’s going on, but Mack has his own theory – Coulson is trying to train a squad of super-powered people to work with S.H.I.E.L.D. Kinda like The Avengers, but not as cool.
We also get a look at Skye and her super power training regimen. She’s hanging with her so-far-unknown mom, making mountains shake and glasses sing. It doesn’t take long for Jiaying to break down and let Skye know the good news – Mom’s Alive! – but she also informs her daughter about a girl named Eva and her own daughter and how things went bad for them. Thus, nobody in Inhuman-town is too pleased when they hear about a mommy-daughter combo on the loose. And finally, Skye, Jiaying and Skye-daddy Cal sit down and have a nice dinner together.
On the sidelines, we get the blind teleporter guy, Gordon, trying to help Raina with her own transformation. She’s spiraling into hopelessness, but he seems to be able to help out at least a little. And later, we get the reveal of what Raina’s actual powers might be. As it turns out, she’s been having strange dreams lately and those dreams seem to be coming true. And in the last minute, we get Fitz. He’s cracks Fury’s toolbox and manages to contact Coulson, though S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 is right behind him.
This week was another solid entry into second half of season two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Skye’s training moments were short and sweet as opposed to drawn out, so each scene was relevant. It was a nice way to bring her closer to her powers without being heavy-handed or, worse yet, drawing it out to the point of boredom. And while the actress that plays Raina (Ruth Negga) just doesn’t have the chops to play the tragic role, her might-be-a-redemption story arc is interesting.
Overall, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s strongest points this season are its progression and pacing. I’ve said it a couple of times before, but S.H.I.E.L.D. has really managed to shine when it comes to putting together a 42-minute block that doesn’t waste much time on frivolous story arcs. We’re getting several different stories, but each scene means something and, as a whole, it all pushes the series further along.
The one big thing that drove me nuts this episode was the clumsy reveal of Skye and Jiaying’s relationship. Skye just happened to start talking, in detail, about her bad childhood. So, naturally, mom had to respond and tell her the truth. And, of course, they had to add the “Nobody can know!” cliché in there so that they could somehow have it come back to bite the pair in the ass when the writers find it convenient to do so. It’s a tired and annoying plot device that just won’t seem to die. Let’s just hope Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. puts a different spin on it… somehow.
Next week, ‘The Frenemy of My Enemy’ puts Coulson back in the spotlight. What exactly is happening, I have no idea. This trailer is so riddled with Avengers 2 marketing that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. portion of it is unintelligible. Still, check it out below.