Saturday, April 18, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 17: Melinda

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. we take an oddly-timed break in the storyline, as the series answers the burning question: Why is Agent May called "The Calvary?"

Have you been wondering for the past two seasons how and why she got that particular nickname? Yeah, me either. But apparently it was a story that absolutely needed to be told, and needed to be shoehorned into the middle of the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans storylines already in progress.

These unnecessary origin stories rarely if ever work. Do you like Boba Fett more now that you saw his childhood in Attack Of The Clones? Doubtful. Better they should have left him a kickass figure with a mysterious past.

It would have made a lot more sense if this Calvary flashback had happened last season, back when the show was spinning its wheels waiting for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But I digest...

Last week ABC announced they're planning a S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff series, which certainly came as a surprise. Despite the fact that the show's improved greatly this season, ratings are reportedly down, and I've been genuinely concerned as to whether there'd even be a third season. I guess the show must not be doing too badly, if they're considering a spinoff. 

So far there's no word as to what the spinoff will be about. The most logical scenario is that it'll be about a second S.H.I.E.L.D. team, possibly with May in charge. That could be what this whole S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. story arc is leading to, especially with May joining Gonzales and his group. I hope that's not the case, as as I don't want to see Coulson and May split up. That would only weaken both shows, in my opinion.

There's a slight possibility the spinoff could be about Deathlok, considering his surprise appearance last week. I'd be all for a Deathlok series, especially if he finally began resembling his comic counterpart a bit more.

Or maybe it's a Secret Avengers show, featuring a team made up of Coulson's Theta Protocol superpowered agents. I guess we'll find out for sure in a few weeks.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We open on a flashback to seven years ago, as Agent May and her husband Andrew discuss starting a family. May receives a call from Coulson, and before you can say "cut to Bahrain," they're in Bahrain.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is there looking for a superpowered woman named Eva Belyakov. Coulson meets with her in a street market, but she bolts into a nearby building, surrounded by thugs. Coulson sends in a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but loses contact with them all. He sends May in to find out what happened to them. 

Inside she finds Eva's with a little girl, who she assumes is being held hostage. Oh, May. You couldn't be more wrong! Turns out the little girl is actually the superpowered one. Eva stole terrigen crystals and used them to transform her daughter Katya, giving her some kind of mind control/pain vampire powers or something.

Katya sends her mind controlled thugs after May, who's able to dispatch most of them. She then "absorbs the pain" of the rest of her thugs, killing them and making her stronger or something. Katya then starts to kill the captive S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, forcing May to shoot her in the head. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents come to, see May in the middle of all the carnage and assume it was her doing. They nickname her "The Calvary." 

May's so shaken by the whole event that she transfers to a desk job in the S.H.I.E.L.D. office, and gives up her dream of starting a family, which presumably led to her divorce from Andrew.

In the present day, May's accepted Gonzales' offer and is now in charge of the base. She discovers Coulson has been secretly moving around funds and was building dorms for superpowered agents. He also activated something called Theta Protocol. May begins wondering if maybe Gonzales is right about Coulson.

Meanwhile in Afterlife, Jaiying teaches Skye how to use her powers by having her cause an avalanche on a nearby mountain. Jaiying also tells Skye that she's her mother, and that after Cal pieced her back together, the two of them searched the world for her. She also tells her to keep their relationship a secret, which makes no sense to me, but this show loves secrets, so there you go.

Jaiying admits that Cal is in Afterlife, which causes Skye to freak out. Jaiying says she'll send Cal away forever if she has dinner with him one last time. She agrees, and the three of them are reunited at last. Raina then tells Lincoln that she dreamed this would happen, implying she now has clairvoyant powers, which supposedly don't exist in this universe.

In the tag scene, an on-the-run Fitz opens Fury's toolbox and uses it to contact Coulson and Hunter.

Thoughts:
• Kudos to actress Ming-Na Wen for her deft portrayal of Agent May at two distinct points in her life. She's actually a very gifted actress, but May's stoic, Vulcan-like nature doesn't give her a chance to shine very often.

• So May's reputation as "The Cavalry" is based on a false assumption. The surviving S.H.I.E.L.D. agents entered the building and saw her standing in the middle of dozens of foes and assumed she'd dispatched them all, not realizing the creepy Inhuman girl killed most of them. No wonder May gets pissed whenever anyone uses the nickname!

• It was also interesting to see the pre-Avengers Initiative, pre-dead Coulson.

• A few weeks ago it was announced that Ruth Negga, who plays Raina on the show, was cast in AMC's upcoming Preacher series. I wondered what that would mean for Raina's future on the show, and whether she'd exit or be killed off.

I realized tonight that it might not matter if Negga stays with the show or not. No matter how hard I squint, I can't see her under all that prosthetic makeup. It could be anyone under there, and we'd never know it. OK, so we might notice a difference in how a replacement would act, but not visually I don't think it would make much difference.

• In addition to looking like a human hedgehog, Raina also now has clairvoyant powers. This is interesting, as last season she was a follower of John Garrett, a fake telepath who called himself the Clairvoyant.

• When Skye used her powers on the mountain, I was disappointed that no visible shockwaves came from her hands. We saw shockwaves a couple weeks ago when she first cut loose with her powers outside the Hulk cabin. So why the difference? Not enough money for shockwave effects in the budget this week?

• Jaiying's reason for keeping her relationship to Skye a secret was pretty lame. Eva Belyakov was a resident of Afterlife seven years ago, and stole terrigen crystals to give her daughter superpowers. This upset the other residents of Afterlife, so Jaiying is afraid they'll think the cycle is repeating if they find out Skye's her daughter. Wha...? Like I said, lame.

 In this episode Skye finds out she's actually 26, not 25.

That reminds me of something similar that happened to a friend of mine. He thought he was 32 for two years, and when he realized his mistake at age 34, said he "missed out on being 33."

• Kudos to Kyle MacLachlan too, for his ability to make Cal seem pathetic, ecstatic and sympathetic all at the same time, as he was finally reunited with his entire family.

• Man, that was one scary-ass little kid they found to play Katya. That "insane smile" she had while trying to kill May was downright chilling!

• Last week I marveled (!) at the fact that Fitz quit Real S.H.I.E.L.D. and they just let him waltz right out the door, which didn't seem like something a super secret spy organization would actually do.

I guess I spoke too soon. This week we find out that Real S.H.I.E.L.D. purposefully let him go and put a tail on him, so he could lead them straight to Coulson.

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