It’s the SHIELD Eagles vs the Slicing Talons as Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) collects a rogue gallery to draw Coulson (Clark Gregg) into battle.
Let’s bitch it out…
The SHIELD Index is at the center of ‘One Of Us’, which is all about the organization’s responsibility – for better or worse – in “inhibiting” potential in gifted and exceptional people. It’s the latest chapter in the ongoing Daisy/Skye (Chloe Bennet) saga, though by broadening the scope there’s at least a sense that the series is willing to investigate more than just what it means to be different. There’s another larger question lingering over SHIELD since the events of Captain America 2: what does it mean to work for an organization that hunts and neutralizes these gifted and exceptional people? As we spend 44 minutes here tonight, it’s clear that not everything is kosher within SHIELD. After all, imprisoning individuals and restricting their potential seems fair when you do it under the auspices of protecting humanity, but it’s a whole different story when you start to think about these people’s quality of life if their threat assessment comes back poorly.
The contrast between Skye and Cal’s motley crew of bad guys is both clear and obvious. The villains represents the very real possibility that could befall Skye if she were a traditional dangerous member on the Index (or even if her psych eval comes back negatively). The problem is that Skye is not, and would not, be like any of these people. They are miles away from her situation, even if we factor in years of mistreatment.
It doesn’t help that they’re a fairly despicable group, and that we don’t really know anything about them. The most “likeable” of the bunch is Karla Faye Gideon (Drea de Matteo), a woman with sensory deprivation because she has metal appendages over her razor fingers (I can’t believe I just wrote that). Karla is clearly introduced as a sympathetic figure because she lives a terrible life without being able to touch (I don’t even want to consider how she goes to the bathroom). Here’s the thing: the effort to make Karla seem like a victim doesn’t work. On the surface she’s made to look like a homeless housewife, and more importantly, she kills the first regular person she interacts with. Sorry, but that doesn’t make her very endearing, and considering that this is her sole purpose (aside from contributing to a ridiculous bathroom action scene), there’s an inherent flaw in this episode. If we’re honestly meant to see this group as representative of the (potential) evils of SHIELD, it would have helped to populate it with fewer psychos.
The best part of the episode belongs to May (Ming-Na Wen) and her ex-husband, Dr. Andrew Garner (Blair Underwood). This is mostly because the writers have revealed so little about May’s past that any tidbit is exclamation worthy. We’ve known that she was married for some time (although most members of the team didn’t), but we’ve never heard so much as a name before tonight. The fact that May’s dedication to her work prompted the dissolution of her marriage is hardly surprising, but the profession of her former husband is. The “husband as head-shrinker” is a situation that could be played for laughs and while there is comedy in Wen’s interactions with Underwood, the balance between insider-y intel and the plot service elements are equal and well-done. Although Andrew suggests at the end of the episode that he can’t be involved any further, here’s hoping that he comes back. Underwood makes for a nicely grounded addition to the cast and brings some real heft to the proceedings, something that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could use as several of its characters become ever more cartoony.
- The climax involving Skye’s near-implosion on the football field didn’t make much sense to me. Neither Coulson, nor May were in any great danger, so why did Skye suddenly get so upset that she started quaking? The reveal that her repression tactic is insufficient as a long-term solution makes far more sense, but getting to it felt forced.
- Another week, another new secret. This time Coulson asks Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) to find a way to deal with Skye’s Inhuman power and keep it on the down low. Why? Why do these things need to be kept secret between them? The writers never offer a satisfactory reason for Coulson’s inane desire to isolate all of his directives. If there’s one forthcoming development hinted at in the preview for the next episode, it’s that this is one of the main reasons that he’s being targeted.
- The other major problem I had with Cal’s RV band of misfits is that they are so underwhelming. Not only are they visually uninteresting (they generally just look like unkempt losers), but their powers suck, too. What was the plan at the high school exactly? Let the voice guy unhinge his jaw and paralyze Coulson? Seems awfully low impact to me.
- Also: I do not believe for more moment that Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) wouldn’t have been able to take out Karla with a few moves. Yes the woman has Wolverine-style fingernails, but Bobbi is far too kick-ass for that fight to have lasted more than a couple of seconds.
- Simmons makes a big deal out of Fitz’s (Iain De Caestecker) betrayal and how it has irreparably damaged their relationship, and then the writers immediately prove how untrue this is by having the pair share a gossipy conversation about May and Andrew’s marriage. Hypocrite much?
- The Reader / teleporter (Jamie Harris) from ‘Aftershocks’ returns to abduct Cal because he’s making too much noise about their presence. Ummm…okay.
- Finally, the delay in learning Bobbi and Mack’s (Henry Simmons) secret – that they’re working for “the real” SHIELD – doesn’t live up to lowered expectations. Perhaps it’s because we spend the entire episode with Hunter (Nick Blood) tied to a bathroom pipe and Mack reminiscing about Dubai. Blah blah blah. Just get on with it already!
- Cal (describing Coulson to Karla): “The director’s a door to door salesman of a man.”
- Fitz (to May, surveying Andrew): “He seems nice.”
- Skye (quizzing Andrew about his marriage to may): “Did you guys have actual conversations? Pillow talk or just pillow-stir looks?”
- May (when Andrew says Skye thinks the world of her): “I taught her how to fire an automatic, of course she likes me.”
Your turn: were you underwhelmed by Cal’s pathetic show of force? Did the compare/contrast between Skye and her evil alternatives work for you? Would you like to see Andrew return? Is Simmons a total hypocrite? And was the reveal involving the “real” SHIELD worth the effort? Sound off below.
Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on ABC. Here’s a preview of next week