Double the Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) means double the fun as Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivers a funny, exciting installment.
Let’s bitch it out…
There’s an unexpected energy that pervades the first act of ‘Face My Enemy’ – something that SHIELD has been testing out since it began its second season. From its opening minutes as we join the mission in medias res, there’s a buoyancy and enthusiasm in this episode. The fun doesn’t really let up, despite heavy conversations about shooting Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May being tortured with live wires.
In many ways, this episode feels more like what I was hoping SHIELD would be when it debuted last year. There’s a heady mixture of adventure, sexiness, espionage and, above all else, just plain fun. It’s simply good entertainment watching a secret agent beat the crap out of her doppelganger and while we could pontificate on the fact that it’s taken so long for SHIELD to play to its strengths, how about we just celebrate the fact that the show appears to have found its footing in S2 instead?
‘Face My Enemy’ had a lot of potential to disappoint considering it’s a mission that explicitly ties into the show’s worst ongoing mythology: Coulson’s mysterious illness. The miracle painting that Coulson and May are after is a glorified McGuffin, but thankfully it takes a backseat as soon as the pair jump into action – and trouble – at the party. The levity of seeing the series’ two most adept performers at work helps; Gregg and Ming-Na have an easy-going chemistry that facilitates the many jokes in the first half.
The action picks up once Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) zeroes in on them and from there the episode races ahead to its conclusion with barely a pause. The twist that Talbot is actually Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) wearing a Mission: Impossible style mask isn’t too shocking considering how strangely the military man was acting, but it works to bring about the third act when the Bus comes under fire and May is kidnapped and replaced by Agent 33 (Maya Stojan). The more traditionally action-oriented final parts of the episode are enjoyable because they pay off Fitz’s (Iain De Caestecker) isolation among the younger members of the team, and also because Ming-Na and the stunt team get to showcase their fighting abilities in arguably the series’ best hand-to-hand fight scene yet.
By episode’s end, the central representatives of HYDRA and SHIELD have been brought into closer proximity (Bakshi and 33 are now aware that Coulson is SHIELD director while SHIELD knows that HYDRA is collecting artifacts associated with the alien message). Recent developments suggest a level of intricate plotting and narrative sophistication that was absent in the first half of last season. At this point, I’m confident in suggesting that SHIELD has learned from the mistakes of its past and is rapidly en route to becoming great television.
- My favourite moment of the May vs 33 battle? When May flat foot kicks her doppelganger from a standing resting position. That is some Jean-Claude Van Damme sh*t! Some truly impressive stuntwork for a show that’s still learning how best to showcase its action.
- Admittedly leaving Ming-Na in her slip for half an episode felt gratuitous. She’s got a great body, but yikes did that feel exploitative.
- Skye’s (Chloe Bennet) disbelief at May’s behaviour undercover may have been the best comedic bit the show has done in quite some time.
- Still warming up to Hunter (Nick Blood), but making him the object of jokey derision and partnering him up with various members of the team – tonight as Fitz’s hands to help save the Bus from exploding – is another step in the right direction for the character.
- We bid goodbye to Hallucination Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). She started out reinforcing Fitz’s beliefs, but by tonight she was encouraging him to move on and re-engage with the living. It seems unlikely we’ll see her again.
- Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes Triplett (BJ Britt) and Skye to hook up? Those longing looks are increasing in frequency and it’s not like Trip is doing anything else on the show.
- Finally, in the coda, poor Raina (Ruth Negga) meets Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) under unfortunate circumstances. His threat on her life seems designed to not only bring the obelisk back into the picture, but also drive her to seek out Coulson and co. for help before her 48 hour time limit is up.
- May (when Coulson insists that their undercover mission is fun): “I will pay you $500 right now for a pair of flats.”
- Coulson (when Skye worries about May’s laughter): “Yes, she’s laughing. I think the worst of it is over.” May (moments later): “My face hurts.”
- Skye (listening to May flirt): “She just said more words than I’ve heard her say in a year.”
- Mack (when Hunter reminds him of the year he pretended to like quinoa for a lover): “Oh yeah, that was a dark time.”
- May (before knocking Agent 33 out): “If you were really me, you wouldn’t talk so much.”
- Coulson (when Talbot inquires why Coulson didn’t recognize his impostor): “To be fair, we’re not that close.”
- May (asking about her doppelganger): “You punch her in the face?” Coulson: “I did.” May: “Good.”
Your turn: did you appreciate the humour in this episode? Are you invested in Coulson’s health considering how unlikely it is that the show will do anything to harm him? Were these the best fight scenes the show has done to date? Is Fitz on the road to recovery? Sound off below.
Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on ABC