This week’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. basically represents everything I love and everything that frustrates me about this show. Because I am LOVING the exploration of a SHIELD’s dark side, and Skye’s journey continues to be the thread that ties this show together. I also love the way this show constantly hints at the greater universe it is a part of without turning it into a gimmick; it makes the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel so vastly populated. It’s amazing. On the other side, sometimes this show tries really hard to be something that it’s not and it fails every single time.
In this week’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cal – aka Skye’s dad – decides to recruit of band of misfit villains to help him take down SHIELD. Coulson and Bobbi Morse are on the case, and they follow Cal and his make-shift team to Coulson’s home town where they have a fight, and Cal gets taken by the eyeless InHuman Gordon. Meanwhile Skye is trying to deal with her superpowers, and SHIELD is trying to figure out what to do with a “gifted” that they can’t just lock up. Agent May calls in her ex-husband, Dr. Andrew Garner, to perform Skye’s psych evaluation. Also, Mack kidnapped Hunter. The big secret is revealed: Mack and Bobbi are working for “the real SHIELD” because clearly, what the world really needed was another SHIELD.
Let’s talk about “the real SHIELD” first because it’s probably the most significant thing to happen in this episode – the rest was mostly character-based. If you’re expecting some kind of revealing theory about “the real SHIELD,” then you’re going to be disappointed because I have no idea what’s going on. I mean, I understand their need to bring in a new organization to take on the negative aspects of SHIELD. As I said in the review for “Aftershocks,” the whole idea of SHIELD is in direct opposition to the contemporary superhero fantasy. So while Coulson’s team worked when it was set up as the rebellious underdogs within a massive agency, now that they’re in charge, it’s hard to see them as the hero. Introducing another SHIELD, one that looks a lot more professional, allows our SHIELD be the underdog again and that makes them easy to root for.
So on a meta level, I understand why they created “the real SHIELD,” but from a story perspective, I have no idea what they are planning. The “gifted index” could be the beginnings of the Civil War storyline, so maybe “the real SHIELD” is connected to that. It would be pretty hard to use the heroes of a TV show as the villains for a movie but they did it in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so I trust that the Russos know what they’re doing. Whatever the plan, I’m pretty intrigued by the whole concept, although if Bobbi and Mack end up being the bad guys and Lance Hunter ends up being the hero, I will probably vomit. I still really don’t like Lance Hunter.
Okay so now that the conspiracy theories are out of the way, let’s talk about everything else that happened in “One of Us” starting with Cal’s ragtag bunch of wannabe villains. Now I get that the point of this story was to show Skye how her friends at SHIELD deal with people like her, but it could have been done a lot better. Normally I’m a fan of the campy comic book stuff, but this was too much for me. Kyle MacLachlan’s Cal is always a delight, but he felt kind of superfluous in this episode. The plan he concocted was kind of stupid and kind of dented his reputation as a genuinely threatening villain. To be honest, while I understand the significance this encounter had to Skye’s emotional journey, they could have done this episode without Cal, and it probably would have worked better.
As for the team Cal assembled, they were so bad. Sure we know that Cal’s not actually going to succeed, but it would have been nice for it to be a possibility. All they did was make it seem like more of a challenge that it actually was. Cal rounded up the worst super villains he could find, made them put a bunch of high schoolers to sleep, and then shouted at Coulson for a bit. Then they made the fight sequences go on for longer than they should to make it feel like it was more dangerous it than it was when really Bobbi and May could have taken those losers down in a quarter of the time. Ultimately it was boring pointless filler, and I want to believe that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is better than that.
Everything about Skye’s transformation storyline – from her personal journey to the rest of the teams varied reactions – is brilliant, and Dr. Andrew Garner was a fantastic addition. I hope we haven’t seen the last of him. Skye’s determination to ignore the full extent of her situation and pretend that everything is going to return to the way it was before is heartbreaking but wonderful to watch. Jemma’s scientific approach, and compartmentalization of her friend’s condition is incredibly unsettling but so very interesting. And May’s maternalistic response has further developed into one of the most beautiful female friendships on television. I just love everything about this storyline, and I can’t wait to see more.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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