Let’s take a break from our Daredevil binging and return to Marvel’s original TV show with “Melinda,” the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode we’ve been impatiently waiting nearly two seasons for.
Unfortunately, thanks to all the hype and constant references to the Cavalry and Bahrain, when we finally found out why Melinda May is the way she is, it just doesn’t match expectations.
Seven years ago, May’s taking a shower, a morning habit which presumably hasn’t changed in the present. But the fact that she’s sharing it with Andrew (Blair Underwood) definitely has, who snuggles up to her, ready for his duty: “we have a family to make.” Snort/ew/hott.
Coulson, always early, arrives at their home, whisking May off to work, a dutiful work husband. The pair have been called into assist on a mission involving a “gifted,” Eva Belyakov. They want to extract her before the Russians can get to her. Squint hard enough and you’ll be convinced that Eva is another Black Widow agent, continuing in the Dottie and Natasha tradition.
Joining them on the mission are a bunch of nameless SHIELD agents and Agent O’Brien, notable ONLY because he’s Billy Riggins of FNL fame. What happens if the mission goes sour? “I call in the cavalry,” a gruff one-dimensional Agent Hart boldly claims, trumpeting May’s future nickname like a goddamn badge of honor.
The mission, of course, does go sour, and fast. Coulson, nice and calm as ever, approaches Eva. He can help her, he promises. He’s interrupted by men with guns, and it’s clear Eva has no intention of going quietly: “I want pain,” she says, and she hurls a table at the thugs. They grab a young girl and Agent O’Brien as hostages, bullets flying as they retreat into a secure building.
Quickly, Hart sends in the not-Cavalry, and they’re taken out immediately, leaving Coulson and May as the only agents left standing. Coulson wants to wait for back up, but when the Bahrain military arrives, he quickly sends May, “the specialist” in to do her job.
That’s when the badass May we know and love comes forth (after sweetly calling Andrew), taking down soldiers left and right, until happening upon her fallen SHIELD agents, alive and NOT well. They all “want pain,” like weird angry zombies. May quickly locks them up (in a way that would not hold 12 angry men) and greets Eva for their fight. Even with powers, it’s not even a top 10 May fight on the show, and she quickly dispatches her, goring her with a massive wooden…implement?
May believes her job is done, but OBVIOUS TWIST, Eva wasn’t the “gifted.” That would be the creepy Katya (Ava Acres), the aforementioned young girl “hostaged.” She’s really Eva’s daughter, is insane, powerful, and has control of all the soldiers. They crowd her, and all she needs is to touch May to take her over…so May is forced to do one thing: blow the kid’s brains out.
You’d understand why May stopped wanting to have kids after that.
Thus was born the Cavalry, as her heroism/murder saved every agent. The trauma necessitated a desk transfer, a motion approved by Maria Hill (you know it’s not a terrific episode when I get a trill of excitement by a name on a piece of paper).
7 years later, May must now grapple with the possibility that Coulson has been lying to her. Agent Weaver and Bobbi bring to her attention the nutty “Theta Protocol,” some initiative they materialize out of thin air that Coulson’s purportedly been pumping money in on the sly. He had kept it from her completely, and Bobbi uses this as evidence that what she did was warranted. The betrayal May now feels is how she felt.
But do we really believe Coulson is a lying monster? I don’t, and if he turns out to be, I’ll just be pissed, so this plotline continues to feel like it’s full of hot air.
May comes to Simmons, wondering if she knew anything about Theta Protocol. Simmons had no idea, and had apparently been working on Deathlok tech under different auspices. After some research, they realize Coulson’s been meeting with Andrew secretly and burning through cash (where does this money come from?).
Simmons, ever the turncoat, seems ready to throw Coulson under the bus, even after her awesome reversal with Fitz last week. Mack believes that Coulson is trying to build a base, specifically designed for those with powers. Aside from lying about it, that this is treated like such an awful idea flummoxes me. I don’t buy that AOS lives in a world where people hate and fear those with powers, like in X-Men. This is a universe where the Avengers are heroes; if anything, those with powers should have a base and support structure. It’s idiotic to suggest otherwise.
The best part of this episode is the Inhuman subplot, with Skye’s first training sessions with Jiaying (bless you Dichen Lachman), her somehow still alive mother. She believes that Skye can sense the frequencies of everything, which makes her IMMENSELY powerful. She’s Avengers material. With just a little encouragement, Skye manages to MOVE A MOUNTAIN, causing an avalanche, probably not a nod to a mutant with similar powers to her own called, well, Avalanche (X-Men: Evolution “fans” know what I’m talking about).
Skye learns from Lincoln Love Interest that Jiaying is in charge. She’s never trained anyone, at least as long as Lincoln’s been there. Which, we’re led to believe is a long time, except Lincoln himself said nobody actually LIVES here, so what does he fucking know? Regardless, Skye has an inkling there’s something Jiaying isn’t telling her. Follow your inklings.
After making beautiful music with water-filled glasses (and shattering them), Skye breaks down, running through her depressing past. This place feels like home, “which never ends well.” “Mistrust of home” is her other superhero, she cracks, the one Whedon line working this week. She regales Jiaying with her horribly depressing past of foster care, that SHIELD was the only family she ever knew and they ended up turning on her, and hell, she doesn’t even know her birthday.
July 2nd, Jiaying responds, revealing her identity as her Mother. Boom. After a commercial break, Jiaying has her hands in her daughter’s hair, asking Skye if she’s okay. Too soon? But Skye’s so happy. After Cal “pieced her together” (is Jiaying Frankenstein?!), Jiaying and Cal looked for Skye for years, and they both changed. Cal had become the monster that he is now, and Jiaying felt that was a sign for her to move on, and she moved to the Afterlife to help people like Skye through the transition. But, she can’t tell anyone about her Mama. This is their secret, because the Inhumans don’t take kindly to favoritism, and they have rules about undergoing the change without their consent. This is what connects to Bahrain: Eva stole the Terrigen crystals from Jiaying for her daughter, Jiaying knowing she was unstable and not ready for the change. Because of how big of a disaster that turned out to be, they need to be hush-hush, not that that makes much sense, since she’s already protecting Skye from the rule breaking anyhow.
Skye, of course, changed unwittingly. Raina had a little bit more of an idea of what she was in for, and she’s still miserable about the thorny results. Gordon’s taking the lead with her as her guide, though that hasn’t prevented Lincoln from butting himself into every conversation. He’s only trying to help, but I hate the guy. Raina feels locked up in a cage, and wants to feel the air, but she can’t. It’s too dangerous, Gordon claims, in full-on dick mode.
Lincoln implores her to hang in there, to try and sleep. But sleep isn’t the problem: it’s her never-ending nightmares. One involves Skye, eating dinner with parents, a bouquet of daisies on the table. Happy.
And this is precisely what happens: Jiaying convinces Skye to eat dinner with Cal, once, as a thank you, because he truly did bring them together and made it happen. He never gave up. They pop in, and Kyle MacLachlan is adorable here, presenting Skye with daisies, and pronouncing the evening perfect once they arrive. Skye learns she’s 26, not 25, which is “so screwed up,” but she happily trades one year of her life for her first family dinner.
Lincoln walks in on the dinner, because he’s friggin’ nosy, and he realizes Raina’s gift has manifested. Raina can tell the future.
Unfortunately I don’t have Raina’s gift when it comes to this show. It’s almost as if AOS has undergone a change along with Raina and Skye, and like both of them, they weren’t ready. They weren’t supposed to change. I credit SHIELD for taking chances and moving forward, but I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the direction it’s gone so far in the second half of this season. Nothing feels right, and I don’t believe it’s because “Coulson’s been lying all along.” With “Melinda” specifically, the bulk of the episode proved predictable (you know the girl wasn’t an innocent immediately), and the big reveal of May’s past just didn’t live up to the impossible expectations that the show had itself created. Those kind of sky(e) high expectations are what the latter half of season 1 and first half of season 2 created for this show, and right now, like “Melinda,” they’re not meeting them.
But I still have hope, and that hope rests on Fitz, who opens Fury’s Toolbox, contacts Coulson and Hunter, and wants to know how to shake a SHIELD tail to join them. Considering it’s Billy Riggins he has to elude, that shouldn’t be a problem. Until next week.