Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Face My enemy”

Phil Coulson and Melinda May in "Face My Enemy"

The team takes the Bus back to the playground, where Fitz gets back to work on some project involving glowing cylinders.  Mack asks if he wants any help, but Fitz insists that there are some things he needs to do for himself.  “Drop everything!” Hunter says as he walks in with a handful of beers.  Fitz refuses, as his cylinders are worth a fortune and he’s not going to drop them (I can’t tell if this was an intentional joke by Fitz or not).  Hunter wants to celebrate, given that he saved the bus and turned out to be a genius at mechanical engineering.  More importantly, he wants to buy Fitz a beer for doing the real saving.  They haven’t gotten to work together much yet, but they had a successful mission and some good teamwork, and that deserves beer.  Fitz doesn’t know how to join in and bond with the group, but finally jumps on their previous conversations.  “I don’t have an ex,” he says, “but there was a girl I liked.  I told her how I feel.  She doesn’t feel the same way so she left.”  There’s an awkward pause and then Hunter tells him that she’s missing out, and he proposes a toast to “moving on.”

Skye, meanwhile, is still searching.  Trip walks by again and asks what she’s digging for, to which she replies “nothing.”  He smiles and says, “well if you need any help with the nothing you let me know.”

Coulson has Talbot up on the screen, who is very confused about what happened.  “I did what now?” he asks, trying to figure out why someone would have impersonated him.  “A painting, Coulson?  And you weren’t immediately suspicious?”  “We’re not that close,” Coulson replies.  Talbot wants him to hand over the painting and anything else they took from HYDRA.  Coulson tells him the painting was destroyed but that it wasn’t helpful anyway.  Talbot is particularly interested in the technology that lets people change faces, and is clearly frustrated with the espionage side of thing.  He says he spent five months in an enemy camp and “You people make me miss those days.”  Also, he suggests that they keep talking so he can get a bead on Coulson’s location, which prompts Coulson to cut the transmission and tell May, “Some people are better in doses.

Coulson and May sit down to discuss recent events.  Clearly HYDRA is also interested in the alien writing, but they’re not sure why.  Coulson says that the team has analyzed the painting and it really is 500 years old but the carvings on the back are brand new.  This means someone else like Coulson is out there, carving alien writing into things, and they’re determined to find him.  May asks what Agent 33 did that tipped Coulson off that she wasn’t May.  “She wanted coffee,” he says.  “Punch her in the face?” May asks.  “I did,” Coulson says with a nod.

Things take a more serious turn, however, when Coulson insists that they come up with a plan for how to deal with the possibility of him going off the deep end.  She says fine and dumps a bag on the table.  “What is this?” he asks, opening it to find money, a passport, and travel tickets.  “I don’t have to make a plan because I already made one,” May says.  “I’m not shooting you in the head.  I’ll never shoot you in the head.”  She has plans to send him to a cabin in the Outback (“Because I like kangaroos?” Coulson asks.) away from people if things get rough.  “No matter what happens, I’ll take care of you,” she says.

“Without question that is the sweetest most selfless thing anyone has ever wanted to do for me,” Coulson says.  “Now forget about that.”  He wants to make sure she’ll kill him as ordered because he doesn’t want to end up like Garrett.  “Nostalgia’s fine but then life happens.  It’s time to deal with reality.  Hard choices are coming and I need you to make this one for me.”  May thinks about it and reluctantly nods.

After the credits, we catch up with Raina, last seen touching the Obelisk on the Doctor’s orders.  She’s on the phone talking with someone (probably Skye’s father) about the painting as she climbs into her car.  She hangs up and looks in the mirror to see someone waiting for her in the back seat.  Two other men walk up to the car and take the empty seats as Dr. Whitehall introduces himself from behind her.  He says that she took something from him,, and she doesn’t pretend not to understand that he means the Obelisk.  Whitehall puts a small device on her hand which bonds to her skin and sends lines radiating out under her skin.  Whitehall tells her that she has 48 hours to bring the Obelisk to him.  He then tells the story of how he once operated on a woman off and on for a week, the only trouble being keeping her awake through the pain.  He’s confident that he can do better than that, and he’ll be able to find Raina no matter where she goes so there’s no use running.  Her 48 hours start now.

I have to say that I loved this episode.  We were due for a lighter episode (although it still had its serious moments) after the drama of the beginning of this season.  I know that some people will complain that the episode was too Whedony with all of its quips and jokes, but I think it found just the right level of humor for SHIELD.  Remember that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is very funny in between dramatic moments, and SHIELD needs to be too.  The season-long arcs are obviously dramatic in nature, but the comedy needs to be there too.  As I’ve said before, each episode in the season doesn’t need to contain everything we love about SHIELD, but taken as a whole the season has to have balance.  This week’s episode did a great job of maintaining that balance, leaving me reenergized for next week.

(Remember to read my “instant reactions” to the episode, where I talked about Philinda shipping, connections to the MCU, and other things not covered below.)

 S.H.I.E.L.D. Thoughts

So next week’s episode looks really suspenseful!  It looks like Simmons’ loyalty is being tested or questioned, despite her assertion that she’s loyal to HYDRA, and she ends up on the run.  Meanwhile Raina is trying to get Coulson’s help with something and offers up Simmons’ life in return.  She wants to take Skye to meet her father, which is what she claims Skye has always wanted.  If I had to guess, I’d say that Raina (who has 48 hours to get the Obelisk for Whitehall) has worked out a deal with Skye’s father that she can have the Obelisk if she brings him Skye.  In order to do that, she needs Coulson to agree, so she betrays Simmons to HYDRA as a bargaining chip.  Raina is consistently one of the most interesting characters on the show, as I genuinely have no idea what her true motives are.  (Also, we got a quick glimpse in the teaser for next week of Adrienne Palicki as Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird.)

How do you think the knowledge that Coulson is Director of SHIELD and May is his right hand woman will change HYDRA’s tactics.  I’m assuming that Agent 33 survived an electrical shock to the face and can tell Whitehall everything she learned.  Will they adjust their plan to take advantage of whatever intel they might have on Coulson or May?  It seemed like a key piece of information they were searching for, and now that they have it I’ll be interested to see what they do next.

I’m starting to get really concerned about Coulson’s state of mind.  He seemed to handle himself just fine on the mission this week, but outside of that he seems to be falling apart (or at least he thinks he’s falling apart).  The hand shaking is bad, as is the acknowledgement that he’s having trouble managing his symptoms.  But most of all, it’s heartbreaking to watch him plead with May to kill him when the need arises.  It’s the sign of a good leader to protect his troops but also a sign that he really cares about their well being, but it’s still hard to listen to.  I loved that May already had a plan prepared that wouldn’t mean killing him, but Coulson needed something more concrete than that.  I know she nodded, but I’m not convinced she could or would actually kill Coulson if he ordered her to.  I’m sure she wouldn’t do it just because of an order, at least not until she’s convinced there’s no other way.  Still, the idea of Coulson as not just a potential threat but an eventual threat is definitely adding a lot of tension to the season.  It reminds me of another Joss Whedon show, Angel, and the constant, looming threat that Angel might lose his soul again and revert to evil Angelus.  I’m sure Coulson is glad that May will do what’s right, but I imagine at some point this season they’ll have a disagreement about what exactly that means.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate all of the great Philinda moments tonight (as well as the fact that Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen both seem to love tweeting about Philinda).  I’ve never been a big shipper on shows, as that’s not what typically draws me into a story (despite being quite the romantic), but I do love their chemistry and the way they play mother and father to the team.  I like that we keep getting glimpses of their history, like their first mission or the classes they took in the Academy or the fact that May hates coffee.  I’m not 100% convinced that they were ever (or still are) a romantic couple, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked out that way.  They’re certainly great for each other, and the actors have fantastic chemistry.  I hope we get to see more of them as a pair as the season progresses, and I’m certainly open to a romance even if I’m not actively rooting for one.

Even though I enjoyed seeing the team bond (an important step considering all of the new people), something about it was bothering me until I eventually figured it out.  With May on a mission and Simmons with HYDRA, Skye was left with three men which created a certain dynamic.  I’m glad she’s not being treated differently because she’s a woman and was bonding as well as anyone else, but as things currently stand the group could definitely use another female character.  When (presumably) Simmons rejoins the team, things will be a bit more equal, but having beers and calling their ex-wives hell beasts was a little to “brotastic” for my tastes.  It didn’t ruin the episode for me in any way, I just would have prefered for things to be handled a little differently.  I like Mack and Trip and Hunter is growing on me, so I don’t want to see them leave, but another woman would be great.  Maybe Mockingbird could fill that role if she turns into the hero she is in the comics rather than working for HYDRA.

Did anyone else enjoy the spy movie aspect of tonight’s episode?  I’m a big James Bond fan, so I liked seeing Coulson with his cell phone gadgets and May with her unlocking bracelet.  There’s something innately cool in those sort of classic spy stories from the 60’s, which included a number of great TV shows.  There’s definitely a Mission: Impossible vibe to the face changing device (though more inspired by the movies than the show), and Hunter seducing a woman for information was definitely a James Bond move.  I definitely wouldn’t want every episode to have this sort of vibe, but it’s good to be reminded that SHIELD is not just soldiers and superheroes, they’re also spies.

What do you think?  Did you enjoy “Face My Enemy”?  What was your favorite line from this quotable episode?  What’d you think of the May vs May fight?  Did you like the Coulson/May dynamic?  Is it good to see the team bonding?  Who carved the alien writing into the back of the painting?  Would May really kill Coulson if she had to?  What’s going to happen to Simmons next week?  Let me know in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Face My enemy”

  1. Pingback: Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Face My Enemy” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  2. I honestly didn’t see the May vs. May fight coming, and I think it’s definitely going to be one of the highlights of the season, maybe the series.

    I’m loving the team missions even with the new members, though I do miss my WHOLE team together. Simmons better come out of this.

    I’ve been looking forward to Bobbi Morse since they mentioned her at SDCC (pretty much confirming that she works with SHIELD), but I am wondering where they’re going with her character. After all, Agent Hartley was a character from the comics and look what happened :/ I’m slightly more hopeful about Mockingbird since they’re working to expand the world a bit, and she’s an interesting character (once entwined with Hawkeye!) Still, even as a HYDRA agent, she looks fierce!

    Hope they keep up the stunt work. That slam onto the coffee table was intense, something could only come from May…fighting May.

    Like

    • It’ll be hard for the show to top the May vs May fight, that’s for sure!
      I miss having the whole team together too. Hopefully Simmons will make it out of this week’s episode and rejoin the team and they can be a complete unit again.
      I don’t know much about Bobbi Morse other than what I’ve read on various wikis, not being a huge comic fan myself. Still, I’m curious to see what they do with her on the show, especially since she was a hero in the comics but is working for HYDRA at the moment. She does look fierce, and I can never have too many kickass women on my shows!
      With anyone else the coffee table slam would have seemed over the top, but for May it was simply perfect. The stuntwork was seriously impressive!

      Like

  3. Pingback: Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “A Hen in the Wolf House” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  4. Pingback: Recap: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “A Hen in the Wolf House” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  5. Pingback: Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “A Fractured House” | Love Pirate's Ship's Log

  6. In which Ming Na-Wen’s stunt women also get the spotlight!

    May rules.

    The dress. sdfjklasdfjkl;asdfjkl; the dress. And she yet kicks butt, even in heels and That Dress.

    Tumblr was full of references to Mom and Dad SHIELD. Yes. They are.

    Coulson and May both have a kind of levelness, an evenness of tone, an unflappability. Both actors project quite a bit of subtle character while maintaining that coolness required of leaders. May is pure vibranium, while Coulson is the teddy bear with the core of steel. The interaction between them is priceless, but I firmly loathe the assumption of shipping… a male/female team does not have to include a romance, it can be a relationship. I think May not only has a plan, respects COulson’s wishes, but would do what was the right thing to do in the moment if it all goes south. No one, not even Coulson, can predict what the alien carvings will manifest.

    Well, I dunno, I was amused by the “bro-tastic bonding moment”… seemed legit.

    And the 60s spy film vibe was definitely cool.

    And yes, Raina is one of the more intriguing characters.

    Like

    • Ming-Na Wen and her stuntwoman both deserve all of the awards for that fight! And the dress designer probably needs a good smack to the head for making them fight in that dress.
      I love Mom and Dad SHIELD! It’s my favorite aspect of the season thus far, and it’s great to see them working as partners! I think you’re right that May would do the right thing if things go south, no matter what she might have planned or Coulson might want.
      I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s not a fan of shipping. I feel like it takes the focus away from what shows are actually about, and it says a lot about how people view close relationships (straight or gay). Not every pairing needs to end up a romance, and I feel like the will they/won’t they debate is a major distraction sometimes.

      Like

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