Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begins setting up its ducks in a row in anticipation of the fireworks to come in next week’s fall finale. So…this is the set-up episode.
Let’s bitch it out…
As Agents of SHIELD moves through its second season, there’s been a lot to praise. The efforts to build on the foundation of the lackadaisical first season continues to pay dividends. Unfortunately I can’t entirely proclaim ‘Ye Who Enter Here’ a success – at least not on the same level as most of the S2 episodes. There are a lot of narratives to juggle on the show, and usually Agents of SHIELD does so with a minimum of effort. That’s not entirely the case here, so while there is a certain amount of productive momentum here, including the return of a fan-favourite, some truly excellent hand-to-hand combat and a few sadly expected developments, this episode feels like a placeholder designed to build expectations until next week when the real action will occur.
To get to the good stuff, we have to get through the set-up. The most obvious delay tactic is the ridiculous amount of time it takes to find and enter the Devil’s Sentry, the entrance to the lost city located under San Juan, Puerto Rico. We get exposition-heavy dialogue from Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Coulson (Clark Gregg) comparing Coulson’s approach to Fury’s. We have casual mentions of Bobbi’s contact, Diego, who is briefly glimpsed in the background, but never introduced. We have a protracted scene in which the drones and then Mack (Henry Simmons) are lowered into a chasm only to learn that maybe sending the one agent afraid of both the dark and aliens wasn’t the best idea. Oh Agents of SHIELD, why must you waste our time?
Thankfully the extraction mission for Raina (Ruth Negga) is more interesting. Overlooking the bland everywhereness of the show’s interpretation of Vancouver, BC, credit the reappearance of Raina, Agent 33 – stuck wearing the burnt face of May (Ming-Na Wen) – and potential Life-Model Decoys Billy and Sam Koenig (Patton Oswalt) for making these scenes more than filler. (Side Note: Yes, the schtick between the brothers and BJ Britt’s Triplett, as well as the recurring joke about which brother is shorter, is more than a little juvenile, but at least Oswalt brings a little levity to the proceedings).
The same can’t be said for Skye (Chloe Bennet) as this storyline begins to take on more and more gravitas. Whitehall’s (Reed Diamond) plans for the alien city and the Obelisk (now confirmed as Kree technology, as widely speculated by Marvel fans) have increasingly pushed Skye back into the spotlight as S2 has progressed. Luckily for us, Bennet certainly appears up to the challenge. Not only are her fight skills in top shape (somebody page Katie Cassidy to come take a look), she strikes the right balance of desperate daughter/skeptical agent when Raina begins rambling on about their mutual “potential”. The final scene – as Ward (Brett Dalton) arrives to collect Raina, Skye and the map to the city – nicely anticipates the fall finale that will finally see Skye’s S2 journey reach its apex.
Unfortunately, like so much of this episode, we have to wait until next week to see how it all plays out.
- The heavily Freudian dream sequence that opens the episode is atmospheric, but it feels a little heavy-handed. I’m referring specifically to surrogate parents May and Coulson posing as Stepford Ma and Pop who abandon what is clearly intended to be a Skye stand-in. This might have been handled with a bit more finesse by the writers.
- With that said, ‘Ye Who Enter Here’ features a more engaging visual aesthetic than most episodes. The direction of the 33/Skye fight scene isn’t quite as spectacular as the 33/May fight in ‘Face My Enemy‘, but director Bill Gierhart deserves a shout-out nonetheless.
- As predicted Mack has basically been kept around in order to provide the show with an expendable team member. While I didn’t anticipate he would get infected and go apeshit, I called an untimely early on. It’s disappointing that the writers couldn’t think of a more interesting way to use him (though I suppose the alien infection may have allowed him to survive so there may still be a chance.) Either way, blah.
- Fred & the sarcophagus on Angel > Mack & floor dust on AoS
- At one point I remember writing something about wanting Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) to address their issues more. Consider that statement retracted. I appreciate that the writers aren’t sweeping FitzSimmons’ issues beneath the carpet or minimizing the awful events of the season finale, but at this point these two seem to exist solely to do this dance back and forth. Can we puh-leese just move on already?
- Favourite moment: The unimpressed look Bobbi throws Coulson as he tries on hats in the San Juan market. Worth the price of admission alone.
- Finally: mini-Lola is pretty adorable. What a perfect gift! And just in time for the holiday shopping season! You can’t tell me that this isn’t available for sale somewhere.
- Simmons (when Skye suggests meeting her father is messed-up): “I was going to use the off-colour version for messed-up, but it seemed inappropriate.”
- Sam (off-screen, after Coulson describes how May burned 33’s face): “Oh that is so bad-ass!”
- Skye (when Raina deduces Whitehall has the Obelisk): “Somebody give the girl a new flower dress.”
Your turn: did this episode feel like too much set-up? Is Mack dead? Was the character misused? Are you happy to see Agent 33 and/or Koenig back? Is Rainer garden-variety crazy or full blown insane? And what are you hoping for when Skye meets daddy dearest next week?
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on ABC