This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
I am going to mea culpa all over the place here; I really thought Bakshi and the character played by Kyle MacLachlan was the same dude. Chalk that up tn working three jobs, and all you guys that yelled at me in the comments get a No Prize and an apology.
Anyway, on to this week’s episode and mission, a story laser focused on Agent May that swam in some pretty comedic waters before evolving into a pretty badass classic SHIELD versus HYDRA mission. Now, Marvel fans, work with me here. Yeah, the series stumbled out of the gate last year, but did you ever in your life think you would be watching a weekly series focused on SHIELD versus Hydra? And it would work? And wouldn’t focus on Nick Fury?
This season has felt like what a SHIELD series should feel like with gadgets, action, some super powered hijinx to keep things firmly in the Marvel universe, and now, with the added bonus of a whole season under our belt, we actually give a damn about most of the players.
Yeah, this episode felt like a done in one but that doesn’t mean some important ground wasn’t covered. We are no closer to finding out what’s going on with Coulson and that strange language (Kree!) or the secrets of Skye’s origins, but we did get a killer mission that solidified Coulson and May’s bond as well as established May as the biggest ass kicker in the MU this side of Agent Romanov.
The whole mission began by establishing another patented Marvel McGuffin, a centuries old painting with that mysterious alien writing carved on the back (KREE!) Of course, HYDRA wanted it to so Whitehall sends Bakshi (yeah, I know, not Skye’s dad, shut up nerds, let me wallow in my shame), and the recently turned SHIELD Agent 33 from last week to get the painting for their organization.
There was a kind of a Steranko-esque, suit and tie, Ian Fleming, high class spy romp with Coulson and May going undercover to find the stolen painting. And may I take this opportunity to thank the wardrobe people on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD for May’s silver, sequined dress. You guys certainly earned yourself an Edible Arrangement, because WOW!
May steals the show this week, as she is certainly a fish out of water in high society, a deadly, efficient, killing machine fish out of water. All May needed as a disguise is a smile, something that looked alien on her usually stoic face. Ming Na-Wen has that greatly timed sour expression which she pitches often and to great effect. In fact, the episode started as a really good comedic installment that featured such classic moments as Skye panicking upon hearing May laugh for the first time, and May, the most kick ass Agent on TV complaining that smiling hurts her face.
Another instant classic, and a great idea for couples cosplay, saw the pair, decked to the nines, showing off their moves in a great scene where the agents dance superbly, case the joint, and give some insight into May’s past. Their classy and steamy dance number was interrupted by the sight of Major Glenn Talbot. Uh-oh.
While Skye continues to grow as a solid and steady agent, none of the new Agents (Tripp, Hunter, Mack) have jumped out as particularly rich characters just yet. There is some good banter and some interesting info on Hunter’s marital past, but nothing really that makes us care. All in time, I guess. I never thought I’d care about Skye or the once painfully generic Ward, but now, they’re fun.
As for May and Coulson’s mission, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a nice use of SHIELD gadgetry but the two agents use a camera that steals some sucker’s retinal scans to get May and Coulson deeper into the facility to find the painting. May as a flirty society airhead was hilarious and the show plays her talents to great effect with a subtle sense of comedic timing that is triggered by a well timed scowl or raise of an eyebrow.
In recent weeks, Talbot has played the foil to Coulson, but this week, he is seemingly revealed to be a HYDRA Agent. The presence of Talbot as sort of a J. Jonah Jameson like adversary gives the plot a sense of cohesion as the opposition to Coulson’s plans has a face. Talbot isn’t a bad guy per se (unless he’s a HYDRA Agent, but he’s not, you’ll see), he’s just a soldier who doesn’t question authority. Coulson does and his own complex morality, a morality that makes sure that May has a contingency plan in case he goes rogue like Agent Garrett. This contingency came up many times during this week’s mission, and as each time Coulson asked May to agree to kill him should he make a heel turn, it deepened the trust between the two old comrades.
While Coulson worried about his future, Fitz was still suffering from his present self doubt. Surrounding Fitz with alpha males like Tripp, Mack, and Hunter really drove home how vulnerable he has become. Fitz is not as strong or as capable as the three buffed out male agents, but he is as brave, something he will have to realize to get over his own tragic circumstances.
It’s worth pointing out that the fight sequence between May and not-May felt worthy of a Shaw Brothers film. One thing that has been consistent from the beginning of this series is the impeccable stunt work and that trend continued in spades this week. Contrast that with a quiet moment at the end, where Coulson again begged May to agree to kill him should he go bad. May refused, and told Coulson she had a plan to extract him to Australia if need be. But Coulson wouldn’t relent and insisted if he follows Garrett’s path, he should die. May’s stoicism finally broke at the prospects of killing one of the few people she trusts. Powerful character work to bring a fun episode to a close.
– Like I said, what a thrill to see a weekly SHIELD versus HYDRA war on TV. But I miss the green jumpsuits.
– I totally missed it last week, but HYDRA’s brainwashing machine was called the Faustus Device, evoking the name of master mind manipulator Dr. Faustus, a long time Captain America villain.
– A little look into the future. With Tony Stark on board for Captain America 3 and a cinematic Marvel Civil War seemingly in the future, what will Agents of SHIELD look like in two years time? Will the group splinter, each choosing a side? That’s a conversation for another day, but fascinating to examine nonetheless.